Distorted and Different
Last Sunday, Bridge Church began a series of messages on the book of Galatians called Set Free. Follow the series at bridgenorthshore.com. The intent of the letter written by Paul the Apostle, to churches that he had been a part of planting in modern day Turkey, was to confront the false teaching that Jesus wasn’t enough. Along with Jesus, God expected a person to keep the law. Paul accused the Galatian Christians of deserting God by receiving this false gospel.
One reason I trust the Bible as authoritative is because of its timelessness. The theme of this letter is as relevant today as this hours news headlines (with technology, the morning newspaper is already outdated). So many today have a distorted and different view of the Gospel.
What is the Gospel? Paul defines it well in Galatians 1:3-4 – “the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” The Gospel is the truth that Jesus lived, loved, died, to deliver/rescue/save people from the penalty, power, and presence of sin. And this deliverance/rescue/salvation has nothing to do with our works or effort, but God’s work and will (John 1:12-13, John 6:44).
Here are some common ways we distort the Gospel today:
1. Become a _____________. The false teachers in Galatia were basically saying that to be a true follower of Christ you had to become a Jew. You had to believe the Gospel and be circumcised and keep elements of the Old Testament law. Today we fill in that blank with other things. “I’m going to become a BETTER PERSON” is the most common. “I’m going to become a CHURCH MEMBER.” “I’m going to become a CATHOLIC/BAPTIST/METHODIST.” Not that these are bad things, but if they become something that we trust for our deliverance/rescue/salvation, what we’re saying is Jesus is not enough. I can do this by becoming ____________.
2. Jesus + ______________. Another way we do this is seeking to add to what Jesus has done with our activity and effort. Cults do this. Churches sometimes communicate this when talking about membership. In our desire to assimilate people into our churches we must be careful that we don’t communicate Jesus +. When you add to the work of Christ what you’re really doing is taking away from the work of Christ. What you’re saying is Jesus is not enough.
3. Reversing Roles with God. Here’s the Gospel: “I’m accepted, forgiven, set free by God, so I’m transformed by God, so I obey God.” Here’s a distorted gospel: “I obey and I’m made changes to my life, so now I’m accepted by God.” The question is, whose work is it? A distortion of the gospel takes the work of salvation out of God’s hands and places it somewhere else – self, a church, a path of enlightenment, etc. Self-salvation is no salvation at all or as Paul says, “You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all” (Galatians 1:6-7 NLT).
Looking forward to Part two of our series this Sunday at Bridge Church, 10:30am, at the West St. Tammany YMCA.