Shhhh…It’s the Quietest Gospel

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The Quietest Gospel. Kind of self explanatory, but Wax explains there are a couple angles. For the sake of baiting you to read the book, I’ll only explain the version that I struggle with the most.

The conservative version maintains the appearance of prophetic speech by speaking out against certain sins. But it often reduces the gospel announcement by relegating its implications to personal fulfillment in a way that makes the church irrelevant to public discourse. (pg. 140)

Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow Him. Dietrich Bonhoeffer (quoted on pg 140)

The problem is I observe plenty blatant sins in my daily life. It’s easy enough (though sometimes I wimp out even still) to declare that am pro-life and abortion is wrong, that taking God’s name in vain is a sin, that stealing is wrong and so is sexual immorality and lying and abuse and sorcery and… you get my drift. Many people, priding themselves on morality, would support these assertions. However, the true Gospel calls me to more than that.

Where is a Christian living out the bold apostolic Gospel that defies evil even when to do so will cause pain? Where is the Christian willing to take the true Gospel for all its political assertions, for its nitty-gritty implications on everyday life? I suggest to you that there aren’t many living in the United States.

It is frequently heard from our pulpits, “Just preach the gospel.” I have heard many Christians say, “I don’t really say much about my faith, I just hope people see Jesus in my life.” That’s not the Biblical Gospel.

Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Amos, and Ezekiel had no trouble holding together the proclamation of good news with the prophetic call to care for the poor and needy, to stop economically unjust practices, and to return to a heartfelt worship of God.” (pg. 145)

I think on a smaller scale of other examples of a quietest gospel: when we’re afraid to raise our hands in church or kneel in worship because of what others may think; when we don’t give money to that homeless person because we don’t know their real motives; when we don’t tell the truth about where we’ll be on Sunday morning when asked to make other plans. Anything sound familiar?

This morning I began my quiet time as usual with my journal open on my lap. Suddenly, after a few pages of drivel and standard prayer requests, the Holy Spirit dug deep into my heart. He asked me, “Abby, if there were no hell, would you love me?”

What?

“If there were no eternal consequence to sin, no fiery hell to be avoided, would you love me? Or would you say, ‘A little longer, I’ve almost got it right down here;’ or, ‘I’m actually enjoying this for now.’ How passionate is your love for me? Is it greater, louder, more fulfilling than your comfort, your reputation, your self-esteem?”

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 12:1-4

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The Moralistic Appeal

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On Monday, I confessed several ways that I see the moralistic gospel veiling pride in my own life. Continued reading reminded me of a specific instance, or several instances.

When I was 14, I began a long struggle with anorexia. I endured hours and hours of counseling. I was treated from every angle – coddling and compassion for the disease that assailed me, conviction and chastisement for  yielding to a sinful addiction. At first, it was easier to lean into the people who felt sorry for me. But, as God has peeled away the scabs of pride, painfully revealing my frailty and failures, I realized that I had been lured into sin.

Personally, my eating disorder was a mask for pride. I had invented my own moral code: extreme bodily self-control. I berated myself for succumbing to food or a shortened workout. I looked down on others who couldn’t mortify their own desires. So pride festered, manifesting itself in my own bodily destruction – what sin will always do.

When I married, my wonderful husband turned out to be human too. I won’t confess his weaknesses, but he had a few addictions and failures of his own. I mounted my moralistic ladder and instead of displaying Christ’s love to him, I preached a moralistic gospel. He didn’t measure up to my personal moral code, he wasn’t reading the Bible as much I was, he wasn’t seeking Godly counsel as I was, he wasn’t fighting his demons as valiantly as I was. So I lambasted him for his shortcomings. Regrettably, I even doubted his salvation.

Case in point – a moralistic gospel.

If I can refine one nugget of gold from the years of my eating disorder, it is that God used it later in life to show me how patient, graceful and forgiving He had been toward me. God even showed me how my own family had displayed the true gospel toward me in the midst of my eating disorder. In this way, He convicted me of my counterfeit life-preaching toward my husband. If God stooped so low as to redeem me from the pit of rebellion, how could I insist that anyone else climb out of the pit, clean themselves off and then present themselves to the God of Grace?

Wax’s chapter on the moralistic gospel in Counterfeit Gospels, rings true in my own history. I pray the Lord to keep me humbly in the center of the one true gospel.

Counterfeit Gospel #3

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I’m about half-way through Trevin Wax’s book, Counterfeit Gospels. I have only one complaint and we’ll see if it survives the rest of the book. So far, it seems repetitive. Perhaps that’s simply because of human nature. Wax lists six counterfeits, but their traits and symptoms overlap quite a bit. Sin is like that though.

Recently, I was challenged to search my heart and ask the Holy Spirit to uncover my “pet sins.” I can list several sins that cling to me, but they all dissolve in the acid of pride.

It was pride that enticed Eve to devour a fruit that would make her “like God.”

It is pride that goads me into an argument with my husband to prove that I’m right.

It’s pride that leads me to over-commit, trying to show off my Superwoman skills.

It’s pride that spearheads envy, pride that fosters worry, pride that keeps me from shouting the true gospel of Jesus Christ from the roof tops.

The third Counterfeit Gospel that Wax describes is the “moralistic gospel.” This one is like the missing security thread on a twenty dollar bill – few people will actually spot it. Perhaps it is more frequently exchanged among “life-long Christians” than among new, excited babes in the faith.

Wax tells a story of a pastor explaining Christ’s miracle of walking on the water and calming the seas. The pastor struggled to convey a deeper meaning: Christ’s ability to calm the storms in our own lives. But his listeners were brand new to the Scriptures and had a language barrier as well. They simply could not get beyond the power of a Man who could walk on water and calm raging seas.

Once, we were astonished at the grace that saved, awed by the supernatural love of a God who would die for us. Over time, we not only begin to practice a doctrine of “gratitude leads to good behavior” but we may even begin to preach this counterfeit gospel.

Beware Christian. Galatians 5:1 could be the theme verse for this chapter.

So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

Judgement-lite

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As I read about the second Counterfeit Gospel, Jeremiah 8 kept coming to mind.

They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed an abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. (v. 11-12)

All day long, in every podium (alas, often in our churches) the buzz-word, “tolerance” blares. “Don’t judge.” (The Biblical context disregarded.) “We all need to love one another.” No one wants to have to choose, let alone instruct anyone else in right or wrong. We have parents raising their children “genderless” so that they can choose whatever makes them “happy.” Parents are encouraged not to spank their children and to soften their approaches to discipline, another indication that our world can’t stomach any form of judgement.

Trevin Wax coins this dilution of the Gospel, “judgmentless.” The problems listed above are modern, plastered on the front pages of newspapers, preached from universalist pulpits, and marched in protests. But Wax examines the root of the problem.

The idea that people are basically good. This philosophy looks at the tantrum throwing two-year-old and declares that he doesn’t really mean it, certainly he was just provoked. Surely, words of hatred, white lies, divorce, infidelity – all have justifiable causes. Since God looks at our hearts, and since God is love, this gospel insists that God understands.

It makes it easier to win converts. Quite simply, it’s easier to build a mega-church if you allow everyone to have their own version of God. It’s really hard to look at your coworker and honestly tell them that if they don’t believe in Jesus Christ as the one and only Son of God who sacrificed Himself for their personal sins and rose again, they are going to hell.

Near the end of the chapter, Wax delivers a decisive blow. For all our talk about justice: we cry for justice against the evils of slavery, we want justice and equality for women in the work place, we want criminals punished, and underdog to be rescued – we don’t know what we’re asking for. If we truly want justice, we truly want a righteous Judge.

If you expect God to do something about the evil in this world, then you want God to judge. (pg 80)

Therein is the truth, the beauty and the difficulty of the true Gospel. We all deserve judgement. The real, divine righteousness that our hearts long for will condemn each one of  us. Thankfully, the mercy of our God is equal to His absolute justice. He poured out unspeakable wrath against all evil on His own son, Jesus. And Jesus rose, conquered death, condemned sin in the flesh.

[Now] We need only recognize our guilt in light of God’s holiness and then bask in [His] forgiveness in light of God’s grace. (pg. 82)

Counterfeit Gospels Day 1

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How did we get here? Are people basically good or evil? Is there hope in this world? What happens when someone dies? What does the future hold? Pg. 40

Those are the daunting questions posited by Trevin Wax near the beginning of his book, Counterfeit Gospels.  They are the questions considered by every individual, every age, every race…every man at one time or another. Thankfully, Wax doesn’t propose to answer them himself. In fact, that’s where he starts, the fact that no person, promise, system or story can definitively, answer these questions, except for Jesus Christ. The church holds the the answers to these questions in the pages of the Bible. Now, her responsibility is to truthfully, faithfully, boldly declare the wonderful answers to these questions.

Here Wax introduces the dilemma, the crisis in his words.

“First, we have lost our faith in the power of the gospel to change a life…We are told we need a new gospel for a new day. Bigger. Better. Improved…our churches have begun to lose their distinctiveness.”

It’s the second problem that Wax address first. New gospel, bigger, better, improved. Wax calls it the Therapeutic Gospel. How many maladies are diagnosed as symptoms of low self-esteem? Modern Americans crowd the counselor’s office in hopes of leaving feeling better about themselves. Practically everything we do is designed to answer our question, “What am I here for?” The resounding answer, proclaimed by our behavior is, “To be happy, of course!”

Think of it…why do you do the job you do? Undoubtedly, it’s either because it makes you happy, or because you hope the income it provides will bring you happiness.

Why does the average family utilize family planning? To ensure they have the financial capacity to keep themselves and their children happy.

Why do even unbelievers fill the pews on Christmas and Easter? To feel better about themselves. In fact, I wager that many rears in the pews every Sunday are capped by minds quickly salved by their compulsory Sunday attendance. Is that the gospel: Jesus came so that I could live happily ever after?

The ultimate failure of the Therapeutic Gospel is that it makes the sin (we didn’t live up to our potential), Christ (who came to rescue us because of our inherent value) and eternity (I’ll believe or do the “right” things so that I can live happily ever after) all about us. And the church kneels to accommodate  the self-centered mindset, “promising to help us along in our quest for personal happiness and vocational fulfillment.” pg. 52

How do you know if you’ve fallen for the Therapeutic Gospel? Wax says to examine your prayer life. Do you come to the Father at customary times with a list of needs and desires? Even needs presented as, “make me a better person,” fail to recognize that we will never be good enough apart from Christ’s righteousness. Or do you come in humble, Christ-centered adoration, accepting His pardon, His completion, His sufficiency, exchanging all your desires for His glory?

Ironically, I read in a separate devotional this morning…

Christians who believe what Jesus said about being the sole Mediator of redemption are often seen as narrow-minded, bigoted, and mean-spririted. Even professing evangelicals are increasingly apt to deny this foundational Christian claim: “There is salvation in no one else [besides Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts. 4:11-12)

NEVER dilute the raw truth of: JESUS ONLY FOR SALVATION, FOR HIS GLORY ONLY, for the sake of anyone’s fuzzy feelings.

What’s Coming Up This April

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I swear I just did this. It seems like two days ago that I filled a page with ideas for a whole new month. But, there’s no rest for the weary and now it’s time to plot April. April showers, right? April doldrums, bleary days, cloudy skies and itchy impatience for the rewards of spring. Well, let me brighten the days of your April. Let’s allow the Son to

Blind us with His glory

Cast rainbows in the falling orbs

Speak peace in pattering showers

And thunder truth in blackened skies.

This month I owe a review to Moody Publishers for Trevin Wax’s book Counterfeit Gospels. Because of the way the book is written, highlighting six prevalent, modern (or postmodern) counterfeit gospels, I want to spend two weeks here. This is an excellent topic for Predatory Lies – unveiling the ultimate lie that destroys all lives: a fatal misinterpretation of THE ONLY SAVING GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRST.

If someone handed you a counterfeit $100 bill, what would you do? Is there any chance you would attempt to pass it off as real; reap the benefits of deception? Is there any benefit to be gained by facilitating a deceptive gospel? I admit, I have turned away after some uncomfortable conversations with a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. I took the benefit of maintaining a friendship, not rocking the boat, being agreeable, and passed on a counterfeit gospel to a bankrupt spirit in desperate need of the real currency: Jesus Christ and the  immutable truth of His death and resurrection.

The following week, the third week of April, we’ll lighten it up a bit. Kristen and I will be two weeks into our new endeavor Moms Who TRI. My motivation for starting Moms Who TRI, a personal training company with a niche in moms and kids bootcamps, is to preempt the cultural lies about body image and health before they seep unconsciously into the minds of youth. I am also determined to counter the lies that have already invaded the minds of women; lies about dieting, exercise, personal value, and other things.

During the third week of April, I am going to let you vicariously reap the benefits of training with Moms Who TRI. I will tell you the truth about eating healthily, simply and affordably and share several resources and recipes with you. I will dispel the myths of long exercise programs, and give you a quick, ten minute program that you can do at home. (Also, Moms Who TRI can provide you with fresh programs whenever you need them and offer accountability. Please contact us through our Facebook page or our website if you have any questions.)

The fourth week of April, we’re back to the deeper, more sobering elements of the Christian life. It is the truth that living a bold, Christian life is getting harder in the United States; but it cannot be denied that we remain a blessedly free people. I listen regularly to In the Market with Janet Parshall. Janet often covers the issues of the persecuted church world-wide. Each time I hear a broadcast exposing the terrible truth about “over-there,” my heart breaks and little shards of it prick my spirit – why cannot I not remember to pray? If I can do so little physically (which is not so little after all) how is that I allow a slothful heart to hinder my prayers for my persecuted brothers and sisters?

So this week, I will introduce you to Voice of the Martyrs.  Together, we will become more aware and accountably committed to praying for them.

I look forward to April’s showers with you. May God shower you with His grace and a deeper knowledge of Him.