A Different Gospel
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, August 16, 2009
Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
It is a good idea to ask ourselves the following questions: Do we believe in the real Jesus or a different Jesus, a Jesus of our own creation? Do we believe the real gospel or the gospel of our own creation? Are we filled with the Holy Spirit or a different spirit, the evil spirit?
Paul wrote to the Galatian Christians about this tendency to believe in a different gospel:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to different gospel-which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:6-9)
He wrote similarly to the Corinthians:
I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. . . . For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. (2 Cor. 11:1-4; 13-15)
When revival is on, there will also be a manifestation of false gospels, false Jesuses, and false spirits. Some people profit by the revival and their lives are transformed. Yet there are always others who are hardened. The same Holy Spirit causes their hearts to be hardened and made stubborn. That is why we must each examine our own lives and ask: "Am I repenting? Am I humbling myself before the glory of God? Or am I becoming more arrogant, stubborn, and wicked?"
True Revival Reveals Sin
There is a revival going on in our midst. The Holy Spirit is revealing to us very clearly various sins in our lives. Such self-revelation takes place when God reveals his glory to us through the faithful preaching of the gospel. No one will repent and confess unless he sees the glory of God. This is what happened to Isaiah in Isaiah 6. He saw the Lord seated on the throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. The seraphs were singing, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory." It was then that Isaiah cried out, "Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."
This was also true of Moses, John, and Paul. They came to know themselves and their sin in the light of the manifestation of the holiness and glory of God.
This revelation of our sins in the light of God's transcendent glory is not intended to make us despair. God reveals our sins that they may be disposed forever by the atoning sacrifice of the altar. We see this in the life of Isaiah, as well as in the life of one of our sisters who is experiencing the present revival along with others. She wrote about it in the following letter:
As you spoke on Friday about examining our foundation, God began to reveal to me sin that was built into the foundation of my faith of which I need to confess and repent.
God gave me an image in my mind of a white horse with a rider wearing a robe dipped in blood. He was full of wrath and was coming to judge. I realized that I had been worshiping a god of my own making, not the True and Living God. I didn't like God who came with thunder, lightning, and a loud trumpet blast that caused men to tremble with fear. The god in my mind had many of the same characteristics of the True and Living God, but was a neutered god who "understood" my weaknesses and would "sympathize" with me if I "bent the rules." Unfortunately, I exalted this god higher than my husband and would judge what he said by the standard of the god of my mind. If my husband became too angry or required something I thought was unreasonable, I would discount it in my heart. This allowed me to place myself over my husband's authority and still convince myself that I was "spiritual." I ruled in our home all the while thinking that I was submitting to God.
At the same time, I became proficient at saying and doing the right thing in most circumstances, even when there was no true submission in my heart. I did this to such an extent that I fooled even myself and I would think "I didn't say anything wrong, I did just what my husband said," even when my heart raged. I had become the Pharisee that cleaned the outside of the cup and dish, but inside was filled with greed and self-indulgence. I looked for cracks and holes in my husband's instructions and took advantage of them, rather than humbly pointing out our need to be living a consistent and disciplined life. Because my standard was that of the god of my mind, I convinced myself that I was basically fine.
In the process, the order in our home was rank opposite to the Biblical order. Because I "loved" my children, I allowed their desires to influence how diligently I applied my husband's rules. To my horror, I see that I did this all the while convincing myself that I was following Biblical principles. I now see these same sins being reproduced in our children and it is my own doing. Our walls are broken down because I have torn them down.
I praise God for his great mercy in revealing this while his hand is still upraised. My heart overflows with thankfulness for an opportunity to repent and rebuild. I know that a tremendous battle lies ahead and I covet your prayers for myself, our family, and especially our children. My desire is to make permanent change that remains.
Thank you for your untiring work in proclaiming the whole gospel. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for your steadfast faithfulness in living for Christ. I am eternally grateful.
We do not see our weakness unless we see the glory of God revealed in the word of God. We must rid ourselves of that mental image of a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different spirit, and embrace the real Jesus, the real gospel, and the real Holy Spirit.
Man's False View of God
In a true revival, our false view of God is revealed that we may confess our sin of idolatry and then worship the true and living God in spirit and in truth. We are living at a time when the vast majority of Christians believe in a false gospel, a different Jesus, and an unholy spirit. They believe God is only love and not a judge who is wrathful towards sinners. They would say, "God will always forgive. When we sin, God will forgive, even without our true and holy repentance. God wants us above all to have fun and enjoyment. In fact, he gives us health and wealth so that we might enjoy all the good things of this present life."
Such people would say a person can become a Christian by merely deciding to accept the facts about Jesus in the Bible. To them, there is no need for regeneration or saving faith; mere mental assent to certain biblical propositions is all that is required. Then the person can continue in his sins. He does not need to reproduce any fruit of the Holy Spirit in his life. In fact, he can sin even more than before he became a Christian. Such a person is called a carnal Christian. According to the most popular theology, a carnal Christian is truly saved and on his way to heaven. He can enjoy the pleasures of many sins here and the pleasures of eternal life in heaven. He can live the life of the rich man here and yet have the good life of Lazarus in heaven. He can enjoy maximum fun, always emphasizing grace for his justification and sanctification. He would affirm that if we sin more, then we can experience grace more and God will receive greater glory. The carnal Christian says, "Let us sin more so that grace may abound."
The god of a carnal Christian is an imaginary, indulgent father who never says no to our requests to indulge. His god always says yes to us. This is a different father.
Eventually, such a person will deny hell and eternal judgment. This large-hearted Christian believes in pluralism, saying that there are many ways to be saved and Jesus is not the only way, truth, and life. He says the Bible is only one of many holy books and therefore it is not essential or even desirable to preach from it.
What else does a carnal Christian believe? He would say that we do not need to believe in moral absolutes because moral relativism and cultural conformity are in vogue, both in the church and in Christian homes. He would say that children need not obey their parents; rather, parents must obey their children. Additionally, wives need not submit to their own husbands, but husbands must submit to their wives. He would state that human sexuality can be expressed at any time in any form, not just in marriage, and that to enjoy the full pleasures of life, one may abort one's babies or use technology to prevent having any children at all.
A carnal Christian would say that worship should be centered on entertainment so that whatever entertains people and makes them feel good is all right. He would avoid the old-fashioned, authoritative preaching of the Bible about law, sin, repentance, and saving faith in Jesus Christ crucified, risen, and reigning forever because that may make people feel uncomfortable or guilty. Instead, one should preach about love, forgiveness, and the pleasures of living. He would say there is no true guilt due to transgression of God's law, but only guilt feelings resulting from the transgression of relative human conventions. He would say that extramarital sex should be permitted as well as easy divorce for any reason and that sex in any form should be taught as normal in a progressive society. He would affirm that truth should be defined as that which gives one pleasure and, therefore, fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and other sexual behaviors should be seen as normal. He would say that buying on credit should be promoted because things give people pleasure, and one must oppose every constraint on pleasure. He would definitely oppose the old-fashioned preaching of the cross, cross-bearing, self-denial, and holy living. He would admonish, "Work hard to make more money to buy more things and to feel more happy. Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we will die!"
Examples of the False Gospel
We find examples of the false gospel throughout the Bible. In Genesis 3:2 the serpent challenged Eve: "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" Then he told her the different gospel: "'You will not surely die,' the serpent said to the woman. 'For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'" (Gen. 3:4-5).
The true gospel leads to eternal life, but the different gospel leads to eternal death. Consider what happened to Adam and Eve. Having believed the false gospel, they were deceived and lost their God-given glory. They became naked and afraid, full of misery, pain, and sweat, and subject to thorns and thistles, pests, diseases, death, and hell. (PGM) That is what happens when we believe in a different Jesus, a different gospel, and a different spirit. Jesus himself exposed this different gospel, saying, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).
In Exodus 32:1-8 we read that the people said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us" (v. 1). This was a violation of the Ten Commandments. Moses, therefore, threw down the tablets and broke them because that is what the people had done. As soon as the law was given, they had broken it, and in its place they worshiped a golden calf, the work of Aaron's brilliance.
This passage tells us why people like a different gospel: "The next day people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings to the bull. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and rose up to indulge in [sexual immorality]" (v. 6). People like a different Jesus because they want the freedom to indulge in any and every form of sin. "Then the LORD said to Moses, "Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt. They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them'" (v. 7-8). This was an orgy with no restraint.
Look at verse 25: "Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies." Out of control! Paul says that the children of elders are supposed to be obedient believers, not wild (Titus 1:6). It is from this passage in Exodus that we have the idea of wild, unrestrained children who dare to tell their pastor or parents, "I'll do what I want to do. What are you going to do about it?" As a pastor, let me assure you, I am not going to do anything about it, because there is someone else who will do everything about it. But if you have a problem and want help, we can help you.
Another example is Solomon, who gave us all the proverbs and some psalms, a man of great wisdom in whom was the Holy Spirit (1 Kings 11:1-6). Yet he was led astray by his wives to worship and serve other gods, building temples for them. He abandoned the Bible, even though he had a copy that he was supposed to read and govern his affairs with (PGM). But Solomon threw out the Bible and introduced pluralism, following Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Molech the god of the Ammonites, Chemosh, god of the Moabites, as well as the Lord. This is "both/and" religion. True Christianity says "either/or." Those who believe in a false gospel say, "We are a progressive society. We believe in 'both/and.' What is wrong with a little Chemosh, Ashtoreth, and Molech worship mixed with our worship of the Lord?" But God is not pleased with such worship. In fact, he will come and cut down those who practice such things. That is the way he does things, and we must understand that.
Look at Jeroboam I in 1 Kings 12. When God made him king over ten tribes, Jeroboam made two golden calves and put one in Dan and one in Bethel. Then he built shrines on every hill (1 Kings 12:31). Discarding the Bible, Jeroboam said that anyone could become a priest and do whatever he wanted. "Go ahead and sin," he would say, "but do not go to Jerusalem to worship in the temple. The worshipers in Jerusalem are stiff and narrow-minded. They speak only about worship of the true and living God. I understand what you like-you like to sin! So we will make you happy. Sin all you want and have fun-fun in the morning, at noon, in the evening, and in the wee hours of the night. Have fun!"
Then there was Ahab (1 Kings 22). A very religious man, he had four hundred prophets of Baal to advise him. He also had one prophet of the Lord, Micaiah, of whom Ahab said, "I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad" (1 Kings 22:8). In other words, Ahab was saying, "I hate the Lord, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit. I hate the real gospel and the real Christ." Ahab directed his hatred to Micaiah because the real God is invisible. But in 1 Kings 22:23 Micaiah revealed that a lying spirit came from the Lord and rested on these four hundred lying prophets. We see the same thing today. Any pastor who speaks from the Bible will be treated as Micaiah, hated by those who want to sin. They prefer the lying spirit of the false gospel and its ministers.
Another example is found in 2 Kings 16. King Ahaz refused to trust and believe in God. When God sent Isaiah to tell him, "Don't worry, God will take care of you. Believe in him," Ahaz would not believe. He became a slave of Tiglath-Pileser rather than a slave of the Lord. Then he went to Damascus to get measurements of an altar upon which Tiglath-Pileser worshiped and told Uriah the priest to build the altar according to the plan of the Damascene altar. What did Ahaz do with the bronze altar which was made according to the plan God showed Moses on the mountain? He put it away. Once again, the Bible and true biblical worship were thrown out. Ahaz had become thoroughly progressive and pagan at the same time.
Isaiah speaks of those who embrace a different gospel, a different Jesus, and a different spirit: "They say to the seers, 'See no more visions!' and to the prophets, 'Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!'" (Isa. 30:10-11).
The True Gospel
In Galatians 1 Paul says that those who preach a different gospel should be eternally condemned. What was the true gospel Paul preached? He tells the Corinthians:
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. (1 Cor. 15:1-6)
This is the real gospel. Elsewhere Paul writes to the same church: "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:1-2).
What happens to those who believe a different gospel? John states, "They went out from us but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (1 John 2:19). What did these people believe? "Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world" (2 John 7). These people denied that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal Son of God who became incarnate, lived a righteous life, and died on the cross for our sins that we may be saved.
A gospel that rejects Jesus Christ and his cross is a rejection of the true gospel, the true Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Jude writes about such antinomianism:
For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign Lord. . . . In the same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject all authority, and slander celestial beings. . . . Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals-these are the very things that destroy them. Woe to them! These men are blemishes at your love feasts, eating with you without the slightest qualm-shepherds who feed only themselves. They are clouds without rain, blown along by the wind; autumn trees, without fruit and uprooted-twice dead. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; ;wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever. . . . But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, 'In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.' These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and to not have the Spirit. (Jude 4, 8, 10-13, 17-19)
Peter also speaks of these people:
But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. . . . These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity-for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: "A dog returns to its vomit," and, "A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud." (2 Pet. 2:1-3, 17-22)
Paul also clearly addresses this problem:
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. . . . [People will be] treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. . . . For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:4; 4:3)
What Gospel Are You Trusting In?
Our days are going fast. Some may live a few more years, others but a few more days. Why waste our lives believing in a false Jesus, false gospel, and false spirit? Yet we see that throughout the world this different gospel, Jesus, and spirit are taught. But this different gospel is the doctrine of demons, and those who proclaim such a gospel and follow it are eternally condemned.
What gospel are you hearing? What Jesus have you been trusting in? What Spirit is leading you? The Jesus of liberalism is considered to be "a good man" but not God. The Jesus of evangelicalism is a Jesus who is always forgiving, a Jesus who always loves but never judges. The Jesus of the charistmatic health and wealth movement is supposed to give us health and wealth without problems. The Jesus of liberation theology says Jesus is a revolutionary who came to destroy existing oppressive structures to give us "freedom." None of these are the Jesus of the Bible, and none of these will save you.
Who is your Jesus? Is he the eternal Son, eternal God who became man in history, who lived righteously, in whom there was no sin, who died on the cross to atone the sins of his elect people, the one who was crucified, buried, and raised on the third day by the Father, and under whose feet the Father has placed all things, who is the head of his church, who is seated on the right hand of God, who will come again to judge the wicked and save his people, who will create a new heaven and a new earth, with whom we shall dwell forever in eternal happiness. The Jesus of the Bible is the Lord Jesus Christ, by whose atoning work his people have been justified, are being sanctified, and shall be glorified. May God help us to deny ourselves, take up the cross daily, and follow the real Jesus who gives eternal life, to believe the real gospel that promotes holiness, and be filled with the real Holy Spirit, who will direct us and in whom we shall be satisfied and be happy. Amen.
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Copyright © 2009, P. G. Mathew
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