We live in a culture where absolutely everyone has religious convictions. And I mean, everyone. There is not a single person alive today that is not adhering to some sort of religious views.
For some it’s the religion of sports and each season brings new highs and lows. But one thing is certain, not a single game will be missed. (Sadly, many well-meaning Christian parents place kids’ sports above anything else.)
For others the religion of science is king. If it can be independently verified with empirical evidence then it can be trusted and believed. Everything else is nonsense.
Many are trapped in the religion of consumerism. Adherents to this doctrine seek to consume as much information, entertainment, and pleasure as possible. It’s not merely about doing what feels good; it’s about doing what feels right. And if that “truth” changes, their “theology” changes too.
In a recent podcast I heard the speaker reference “the gospel of acceptance” and explain that some people are simply seeking a gospel in which they feel accepted. With so much division in our culture it’s easy to see how people could long for acceptance and place acceptance so high on their priority list that it becomes, essentially, a gospel.
As I listened to this podcast I realized that not only does every person alive live under some sort of religious ideology, but everyone is a champion for their own brand of gospel.
The Gospel of Self-Esteem:
The gospel of self-esteem wants you to know that you are awesome. You are such a good person that there is no need to feel bad for anything you’ve done. You are loved just as you are right now and don’t need to change anything about yourself. If other people can’t see that, it’s their problem and you should find new friends. Oh, and anyone that dares to tell you that you’ve done, said, thought, believe something wrong is just a “hater” that you should ignore.
The Gospel of Respect:
The gospel of respect makes it very clear that the most important things in life are power, position, money, prominence, and recognition. These can only be achieved through dedication and hard work. You will need to devote yourself entirely to these “convictions” in order to reach the pinnacle of success in life where you will be rewarded for your labor with anything you can imagine. Detractors of your “religion” are merely losers not good enough for your company.
The Gospel of Prosperity:
The gospel of prosperity wants everyone to know that God’s greatest desire for all people is for them to be healthy, wealthy, and happy. The greatest evidence of God’s love and favor on you will be a fat bank account, and not a single care in the world. With the right amount of faith you too can overcome any obstacle on your way to being carefree. Anyone that tells you differently simply doesn’t have the faith needed to overcome.
The Gospel of Amazing Grace:
The gospel of amazing grace tells everyone that they get to define grace and decide what is and is not grace. Don’t worry about sin because you said you were sorry; grace covers all sins; so let’s move on. We don’t need to focus on changing our hearts and minds, and discussions about the consequences of sin are not relevant. After all, consequences are a form of judgmentalism and are totally against what Jesus was about. Besides, Jesus would never tell someone that their sincerely held convictions were wrong; Jesus would just love people. If someone disagrees with your view it’s because they are a Pharisee and don’t know anything about real grace.
The Gospel of Works and Rules:
The gospel of works and rules just wants everyone to know that if you only do enough good deeds and keep the rules you will get into Heaven. It doesn’t really matter how you live and act through the week, if you come to church every Sunday, sing in the choir, teach, give some money, and reach the pinnacle of church success as a deacon, St. Peter will let you into Heaven. Your heart has nothing to do with it; it’s all about keeping those rules. You can even wear a mask and fake it because as long people think you look good on the outside, you’re set. In fact, you should probably just wear a mask all the time, it’s easier.
We could probably list many more “gospels,” but you get the picture. Our culture is full of religions, all spouting their gospel and seeking to lure people into a false sense of hope and peace. But each of these gospels is false, and deadly. This was the warning Jude gave to his readers when he wrote his letter, urging Christians to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:3)
Why did Jude tell Christians to fight for the Gospel that they knew? An article at Ligonier reminds us that when grace is perverted, false gospels will abound:
“Why did Jude find it necessary to urge his audience to fight? In verse 4 he explains that certain ungodly people had crept into the church, people who, as false teachers, were designated long ago for condemnation. Wolves had gained ground among lambs, and the sheep needed to be warned lest they would fall prey to deception. These teachers perverted “the grace of our God into sensuality” and denied “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”… Using the grace of God as an excuse, these teachers were denying the sovereign right of the Lord Jesus to determine moral behavior, substituting their own standards instead.”
We can see how needed this warning is for Christians today. A favorite pastime of our culture is to not only define grace, but for each person to be the final arbiter of grace. The phrases “show some grace” and “offer/give grace” is used frequently. People are very excited about grace and want to use grace as an excuse and cover for anything and everything. But when man becomes the definer and arbiter of grace, false gospels are inevitable.
While our world abounds with false gospels, it is incumbent upon every believer to not just understand the clear teaching of Scripture, but to be a defender. At times, this will mean defending the Gospel in your own church, and among your own family. But before we can do that we must guard our own hearts against the false religions and false gospels that our world has to offer.
We would do well to heed the warning of Jude and the one offered by John Piper:
“Anyone who comes along and claims to have a new word from God to add to the faith once for all delivered to the saints is against Scripture.”