What has Jesus done in you? What ministry is Jesus doing through you?
Galatians 1:6-10 – I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble 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 the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
There is a beautiful lake in the mountains where we enjoy spending summer vacations as a family. Some of my fondest memories are renting a boat and pulling the kids around on inner tubes. One thing, however, continually threatens the lake. Some years ago, someone brought a boat that had strange algae from another body of water on the hull. That algae have since taken over the entire lake, choking out the life of fish, and costing huge sums of money to battle for the life of the lake.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is pristine, pure, and clean. The gospel of Jesus Christ is created by God. Satan counterfeits this gospel with an unclean, impure, deadly, false gospel that seeks to do to the church what the algae is doing to the lake. This is precisely what is happening in the book of Galatians. Paul planted the church by preaching the gospel. After Paul left, false teachers introduced a false gospel to that church. Such efforts never end and are usually done by people who sincerely think they are upgrading, improving, and fixing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are 5 questions to help you discern counterfeits:
1. Is there a “new gospel?
Anytime something is being taught that deviates from the simple but powerful message of Jesus’ sinless life, death on the cross for our sins, and resurrection in victory over sin and death, you can assume that the new gospel is a false gospel. The real gospel is like math and never changes.
2. Is there suspicion or rejection of other Christians?
Anytime your church, denomination, or brand of Christianity is deemed the only real and pure form and separates you from other genuine Christians whom you criticize, something is profoundly wrong.
3. Is there demonic revelation?
Paul says that even when an angel brings a message, if it does not agree with the gospel of the Bible, then it is demonic and cursed by God. Curiously, the largest cult, Mormonism, says that an angel named Maroni visited their founder Joseph Smith to give new revelation and this demon often sits atop their buildings adorned in gold. Also, the largest non-Christian religion, Islam, claims that Muhammad was visited by Gabriel and other angels to provide new revelation that deviates from the gospel.
4. Is the dominant mood love of God or fear of man?
For the Christian, our primary motivation is love of God. Satan’s counterfeit is fear of man so that pushy people get us to do what they want and believe what they say even if it harms our relationship with God.
5. Has grace (what you get to do because God saved you) become law (what you have to do so God will save you)?
You don’t have to be perfect; Jesus was perfect. You don’t have to pay God back; Jesus paid your debt.
Christianity is about grace, and what we get to do because God loves us. Man-made religion takes these freedoms of grace and makes them into things we have to do so that God will love us since God’s grace is at the finish line for them and not the starting line. Practically, we don’t have to read the Bible, participate in church, pray to God, worship, or serve others. Instead, we get to do these things and we want to do these things because they are an overflow of Jesus’ love for us back to God and others.
Do you see Christian activities more as things you have to do or get to do?