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 Matthew 22:36-40, a Pharisee (or Sadducee) asks Jesus what the greatest commandment is, to which our Lord replies,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.
What if this religious leader had asked the negative of this question, i.e. what is the worst sin? Or perhaps, what is the root of all sin?
What if you were asked this question, how would you answer? Would you say pride? Maybe it’s a lack of faith or a failure to believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ? Perhaps idolatry? Or Self-centeredness? What about homosexuality, that always generates a lot of discusssion? Perhaps it is just the inverse of the greatest commandment, that is a lack of love for God? Perhaps, but is this the root?
When you get down to the root – not the cause, for it’s clear that is the total depravity that we are all born with – but the root, what is it? Is there a single spring out of which all other sins flow from this depraved heart? Can we put our finger on the pulse of sin and get down to the very bottom of the issue and say there it is….there’s our problem?
I think so. And I think Scripture tells us both directly and indirectly.
Perhaps the most obvious place to turn first is a passage that is often misquoted, 1 Timothy 6:10,
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
Frequently, we hear this verse quoted as, “money is the root of all evil,” but that is not what the passage says. It is the love of money that is a root of all kinds of evils, plural. This phrase, the love of money, is translated from the Greek word, philargyria, which is only used here in the entire New Testament. It is related to the word translated as “covetous” in Luke 16:14 and 2 Timothy 3:2. It would not be a stretch to see then that the Scriptures have covetousness in mind with the reference to the love of money. From this verse, we can begin to see that this particular root for all sorts of evils is a desire for more, or we might say a dissatisfaction with a current situation leading to a sinful desire for increase, here applied to the case of money. While greed could be on the right track for identifying this root sin, it’s too simplistic of an answer and I think it lends itself to being more of a fruit sin than a root sin.
Next, let’s turn our attention to the original sin and see if we can compliment our understanding of what we’ve seen thus far regarding this root of sin. In Genesis 3:5-6 we read of the following account on the occasion of the original sin
5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
Simply making some observations from the passage we may note some of the sinful rationale for making the choice to disobey God’s command. First, we observe Satan’s temptation as he plants the seeds of doubt and discontent, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Then we see the divine commentary on the desires of Eve and the failure of Adam that may be summarized as the following:
- Good for food
- Delight to the eyes
- Tree to be desired, to make one wise.
Some have summarized these desires as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, perhaps an application of 1 John 2:16, “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world.”
If this is a fair summation, then there are a few questions we need to ask in order to arrive at a potential root for sin. First, why were Adam and Eve not satisfied with all of the other trees and sources for food that God had provided? Second, why was it not enough to be made in the image of God, that they would desire to “be like God” through consumption of that which God had strictly forbidden? Third, and finally, with the desire to be made wise, what was it that they felt they lacked? What wisdom could the tree have possible provided that they had not either been born with or had access to through communion with God?
Summarizing this entire episode of the original sin, including Satan’s temptation and the questions we’ve asked, along with our brief look at the love of money (particularly its context, included below) and we are left with a firm conclusion regarding the root of this original sin, discontentment.
Discontentment is rooted in a dissatisfaction with who God is and what He has done in Christ. It is a refusal to accept His providential rule. It objects to Him as Creator, rebels against Him as Judge, and rejects Him as Lord and Savior. Ultimately, Discontentment with God is the root of idolatry.
Sexual immorality is rooted in discontentment with sexual purity.
Adultery is rooted in discontentment with marriage.
Greed, and conversely theft, is rooted in discontentment with finances or material possessions.
Even murder, as the Apostle James states in James 4:1-3, is rooted in discontentment, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”
Discontentment is inherent in our natures from the time of Adam’s fall down to this very day and while it is a damning sin for unbelievers, those of us who have been born again wrestle mightily (and daily) against discontentment of the flesh. Clearly, with Adam and Eve, contentment is not natural. How then does one gain contentment when everything pressing against us from within and without pushes us towards discontentment?
God provides for us a divine remedy through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul. Writing in Philippians chapter 4, the Apostle tell us the secret to contentment
11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
How does one become content? We’re not born with it. Not reborn with it. We cannot purchase it. It is learned.
The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment is learned from our experiences through which God works and whittles to mold and conform us more each day to the image of His Son. He teaches us contentment in abundance and contentment in poverty. Contentment can only be learned by those who have been born again and even then the learning curve is steep. It requires a submission to the providence of God in all circumstances and a trust in the faithfulness of God to His promises.
To aid in this lifelong process of learning contentment, God in His providence has gifted us with some helpful resources. Internally of course, we have His indwelling Spirit. Externally, second to none is God’s Word, through which we have the experiences of saints who learned contentment as well as verses exhorting us to contentment.
Additionally, there are two great books which will aid the believer in their pursuit of contentment. The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment by Jeremiah Burroughs and The Art of Divine Contentment by Thomas Watson.
May God’s Spirit and God’s grace aid us in our pursuit of contentment.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 1 Timothy 6:6-10