Ages Old Falsehoods That Are Still False
In the book of 1 John, one of Jesus’ closes associates debunks a view of Christianity that threatened to undermine the spread of the life-changing message about Jesus Christ. The false teaching was called Gnosticism (more here). It has crept back into our belief systems in the modern era through academia, but also subtly into the lives of those who claim to be followers of Christ. Briefly summarized, three of the main tenants of gnosticism were: 1) Jesus was NOT real, 2) SIN is not that big a deal, and 3) It’s really about what you KNOW. Let’s take a closer look and talk about how they apply to us:
1) Jesus was not real. Gnostic believed that Jesus only seemed to be a person, but He was not. He couldn’t be, because the absolute god would never enter the muck and mire of the evil earthly matter. This, of course, changed his purpose and the implications of God sending his Son to rescue us from sin.
To believe that Jesus is something that He is not is quite common today. Jared Wilson in his book Your Jesus is Too Safe: Outgrowing a Drive-Thru, Feel Good Savior addresses some of the more modern version of shape shifting Jesus to fit ourselves. Here’s a few:
- The Stern Taskmaster Jesus who is waiting to smack your knuckles with a ruler when you get out of line.
- Postcard Jesus who has a perfect tan, white teeth, wavy hair, and a halo.
- Get-out-of-hell-free Jesus. We say a prayer to him, kind of like putting money into a machine, and then we get to bypass hell without having to follow any of his desire for our lives.
- ATM Jesus who just wants you to be happy and successful but most of all RICH.
Many would argue that they believe rightly about Jesus, but they are PRACTICAL ATHEIST because they live their lives like he doesn’t exist.
2) Sin is not that big a deal. Gnostics believed that the spirit and the body were separate, so sin in the body had no effect upon the relationship with god and soul, so GET AFTER IT!
Many so-called Christians live their lives with this same disconnect today, separating what we do on Sunday morning from what we do, where we go, what we say, and how we live the rest of the week.
3) It’s about what you know. Gnostics believe that knowledge was far superior to faith and that you were saved through secret knowledge and self-discovery. Jesus, being a super spirit could help with this, so he’s still important, but life change and salvation are attained through what you know.
Today many trust in their head knowledge of facts about God rather than a fully trusting relationship with God. “I believe in God” is code for “I’ve got that covered.” But there has been no transformation of character, no trusting in the work of Christ, or no belief leading to behavior that is Christ like.
The gospel teaches us that JESUS IS REAL, He came in the flesh because SIN IS A BIG DEAL, and it’s more than WHAT YOU KNOW. It’s about fully trusting the work of Jesus Christ to take away our sin and restore our right relationship with God.