Gal 1:6 "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
When Paul wrote those words to the Galatians, he was upset. In the very first verse, he expresses his complete mystification at the lack of discernment being displayed by the Galatians by not recognizing the falsehoods being spread under the guise of being called a "gospel." He then points out that what is being taught is NOT the Gospel, but an utter perversion of it...and as such, is not worthy of even being called a gospel. Finally, he expresses not only his condemnation of it, but the condemnation of God upon all who would preach it.
It is appropriate to note that in today's world, there are a number of different "gospels" being preached, but there is one in particular that is especially damnable. Since Christians are commanded by scripture to "examine" all things, and to "reprove, rebuke and exhort with all long-suffering and DOCTRINE," it is the intention of this study to examine closely what I call the American gospel. Why do I call it that? Simply because it is a message masquerading as gospel that has its roots in Americana, is preached primarily in America, and is suitable to no countries other than America (with the exception of a few Western nations that enjoy a high level of economic comfort.)
The only question to be answered is simply, "what is the Gospel?" The Gospel (or good news) that Paul preached, Peter, John, James, Luke, Matthew and Jude taught, and has been evident in Gods dealings with man from the very beginning is this: man is a sinner, and unworthy of standing in the presence of God, BUT, God has made a way for man to be reconciled, and that is through the atonement of Jesus Christ, paid for ON THE CROSS, and proven acceptable to God by His RESURRECTION. I believe that Paul's own words should suffice to establish exactly what he preached, and what he considered to be "THE GOSPEL."
1Cr 1:17 " For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.
1Cr 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
1Cr 15:3 "For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; "
From the very beginning, God has made it clear that man is bound in sin. Every prophet that God has ever sent has said the same thing..."you're doing it wrong, you're NOT pleasing God..." Every prophet has also said "HOWEVER..." thus showing that there was a way to get right with God...HIS way. Every prophet has also included the kicker..."BUT, IF YOU DON'T...", thus detailing the consequences of failure to do things HIS way. Smack dab in the middle of the message, though, has always been the Gospel that allows man to be redeemed.
When Jesus came, He brought the same message, but His emphasis was on the middle of the message, and summed up in His statement " for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (Jn 3:16) Jesus continued by making it clear that there was only ONE way to have that everlasting life. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE cometh to the Father BUT BY ME." (Jn 14:6)
That's it in a nutshell, and it is the ONLY Gospel there is, the ONLY Gospel preached by Paul and ALL the Apostles, and the ONLY Gospel there will ever be. As a result, there is NO Gospel that can be preached, anywhere or anytime, that does not include those elements. Jesus even said in John 16:8 that the Holy Spirit would reprove (speak, preach, convince, convict) the world of those same elements....sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Just as with the prophets of old, it's "you're wrong, here's the way to do it right, and if you don't.....you're in trouble!"
The perverted form of gospel being preached in the America's today contains a number of elements that fly in the face of scripture and the essence of the REAL Gospel enumerated above.
First to consider is the element of "self-worth." About 20 years ago, Robert Schuller (of Crystal Cathedral fame) seized upon some of the teachings of Norman Vincent Peale, and developed what he called "possibility" thinking. The essence of the possibility thinking message was that you're worth something, God loves you (unconditionally), and all you have to do is think positively, and what you think is what you will become (and have). To a large degree, this "possibility" thinking is nothing more (or less) than a variation on Eastern religious practices found in TM, Yoga, and popularized in the early 70's through Erhard Seminar Training (EST). The same reasoning can also be found in Christian Science and Scientology.
Schuller's form of the gospel took off with the publication of his book "The BEattitudes," which took the Beatitudes from the sermon on the mount (Mat. 5) and turned them into an "attitude readjustment" that emphasized self-worth and self-value. In Schuller's own words, "if you can't love yourself, then you can't love anyone or anything else."
On a recent telecast, Schuller paid homage to another of the self-love ministers, Joyce Meyers, exalting her for having taken "my gospel of self-worth" and elevating it to new heights.
While it may be beneficial to a person's ego to pay homage to themselves and their value, it is at complete odds with the REAL Gospel, and even further at odds with what Paul had to say numerous times. Paul, while exhorting believers to understand their standing IN Christ, nevertheless reminded his readers (and listeners) to remember what they ONCE WERE, and that was.....a sinner, separated from God by their sin and UNWORTHY of being in His presence. He even said "This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." 1Ti 1:15
It must be noted here that satan had a problem with his own over-evaluation of himself, as shown in Isaiah 14:12-14, where he said "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High."
Christians must ever keep in mind that they are saved ONLY because God loved us, not because we were lovable. He loves us because of who HE is, not who we are. And most especially, we should keep always in mind that fact that if we are now different from before (all things are new), then it is ONLY by of the Grace of God.
The second major part of this abomination of the Gospel is something that dovetails neatly into, and follows quickly on the heels of self-worth, and that is the thought that because we are worth something, we should be able to have anything. This specious line of reasoning concludes that by not only considering ourselves of such great value (to God and to others), but by applying our minds and tongues to visualizing and declaring that value AND worldly goods, we can have whatever we want; we can MAKE our dreams, visions and desires become reality.
This particular facet of the "gospel of self-worth" is derived directly from many of the Eastern religions, which stress visualization and actualization of desires to achieve goals. In most instances, the goals to be achieved relate to things of the world, such as money, houses, better jobs, mates, etc., and are usually disguised in terms of "being at one with God," or achieving a "oneness" with Him in which HIS desires for us (because of our value to Him) are to have the goods and riches of this world.
There are a multitude of ways in which this "oneness" with God can be achieved, according to its proponents. They range from "claiming" the promises of God and verbalizing them continually, to "emptying" oneself through meditation, "contemplative prayer," and reciting mantras that sound scriptural.
Again, it cannot be overemphasized that such practices have their root NOT in scripture, but in the Eastern type religions, such as Hinduism, Yoga, Transcendental Meditation, Buddhism and others.
In the Word-Faith movement, the same practices can be found in which believers are exhorted to "claim" the promises of God, and that by having enough faith, the promises will be manifested in their lives. In many instances, the believers are told to "have faith in THEIR faith." This, again, is at complete odds with scripture. It is by the faith OF Jesus Christ that anything is accomplished, not by OUR faith. God spoke things into existence, not man. Many of the leading adherents of Word-Faith claim that Adam, when naming the animals and birds (Gen. 2), actually "verbalized" them into existence. The twisted line of reasoniing employed is that until Adam NAMED an animal, it did not exist, ie: cattle were not cattle (and therefore didn't exist as cattle) until Adam called them cattle. Talk about playing on semantics! Unfortunately for both the idiots that claim such a thing, and for those stupid enough to believe it, the Word of God is exceptionally clear in Gen. 2:19, where it says "and out of the ground the LORD GOD formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air;..."
Space does not permit the posting of a multitude of quotes from Word-Faith leaders that establish their reliance upon these essential elements: (1) if you speak it, then it will happen; (2) born-again Christians are exactly like Jesus, and thus deity in themselves; (3) God isn't poor, and since we are Him, we shouldn't be either.
The final element of the American Gospel is one that befuddles the mind, since it is completely opposed to everything scripture says, and can ONLY be preached in an area that is truly Laodicean. One that is content, fat and happy, and yearns to be fatter and happier. It is a blend of Word-Faith, Eastern Mysticism, and the same message delivered by the pillow prophets of Ezekiels day and the modern psycho-babble mystics of the 60's and 70's - "I'm ok, you're ok....let's be ok together."
The most recent manifestation of this theology (a misnomer since it doesn't really consider Theo) is found in the preaching (excuse me, motivational speaking) of the newest darling of evangelicalism, none other than Joel Osteen.
Noticeably absent from Mr. Osteen's sermons and church are the essential elements of the True Gospel...the one that Paul preached, and scripture teaches. There is no sin, there is no just and righteous God, there is no cross or atonement, and there is no shed blood. There is only "overcoming," and "being all that God wants you to be." Mr. Osteen has even opined (on Larry King Live) that he "doesn't know" if Jesus is the only way to God, but it does happen to be "my (Joel's) way."
Here is a quote from one of Mr. Osteen's devoted followers that embodies the essence of Joel's gospel.
"No one should be teaching about the cross. We have made that a Graven Image. That was the means by which Jesus was crucified, but so were many others. We have put crosses all over the place. We have dignified the cross as if that is what God wants. There is no Gospel of salvation. The Gospel is to tell of one who came and will come again. "
No cross. No Gospel of salvation. How sad. If you should happen upon a service on TV from the Lakewood Church (Joel's), notice several things....there is no cross displayed, only a globe of the world and a beautiful fountain of water. There is no mention in the sermons about sin, or the standing of man in the sight of God, or about Jesus' substitutionary atonement, or His shed blood, or His resurrection, or the necessity of having a personal relationship with Jesus to be saved....as a matter of fact, it's highly doubtful that you even NEED to be saved! According to Joel, all you HAVE to do is be good, sow seed, and speak positively.
Following are just a few quotes from Mr. Osteen, with comment/scripture in italics.
"Faith activates God-Fear activates the Enemy."
(God can't operate until we express faith. Really? "2Ti 2:13 If we believe not, [yet] he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. " God's abilities are not dependent upon our belief or expression. As far as fear activating the enemy, I would suggest that Mr. Osteen look carefully at the Book of Job, or satans request to sift Peter....but then, that might require paying attention to scripture.)
"God wants to bless us where we are."
(Act 2:38 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." It appears that God requires us to acknowledge our sinfulness and repent BEFORE He will begin to bless us, and the sum of that blessing is salvation.)
"God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us."
(Phl 4:11 "Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. " Paul must not have understood what God wanted)
"I don't in the least bit consider myself a prosperity-type preacher. I don't think I've ever preached a message on finances. "
(Read quote above)
"I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know.
If Jesus were here today, he wouldn't be riding around on a donkey. He'd be taking a plane, he'd be using the media."
(Very careful? PC to the uttermost. And just WHAT does riding a donkey or taking a plane have to do with who is going to heaven? "I am the way, the truth, and the life. NO ONE cometh to the Father but BY ME." Jn. 14:6. If a preacher of the Gospel doesn't KNOW who will get to heaven, or what it takes, then he shouldn't be preaching...period.)
"If we say it long enough eventually we're going to reap a harvest. We're going to get exactly what we're saying."
(Mat 6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.)
"It's God's will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty. It's God's will for you to pay your bills and not be in debt."
"It's the same message that people were preaching hundreds and hundreds of years ago, we're just repackaging it."
( "I would propose (and O may the Lord grant us grace to carry out that proposition, from which no Christian can dissent), I would propose that the subject of the ministry of this house, as long as this platform shall stand, and as long as this house shall be frequented by worshippers, shall be the person of Jesus Christ." Charles Spurgeon
"1Cr 2:2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Paul of Tarsus
I think Joel might have been reading the wrong preachers...either that, or the "repackaging" is ......hmmmm.)
"You may make some mistakes-but that doesn't make you a sinner. You've got the very nature of God on the inside of you."
(Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;
Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
Rom 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:)
Lest anyone think I'm just picking on Joel, understand that it is to put a real face with real comments and "preaching" on the issue...and the issue is apostasy....departing from the "faith once delivered to the saints." There are a multitude of so-called preachers today, most of them from this country, and all are saying the same thing, and what they are saying skirts around the issues of accountability (sin), Jesus (righteousness) and hell (judgment to come), replacing them with God loves you, and wants you to prosper, and if you just believe it hard enough, you can have whatever you want. Joel, as pastor of the fastest growing church in America, is just the tip of the iceberg.
In Matthew 16:26, Mark 8:36, and Luke 9:25, Jesus asks the same question. "What profit is it to any man if he should gain the whole world (the things of this world), and loses his own soul?" He is making it abundantly clear that getting "stuff" doesn't do anything at all for the only important thing a man has...and that is his soul. It is his soul that will spend an eternity either in heaven, or in hell, and the "stuff" he may gain while alive will perish, completely and irrevocably. All the stuff in the world also cannot buy admittance into heaven.
Because of this, it is also clear that the new "gospel" of positive thinking, speaking things into existence, and getting along with everyone is NOT the TRUE Gospel.
Americans, and those in affluent countries of the west, though, love to hear this kind of gospel. "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts will they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears." 2 Tim. 4:3. First, it requires no accountability on the part of the hearer...."I'm ok, you're ok." Second, it holds out a false promise of comfort via the medium of "positive confession." And, if something doesn't come to pass in the life of the confessor, then the pat answer from the preachers selling this garbage is "you don't have enough faith," thereby rendering the confessor as impotent, unbelieving, not strong in the faith, and generally second-class.
Many missionaries, evangelists and crusaders have gone to a multitude of foreign lands where poverty, pestilence, and famine are rampant. In most of those countries, paganism and false religions are practiced and believed. Common to most of the pagan religions are two central themes...one, that the "gods" must be appeased, either by sacrifice or self-flagellation. Second, that if things don't change, it is because the "gods" have NOT been appeased properly. Since most pagan religions also practice some form of witchcraft, or sorcery, the people are haunted day and night by demonic spirits and other manifestations of evil, and the "priests" of the pagan religions love to keep it that way.
Preaching a better life through positive confession is NOT going to change these people's lives. It is NOT going to make the demonic spirits disappear, nor is it going to suddenly produce health and wealth for them. These people live in darkness, and are surrounded by darkness...and the ONLY thing that can dispel that darkness is the Light of the world, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ who came to take away the sin of the world, and whose shed blood made redemption possible for THOSE WHO BELIEVE.
Thousands upon thousands of testimonies of native missionaries who preached the true Gospel of salvation and redemption from sin came be heard from throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America, that resulted in hundreds of thousands of conversions. By the same token, thousands of testimonies are available from the same areas about "foreign" evangelists who came in preaching the health and wealth "gospel," and when they left....everything stayed the same.
To be redundant, the real Gospel of Jesus Christ involves three basic elements, none of which can be dispensed with. If they are, or if any one of them is "evolved" into something else, then it is no longer the scriptural Gospel handed down by God, Jesus, and the Apostles. Those elements are (1) man is in SIN, and SINFUL by nature; (2) God made the way for redemption by giving His ONLY begotten Son, Jesus Christ, TO DIE ON OUR BEHALFf; (3) His sacrifice for us was given the seal of approval by God the Father through the RESURRECTION of Jesus from the dead.
No "gospel" that is preached that contains ANY other elements, or ELIMINATES any of these elements, or CHANGES any of these elements is "another" gospel, and is not even to be called a gospel, and any who preach it...whether an angel, apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor or teacher, is cursed...anathema maranatha....until Jesus comes.
It's way past time for those who call themselves by the name of Christ to start paying attention to the falsehoods being peddled by the pillow prophets and Balaam's of this country and time.
" But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, [even] those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil." Hbr 5:14