Tuesday, October 25, 2016

What Gospel are You Hearing? The gospel of inclusion/universal salvation

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 NKJV

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile Romans 1:16 NLT

 In the recent weeks, we've been in a detailed study concerning the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We asked the question what gospel have you been hearing. We've seen that the Gospel isn't a hopeless or discouraging message. The message of the Gospel isn't a sad message of all we must do to earn His love and acceptance. It's not  political pablum or angry tidings of how God is going to get you at the slightest moment you miss it. The Gospel is good news.

Again, what is the Gospel?

 Let's review what we've already established is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The English word that is translated Gospel in the New Testament is the Greek word "Euaggelion". It is defined as the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The proclamation of the Grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. This is the good news Gospel. It's glad tidings of total salvation in and through Christ. Any other message or tidings or proclamation are not the Gospel of the Grace of Almighty God.

 The Gospel is a pure, unadulterated, triumphant message of hope, victory, revealing the gracious goodness of our Father in Heaven. The Word of God reveals the great lengths the early Church and Apostles took to preserve the authentic Gospel. Many tried to pollute or tamper with the Gospel for their own agendas. On many occasions, Paul the Apostle brought correction to rid the Gospel from any mixture of Law and works. He also worked in conjunction with the other Apostles to remove additives to the Gospel. 

The Gospel, free from mixture and additives

 What do I mean by additives? Additives are ideas, philosophies, and traditions of men added to the Gospel message. I see many who've received the true Gospel of Grace. They are quick to protect the Gospel from any mixture, and rightly so. They will publicly voice opposition to any mixture, in their pulpits, on their social media status and in their interactions with others. Yet when it comes to additives many are conspicuously silent.

The "gospel" of inclusionism/Universalism

 These philosophies and ideologies of man under the banner of universal salvation are additives to the true Gospel of Grace. These unScriptural ideas have no place in the message of the Cross and Finished Work. Inclusionism and Universalism or similar ideas, that proclaim all humanity is already saved, but unaware, or will eventually be saved, are false teachings, and philosophies birthed by the spirit of error.

Does God's love and Grace mean we accept untruth?

 Are we unloving and ungracious because we don't accept any error in the Gospel message? It seems we are more unloving toward those who've yet to receive the truth when we remain silent on the matter of additives to the Gospel. If we refuse to take a bold stand for the truth of the Gospel of Grace for fear or concern that we will lose popularity or fear that some doors of opportunity to be invited to minister will be closed to us, it only proves our trust is in ourselves and in man and not resting in God.

Isn't universal salvation the truly good news of Grace?

 This is how this deceptive message draws people in. It sounds like good news. It seems reasonable to our own minds so therefore it must be true. Surely, it would be great that all the World would come receive the good news, but that is the key. Receive. God and His goodness aren't wiping out the free will of humanity. Forced marriage or arranged marriage isn't loving it is forced, it's bondage. 

 What about all those passages that seem to say all are saved? First, there exist no passage where it says all humanity is saved. Secondly, poor exegesis and wrongly dividing the Word is how people come up with their view. Here is an example.
10 For to this end we both labor and suffer reproach,because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10 NKJV
 See it's right there. It appears to some at first glance that this passage is preaching inclusion or universalism. In full context, it says something entirely different. Paul was encouraging and exhorting Timothy in his ministry. He was encouraging Timothy to persevere in tough times and remember this Gospel is to all mankind, male or female, Jew or Gentile.

 Note that passage didn't say Jesus was Savior but God. Why is this significant? Because it further proves this isn't universal salvation because of the Cross but it reveals that only in God, the one true God, is there salvation and hope. Weren't we all included in the Cross? The Finished Work took away the sin of the World, therefore all humanity is in Christ and saved right?

 Paul says otherwise. 
Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me. Romans 16:7 NKJV
Paul says others were in Christ before he was. This smashes this idea of inclusionism. Paul in Ephesians reveals when we were included. 
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, Ephesians 1:13 NIV
We were included when we believed. The message is good news we don't need additives to make the good news "better".

Inclusionism and Universalism insult the Spirit of Grace!

Look at Hebrews chapter ten. In this chapter, we see the beauty of the Finished Work. Though the warning portions of this chapter aren't teaching a believer can lose or forfeit salvation it does clarify the Gospel and assists in proving that universal salvation false.

 Look closely in full context of the warning portion here. The key warning here is that there is salvation only in the Finished Work of Christ and not in anything else. Imagine if you will, being atop a high cliff. Picture a deep, deep, gulf between the cliff you're on and the one across from you. Imagine Jesus is on the other side. There is no way to cross over. Suddenly you see He has fashioned a wooden bridge for you to cross. 

 You could simply cross. Nothing you did, you didn't deserve it, you didn't earn it or achieve it, He did it all. Your response is simply to cross. What if, however, you say "no Jesus, I'm not worthy. I must build my own bridge", so you go looking for wood to get busy building your bridge. That is the legalistic way to approach God. What if instead, you said, "Jesus there really exists no gulf between us. This separation is only mental and imagined, everyone is ok." This is the Universalists way.

 If we are taking the Gospel and placing additives in it we are going about establishing our own righteousness. 
...and has insulted the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:29b NASB
 Inclusion says all humanity is already saved but they don't know it. What if one doesn't awaken to the truth? Well, then he would be lost at the end. So there is no eternal security? 

 The inclusion folk now have remedied this problem. Hell no longer exists. When this man made idea gains popularity, you see the fruit. The proponents of this message go about establishing their own standard of right and wrong. Anything is acceptable and nothing is wrong. 

 The Gospel is good news. The Gospel is Jesus plus nothing. It is not Jesus plus works or performance. It isn't Jesus plus the additives of error and false teachings. It isn't a message where there exists no morality. The Gospel is good enough without adding to it enticing words of men's wisdom. 

 Don't take the amazing out of Grace. Don't mix the Gospel with Law and works and don't put additives of error into it. Mankind was lost and dead in trespasses and sins. We were destined to spend eternity separated from God. This state wasn't imaginary or a mental misunderstanding or blindness, we were spiritually dead, but God sent His only begotten Son and paid the perfect price for our complete redemption. He forever took away the punishment of sins in His own body on that Cross. All we need to do is respond and put our trust in His once for all sacrifice and receive new life, righteousness, and an eternally secure salvation.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What Gospel Are You Hearing? The Powerless Gospel

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 NKJV

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile Romans 1:16 NLT

 We've been engaged in a study of what the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is and what it isn't. What is the true Gospel? As Thayer's  Greek word study defines, it is the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The proclamation of the Grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. 

What isn't the Gospel? We have seen thus far that the Gospel isn't a hopeless message. It isn't angry or sad tidings. We saw last time it isn't a hyper-holiness message. Today, I sense the leading to look at two extremes masquerading as the Gospel. When anyone takes a truth to the extremes, or out of the boundaries of clear Scripture, all your left with is an error.

The Prosperity Gospel

 What do I mean by the "prosperity gospel"? First, there is only one Gospel, and that is the Gospel of Grace. Allow me to define what this "prosperity gospel" is.
11 If they obey and serve Him, They shall spend their days in prosperity, And their years in pleasures. 12 But if they do not obey, They shall perish by the sword, And they shall die without knowledge. Job 36:11-12 NKJV
This is the modern "prosperity" message. The idea is that if you just live perfectly upright all your days, you will never have a problem or never go through any trouble and only have a life filled with ease. Elihu spoke these words to Job, attempting to prove this. 

 This "prosperity" message is erroneous because it adds to the Gospel. This message places much emphasis on the efforts of men. One's performance is essential in receiving what is promised by the peddlers of this message. 

 The "prosperity" message promises all who adhere to its claims will be rich and trouble will be far from you. Of course, all this is contingent upon how much money you can give, and keep giving consistently. When the responders give and give until they have nothing to give, and don't see what was promised, the proclaimers of prosperity, are quick to point out some flaw in performance. 

 In essence, the message then relies completely upon your giving, and your ability to live a sinless, perfect life. The Cross and Finished Work have little to do with meeting your needs. This isn't good news. We don't add human effort or perfect performance to the Gospel. We don't add outlandish claims that all who hear will be a millionaire to the Gospel.

The powerless gospel

 I wanted to dispel the extremes of the "prosperity" gospel before I begin to shed light on this opposite extreme. If the "prosperity" message adds to the Gospel, then the "powerless gospel" takes away from the Gospel. Now, before you accuse me of some type of religious double talk allow me to point out the truth of the Word.
8 Although training your body has certain payoffs, godliness benefits all things—holding promise for life here and now and promise for the life that is coming. 1 Timothy 4:8 VOICE

 The Gospel of Grace has promise for our life in the here and now as well as the one to come. This is the good news. The powerless gospel offers some hope for the life eternal, but rejects any promise that pertains to our life in the here and now.  Let's look at some characteristics of this powerless gospel.

1. The powerless gospel focuses on the struggles and trials in this life. 
 Jesus clearly stated that in this World we will have tribulation. The powerless gospel focuses solely upon these words. All this message proclaims is a struggle, trials, and hard times. There is no peace or comfort or any hint of victory in Christ in the message. Jesus did say we will face tribulation but He prefaced it with a promise of peace because He has overcome the World. We rest in Christ's triumphant victory. He will bring us through any trial or struggle.

2. The powerless gospel proclaims the Gifts of the Spirit and the power of God have ceased for today.
 The powerless gospel is a weak, impotent message that leaves the believer without access to God's power. God's sovereignty is taken to the extreme where any and everything that occurs on this planet is somehow ordained or caused by God.
 The nine manifestation gifts spoken of by Paul are simply regulated to a time past that are not for us today. The proponents of this message use circular reason to prove their stance. Why no gifts for today? Well, we haven't seen any in operation. Why aren't they in operation? Well, because they have ceased. In reality, it is faith in the power and operation of God in the hearts of some that has waned not the Gifts of the Spirit!

3. The powerless gospel attributes healing and miracles to the work of the enemy and not to God.
 Because life is designed to be hard and full of suffering and the Gifts of the Spirit have ceased operating, than any healing or miracle reported must be the work of the enemy. The powerless gospel removes the hope of a better life and of healing from its hearers. 

 This powerless gospel is not the good news. It takes away the hope the Gospel brings. It removes God's power from the Gospel message. It exalts suffering and pain and infirmity as the standard for the Christian experience. 

 The Gospel of Grace isn't a message of man-made extremes. The Gospel of Grace is extreme in its scope by virtue of the awesomeness of God. The Gospel of Grace offers extreme forgiveness for all our sins, past, present and future. It offers extreme wholeness in every area of our lives. It surpasses our greatest expectations of hope and peace and deliverance. It reveals the extreme love and mercy and faithfulness of our good Father in Heaven.

 The Gospel of Grace is not a message that if you empty your bank account and give to an organization or man you are guaranteed to be made a millionaire. It isn't a message that all you can expect in this life is disease, depression, destitution and defeat. 

 The Gospel of Grace has made provision to answer all our needs in this life and the life to come. He provides for us peace and comfort if, by virtue of this fallen world, we go through some trial or tribulation. He has promised to supply our need by Christ's supply, not our works or efforts. By virtue of the Finished Work, He has made us healed and whole. He has made us the very righteousness of God in Him. His once for all sacrifice means we will never experience condemnation or ever perish. This is the true Gospel of Grace. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

What Gospel Are You Hearing? The Holiness Gospel

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 NKJV

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile Romans 1:16 NLT

 In the recent weeks, we've been looking at the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What it is and what it isn't. We've been asking what gospel are you hearing. I've received much positive feedback from people as they acknowledge having heard other messages claiming to be the Gospel, at some point in their life. This is super encouraging because this reveals the shackles of dead works and the lies of  religious tradition are being exposed. Today, I sense the impression to explore another "gospel" message that I'm certain many have heard in their lifetime. 

What is the Gospel?

 The English word that is translated Gospel in the New Testament is the Greek word "Euaggelion". It is defined as the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The proclamation of the Grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. This is the Gospel. Glad tidings of total salvation in and through Christ. Proclaiming God's Grace is the Gospel. It is not a movement or a fad, or the new buzz word. Grace is the Gospel.  With the understanding of what the true Gospel is let's look at another message masquerading as the Gospel.

The Holiness Gospel.

 The holiness gospel is not a message of glad tidings but rather sad tidings of how we often fail to measure up to God's standards. I can hear some saying to themselves, wait, didn't Jesus say if we love Him we will keep His commandments? What about without holiness no one will see God? Well, Jesus did say that. The book of Hebrews accurately stated that without holiness no man will see God. 

 We will explore all of these passages, but first, let's look at this "gospel" message. I am going to reveal eight characteristics of the holiness gospel. My prayer is the stronghold of tradition would be uprooted and removed from believers. That they would see and embrace the Grace and goodness of God.
1. The holiness gospel exalts our performance over Christ's 
Finished Work. 
Christ's work wasn't sufficient enough to warrant God's love and Favor. God still needs your performance to complete what God started in you. Salvation is started in you but you need to complete it.

2. The holiness gospel's main focus is on people's sins, shortcomings, and failures.
Why no revival in the land? Your sins. Why no breakthrough? You just can't seem to shake those bad habits. Why is your harvest of blessing being delayed? Your failure to maintain faith and remain sin free. You must be reminded often about your sinfulness and weakness.

3. The holiness gospel constantly calls for "repentance".
Every meeting is filled with continual calls for people to repent. People fill altars and if they're not shedding tears then they're not sincere. Even if you can't think of anything else to repent from, you still need to be crying and sad over your sins and shortcomings.

4. The holiness gospel creates a list of "unforgivable" sins.
Getting a divorce? That's a sin, God can't use you in ministry any longer. Been divorced and now you're going to remarry? Wow, you've really sinned. God can never grant His favor to you. You've not been tithing? Now you've done it. You will never be blessed and God's Heaven is closed to you.

5. In the holiness gospel, Christ's Finished Work is unfinished.
Jesus said the work is finished but this traditional gospel says otherwise. Under the holiness gospel preaching, your sins aren't completely forgiven. You only possess partial forgiveness. Your sins are forgiven up to the point of conversion. Your salvation isn't eternal or secure. It is temporal based upon your faithfulness.

6. The holiness gospel spreads the continual fear of loss of sonship or salvation.
Missing too many church services? Skipped a few months of tithe payments? Struggling with a particular sin? Having doubts about God? Better watch it! Your eternal salvation is at stake. Better get things straightened out.

7. The holiness gospel establishes traditional rules. Focuses on the outward appearance and performance.
Women can't cut their hair or wear makeup. Speaking of women, they are to be seen not heard, they can't preach or be ministers. Men should be wearing a suit and tie to church. They best not have long hair. Tattoos are evil so don't get one. 

8. Under the holiness gospel, believer's righteousness is temporal, not eternal.
Being in right standing begins at salvation, but how you conduct yourself afterward proves whether you remain in right standing with God. If you get into some of the "big sins", you've lost your right standing. You need to stop everything else, separate yourself and get yourself right with God. Messed up? Oh, you can't go witness to others, you need to remain silent and spend much time getting right with God.

The holiness gospel isn't the good news

 I trust you see how the holiness gospel isn't the good news. Where are the glad tidings of salvation in Christ? Where is the Grace manifest in Christ in their teachings? It is lacking God's love and Grace and leaves its followers wanting and broken. 

 Yea but didn't Jesus say if we love Him we will keep His commands? 
15 “If you love Me, keep My commandments. John 14:15 NKJV
This passage isn't some warning. Further in this chapter in John, it says if you love me you will keep my words. It is a promise that we will follow Christ when we receive Him. What are these commandments? Are they that thou shalt not be divorced? Is it thou shalt keep the Sabbath?  No. It is not about keeping the Mosaic Law or other rules. It is being obedient to the commands in the New Covenant. These commands aren't burdensome, but simple, believe in Jesus Christ and walk in the love of God, (the commandments revealed here).
 What about Hebrews chapter 12 you Hyper-Grace preacher? 
14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: Hebrews 12:14 NKJV
 This is a beautiful passage. It is not some stern and harsh warning, threatening the loss of salvation as some wish. It is a promise. When we received the Lord we received all of Him in all of us. He made us holy, once for all time. So surely if we don't receive Him we can't see Him in all His goodness and mercy and love. Also, when we walk out who we've already been made others will see Christ by our actions of love and kindness.

 The holiness gospel then is not the message of the Cross. It is not glad tidings. It is not good news but a bad news message. This message makes one continually aware of their own faults and failures. The focus isn't upon God and His great love for us but rather an inward reflection on how one fails to measure up. 

 We need to uproot this "holiness"message from our thinking. In Christ, we have received of the fullness of God. Look at what Hebrews reveals.
10 By this will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.  14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:10,14 HCSB
 This is the glad tidings of what salvation in Christ has purchased for us. This reveals the Grace of Christ. In Christ, there is no striving, no achieving, no earning anything. This is who He has made us by virtue of the Blood of Jesus. 
 Regardless of what tradition teaches, we can't earn or work for a free gift. We aren't called to pursue holiness. We aren't called to perform our way to a place of right standing. Holiness is what He made us in the New Creation. 
 Let the riches of Christ's goodness and immeasurable love cascade over your heart and mind renewing it to the image Christ has of you. When you readily receive and understand who you are in Him, any striving to please Him or working to earn a position of favor will cease for good. You could never do enough to earn God's love or affection or to keep His attention on you. When God called upon us to receive Him it wasn't a job offer. It wasn't an agreement that we will work so much for Him in exchange for the wages of love, favor, and acceptance. The  Gospel is the good news of God's eternal love for you, and His welcome invitation to New life and wholeness. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

What Gospel Are You Hearing? The Angry Gospel

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. Galatians 1:6-7 NKJV

16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile Romans 1:16 NLT

 We've been engaged in a brief study as of late. We are asking the question, what gospel are you hearing? Up to now, we have seen the Gospel message was not meant to be hopeless or discouraging. It wasn't designed to be a politically affiliated movement. The Gospel is good news, plain and simple. 

 Today, I ask the question again what Gospel message are you hearing? 

the Angry gospel

 Far too many believers have been listening to this message. I have heard messages like this for many years in the past. This isn't an indictment against passionate preaching or a speaker whose volume happens to be louder than what some are used to. We as believers are maturing into who Christ already made us. We aren't to discern things based upon fickle emotions. We are, however, to know and understand and evaluate what we are hearing by the standard of the Word of God. 

 What is the definition of the Gospel again? It is the glad tidings of salvation through Christ. The proclamation of the Grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ. The angry gospel comes in various expressions. Let's examine them in light of the true Gospel.

The angry gospel is accusative in nature

  The angry message is that God is perpetually angry and fed up with the sins, the actions, and the failures of the World as well as the Church. He is like a ticking time bomb who at any moment will explode on all who cross Him. It is often accusative in expression.

 When a believer has a mishap or some other negative event transpire, those under this type of teaching are quick to hurl accusations; "The fact this occurred proves you must have some hidden sin in your life. Now if you repent, maybe God will help you out of this mess." 
 You will hear from the pulpits of angry gospel peddlers that revival tarries because the Church isn't faithful. You'll often hear how other denominations or groups are missing it, but their group is on the right track. You'll see whole conventions or meetings designed to reveal just how erroneous other Christian groups are because they don't embrace their views about the Holy Spirit or Calvinism. 

Quick to assign judgment 

 If there is a hurricane or tsunami or some other natural disaster the angry gospel is quick to assign the event as some judgment from God for that geographic region's sins. Is America experiencing a poor economy? It couldn't be because politicians are mismanaging the resources. No, it is because we have legalized something sinful. God is angry and punishing the evil doers. 

The Finished Work is of little importance

 In angry gospel circles, they are quick to acknowledge God's Son died and rose again. Sure He took all the punishment for sins. He bore all the judgment. Yet, in their messages, it seems it is of little consequence. God is still unsatisfied. He still punishes folk for their transgressions. He is still sending judgment to the nations for their wickedness. 

 As for evangelism, this message turns away sinners. It doesn't attract them. It preaches Hellfire and anger and a wrath consumed God. The message is God sees you as despicable and deplorable. It leaves some with the impression God wasted His Son's death on them. 

 The Gospel of Grace doesn't proclaim bad news. We are proclaiming the Grace that is Jesus Christ. We are proclaiming the glad tidings of new life and freedom from performance and works. Look at the book of Acts, when they ministered to the lost what message did they preach? Was it God is angry with you gentiles for your wicked deeds? Better turn or burn? See an example here

 What did Philip teach? 
35 So beginning with this same Scripture, Philip told him the Good News about Jesus. Acts 8:35 NLT
 Philip preached Jesus. That is the Gospel. The man readily received the good news. Philip preached Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. The message of Jesus is a welcoming message. It is glad tidings, not sad tidings. Take note Philip didn't deny the existence of Hell. He didn't deny the reality that the Ethiopian man was lost. He simply preached the truth in love. There is no bad news in the good news.

The sad gospel

 Speaking of the angry gospel message leads us to mention another deviation of the true message. The sad gospel is what many hear  when they first come to Christ. What is the sad gospel?

 The sad gospel is all about what you must do to get God's love and favor. It is what you must give up before God will let you in His Family. It is all about what you do for Him. The Lordship salvation error is a perfect example of the sad gospel. 

 Before God will save your soul, you better straighten out your life first. You best quit that cussing and smoking. You best get a haircut and wear a suit tie so you can be welcomed to church. 

 The sad gospel declares what all you have to give up and what activities you need to cease participation in. Do you like golf on Saturdays? Too bad, you need to spend that time studying or going to the market to witness to people. Turn off the TV and spend more time praying. 

 The Gospel is good news. It is glad tidings. It is not an angry message that God is going to get you whenever you miss it. It isn't doom and gloom predictions. It isn't some sad story. It isn't a message that God tolerates our presence. It isn't about all we must do, what we must give up, and what we need to be engaged in to be found acceptable. 

 The Grace Gospel reveals God rejoices over us with joy. It reveals He has faith in the Finished Work of His Son. It reveals it isn't about us decreasing, it's a revelation of Christ in us. It is all of Him in all of us, because of the New Birth. 
 The good news is us revealing to this lost World that God is not mad at them. That God has turned on the lights. He has put out the welcome mat and left the door unlocked. We are the bearer of glad news that God has reconciled the World in Christ and desires they RSVP the invitation to new life, wholeness, and perpetual right standing with the Father. What a thrilling and exhilarating, adventure the Christian life is to be the faithful stewards of this exciting good news! 
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