Over the past couple of weeks I have been studying and meditating on the Biblical gospel and reading through J.D. Greear’s book, Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary. You have continually come to mind. We have talked here and there, and discussed our different views on the gospel. It has been my contention that you have a “zeal without knowledge (Romans 10)” very much similar to the religious leaders in Jesus’ day. I don’t blame you; rather I charge the institution which claims to be “teaching you the gospel”. It seems you have replaced the freedom and grace of God that is given through the New Covenant with “self-righteousness” and good morals. You have charged my position with giving “no hope” and no reason for a Believer to continue to live a “good and upstanding life”. Since I have admitted that I might enjoy a beer occasionally or even a shot of whiskey and even occasionally might smoke pot, you have taken the stance that my fulfilled view is due to my seeking to “live life the way I want” (kinda reminds me of the accusations made against the apostle Paul in Romans chapter 6). Well, besides the fact that I have explained and PROVEN the fulfilled “hope of Israel” to be the BIBLICAL gospel, time and time again, I have decided to take a different approach. Let’s see just how much your view and “your response” to the gospel is the antithesis to what is Biblically taught.
There is a local pastor who continually reminds his congregants that they are “worthless pieces of monkey crap” in the eyes of a Holy God. According to Isaiah 64, I could agree with this sentiment, but the problem is that this pastor does not clearly explain what is “worthless” about us and the God honoring solution. Our “righteousness is as filthy rags” which clearly shows any attempt we make to please God by our own standard (our “fig leaves” of sorts) are abominable to God. God provided Christ as the “covering” “robes of righteousness” to cover the sins of Israel (and by extension the Gentiles). Notice the key word- God provided. At my recent debate a young man proclaimed that since I believe everything has been fulfilled- including judgment- I am therefore taking away his “hope” (a sort of future heavenly Disneyland) and leaving him with no fear of God’s judgment and no reason to “live Godly”.
Now if you want “religion” which will provide you with morals and so forth, yes they exist..Catholicism, Buddism, Islam, and many of the other “please God” style views can help you there. Granted, there will be different varieties and views (which is going to happen because of culture and personal opinions) but that is not Christianity. Rather when the Bible says, “Be not conformed to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2)”, or we are “in the world not of It (John 15:19)”, it was speaking about the ‘traditions of men’ that were so common in that context. I regularly speak about how ironic it is when a “Christian” will use these verses to proclaim “self-righteous living” when in actuality it was speaking the direct opposite- Do not conform the ways of the world (the traditions and regulations of the Pharisees) and be among them, but not of them. The Christians were marked by God’s grace and lived with a “zeal empowered by knowledge”, or as J.D. Greear said, “True love is a response to loveliness”. Love God!
It seems that the futurist “judgment of works”, future fantasy heavenly Disneyland, and “self-righteousness” all work together to create a FALSE GOSPEL. If we are living in the FULFILLED HOPE and thus a reality today, we should just live however and forsake God. Thank God for the encouragement and discussion generated through J.D. Greear’s book to fix this “missing gospel”. Sure enough, J.D. Greear is not a “full preterist”, so maybe you will take his charge more serious than mine.
“The goal of the gospel is to produce a type of people consumed with PASSION FOR GOD AND LOVE FOR OTHERS. We certainly don’t seem to have that right. A Christian that does not have as its primary focus the deepening of passions for God is a FALSE CHRISTIANITY, NO MATTER HOW ZEALOUSLY IT SEEKS CONVERSIONS OR HOW FORCEFULLY IT ADVOCATES RIGHTEOUSNESS BEHAVIOR..”
So…how does one deepen passion for God? Well, you might think by living right and memorizing some Bible verses. Or looking toward some future hope. But remember the quote I posted above? “True love is a response to lovliness”. The more we learn about God and see how He works the more we fall in love and passionately pursue Him. Ah…a “zeal empowered by knowledge”.
J.D. Greear continues to talk about the “behavioral modification gospel”, or focus on prayer, focus on the “Great Commission”, but then he says:
“These things all have their place, but all we are doing is piling superficial changes onto a heart that doesn’t really love God”. And what does this lead to? “This creates hypocrites, weary and resentful of God”. Yikes!!! Convicted yet?
“…if the extent of your Christianity is achieving the right behavioral standard you are setting yourself up for disaster”. Instead of quoting the entire book, here I want to encourage you to get your hands on a copy and read page 30-31, which explains why “Religious Change” doesn’t work!
So at this point we have seen the claims that behavior modification is the gospel and the truthfulness of the message is determined by our behavior modification is complete FALSE. FLEE THIS FALSE MENTALITY!
“When our salvation depends upon our righteous behavior, our righteousness will be driven by a desire to elevate ourselves in the eyes of God. This is NOT love for God; it’s self-protection”.
So…how and what effect does the fulfilled gospel, living in the reality of what God has done, have?
“The gospel reawakens us to the beauty of God and overwhelms us with mercy. Our behavior changes because we change. Until that happens, ALL RELIGIOUS CHANGES WILL BE SUPERFICIAL. Even if you force yourself to act right, your heart will be going the other direction”.
Are you falling for superficial changes? My friend, you know your heart. I know what I see externally coming from you. See why I thought of YOU when reading this book?
Instead of holding to a “behavior modification gospel” that leads me feeling that I need to live a certain way to obtain a reward, or escape being condemned to “the bad place”, instead the BIBLICALLY TRUE AND REASONABLE GOSPEL allows me to fall in love with God, and allow that to change me from the INSIDE OUT! Come on…you have song the song, right? Well, let that reality sink in.
“That’s what happens when you meet God in the story of Jesus. You get swept up into a story of such cosmic drama and beauty that you are changed forever. Your behavior is radically altered because you’ve seen and tasted something from a completely different world”.
On pages 84-85, of J.D. Greear’s book, he gives an awesome passage about “Freed to Enjoy the Rest”. I challenge you to get the book and read because this will help you live authentically in Christ and stop with the “religious bullshit”. Yes, I am calling it what it is.
“Changed by Sight” is a chapter in the book, Gospel. This is my point exactly. “When the glory of God is seen in the gospel, changes occur naturally”. The problem is with your over personalized gospel, all you can see is YOU, and how it effects YOU, rather than the message being about the “glory of God”. This is why it is important to understand the Biblical gospel, i.e. the “hope of Israel”, and learn about God. Exodus 19 provides an awesome example of how God dealt with Israel and how this effected them. Let us learn, since as 1 Corinthians 10:11 states their experiences were put down as “examples”.
Instead of fearing some futuristic “hell” or hoping toward a fantasy land future, we can understand our lives in Christ best by understanding – “the expulsive power of a new affection”- as spoken about by Thomas Chalmers. Far too many “religious Christians” are like balloons being swatted at to stay afloat, rather than letting the “helium of God’s goodness” fill them. (An illustration given by J.D. Greear). It’s a sad day when we are “forcing our hearts to pursue what they don’t want to pursue”.
“The leaders of the church had placed John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, in prison for preaching the gospel. They told him, “You can’t go on telling people that Christ’s righteousness has been credited to them in full. If they believe that, they’ll feel like they can do whatever they want”. Bunyan replied, “If people really see that Christ’s righteousness has been given to them entirely as a gift, they’ll do whatever He wants”.
I tell you this to rebuke the fact that you believe if your reward/judgment is taken away then you have no reason not to “sin”. As it said in the book, “if people only want to pursue sin, that reveals their hearts are Spiritually dead”.
“Spiritual disciplines must be accompanied by a deep saturation in the gospel….Unfortunately, most Christians gravitate toward spiritual disciplines before they understand the gospel. The result is a cycle of pride and despair”.
I hope this open rebuke of the false “behavior modification gospel” that you cling to has caused you to do some examination (2 Corinthians 13:5). It is my goal to make you re-assess what you are calling the gospel, and push you toward the Scriptures. This is why we “demolish strongholds and bring all thoughts captive to Christ”. My friend, flee self-righteousness and seek first the kingdom of God, and HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS, and all things will be added (Matthew 6:33).
“Believing the gospel is what released an explosive power in Jesus’ followers that caused them to live with radical recklessness and audacious faith”.
Blessings in Christ,