For the next few weeks, we will be working our way through the book of Galatians in a series titled Jesus+. The focus of this series is on following the Gospel and what rules we’ve tacked on to make ourselves “good enough” to receive it. Jesus lived, Jesus died, he was buried, he rose three days later and is alive today. This is a simple summary of the Gospel. Believing this chain of events is Biblically true, acknowledging the first-hand accounts of these events by the Bible’s authors is historically accurate, then living by the morals and values Jesus taught; this is salvation. Many who have grown up in the church, and many who only know the stereotypical mainstream definition of Christianity, understand evidence of following the Gospel as much more complex. Various circles within the church have created their own gospel by legislating rules only found in Old Testament law, if they’re in the Bible at all. Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia addresses just that, distorting the gospel by adding certain criterion to not only accepting, but also adequately following the Gospel of Jesus.
We can hear Paul’s blatant frustration with the church of Galatia in Galatians 1:1-10. Paul calls out the church for their gullibility in allowing any change gospel message, no matter who calls for it. Paul attests we should not let even an angel change the gospel in any way! Galatia had their toes stomped on pretty hard when they received this letter. The church in Galatia had begun requiring anyone interested in Christianity to first convert to Judaism. A Gentile had to meet certain spiritual and physical requirements then adhere to a list of regulations set forth by the Old Testament law. Paul vehemently condemns the church for adopting this twisted theology.
In today’s drawing, I created four icons to represent the Gospel of Jesus; a cross, a tombstone with INRI (Latin acronym for Jesus, King of the Jews), an empty tomb, and Jesus in human for with an outstretched hand. This represents the cycle of Jesus’s life and purpose; life-death-burial-Resurrection-life. Concentric ripples distort these images until they’re hardly recognizable.
Two great modern-day perversions of the Gospel are this; it’s too easy to be true and I can do whatever I want because He has forgiven me. These represent two opposite extreme distortions in today’s church. The Gospel does not need any more effort or righteousness on our part than the price Jesus paid for us on the cross. It really is that easy. After accepting the facts, we are then inspired to live following Jesus’s example. This (and only this) is what sets Christians apart in the world. At the other end of the spectrum, we are not sinners because we sin, we sin because we are sinners. Claiming you’ve been forgiven does not allow you the freedom to set your own standards for living.
We need to shift our thinking to avoid a drift from the gospel.
What examples of Gospel distortion have you encountered?
I think this is a new favorite! The Gospel in four distinct images, yet one cannot exist without the other three. How often do we try to pick and choose?
I’ve heard discussions on the topic of idolizing people we view as “great Christians” from a variety of sources lately. One focused on worship leaders, another on any vocational minister, a third on Christians as a whole. The common thread in all of these discussions was holding people to an ideal of Christian perfection, deeming them “great Christians”. That leads to classifying anyone who does not hold a prestigious position as a “not quite good enough Christian”. When the spiritual life critique turns to ourselves, the result is setting the “good enough” bar at the level of unattainable perfection.
This plays back to the first message from ‘How to Wreck Your Life’, which posed the question, what if the most dangerous things in life are the good things? After stretching ourselves thin with ministry opportunities we wake up to find ourselves alone, our family and friends left behind in the dust from the intensity of our “godly” (little ‘g’ intentional) service. We’re just as lost as we were when we “found God”, burned out by our strenuous efforts to please Him.
Thank you for not only saying it but putting it into plain and interesting view.
God is still God and He will have His people. He chose me in the 1st place – I didn’t know He would, but He did.
The world distorts the Gospel for us. And we buy into it. Jesus said “Fear not for I have overcome the world”. So, let’s Fear Not.
I streamed the funeral of Egypt’s Christian leader, the Coptic Pope a month or so ago. They played some audio and video of his life; and in one somewhat recent statement he said “Keep yourself unscathed from the world” “The world is at enmity with God”.
Now, I haven’t heard that in a while; not in the Christian west. It made a mark with me – that yes – someone still believes and teaches that God has called us to be separate from the world. It is God’s enemy.
What I have done right and have not done for Jesus, in His name – only the enemy would point a finger and accuse me; God knows who I have been and am. He knows all things well. I belong to Him.
Many gods but only One – The Word. He will judge this all – actually it is beginning
already, don’t you think? Remember all things work together for good – to us. He has and will use everything you have sown. Jesus is using what we call alone for 1) safety and 2) time with Him.
I really like what you’re doing here! What a brilliant way to explore philosophy and morality. There is nothing more beautiful to express through art than Truth – keep up the good work!
His blood is enough. I must contiunally renew my mind to think the way God thinks about me and to see myself through His eyes- as the righetousness of Christ (Rom 8).
I can’t begin to tell you of the daily distortions of the gospel I run into. From the media to people I have a casual conversation with.