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Five Distortions of the Gospel in our Day

March 08, 2010

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.”



Read comments:

  • AnonymousFeb.10.2011

    I am so tired of the Gospel being distorted.

  • Lorianne WamhoffFeb.15.2011

    Thank you for the listing of ‘distortions’, which, if permitted to thrive, can lead one down a terrible path of ignorance and ultimately death.

    I am grateful for your teachings. I came to know Christ as a young child, but in the brokenness of our family, I looked to the world to find my way through. As an adult, I found how I allowed many of the distortions you listed to bind me into believing there was really no way out, no hope. I am a mother now, who loves my Lord, and I teach my children of God’s ways and of His Love for us all. Your teaching speaks freshness to my heart at a time when I found myself sort of “set aside” by a couple of people I felt were true friends who influenced my faith greatly. I may be a ‘frustration’ to those few who no longer believe in me, but I will not fret, I will walk forward, trusting God with all of my heart. I trust God’s Word. I trust in God’s love for me and my children.

    James MacDonald’s bold and honest teaching is very helpful to my continuous hunger for God’s Word, and God’s wisdom. Thank You.

  • lucson cadetMar.03.2011

    keep speaking, preaching, and teaching the truth.

  • BrianMar.03.2011

    I can barely stomach this “feel good” mentality in the church. The TRUTH is usually painful but God is moved the most by true Brokeness and believers despising this sinful nature not having really good excuses for being what you are! Preach on!

  • JessMar.03.2011

    Appreciate your candor and style of writing about these distortions. Great examples too. I wish there were a touch more elaboration on your actual view on salvation. A lot about what it isn’t. Did I miss what it IS?

  • MarkMar.03.2011

    The cultural gospel – I think to some extent we all distort the gospel by limiting it to our own culture, and by limiting our understanding of the Bible to the way our culture reads it. I wonder if it’s only as we join humbly with believers from other very different cultures around the world that we are able to see and live a less distorted gospel…?

  • Joey FaulkMar.03.2011

    Thanks for keeping it real

  • Joshua BarnettMar.03.2011

    Excellent article. Thank you for posting. Glad Mark Driscoll tweeted this.

  • ShaneMar.03.2011

    “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

  • QuixotequestMar.04.2011

    I think it is wise that we learn the full Good News so that God may effectively use us for his purposes. But we must be cautious where “the right Gospel” still gets ensnared with our cultural and parochial preferences. I don’t experience the angst nor the preoccupation some Christians have with going around and judging who is saved or not. Salvation is the work of God and I trust His ability to get across the street on His own power to rescue those whom will have a heart to be rescued. I pray that I may participate effectively in that work.

  • Distortions of the Gospel |  KevinChilds.comMar.04.2011

    […] http://jamesmacdonald.com/blog/?p=3897 […]

  • jimMar.04.2011

    Luke 11:52… “Woe to you lawyers for you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves and you hindered those who were entering.” False teachers take the key of knowledge and hide it by presenting worldly concepts in place of Truth. Dumb sheep follow the leader into world views of God. The key, Truth, is hidden from the people… much like the Word was for centuries.

  • MelissaMar.10.2011

    I doubt any Christian would disagree that these dangers exist however I think the disagreement comes into the details. For example older Christians thought praise and worship choruses were a form of the “cool” gospel. Or I know many “postmodern” teachers who present the true gospel with out many limitations the current church has put on it. We must be careful in our declarations that we have the full or true gospel. Many churches today are missing the deep community aspect of salvation that was present in Jesus’ teachings and the early church.

  • Trevor PriceMar.19.2011

    Thank you for this strong message. We all need to “share, preach, teach the true Gospel to everyone”
    The time is short.


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