Assumptions are dangerous. It is eternally so when it comes to the Gospel. Having grown up in a Bible belt culture I have heard far to many Christians, Sunday School teachers, and even pastors assume the Gospel when they are talking about the Christian faith to others. They assume that those who are listening to them understand the heart of Christianity – the good news of Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. The danger of this is that the Christian speaking thinks they are communicating Christian teaching, yet they leave out the most central aspect – Jesus himself. Christian teaching without the Gospel is not Christian teaching. As pastors get up to the pulpit on a Sunday morning or at a funeral and fail to make the Gospel explicit they not only fail to preach the Gospel they preach an anti-Gospel. Although we think we may be preaching Christianity we actually are communicating a completely different religion when we fail to make Jesus explicit. Here are three false Gospels we mistakenly teach when we fail to make the Gospel explicit in all we say and do.
1. A False Gospel of Sentimentalism
This happens most often at funerals and times of loss. In my life I’ve hear a lot of bad preaching, and most of it at funerals. We can begin talking about heaven, golden streets, and God’s wonderful love. Although all of these things can be wonderful and true, it is only made true for us through faith in Jesus. We can talk about all the benefits of the Gospel without ever talking about the Gospel. When we do so, the message of Christianity gets boiled down to warm fuzzy feelings and Christianity simply becomes a therapeutic blanket to provide warmth from the cold realities of this life. When we fail to realize the Jesus is the only way to the Father and the only hope in death, we move from preaching the true Gospel to a false gospel of sentimentalism. When we fail to make explicit what Christ has accomplished through his death and resurrection we can mistakenly preach this false Gospel of sentimentalism.
2. A False Gospel of Moralism
A false gospel of moralism is when we preach holiness without preaching Christ. I’ve mentioned this false Gospel in a previous post, but it is so prevalent and dangerous it needs to be mentioned again. When we emphasize Jesus’ commands for righteousness without explicitly emphasizing Christ’s imputed righteousness to us, we get a false Gospel of moralism. Many out lookers who do not know Jesus simply hear from Christians “Be Good and try harder”. Preaching holiness without Christ is preaching legalism and a works based salvation. We must make it explicit that our standing before God has nothing to do with our behavior or performance but everything to do with God’s gracious gift of his son. If we don’t ground deeply any call to holy obedience in Christ’s finished work we will mistakenly preach this false Gospel of moralism.
3. A False Gospel of Universalism
This is similar to the false Gospel of sentimentalism, but with much deadlier twist. Often we can speak of heaven and the love of God without ever making explicit the need for repentance and faith in Jesus. Sometimes Christians sound just like universalists when they talk about salvation. We must make explicit to our hearers that the only way to receive this salvation gifted to us by God is by turning from our sins and trusting in Christ. If we preach salvation without calling sinners to repent and turn to Christ, we’ve shifted to this false Gospel of moralism. In addition, we must make sure we help our hearers know whats coming if they choose to reject Jesus. The realities of hell seem so very offensive, but people need to be made aware of the frightening consequences of rebellious sin.
Make the Gospel Explicit
In our speech, our conversations, and certainly our preaching we must make the Gospel explicit less we miscommunicate a false Gospel. We must make explicit Jesus’s perfect life and his vicarious death in our place. We must make explicit the consequences of our sins and the price God went too to pay them. We must make explicit the call for sinners to turn from their sins and trust in Jesus. And we must make explicit that all of the benefits of salvation and eternity are given only because we’ve been adopted by God and made heirs because of Jesus. Make the Gospel explicit. Do not assume even church people understand it. Make it crystal clear all the time and every time.