Monday, May 11, 2009

False Teachers and the Power of the Gospel

I read the following in this months Tabletalk by Ligonier Ministries:

"In Ephesus, the false teachers used the law neither to restrain sin nor to provoke repentance. They failed to focus on the law's opposition to ungodliness, keeping the church from seeing its need for the life-giving gospel, instead using it in a way God never intended.
-R.C. Sproul

After reading this I began to think a lot about my experience with the church, and the majority of "techniques", if you will, of today's great innovative leaders. Just as a prelude, this post is not condemning in nature, and is not meant to be handled as such. It is only an observation and an invitation to join an ongoing conversation.

My experience with the church, either the church I was a part of or what I read in books or heard in the media, was quite like the church of Ephesus. The handling of the gospel was never about the life-giving power that can be found in it's message, other than that of eternal life (and I am not certain that was well explained either). Pastors and teachers did not want to call sin, sin because they were fearful that they may offend and the people may leave, hurting their growing numbers. Then you have those who have taken the "gospel" to the other extreme, and used it as a weapon to carry on a tradition or specific agenda.

Then in the middle you have those like those in Ephesus. They, trying to be relevant, have chosen not to teach a gospel that encourages repentance of sin, because they want to effect people's lives by giving them what they want to hear. We do not focus on ungodliness, except those sins that we don't deal with. You will never hear sermons about pride, gossip, busybodies, and such, even though the church is full of these personalities. You will hear only messages about how to handle your finances, how much God loves everyone (never discussing God's wrath), how to have a great sex life with your spouse, and so forth. It's about enjoying the life you have now, but never focusing on the life-giving gospel that allows you to enjoy total satisfaction in Christ.

I wonder just how many of our churches are being led by false teachers? As a pastor, I wonder how many times I may have taught a false gospel, even though I may not have realized it? Because any teaching that focuses on one part of the gospel and refuses the other aspects, is a false teaching.

We as pastors, and us as Christ followers, must at all times be sure that we are seeking this life-giving gospel, and sharing that same gospel to others. Sometimes such living can cause others to be uncomfortable, at times people may become angry with you, and you may not be the most popular person, but God will be glorified with your life, and lives will be eternally effected not by you, but by the gospel.

As I continue my journey as a pastor, I am reminded just how true this realization is. I am noticing that individuals that hear the gospel, do not know how to respond to the conviction of the Holy Spirit. I am noticing that people really don't understand how the Scriptures apply to their everyday life. I am also noticing that people don't realize that to be a Christian is supposed to be about an ongoing, growing, and healthy relationship with Jesus our Savior. It is not about doing more, it is about being focused on Him more and less on ourselves. We don't get, that we can find total satisfaction and rest in our Heavenly Father. I pray that we will return to our first love, and proclaim from the rooftops of our lives, the life-giving power of the gospel. May we continue to pursue godliness, not because we are somehow trying to earn God's love, but because he loves us and we love him. May we be very careful as pastors and Christ followers not to present a false gospel, but the whole of the gospel to everyone around us. May we not use God's Word in a way that He never intended it to be used.

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