I used to attend a hip church. Art exhibit-type stations of the cross, skinny jeans, worship leaders that hang out at bars—you know, just like Jesus did… Uh, right…
Anyway, when one of the pastors began a sermon series on Jonah by saying, “Now we don’t know if Jonah was a real person or not. And it doesn’t really matter… ” That was the second the Holy Spirit awakened me. Perhaps it was the moment I was born again. Maybe it was the culmination of every Sunday School and low budget Christian School lesson I ever had… screaming in my veins—No! Whatever it was, I was out. O-U-T.
Done with post-modern Christianity and its post mortem Bible. Done with the Emerging church. Done with my secret sins and self-obsessed artistic idols. I needed reformation.
God’s Word mattered. And if it didn’t, then kill me, cause life is a sad joke.
Has God spoken or not? If so, are His words intelligible? Is the Bible merely a poem open to anyone’s interpretation? Are we allowed to distort what God says about Himself?
Here’s what I figure—If God says something, why not believe it? Why not believe the world was made in six literal days? Why not believe Jonah was swallowed by a really big fish? And why not believe Jesus rose from the dead? Let God be true and all men be liars, toss ’em (Romans 3:4 via Shai Linne).
Something else I read (and believed): Pastor of Hip Church Arrested for 2nd DUI.
Surprised? We shouldn’t be, cause Paul says they don’t love Jesus. Like the serpent, they specialize in twisting truth. False teachers will tell you what you want to hear, they will slick back their hair or squeeze into their jeans. They are chameleons. They’ll be what you want them to be. They meet the needs you feel. They are sensual. Angels of light.
Harmless, right? Harmless cobras. And these cobras cultivate a good reputation and a plausible set of doctrines.
And that’s what I want to write about here. Are false teachers “just a little off”? Is criticising them just being “too picky” about doctrine? Are they sincere in wanting people to love Jesus? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “God wants unity. As long as we all love Jesus, we should focus on love instead of doctrine.”
That sounds great. But, is that what God says?
Does God think it’s a big deal when pastors make bank lying about Who He is and What He does? Is God upset about historic traditions that are held above the Bible and contradict it? Does God say, “Just love Jesus the best you can and I don’t really care what the church teaches?” Does God care if you lie about Him, you know, just a little?
I really don’t think I need to prove that those questions are ridiculous. Of course God cares. It’s all over the Bible. Pick any book, any chapter, any verse in context. God cares.
Case in point: Galatians 1:6-10
I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing 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 what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Look at verse 7 again: They want to distort the gospel of Christ.
They. Desire. Distortion.
A little off here. A minor point there. Big deal!? Paul says that if it compromises the gospel, then yes, it is a big deal.
They are not innocent. They teach lies. Why? Because they desire to. They want to twist the truth. Paul describes these teachers as perverts.
They long to pervert the meaning of the cross. The meaning. That’s key.
In the Galatian church, apparently no one is denying the resurrection. No one is denying the deity of Christ or the Trinity. They could all be saying the Apostles Creed every week. But they are denying what the cross means!
How many people these days have a distaste for the doctrine of Substitutionary Atonement? That is not an optional doctrine. That is what happened on the cross.
How many churches preach that baptism is a way to get your sins washed away? Or that you are not born again until you are baptized?
How many deny that faith alone in Christ alone is what makes you right with God? Or twist the truth that works follow as necessary (but not meritorious) fruit?
How many teach that you can lose your salvation? Or that you must perform to get back in God’s grace? Or spend some time in Hell Jr.?
I digress. My goal is not to point out every gospel distortion in this article. I merely want us to notice that false teachers are not innocent. They desire to distort what Christ did. Paul curses them. We should at the least point it out lovingly, as salt and light.
But no one likes light in their eyes. Because ultimately, when we believe false teachers, we get to sin more. And that is why our flesh falls for distortions and defends the distorters. The fruit looks pleasing to the eye and will feed our flesh. We love what they give us and we defend our spiritual drug dealers.
And what about the supposed disunity that happens from making a big deal out of doctrine? Well, let’s think about that. Is unity around a false god a unity worth having?
But isn’t the love of Jesus all that matters? Paul doesn’t seem to think so. And Paul is writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit who is God. So God is saying that getting the gospel wrong amounts to preaching a different Jesus. You cannot separate who Jesus is from what He does. And you can’t separate what Jesus did on the cross from what it means. There is only one gospel. The Galatians should have known better.
Paul is astonished. By the Holy Spirit, He curses the teachers and declares any hearers who continue to accept this distorted gospel “cut off from Christ”(Galatians 5:4).
Not a big deal?
In my opinion, deals don’t get much bigger than that.