It seems that as we were going about our business in the old west, a new ‘gospel’ came to town. It rode in on a noble steed, and the townspeople were, although wary of it, also intrigued. They had never seen anything like it. It was bold and powerful, and no one seemed to have the ability to challenge it. Anyone who dared to raise a concern about it was shot down by the most unmerciful accusation in its chamber: “You are divisive and unloving.”
The new stranger dismounted from his horse, entered one of the most popular saloons in town, and began to assert himself. When he made himself known, the other gunslingers, who were of inferior ability, were unable to stand against him. The townsfolk were so impressed by him they abandoned the old hired guns and threw their full-hearted support behind the latest hero.
The new star then used and abused the people until he was done with them and left town.
This may sound like a bad rendition of the Clint Eastwood film “High Plains Drifter,” but it is a good analogy for how a new ‘gospel’ arrives on the scene.
When the people become weak and decadent in their faith, it is an easy matter for a new ideology to step in and take over. There are a number of new ideologies that have stepped in to take over the church, and they’ve received very little resistance since they showed up.
The weakening of the church seems to have begun with the ‘love gospel,’ which made its debut about 70 years ago. Once it gained a foothold, it allowed an opening for the other gospels to come in, like the prosperity gospel, the purpose-driven gospel, and culminating in the social justice gospel.
Once the love gospel took hold, anyone who stood up to these false gospels could then be accused of being divisive and unloving. How dare you touch ‘God’s anointed’! If you hear any preacher saying this, a good rule of thumb is to dismiss him as a false teacher.
The love gospel intrudes upon the church when Christ’s admonition (read ‘law’) to “love God and love one another” replaces the proclamation of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus. It is a slick move to replace a doctrine based on faith with one that is based on law. It is an incredible sleight of hand when the Mosaic law is allowed to replace the true Gospel in the church.
Paul gave us ample warning never to allow this to happen:
“For all who rely on works of the (Mosaic) law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’ Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’ Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:10-14).
We did not receive the Holy Spirit by loving God and loving one another but rather by believing that Christ died for our sins. We cannot attain the goal of salvation by acting on our own efforts to love God and others.
What Paul is saying is that if we put our faith in our ability to, for instance, “love God and love one another,” which is the summation of the Mosaic law, then we are putting ourselves under a curse. ‘Love’ is not the message of salvation that leads to eternal life and should never be preached as if it is. We do not have the ability to live up to ‘love God and love one another,’ at least not perfectly, and if this principle replaces our faith, then we are on the wrong track. We cannot be justified by living according to this tenet which is why we were to live by faith rather than the law.
One of the primary commands that Christ ordered after his resurrection was, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). Among these commandments was the one that Jesus gave us as a ‘new commandment’ that we as Christians were to observe. That commandment was “that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13:34). Once again, this is not the message of salvation or one that justifies us but is rather a work of the law.
This was not the message that we were to deliver to the unbelievers, and it was certainly not intended to replace our faith. It is a commandment that those who are already saved by grace through faith were to observe.
Although love, truth, and righteousness do not exist within us in our fallen nature, we do have access to each of these virtues through our faith in Christ. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we can, however imperfectly, obey the command to love God and love one another.
However, if we believe we are saved by following this command, then we have placed ourselves under a curse. We wind up worshipping a different god than the one who is revealed in the Bible. The God of the Bible is the manifestation of Love, Truth, and Righteousness. When we live by “Love God and love one another” rather than the Gospel, we end up worshipping the ‘anything goes love god’ who does not exist within the pages of the Bible. This god is a god devoid of love, truth, and righteousness.
To illustrate this point, we will look to one of the largest churches in the country. Perhaps the second largest megachurch in the nation is North Point Community Church in Georgia. Andy Stanley, son of Charles Stanley, is one of the more popular preachers in the country. His church averages close to 40,000 people weekly and many more who probably tune in by other means.
The question is, does he preach the Gospel as the means of salvation or the law?
To make this determination, we can choose one of his sermons at random and then compare its message to the message of the Gospel. One of Stanley’s more recent sermons, ‘Kingdoms in Conflict,’ which he preached in 2022, should be a good indicator of what he teaches.
In this sermon, we learn that the Gospels are about participating in something right now. This is sort of truth-ish in that we make disciples of all nations through the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins and through baptism. Sharing the Gospel is something that we do participate in ‘right now.’
Unfortunately, that is not his point.
He goes on to state that we cannot ‘reduce’ Jesus to a sin forgiver and a ticket to heaven. We often hear that we cannot ‘put God in a box’ and that the Gospel is an extremely broad concept. In my experience, the people who say this tend to water down the Gospel and render it meaningless.
The fact is, Paul did reduce Jesus to a sin forgiver and a ticket to heaven (though his language is crude). Paul said:
“Now, brothers and sisters, 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 [‘ticket to heaven’], 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 [everything else is secondary]: that Christ died for our sins [the Gospel in a box] according to the Scriptures [Christ is a sin forgiver], that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve” (I Corinthians 15:1-5).
Stanley goes on to say that if we view Christ as a sin forgiver, then we are ‘missing out’ on his primary call to participate in something right now. After all, we do not want to become believers; we want to become participators. It seems that Stanley has taken it upon himself to correct Christ, who said, “the work of God is this, to believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:29). Jesus did not say the work of God was to participate in something right now.
What we are missing out on is the fact that Jesus has established an “others first” kingdom. This “others first” kingdom is a kingdom where we are led by our conscience. In this kingdom, our faith requires us to look at injustice and suffering rather than look away from it.
Apparently, traditional Christians have been callously looking away from injustice and suffering, although we are not sure who these mythical Christians are.
Above all, Stanley states that we must not reduce Jesus to merely a religious figure. God did not just send a savior from sin, but a king, and he calls us to be ‘Christ followers’ who engage in a different way of living.
This sounds an awful lot like living life according to the law rather than living by faith.
Apparently, Stanley believes that the citizens of Antioch (Acts 11:26), when they received the gift of faith, were not changing religions; they were changing allegiances. They pledged their allegiance to a king who invited them to a different way of living; an other’s first way of living. These people embodied true love of others by giving without any expectation or receiving anything in return.
However, if they did not change religions, can we assume that they never moved from Judaism to Christianity? This question becomes unclear when preachers begin teaching a different Gospel than the one Paul preached.
Stanley points out that forgiven people did not change the world; it was the forgivers who changed the world. However, Christians are not beauty pageant contestants who long for world peace; they are proclaimers of the Gospel. Jesus did not send us to ‘change the world to make the world a better place’; he sent us to announce the forgiveness of sins in his name. Once again, Stanley accentuates the work of the law over faith.
At this point, it should be fairly clear that Stanley is taking the Christian faith off the rails. We are not here to make the world a better place by following the virtues and values of Jesus. We are not called to elevate women and children in worldly status or to make the world a safer place for the weak. This can happen through the preaching of the Gospel if enough people come to faith, but that is ancillary.
In China, it is rumored that Christians face having to watch the death of their children if they do not renounce their faith. It is likely their women are raped as a means of social control by the evil communist/fascist regime. This is certainly true in Muslim countries. In evil, heathen nations, Christians face the horrors of persecution, so the idea of creating a ‘kingdom ethic’ that makes their ‘communities great’ is of secondary importance.
Stanley ends by asking his congregation if they want to shift their allegiance to the king who came to change the order of things. He invites them to change their allegiance so they can participate in Christ’s kingdom on earth. All they have to do is obey the Mosaic law to love one another, and a wonderful utopia will come into existence.
So, what is the fruit of preaching the ‘love gospel’ rather than the true Gospel of Christ? In his sermon, “When Gracie met Truthy,” we learn what this looks like when put to the test.
In this sermon, Stanley tells the story of how a family at his North Point church fell apart when a husband left his wife and family for another man. The two men wanted to continue to attend the church, but his wife was understandably uncomfortable with this arrangement.
The fact that the two men wanted to stay in their current rebellious state speaks volumes about the spiritual condition of this church.
The two men then went to another North Point campus and became involved in leadership there. However, Stanley asked them to step down, not because they were unrepentant homosexuals, but because the husband was still married to his wife.
In all likelihood, everyone in this sordid situation is now worshipping together in unrepentant harmony. This type of preaching does not result in repentance. It results in the acceptance of all forms of aberrant behavior in the name of loving one another.
When we follow the ‘love gospel,’ we are completely unprepared to address the evils that are currently engulfing the world. God is love, but he is also truth and righteousness. When we decapitate truth and righteousness from the Godhead, we are in violation of the first of the Ten Commandments.
In the final evaluation of this church, it is clear that the works of this pastor are not ‘complete’ in the eyes of God.
This church is best described in Christ’s letter to the church of Sardis:
“I know your works. You have a reputation [by man] for being alive, but you are dead. Wake up [preach the Gospel], and strengthen what remains [obey the Gospel], and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God [not based on faith in the Word of God]. Remember, then, what you received [the Gospel] and heard. Keep it [do not be ashamed of the Gospel], and repent [of your false teachings]. If you do not wake up [and proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins in my name], I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you [I will be your enemy].
“Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments [with false doctrine], and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. The one who conquers [remains in the faith] will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. He who has an ear, let him hear what the [Holy] Spirit says to the churches” (Revelation 3:2-6).
When ‘love God and love one another’ is of first importance and the Gospel is deemphasized, the preacher is preaching salvation by law rather than by faith. It is not the message that preachers were called by Christ to proclaim. It is an amendment to the Gospel, by Christ’s supposed ambassadors, to make God’s Word ‘more palatable’ to the enemies of the Lord.
Although this cowardly nonsense allows Andy Stanley and his congregation to avoid persecution, it leaves the average Christian who still loves the Gospel a little more alone when standing firm in the faith.
This may explain why Christ will come against those churches who have achieved ‘Sardis Status’ when He returns.
April 24, 2022