I met with several men early this morning to study the Bible. We are currently going through the book of Galatians. As we went through chapter 2, we got to the point where Paul had to confront Peter because of his wrong behavior. (Galatians 2:11-14) Peter was clearly in the wrong, which was why Paul had to bring correction.

After this, one of the guys asked a question. “Peter has been walking with Jesus for quite a while. And this incident happens after Pentecost. Isn’t it discouraging that after all this time, we still mess up?”

True. We still mess up. And it sometimes feels like we move two steps forward and one step back. But here’s the deal: God is not done with us. Life is actually a series of midcourse corrections.

An airplane never gets to its destination in one straight line. It may veer a bit to the left or a lot to the right. But with the Pilot steering, midcourse corrections are made.

Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. The goal is not spiritual perfection but spiritual progress. The aim is to not to make a mistake but to relentlessly pursue Christ. The objective is not to never veer, but to stay the course. “He who calls us is faithful, and He will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

That’s what sanctification accomplishes.

At the end of Peter’s life, we are told by tradition that he was crucified for following Christ. And he asked to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to die the same death as his Master.

He may not have started well. He may not even have been perfect in his walk with Christ. But he kept His eyes on Christ and stayed the course.

Remember, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

It’s so easy to replace the message of the gospel with other fillers as we chronologically advance in our walk with God.

I say chronologically advance because it is possible to grow old in the faith but not necessarily grow up in our faith journey.

Meet a few of hypothetical church members that may be sitting in our pews these days.

1. Busy Bobby

Bobby is busy jumping from one church conference to the next, a current ministry to an additional one and one church activity to another.

However, Bobby’s world and God’s world have never crossed paths. All the church activities have had little impact on his heart and on how his life is being lived.

For him, the gospel is reduced to participation in church activities and ministries.

2. Legalistic Louie

Louie has a set of rule for every situation. He is a walking list of dos and don’ts. His children sees Christianity as a set of rules which has become a heavy burden to carry.

Legalism ignores the depth of our inability to earn God’s favor and pursues the goal of performing to gain God’s nod.

3. Mystic Marie

Marie thrives on emotional experiences. She hops from one conference to another hoping to get a spiritual high every time.

However, while goose bumps are experienced, her faith often falls flat. She faces discouragement and depression 24/7.

Our faith in Christ is not stoic. Our Christianity is peppered with human emotion. However, we cannot reduce the gospel to mere emotional experiences with Jesus.

4. Theological Thomas

Thomas knows the Bible inside and out. He has memorized hundreds of verses and can cite different theological views by every known Bible scholar out there.

However, his character is far from being Christ-like. He is arrogant, critical and looks down on people who opposes his views.

He has mastered the Word but has not allowed the Word to master him.

5. Psychological Sally

Sally loves God but is an offense magnet. Because of the rejection she has experienced in life, she looks to the Word to bring healing and restoration. And rightly so.

But if we see others’ sin as greater than our own, we have a tendency to see Christ as a therapist rather than Savior.

We are flawed and in major debt yet we are unconditionally loved and accepted.

The Bible is not a mere self help book. It is the narrative of God’s redemptive plan for you and me.

These have become replacements to the gospel.

I love what Karl Barth said when asked what’s the one most profound theological precept he has ever encountered.

This was his answer, “Jesus loves me this I know… for the Bible tells me so.”

The gospel is not a self help technique. It is not a mere emotional experience neither a theological thought. It is not a way to gain favor from God.
It is a message that we receive, believe and respond to.
It is good news. This is the gospel by which we have been saved.

The gospel “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)