Thoughts to Ponder

Cheap Gospel or No Gospel?

In the past I have made the statement that I believe we have cheapened the gospel to make it more appealing to the masses. I have started to reevaluate that thought. I now wonder if we are truly even presenting the gospel to people.

In order to have this discussion we must decide what the gospel is in its simplest form. I think most people would agree that all that is required for salvation is to believe in Jesus Christ (place your faith in Him). But what does that mean?

Does placing your faith in Jesus Christ mean just believing that He is God and that He died for your sins? Is that all there is to salvation? That is what many people believe and to a certain extent they are right, but where they get off into the weeds is what does faith really mean. Does it mean just believing that Jesus was who He said He was and that He died for our sins? Or is it a life changing experience which will be reflected in a persons daily life? Secondly, is it a one moment in time event or an ongoing event in a person's life?

1 John 2:3-6 We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. [4] The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. [5] But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: [6] Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did. [NIV]

1 John 5:3-4 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. [4] For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-our faith. [NASB-U]

James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. [NIV]

John 15:6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. [NIV]

Romans 2:7-8 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. [8] But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. [NIV]

There are many more passages just like these, but this should be enough to show that just faith that Jesus is who He said He was is not enough, faith must manifest itself in a change of heart. These passages also show that faith must continue, it is not a one time event in the life of a believer.

Is this what is taught when the gospel is explained to sinners? I am afraid it isn't in most churches. Often what is explained is that God offers a free gift of salvation to anyone who will accept it. Now many people have a problem with that wording, they make a big deal out of accepting Christ as your savior. I don't have that problem; God does offer us a free gift and all we do have to do is accept it. The problem comes when we don't define what accepting it means. There are strings attached to the free gift of salvation. Those strings are these; the person must first be willing to admit that they need a savior, that they are a sinner and cannot save themselves. They must also believe that Jesus is who He said He was, God incarnate who died for their sins. And just as importantly they must agree with God that sin is wrong and that they want to follow Christ more then they want to continue in sin.

This desire to follow Christ instead of the world must continue:

Hebrews 10:26-27 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, [27] but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. [NIV]

1 Corinthians 15:2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. [NIV]

So are we really giving people the true gospel if we don't inform them up front that this is a lifetime commitment? Jesus never pulled punches:

Luke 14:27-33 And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. [28] "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, [30] saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' [31] "Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? [32] If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. [33] In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. [NIV]

This isn't popular teaching today. People like to stress the grace of God and overlook or outright deny the conditions placed on a believer. In fact many will go so far as to claim you can be a believer and not a follower of Jesus Christ and still get to heaven. Let me quote from a popular teacher:

Salvation is guaranteed, but not discipleship, because discipleship makes radical demands that some people are not ready to meet. There are Christians who are truly saved but do not continue on the road of discipleship. People in this condition certainly need to check their hearts and their standing before God, but this is not to deny that it is possible for a believer to fail to follow the Lord in discipleship. (Quoted from the book Totally Saved by Tony Evans page 206)

Don't miss what he is saying here, he is splitting believing in Christ and following Christ. So he is saying that you can believe but never show any fruits or even care about the things of God. That is unbiblical. I have already shown many passages that show that if you have no fruits, if you don't follow Christ and continue to do so, you are lost.

Here is another quote from Dr. Evans:

But believers who turn away from God can become so hard other people can't win them back, and their lives may end in spiritual ruin as far as their earthly service is concerned- even though they are saved. (Quoted from the book Totally Saved by Tony Evans page 228)

Again he is saying that a person can walk away from the faith and still be saved. But that goes against Scripture:

James 5:19-20 My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, [20] remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. [NIV]

Notice that James says that the believer who wanders from the faith, or as Tony Evans puts it, turns away from God, is a sinner and if saved again they are saved from death.

This gospel that is being preached that you don't have to follow Christ is no gospel at all, it is a death sentence to anyone who believes it and therefore decides to live like the world.

James 4:4 You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. [NIV]

Let's look at what this teaching is really saying for a moment. According to Dr. Evans a person can turn away from God and still get to heaven. That would mean that a person could deny Christ and still be saved. But look at what Jesus said about it:

Matthew 10:32-33 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. [33] But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven." [NIV]

In Matthew 18, Jesus told a parable about a servant who was forgiven his debt but who refused to forgive the debt of a fellow servant. Let me just quote the very last part of this and Jesus' comments afterward:

Matthew 18:32-35 "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. [33] Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' [34] In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. [35] "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." [NIV]

So what about a believer who turns his back on God and then refuses to forgive a fellow believer? Will he still go to heaven? Or will he be treated the same way he treated his fellow believer? No matter who is preaching this gospel that claims we don't have to follow Christ, we need to reject them and their message and follow God's word.

Don't allow anyone to fool you into thinking that you can believe just enough to get to heaven and not have to follow Christ.

E-Mail Ralph

These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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Feburary 2005