The gospel by its very definition is literally the good news. It has been preached through all generations since the beginning of the church. When the gospel message is preached in it's untouched, unaltered, and undiluted beauty, it has the power to transform people from enemies of God into his children. The opposite of personal transformation happens when the false gospel quietly intrudes into churches and masquerades as the truth. Instead of hearing the gospel that leads to heart transformation, many receive confirmation they really aren't that bad, in fact, they are misled into believing they are pretty good people after all. Let's take a closer look at the eternally tragic false gospel in light of the true gospel.
Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
Dear friends, if we are to get down to the root of the problem in the false gospel message, we need to allow the Holy Spirit to show us just how far off course some have drifted here in the West. Before we dig in, please understand that this article by no means is meant to indict every evangelical church in the Western world as a proliferator of false doctrine. There is a substantial number of churches who haven't compromised the gospel message. That being said, there is a great number and perhaps even a majority of churches that have capitulated into promoting a false gospel. When I say false gospel it might conjure up images of new age practices or overtly aberrant forms of Christianity such as Mormonism or Jehovah's Witnesses.
While those are certainly examples of a false gospel, what we are referencing here is something that in my opinion, is just as dangerous, if not more so. The false gospel that many western churches are promoting is a gospel that primarily teaches two things. First, that we are not that bad after all. Second, that we come to God because of what he can do for us in the way of life enhancement.
I'm sure that many of you reading this article will agree when I tell you that while I see some faithful men preaching the gospel, I can't remember a time that so many others are teaching something entirely different. Many Bible teachers past and present have warned us about this gross misrepresentation of the truth. Why is this false gospel so tragic? It's tragic because some preachers are twisting scripture and using Jesus' name to authenticate what they are saying and leading people into eternity without knowing about the great danger they are really in.
"Tens of thousands, perhaps millions have come into some type of religious experience by accepting Christ and they have not been saved. – A.W. Tozer
The words are changed here and there but the narrative and sentiment go something like this: God loves you, he's got a plan for your life, and while heaven is a certainty, you can have a life of abundance, favor, and success right here and now. The primary message being preached is that God is just fine with the current condition of your heart. What's more, he wants to make you a moral pillar of the community that people admire, respect, and envy. You will be a success and have material blessings because you came forward, signed a card, or slipped a hand up. The Jesus that's being "accepted" here is more of a genie who grants our hopes and dreams or an old grandpa who winks at sin. Jesus didn't die on the cross to make you a better version of yourself, but that's the deception people have trusted in. That is the fairytale Jesus that's being preached increasingly here in the West, but it's not the real Jesus.
People who buy into this American, western, pop-culture gospel message have bought into a lie. They have become part of a movement that wants to live the blessed life, get to heaven, and feel good about their own goodness. Almost 80% of Americans claim to be Christians but the numbers just don't add up. We have people living in abject poverty while many professing Christians give just enough to be seen and praised by others. Most of the pornography originates from the US. and there are more 'adult film' stores here than McDonald's restaurants. Broken families are just as rampant inside the church as outside of it. Barna research indicates that pornography, illicit drug use, and extra-marital affairs are commonplace among growing numbers of professing Christians.
My point is this: A gospel that hasn't changed you hasn't saved you. A pastor went to his church on a Sunday and went up to people to ask them how they knew they were saved. He received all sorts of answers from "I repeated after someone." to "I'm trying to be good." One young lady provided a correct answer when she said, "Each new day, my life is marked by increased holiness and Christ-likeness." That is fruit in keeping with repentance and evidence of a life transformed by the gospel.
A well-known pastor candidly explains the end result of Jesus' bold preaching:
Jesus often engaged in operation crowd reduction. -James Mac Donald
Preachers who teach a false gospel are dangerous because they promise the blessed life and convince people to rely upon their own righteousness and the net result is false assurance, not eternal security. This wasn't the message Jesus or the apostles preached in light of the Father's holiness.
Matthew 23:15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.
Many people have bought into the false gospel lie being spread by hirelings that tells them they are just fine and accepted into God's family. Dear friends, the warning from the Bible is clear that in the last days' people will accumulate teachers who teach them what they want to hear. The opposite is true with a true shepherd who will lovingly warn people about the reality of their eternal danger in light of God's holiness. My pastor encapsulates this point so well and sums up the absolute necessity for the gospel in one sweeping statement:
God is holy, we are not, and that's a problem. Mark Vroegop – College Park Church
When the good news is preached like that, people have the opportunity to understand something about the condition of their own heart. When they get a glimpse of God's absolute holiness, his perfection, and his law, they come to realize just how undone they are. Once people begin to realize the utter futility of trying to keep the law on their own or to put it into our modern vernacular, once people understand that there is no way their own righteousness or a better version of themselves will ever satisfy a holy God, they will see their only hope is Jesus and his finished work on the cross to atone for their sins.
God, being a perfect God, had to give a perfect law, and the law wasn't given to save people, but to measure them. I want you to understand this clearly because I believe hundreds and thousands stumble at this point. People try to save themselves by trying to keep the law, but it was never meant for people to save themselves by. – D. L. Moody
The law was given so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may be guilty before God -Romans 3:19. This is why God gives us the law, to show us ourselves in our true colors. Once we understand the wretched sinful condition of our heart, we will realize the futility of trusting in our own righteousness and good works.
What often happens at the point in time when someone hears the whole gospel is that they realize they need to quit trying to run their own life. They will understand that total surrender to God is not trying to be better, act better, and do better. People will realize that apart from the cleansing power of the blood of Jesus, their heart and own righteousness is like filthy rags -Isaiah 64:6.
Instead of trying to be a better version of themselves, people will come to the end of themselves, repent, and come to a saving faith in Jesus. This kind of faith is tangible because when a person is truly repentant, they aren't about keeping up appearances or looking the Christian part. The total heart transformation will be evident.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death 2 Corinthians 7:10.
Finally, we will wrap up by looking quickly at what we are saved from and to. Being saved from an eternity without God in hell is truly good news. Myself along with many other Bible teachers feel that for a majority of people, the purpose of being born again stops right there at being saved from hell.
Part of the good news is that Jesus not only saves us from an eternity apart from him but also saves us to something as well. We are told by Jesus to go and make disciples. Our identity doesn't stop at the point of salvation any more than our life stopped at the point of our physical birth! Think about the exhortations Jesus gave us throughout Matthew 25 when he tells us to do his will while he's away. From the moment we are saved, our life should be marked by moments small and large that give glory to God.
As the last days tick away, we will continue to see the quiet intrusion of the false gospel, but as believers, we have a biblical mandate to love people enough to warn them and share the true gospel with them. I want to encourage fellow Bible teachers to continue to present the gospel with renewed boldness, clarity, and love for people who are otherwise lost.
Dear friend, I want to appeal to you if you haven't repented and made Jesus your Lord. Please come to him while there is still time. Would you like to know more about following Jesus? Click here
Originally posted at Concerning the Times.
Howard Green is the founder of Concerning the Times,a Bible teaching and evangelistic ministry and our primary focus is proclaiming the gospel to the lost and exhorting believers through End Time Bible prophecy. We use Bible prophecy in evangelism because God's word is 100 percent accurate and the world is looking for hope and won't find it anywhere else but in the Lord Jesus.