My oldest son, Luke, sent me a link the other day that quoted A.W. Tozer and James Kennedy (both wonderful Christian leaders in their day). Both men believed that many, if not most, professing believers they encountered around the country were not actually saved. They were deeply troubled by the distortions of the gospel that were the result of trying to get the gospel to more people. Well intentioned yes, but eternally dangerous for the souls of men and woman who had not heard the whole message. The article prompted me to look back in my file for something I remembered writing a while back. Here it is . . . What gospel have you heard and believed?
Five Distortions of the Gospel in Our Day
1) The Cake Mix Gospel: if we leave out key ingredients our souls will never “rise” to God. We don’t need the message reduced to some irreducible elements, we need the whole gospel. You don’t expect your car to run without all the parts. You don’t expect your body to function without all the organs working properly. You don’t expect a cake to taste right if it’s rushed and readied without the right ingredients. The gospel without repentance is not the gospel. Acts 18:26, “And he [Apollos] began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
2) The Cultural Gospel: Skip the postmodern sales job and go for the heart where human need never changes. Understanding the ‘culture’ is much less important than knowing what the Bible says about every human heart separated from God. We don’t need slick sales people giving out the gospel. We need bold, Spirit-filled messengers with a deep heart of compassion for lost people. The gospel without authoritative/binding truth is not the gospel. Acts 17:30, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.”
3) The Cool Gospel: Jesus transcends fashion trends. Marketing Jesus is cheap and powerless. We don’t need to ‘spin’ the message we need to say it. We need to stop shaping Jesus in some misguided effort to make Him appealing. Jesus doesn’t need to be like us; we need to be like Him. The gospel wrapped in stylistic packaging is not the gospel. Revelation 3:17 “Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.”
4) The Carnal Gospel: What Jesus can do for me: health, wealth, always happy, never hurting? Jesus solves those issues, but not the way we may think. He’ll change what you want a lot more than what you have. The selfish gospel that promises things Jesus doesn’t promise is a lie and is sentencing the lost who listen to a shocking surprise in eternity. The gospel of “me before Jesus” is not the gospel. Mark 8:35 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
5) The Careful Gospel: Let’s not upset anybody, just keep ‘em comfortable and coming back, There’s lots of time for folks to figure it out. The gospel of “get them to church, and in time everything will come together as long as we don’t offend them” is a dangerous gospel. Well intentioned is not enough. The gospel without urgency is not the gospel. 2 Corinthians 6:2, “Behold, now is “THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,” behold, now is “THE DAY OF SALVATION.”
Do you understand the implications of a distorted gospel? What horror to imagine many people thinking they are ready to meet God only to find out they never were because they believed a distorted gospel. Matthew 7 predicts just a scene of shocking surprise. Matthew 7:22-23, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.”