While the relevance of some of those quoted below has seemingly waned, nevertheless the danger and divisiveness of the political gospel is even more pressing and relevant today than it was 8 years ago.
Originally posted August 17, 2010
If you’ve been following along with me on this blog for any time now, you’ve likely seen some posts regarding the social gospel, a wing of the Liberal Emerging/Emergent church that promotes social well-being and improving people’s lives here on earth with a dominionistic, kingdom-now philosophy. What this [teaching] says is that we can establish Christ’s kingdom here on earth through a “missional” approach to meeting peoples felt needs. This is contrary to the Great Commission that Jesus laid forth to His disciples which is to go and make disciples of all nations and teaching them what Jesus commanded. Today however I want to introduce another “wing”/offshoot/ false gospel that has been cleverly masked as the real Gospel.
You may have read Liberty University: An unbiblical alliance with the world the post I wrote that covered Liberty University’s decision to invite political commentator and noted Mormon, Glenn Beck, to deliver their recent commencement speech. It was a post I took some heat for and one that quite frankly surprised me as God allowed several national websites to link and quote that post. In that post I stated:
“This announcement is further evidence of the ongoing ecumenical shift taking place within the Church body. Alliances such as these are not glorifying to God, in that what association has God with false religions? The tangential dangers when the evangelical community unites with the secular world for the sake of social or political agendas are numerous because it leads to a dilution of truths from the Word of God, opens the door to give credence to non-believers within evangelical circles and ultimately leads to the eternal destruction of lost people.”
This wasn’t limited to Liberty only, as I stated it’s exactly what is happening within the Church [Christendom/Evangelicalism] today among self-professing Christians. The political gospel has infiltrated and become the focus of many, many self-professing Christians and most do not even realize how harmful and dangerous it really. The political gospel plays on the emotions of concerned citizens in America but instead of simply taking a political stance, it disguises itself by using words like “God”, “faith”, even “Jesus” making it sound even more appealing to the Church. All of these are words that the undiscerning ear hears and assumes to be the truth because they “sound Christian” and because they are in fact the same words that we read in the Bible and apply in our Christian walk. However, in 2 Corinthians 11:12-15 the Apostle Paul writes:
“And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”
Let’s stop and think for a minute about what Paul is saying here. Paul is continuing to write and preach the truth such that he undermines the false teachers invading the Church. He states that their claims of truth appear similar and that these false prophets would claim to have the same mission as genuine Bible teachers/ Gospel proclaimers. Paul then calls them out for who they really are, false, deceitful, and disguisers, which should come as no surprise since Satan himself disguises as an angel of light. Therefore, Paul continues, these servants of Satan also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. With that context of Paul’s letter, let’s now return our focus to the political gospel.
Many people follow political voices like Glenn Beck because they have a national platform which can appeal to the masses. When we look around and see the destructive path that this nation is on, these national voices grab our attention because they recognize the same things that we see. But instead of pointing us toward the One True Gospel of Jesus Christ, all of that gets lost in political, social, and cultural talk. When they mix in words such as those we mentioned earlier like “God”, “faith”, and “Jesus” it sounds like “church” words so they then garner our full attention and become a rallying voice for political change. But these words are a disguise, just like Paul mentioned in Corinthians and they lure our focus away from the One True God and away from trusting and relying on Him as a solution to the mess we’ve created.
Watch the following video clip from last week featuring Glenn Beck on Bill O’Reilly’s show and you’ll see what I mean.
In that video we’ve got a lot going on, but it gives a bit of insight into the motives taking place within the political gospel. What we immediately heard are the “culture war” topics like homosexual marriage and abortion. This is the first problem; the culture war is an illusion. We are in a sin war. The political gospel fails to recognize this “culture war” nonsense as sin. It is sin and it is offensive to THE Holy God. But it’s never called that because when you politicize these issues it makes them more palatable and debatable, versus saying they are sin, which sounds far too judgmental and harsh.
The second problem is you heard Beck use one of our buzz words from earlier, “faith”. Only listen to his context, “general faith”, returning to our “churches, synagogues, and mosques”, and then a second of our words, “getting back to ‘God’”. Christians wake up! This is universalism. This is the classic all paths lead to God language and it is anti-Biblical. Yet these are the words that are used to lure you into following this political gospel. These other religions are false. There is only One God and He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. Jesus clearly states He is “the way truth and the life and NO MAN comes unto the Father” but by Him. But the political gospel dresses up their language to make it sound churchy. You’ll even hear them talk about Jesus, sin, and His death, but in another breath they promote a different God, a different Jesus and it is a lie and truth is not in them. You cannot believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, trust Him as Lord and Savior and then talk about Christians, Jews, and Muslims all getting back to God. That is an antithetical, or opposing, statement yet it is typical bait for the political gospel peddlers.
The third point from this video is the statement Beck makes of ignoring the “decisive things” such as gay marriage, because we have “bigger fish to fry.” Sir, I must ask what is bigger: offending an infinitely Holy God by ignoring sin or solving the financial problems of an increasing godless country? The reason to return to our churches, namely those that preach only Christ and Him crucified, is to repent of the sins that we have committed and beg God for mercy, not because “the country is burning.” On a side note, listen to 1:58 in the video where Beck offers O’Reilly “a little Jesus” in a mocking way. It’s almost as if he knows using “Jesus” is a buzz word to gain a following from the Christian community, but this cavalier, mocking usage here begins to reveal the wolf hiding under the sheepskin. The fourth and final point is the quote by Thomas Jefferson, “If it neither breaks my leg or picks my pocket, what difference is it to me?” Think about what the Apostle Paul said earlier, “And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.” Paul was teaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ while at the same time battling those who taught anything contrary to it. What if Paul had said like Jefferson that if it doesn’t hurt me or cost me money then I don’t care? This language takes the focus off of God and places it on self, typical of the man-centered political and social gospels. Instead Paul preached the message that Jesus taught of denying oneself, picking up your Roman torture device, i.e. cross, and following Him, a substantially different message than either Beck, O’Reilly, or Jefferson would state.
So what do we make of all this? First I would like to remind you that as Christians, this world is not our home. We are dual citizens, but our permanent home residence is with Christ and His Kingdom. As such, our focus should be on where we will spend eternity and not on a fallen, deceitful, and sinful world, whether that focus is America or not. Secondly, let’s address these common “church” words that we are hearing tossed around. In the verses that immediately precede those we read earlier we see Paul’s staunch warning, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 Paul is warning the Church about those who will come and preach another Jesus and a different gospel, note he says here “your thoughts will be lead astray.” Additionally, Paul writes a warning to the Church at Galatia, but steps up the intensity a bit, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” The Apostle states even if he or any of his fellow teachers comes to preach another gospel, even if it’s an angel from heaven then let them be accursed. This gospel and this Jesus that we are hearing in the political gospel is not the same Gospel message of the Bible and it is not the same Christ Jesus the Son of God. Thirdly, why do we associate with the people that peddle this gospel? In 2 Corinthians 6:14-15 we read, “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?” What business have we following or aligning ourselves, politically or otherwise, with unbelievers? When you follow unbelievers you open yourself up to susceptibility of the lies they teach. Anything other than the truth leads to a path of destruction. That old saying is so true, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.”
Paul’s warnings should stand as a sobering wake up to all of us today. What we hear on the left is the liberal/social gospel and what we hear on the right is the political gospel. Both are lies and both are contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unless we return to the True Gospel, the One True Jesus Christ, and His Father, then this country will continue its moral slide and the visible Church will continue the path to apostasy. Wake up Christians! “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11
I Timothy 6:3-5 “If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”
In 2011 I had the great joy and pleasure of preaching through the book of 1 John. It was a series birthed out of the necessity to ensure that those who heard had 1. definitely been exposed to the gospel and 2. Had known without question what genuine Christianity was to look like.
In this epistle, the Apostle of love, writing under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, provides for us three tests for genuine Christianity which of course should be applied first personally (2 Corinthians 13:5) and then to professing believers (Matthew 7:20). These three tests, by way of gleaning through and interpreting the epistle, may be summarized as follows:
- Knowledge of God
- Growth in Holiness
- Love for Believers
First, knowledge of God. This knowledge of God is more than just accumulating facts about who God is, or what He has done. Instead, this knowing is more intimate, it is far more relational. In fact, in 1 John it is called fellowship, “6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” 1 John 1:6-7 This mention of fellowship, namely the “with him” is further defined in verse three as “fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.”
Concerning this fellowship, Martyn Lloyd- Jones says, “Here we are given, without any hesitation, a description, the summum bonum [highest good], of the Christian life; here, indeed, is the whole object, the ultimate, the goal of all Christian experience and all Christian endeavour. This, beyond any question, is the central message of the Christian gospel and of the Christian faith.” As the Apostle instructs us, walking in darkness is incompatible with having fellowship with God.”
Which brings us to the second test, growth in holiness. An extended quote from chapter 3 is necessary to establish the significance of this in the apostle’s message
4 Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. 7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. 8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
Clearly, a practice of sinning is incompatible with practice of righteous, or growth in holiness.
Finally, love for believers.
9 Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. 1 John 2:9-11
A genuine Christian profession, by necessity, manifests love for the brethren. It is not optional. Commenting on this test and its relationship with fellowship with God, Lloyd-Jones writes, “To fail to love the brethren will interrupt our fellowship with the Father and therefore rob us of many of the blessings of the Christian life.”
This trinity of genuineness, in the form of these three tests, cannot be broken. If one has perceived knowledge of God, but lacks any noticeable evidence of growth in holiness, then their profession is simply disingenuous. How many scholars have waxed eloquently on philosophical musings of the attributes of God, yet their words have lacked any notion of charity or love. How many preachers of doctrine of God have garnered a spot in the public eye only to fall hard and fast from scandalous sins.
Similarly, if one would appear outwardly to be holy, perhaps by living a moral life, but internally lacking any knowledge of God through His Son Jesus Christ, then again, the result is a disingenuous profession of faith. It is by grace we are saved through faith in Christ, thus drawing us to an intimate knowledge of the Father through the Son. Works have their place after salvation, but despite the efforts of men simply cannot contribute towards a coming to faith. We throw around the label of a “good man” far too liberally, yet why do we call anyone good? No one is good but God. (Mark 10:18)
Finally, love for believers is sometimes the most misconstrued quality because it seems most naturally connected to the condition of the heart, i.e. good heart, and this may sometimes prove to be true. Downstream of genuine knowledge of God and growth in holiness is a necessity to show love for the brethren. It is an indispensable consequence. However, charities, hospitals, and mercy organizations by the legion have been started by men and women who could care less about who Christ is, yet alone the demand of holiness placed on their lives. Additionally, there have been those whose great goal in life was the establishment of social justice, yet lack genuine knowledge of God and any semblance of holiness. Would anyone dare doubt the love for humanity that someone who rings the bell for social justice, be it race, class, economic or otherwise? (unless of course there were ulterior motives, but that could never happen…right?)
The motivation for this post has primarily been driven by recent conferences in which men have ascribed genuine Christianity and then celebrated a man who has certainly rung the bell for social justice louder than any other in the United States, yet without question there is documented evidence of failing the first two of these tests. Is he then among the faithful? No. Should he then be celebrated and held up as a Christian model for showing love to the brothers? No.
Brothers and Sisters I implore you, do not let personal agendas or feelings, even if they are for friends or family members who you genuinely desire to see saved, compromise the written and holy word of almighty God. As we know, our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, yet God’s Word is true and provides a plumb-line, a compass for navigating this life through the revelation of Himself.
If you are struggling to know whether you are genuinely saved, look to the epistle of 1 John and humbly ask the Lord to apply these tests to your heart. For those who do not struggle with assurance, these tests are a good reminder and litmus test for where you are currently in the process of sanctification. Are you growing in the knowledge of God, a desire for holiness, and expressing love for the brothers? Finally, if there are those within your circle, even those whom you admire from a distance, apply these tests to their lives and take the results into consideration before ascribing to them the label of a genuine believer in Christ.