Counterfeit Gospel #3

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.


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)