Monday, April 16, 2012

A Judgmentless Gospel-L. Winneroski

     In this promotional video for a book entitled Love Wins, the author is really posing one major question: How could a loving God send people to hell? From just the preview of his book, we see the author questioning if Jesus is truly the only way to get to heaven. His logic is that if God is a truly loving God, He will judge the heart as the true measure for acceptance into heaven. Perhaps an individual has been turned off from the message of the Gospel because of something another Christian has done or said. The author questions how this individual could be held responsible and sentenced to an eternity in hell. This preacher and author’s message falls within the category of the judgmentless gospel. Here, this man is denying and neglecting the idea of God as Judge. However, at the same time, he is stating that he wants justice for all people when it comes to where they will spend eternity. However, judgment and justice go hand in hand. We find that you cannot have one without the other.
    This author’s message points to the idea of universalism, or the belief that everyone will eventually be saved. Once again as shown through the therapeutic gospel, human sin is downplayed and causes us to question why we should even trust Christ with in the first place and wonder as to what exactly He is saving us from. Hell is not a light-hearted topic to discuss over the dinner table. Most prefer to keep all talk of eternal damnation under the table. The judgmentless gospel is appealing because it eases our conscience when talking about loved ones who are not saved and keeps all talk of evil, sin, and judgment out of the picture. However, God’s judgment stems out of His love and His very nature. We live in a world created and intended for good but corrupted by sin. Creation longs for the day when the evil will be judged and justice will be achieved. The scary part is that when you look at the Biblical Gospel, all of us contain evil, as sin has corrupted our very being. This means that all of us will face God’s judgment. Only if we have entrusted Jesus with our lives and allow Him to stand in our place will be pardoned for our sins and receive an eternity spent in heaven. As evident by each of the messages, both of these preachers focus on a different aspect within the Gospel message but find themselves falling into the trap of attractive counterfeits. Although ever so subtle, certain aspects within their messages fail to align with the one true Gospel: the story of the life of Jesus and his sacrificial death on a cross to receive the punishment that we deserve.

A Therapeutic Gospel-L. Winneroski

    Although this sermon does not specifically cover the gospel story (creation, fall, redemption, and restoration), the preacher implies his misled interpretation of the gospel story when addressing the upcoming decade. In this sermon, the preacher is really giving a motivational pep talk for the upcoming decade, beginning with 2010. He focuses his message on the blessings and favors of God, propelling his message into the category of the therapeutic gospel. The preacher states in his sermon that because you have trusted Christ and are a child of God, you will see a decade of increase, promotion, and favor. He states that your career will take off, you will accomplish your goals, you will get out of debt and pay your house off, and you get well again despite the medical reports.
    Here, it is as if the preacher is saying, Trust Christ and everything in your life will be great! According to Wax, this thinking is referred to as the Happy Meal Gospel. Under this reasoning, God wants us to be happy. Pursuing happiness becomes the main focus of our lives and we reach this goal of happiness by being nice and helpful to other people. This sermon also falls into the subcategory of the Paid Programming Gospel. Jesus is viewed as the means to turning your life around and making it “better.” Jesus is seen a mere addition to your existing life, rather than someone who transforms you from the inside out.
    As clearly evident by the packed stadium listening to this sermon, people want to hear this type of message. The motivational tone leaves people inspired and feeling good. The therapeutic gospels focus on human worth and God providing for our needs. However, often times, messages like this one leave us wanting God’s provisions and blessings rather than desiring God Himself. The therapeutic gospel does not address suffering and often leaves people struggling and questioning when suffering does come. This gospel also ignores the great weight and depravity of human sin. In this sermon, people are clearly cast in an optimistic light, suggesting that deep down people are mostly good. This downplaying of sin also downplays God’s grace and sacrifice of sending His son Jesus to die in our place. The therapeutic gospel uses Christ as a means of getting something else in life, such as blessing in an upcoming decade. This sermon focuses only on the blessings rather than the One who does the blessing.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A "No Consequence to Sin" Gospel-M. Williams

    Another gospel presentation found at  talks about God’s love, yet this sermon does not talk about Heaven and Hell as the previous pastor did. When man sins, he is not supposed to spend too much time on the failure because God is a loving Father. Our Heavenly Father is like our earthly father in the sense that God loves us no matter what we do wrong. We humans are His special children who are of the utmost importance to Him, and when we sin He is more concerned about loving us than punishing us.
    This pastor also seems to present a gospel devoid of any real consequence of sin. This pastor embraces the fact that God forgives but spends very little time on the consequences of sin in the gospel story or community. The entire message is filled of instances where man is put on this big pedestal stating how special humanity is to God and how He will always regard us with unconditional grace, yet the message never included how mankind does not deserve this forgiveness. Part of the gospel is the recognition of a sin problem that mankind must be forgiven. The whole reason Jesus came was to solve this problem. The gospel constantly bolstering the specialness of humans minimizes this reason and does not help the ongoing spiritual health of Christians or Christian communities. By realizing people do not deserve forgiveness because sin is so horrible, sin becomes an undesirable action when forgiveness is achieved. The community of Christians cannot become better Christians or learn the greatness of Christ without first spending some time actually realizing how Christ saved such undeserving and rebellious children.

Entire Gospel Elimination?-M. Williams

    A particular sermon contained a presentation of the gospel concerned greatly with the love of God. The pastor begins his presentation by explaining that neither Heaven nor Hell is a real place. Heaven is more like the qualities of justice and love in the world while Hell is the greed and hateful qualities. We as Christians work towards a better tomorrow where Heaven qualities exist in people without any Hell qualities. This upcoming place will be what Jesus kept referring to as His new age, and this new age will be where the good qualities will be embody all people. Anyone can join this new age and be a part of “Heaven”. Jesus in the pastor’s message is one who is in all places of creation, and even if a community is worshipping a god of a different name they still may be worshipping Jesus and may be able to reach “Heaven”.
    The first false gospel presented an unknowable god and a Heaven anyone can join. The story of who God is becomes hard to understand since everyone on the planet could be worshipping a different god. The announcement of Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross for man’s sins becomes irrelevant because there is no Hell. God in the Bible had Jesus die on the cross because man sinned, and man needed Jesus’s blood on the cross to avoid Hell. To eliminate the reason Jesus came is also to eliminate the community of Christians talking about the sacrifice on the cross since there was no need for the sacrifice.

A Judgmentless Gospel-D. Wernig

    In this video clip, a debate takes place on a radio show between two theologians, who are discussing the concept of God’s judgment and heaven and hell, and one of the pastors gives his opinion, displaying his interpretation of the Gospel as “judgmentless.” 
    The overall viewpoint of this preacher is that eventually all people will ultimately be saved from God’s wrath and from hell.  It is his theological opinion that individuals specifically choose hell, and resist God’s love, and once God’s love is accepted, they can be saved.  He further emphasizes (without biblical defense) that God is not a wrathful God, but is a loving one.  The current world is explained as being a hell, and when one dies without God in his or her life, hell continues in the spiritual realm.  Contrary to orthodox Christianity, he believes even within the confines of hell, a person has the opportunity to repent and be reconciled with God.  He further tries to apply a logical argument, claiming that a finite amount of sins does not deserve infinite punishment.
    Trevin Wax would say this form of the judgmentless gospel is when people believe, “God doesn’t send anyone to hell, people choose to go there,” and, “God looks at your heart.”  The pastor in the video seems to be implying that deep down, if a person is good at heart, God will melt our hearts and God’s love will conquer our will.  One big problem with this is that the preacher assumes that people are generally good, when the Bible teaches something completely different. 
    What is attractive about this gospel to so many people is that it eases their conscience in the matters of hell.  People don’t want to consider the possibility of an eternal punishment, and it makes them uneasy, especially when thinking about unsaved friends and family that could be experiencing such everlasting torment.  Also, by ignoring the judgment side of the gospel, it allows people to avoid facing their own evil, and they are given the delusion that they are “good” before God.
    In order to counter this counterfeit, Christians must remember that God’s Judgment demonstrates His love.  The anger and wrath of God is directly related to His love for people; he imposes judgment on people because of “His love for them and his desire for their best.”  God must deal with the sin in individual’s lives, and the evil in the world…for the world’s own good.  Also, followers should keep in mind the personal nature of sin.  It would not be holy of God to ignore one’s rebellion and rejection of him and his rule; in order to be just, He must deal out a punishment, and He cannot arbitrarily wipe away sin without any cause.  The cause by which sin can be washed away is through Jesus, and Jesus alone.  The true Gospel involves a true response of faith and repentance, during this life, in Jesus who offers to take our punishment through what he has done on the cross.

A Therapeutic Gospel-D. Wernig

    One example of a counterfeit that can be noticed is in this video clip, where the Therapeutic Gospel is presented in a sermon having to do with the Gospel and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The common theme of this individual’s sermon is pressing on for our personal victory that God intends for us to have.  Examples are given throughout the sermon of how Jesus went through a similar process of persisting on the road to the cross.  He gives the story of Jesus praying in the garden, when “everything was against him,” explaining that the church is to follow his example and continue to hope because “victory” is coming.  Also, he speaks of Jesus not being able to carry his cross, saying that “even Jesus can’t carry the weight sometimes,” and like him, his followers don’t have to be strong 100% of the time.  Throughout the sermon, the pastor continually says, in regard to people’s trials and goals, that a resurrection is coming, implying that Jesus’ resurrection can be paralleled to overcoming any obstacles one may face.  Lastly, the video concludes with the preacher saying that, through Jesus Christ, God has given everyone the opportunity for an abundant life.
    This video metaphorically screams, “Therapeutic Gospel.”  It is what Trevin Wax would probably call the “Fill’er up Gospel.”  The speaker in the video continually states that God fills people up and provides for people in times of discomfort or pain.  Through his portrayal of Jesus, he seems to be making the point that the purpose of Jesus’ actions and his death on the cross was primarily to provide Christians with an example to follow when they are in times of hardship.  Jesus is about guiding followers through their trials, and helping them to reach their potential and achieve their goals.  He seems to imply that the resurrection is symbolic for our victories in times of trial, and it represents God’s promise that he will give us success in our ambitions. 
    This false gospel is attractive to so many people, probably because it emphasizes that God will be there to comfort people in their time of need.  Also is gives people hope for their current life on earth and for achieving their goals, especially when it is stated that God will give an abundant life to all who believe.  While Jesus does bring hope and comfort during one’s life on earth, it does not guarantee that all of one’s earthly ambitions and desires will be satisfied. 
In order to counter this counterfeit, one must remember to put God in the center, not one’s own personal plans.  This gospel is not about the person, but about God, and what He has done through Jesus Christ to save his followers from judgment, not from failure of earthly goals.  It is important that believers find their joy in God alone, and in the beauty of their salvation and God’s love and grace.  When salvation from God’s eternal judgment is replaced with salvation from lack of victory and lack of reaching one’s potential, the true gospel can easily be missed.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A Judgmentless & Activist Gospel-A. Visscher

     I watched a video called “Resurrection.” It was a short sermon on what Christ’s resurrection means for the world today. The pastor’s main point was that God hasn’t given up on the world but is rescuing it. The sermon states that God has called us to resurrection, not abandoned us. Redemption is God loving mankind so much that he doesn’t want people to stay the way they are. He meets them when they are low and when they accept him as Lord they become the vessels he uses to transform the world. Jesus’ crucifixion followed by his resurrection was an example of life overcoming death and victory continues today as God rids the world of evil to create life.
     “Resurrection” brings a powerful message of redemption, transformation, and a coming new earth while neglecting judgment. The sermon focuses so much on this life that it ignores the penalty of sin, Christ’s atonement on the cross, and the need to believe in Jesus as our Savior. Altogether, “Resurrection” is a counterfeit mixture of the judgmentless and activist gospels.
     The sermon appeals to believers and unbelievers by stating truths about the kingdom of heaven. Jesus often preached on the kingdom of heaven in both the present and future tense. On one hand, he brought the kingdom to earth when he was incarnated and on the other, he said that the kingdom would not be complete until he returned to reign. “Resurrection” touches on the present kingdom when it encourages listeners to begin God’s work of transformation. We can start a redemptive work now by following Christ and reaching out to the poor, broken hearted, and abused. We can be the hands and feet of the gospel by standing against the evils of this world. The pastor also mentioned the “life to come.” He was not referring to heaven but a renewed earth. This reference to the future kingdom of heaven is correct. Man was created to live in the world and the book of Revelation talks about God making a new earth where Christ will reign. The church acting in preparation for what is to come is a biblical concept that “Resurrection” captures perfectly, but on its own the message is incomplete.
     Adding facts to this counterfeit will address the falsehoods within it. The first truth to remember is that we need God because we are condemned by our sin. In the beginning, man’s relationship with God was severed because of sin. The result was death. In the same way Adam and Eve received justice, we will also be judged for our sins and they will bring eternal death. Therefore, we do not come to God simply because we’re feeling low but because we need him to restore our broken relationship and to grant us mercy from death. The second truth is that we need to live in preparation not only for redemption, but also for judgment. Since God will judge man at the end of time, man needs to be kept accountable and to maintain a relationship with God. We must go beyond recognizing a need for God’s mercy and doing good deeds to becoming spiritually prepared to face God as Judge. The final truth is that evil cannot be purged without justice. “Resurrection” calls for a transformation from evil to good. The only way for this to occur is through justice. Justice demands a penalty and with that, we return to the earlier mentioned concept of eternal death. Overall, the sermon captured the work of redemption but fell short by failing to it put it in context. It didn’t mention God’s relationship with man or judgment. Without judgment there is no reason to come to God or to expect evil to be erased.