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)