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Entries in false gospel (2)


Are you fighting the wrong thing?

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A friend of author Wayne Jacobsen once drew a cartoon where Jesus opened his arms to the masses and said, "Come to me all you who are heavy-burdened and I will give you an accountability group.

The "Christianity" many of us were invited into declares that the battle we face is against the heart, not for it. Why?  Because the underlying assumption of a false gospel is that the "heart is deceitfully wicked," even after you've been made a new creation in Christ.  We warn each other about the alleged dangers of following our hearts:  "Don't trust your heart, it will lead you astray.  You have a wandering heart, a divided heart.  Reject the desires of the heart.  If it's what you want, it probably isn't what God wants." 

Certainly discernment must accompany desire:  You need to know if a desire is coming from your heart -- and is therefore a noble desire -- or if it's coming from another source.  Or it may be that your heart may need mentoring before you rush headlong into something good but untimely.  But this is not to say that the Christian's heart is still "deceitfully wicked."

Scripture says, "I will give you a new heart."  This is the gift Jesus gave you when you said 'yes' to him. Paul even says, "In my inner being, I delight in God's commands..."  [How can he delight in God's commands if his heart, his inmost being, is rebelliously set against God?]  He wouldn't be able to delight in God's commands if that was the case.]

When you said 'yes' to Jesus, he gave you his own noble-hearted nature.  The irony is, the brand of misguided Christianity that pins the heart to the wall  -- so that it doesn't go astray -- actually produces Christians who go to war against the most holy and noble place within them!  These mislead souls end up mistrusting their best self! The Christian has then set herself against the very residence of goodness and wholeness God set within her.  We quote, "May Christ dwell in your heart through faith" then attack the very heart where Jesus dwells within. So not only are we at war with our best selves, we're at war with God's work; because we've shackled and shut-down the heart of his work, literally.  The core of God's work in any man or woman begins by replacing a ruined heart with a royal heart, and we've rejected our own crown.

This false gospel creates a house-divided by...

  • Guarding against the heart rather than guarding the heart, the wellspring of life within you.
  • Holding the heart hostage rather than healing the heart's wounds.
  • Locking the heart away rather than loosing the heart from false suspicion.

Don't fight the wrong thing.  Fight the Enemy of your heart, the Accuser, but don't wage war against God's throneroom he has set within you.  In Christ, your heart becomes your ally, not your enemy.



Sniffing out the gospel that will wear you out

About fifteen years ago, while I was  in grad school, I "attended a church" just off campus.  Without fail, I left that building each Sunday with the same sensation:  spiritual heaviness.  The unspoken message being delivered was, "You're simply not measuring up to expectations."  Without fail, that same experience has repeated itself in nearly every "church" experience, conference, retreat, or organized gathering of Christians since then.

 At the time, I had no words to articulate what was going on, but I now have a well-developed internal filter -- a warning flag, a nose for sniffing out false substitutes.  (After a while, your heart says, "No more!  This can't be all there is.")  At the center of what I experienced each Sunday was the effect of the partial gospel.  Sometimes it isn't the Gospel at all; and in any case, it is a "gospel" that will wear you out. 

This false substitute goes by several monikers:  "the religious spirit," "religious legalism," "the gospel of religious duty and shame," or "living under Law."  Whatever its name, it is not what Jesus came to offer.  All you have to do is look at its fruit:  defeated Christians, fleeting personal transformation, frenzied activity substituting for apprenticeship at Jesus' side, and a meager affect upon the culture we hope to transform.

So how does one develop this early warning system, that ability to sniff out false substitutes?  Well, how does your heart react in those situations?  Do you experience:

  • Spiritual pressure to measure up to expectations.
  • Spiritual heaviness.
  • You suspect God, is in fact, not really pleased with you.
  • You're constantly being asked by leadeship to be more committed.
  • Every message is about getting you to do something, or to stop doing something.
  • The leadeship is more concerned with managing people's sin, than releasing a new life that is now within them.
  • No one ever talks about the heart, and when they do, it is with suspicion -- even in the case of the believer.

What have you experienced when you've encountered a substitute "gospel?"