Biblegateway Verse of the Day

A Biblical Understanding of the Gospel

By Benjamin H. Liles

          I want to say this to make this fully clear: the prosperity message that some "teachers" give and exclaim is one centered on their own greed. It's their "word of faith" that has them "name it and claim it" they say the rest of us can achieve. But, and this is a great big HUGE BUT - we're told within the pages of the Bible, Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand" (Romans 14:4).

          As I start this I want to preface this rather long article/letter by saying that our sins separate us from a loving God who desires to be in a relationship with us. Before we can become His children we are more like we are like servants who simply "do" certain acts to obtain something from Him. But in actuality, if we desire to be made His children it means we give up those things we think we know so much better for Him and His ways. For God can be known, and through the Messiah (Christ) Jesus. For even He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6, New King James). the result is an article both loving and explaining the gospel message of Jesus Christ. For He came to us in the form of man, yet fully God to take the wrath of God so that we would not, in order to be His children, having life everlasting.

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          Within the word of faith movement there are a lot of claims of works along with faith, you are then saved. But what happens if that fails? It's basically a deck of cards that's actually stacked against those who may be looking for a way to fill an emptiness, a void within their heart. Now I admit that this is a hard thing to admit to having done, or in the process of doing.

          I contend, here and now, that those who truthfully and willingly desire truth - those who hunger and thirst for it (actually) - don't want to be "spoon fed a lump of sugar, to make the medicine go down in the most delightful way." But if you want little sycophants running around proclaiming a faith that continues to hollow you out, this movement is a form of not only Jewish legalism, but Catholicism, Mormonism, almost all the "isms" put together.

          Now some will look at what I'm saying here and say to me, "But aren't you in fact judging them?" To that I say I don't believe I am, but trying to correct this false idea that things that make you happy - fame, money, and things - ultimately just empty you out further. These people who are ravenous wolves who come in sheep's clothing don't care where your money goes. They don't care about your well-being, they care about their own well-being.

          What it boils down to is that there are those who just want a church for the unchurched. Have you ever heard of anything the like? Does that even make sense? How can you have a church for the unconverted? Isn't that just the same thing as saying, "I can't know God, personally, so therefore I am my own god?" Let's get candid here and talk about the truth.

          My wife, Tanya, and I recently watched a movie on this phenomena "American Gospel: Christ Alone," and a lot of things made better sense to us afterward. The picture above, as well that I'm using is from the site of Tim Challies, where he's reviewed the movie himself.

          Within the confines of Catholicism, and now in the Word of Faith camp they view salvation as faith plus works. The actual gospel message is that your faith is being saved plus having works. But what does all of this mean? How can I explain this so as to show the truth to the gospel message of what it means to be saved?

          The beginning of Exodus 20 reads, "And God spoke all these words, saying: 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage'" (20:1-2, New King James). The next verse tells what our response, our act of faith is: "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). All the other commandments after that first is an act of our faith due to what God has done for us.

          In fact, there are numerous New Testament books that follow that same method as well: "God has done this, and your response of faith is to do this." It's explained rather well with the movie "American Gospel: Christ Alone." Prosperity teachers want to teach the rest of us that we can have wealth, health, and prosper and the result is God doesn't ever want us to be sick. But somehow if you do get sick and need prayers, you some how aren't good enough, or have enough faith, or sown a seed of faith to their ministry. This is wrong! It's also reprehensible as well.

          Jesus Christ told the Pharisees, "Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well" (Matthew 23:26, Berean Study). The truth of the matter is if you so want to be cleaned, your heart needs to be dealt with; for to have a clean heart makes the whole person clean (from the inside out, kind of thing). God deals with us where we are at, and our act of faith, our obedience, is to simply follow Him.

          On this note Jesus said this: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew 4:19, New King James). Again, it follows the same pattern God set in Exodus, "I have done this, you do this." So how do we open our hard hearts to receive the good news God so desires to offer us? 

          How does a farmer reap a harvest? Does he not first go through the land he owns and plows it to remove any weeds, rocks, and other objects that may be in the way so as to have a bountiful harvest? I put it this way for those who have come from that background. My mother was brought up by a couple who farmed land. She'd get this analogy. Even God, within the pages of the Bible said, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:26, New King James). 

          John, the beloved disciple of Christ penned the words of Jesus, saying, "Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again...No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:3, 5). But how can a person, man or woman, be born again? 

          It comes down to the statement Christ gave, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15, New American Standard). Paul says of the ability to believe in the good news, the gospel message, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17, New King James). If we so desire to "earn" salvation, then it is something to be worked for.

          So let's go over a few of these terms so we have a firm understanding of things, because if we're hungry and thirsty enough, we will want the right teaching and to get away from bad or even false teaching. So the first word is repent. It's not simply a feeling of regret of doing wrong, it's a complete turn around of regret.remorse and wanting restoration. To define believe, the way I understand it best, is to have a proper understanding of who/what is speaking to me. So, when Christ says, "Repent and believe, for the kingdom of God is at hand," it comes through as "Turn back to the Lord your God, receive proper understanding, for I AM here to teach you right."

          Another way to look at the gospel of Jesus Christ is this way: there are two band-aids, one laid perpendicular, one over the other, as if a cross. Then there's also the commandments of God, where the stone tablets is laid one on top of the other to form a heart. If the cross formed band-aids indicate our relationship to God, then the heart-shaped Commandments our our obedience to Him.

          In fact it would look like this:
       

Christ's Cross
(Relationship)

Ten Commandments
(Obedience)

          So, then if we have allowed God the right to come into our heart, to till it up so we are therefore receptive to Him, we are essentially saying this to Him, "Heavenly Father, I see how I have been to you and have made you out to be, replace this..." and He does when we allow Him to come into our hearts. Recall the farmer tilling the land to reap a harvest I mentioned above? So, knowing this let's expand that analogy a bit. Let's say this farmer calls alongside himself an apprentice to be just as great, in not better farmer than himself? When we expand this God is that farmer, and the apprentice is us.
          It's akin to when Jesus spoke to those who became his disciples: "Come, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." He is the Lord God calling men into relationship so to give them the means to spread and proclaim the gospel message. It becomes the whole giving of the Law once more: "I have done this on your behalf (being called into relationship), you do this (your act of faith/your obedience)." 
          Knowing this then when we see both James and Paul saying, "Faith without works is dead" (James 2:26; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). If we want our faith to be full and overflowing, authentic and true it's a bit like that equation from earlier: salvation + works = faith. If we hear the gospel message, responding to it, knowing we are sinners in need of a Savior (which is what Christ did at the cross, taking our punishment), we receive - by faith - adoption into the family of God. 
          We're told in the New Testament, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1, New King James). When we turn away, fully, from our sins and come to God to clean us up, we no longer want to do those things we have done before. Our act of faith is to ask of God, "Lord, I want your Spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). Our obedience toward God, through the Messiah (Christ) Jesus, is to realize what He's done on our behalf, and our part is to do a very small part, remaining in a relationship with Him. 
          Christ says to the disciples as well as to all of us: "No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15, New King James). 
           Anyone who sits there and tells you that God cannot be known either doesn't want to know God and therefore remain sinful, or they are being taught the same word of faith/prosperity message that doesn't work anyway. If you want lasting life, and to have it in abundance, get rid of the garbage, the junk that ensnares. Ask the Heavenly Father, who gave us His Son Jesus the Messiah, to take our punishment upon Himself so we can be made right with God. We can do those same things Christ did for others, but we have to be willing to ask God to heal our hearts of stone, to come into our lives, so we can be made clean. All we have to do is pick up our cross and do the little Christ calls us to.

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