Beware of the Gospel Gaps: Spiritual Drifts Lead to Gospel Shifts

4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you (Galatians 2:4-5, ESV).

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Paul’s concern for the Galatian church was to preserve the true truth of the gospel from not just the secular world outside the church, but from those who would add law to the gospel from the inside. Each person struggles with a gospel gap in their lives.[1]  Beware of submitting to something that will enslave you—only pursue that which will preserve you—the Gospel.

  1. Beware of the gospel gaps: “There are people who know the Lord, but whose live fail to produce the expected fruit of faith. Their lives are not characterized by peaceful, loving relationships, a sweet, natural, day-by-day worship of the Lord, a wholesome and balanced relationship to material things, and ongoing spiritual growth. Instead, these believers leave a trail of broken relationships, a knowledgeable but impersonal walk with God, a struggle with material things, and a definite lack of personal growth. Something is wrong with this harvest; it contradicts the faith that is supposed to be its source” (How People Change, p 2).
  2. Three kinds of blindness in how to deal with the gospel in the here and now:
    • Many Christians underestimate the presence and power of indwelling sin.
    • Many Christians are blind to God’s provisions. We have everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-9).
    • Many Christians are blind to God’s process. Beware of the extremes of “I have already arrived spiritually” to “I am just waiting for heaven.” He’s called us to a life of growth, not comfort.
  3. What are some counterfeit issues that fill the gap?
    • Formalism (logistics): Involved in every activity, every committee, teaches—but Christian walk is impacted very little. Problem: Formalism allows us to retain control of my life, my time, and my agenda. Blind to the need for God’s grace to rescue. Church life and personal life separate—fail to see the need to have the gospel affect all things.
    • Legalism (fundamentalists): A walking list of do’s and don’ts, having a set of rules for everything to evaluate herself and everyone else. God is a harsh judge who places unreasonable standards, yet condemns because we cannot keep them. No joy in life because there is no grace to celebrate. This is another gospel all together! 
    • Mysticism (charismatics): Careening from emotional experience to emotional experience, from one high to another. But between the highs, we fall flat and struggle with discouragement. We forget that most changes happen in life in the little moments of life. Danger is found in pursuing experience more than Christ. 
    • Activism (monastics): Activist Christians’ motto is “Stand up for what is right, wherever and whenever it is needed.” Danger is focusing more on defending what is right than a joyful pursuit of Christ. Focus is always on external evils—can take the form of modern monasticism: “World is evil, separate from it.” Even the monks forgot to look at the evil inside the hearts of those inside the monastery walls. 
    • Biblicism (scholastics): Know the Bible well, read commentaries, concern about “biblical worldview,” etc. We can study Christianity and not be Christ-lie. We can have a reputation for being proud, critical, and intolerant of anyone who lacks our understanding of the faith. This critical spirit is not well-received by those willing to learn and grow. Danger is to master the content of Scripture and systematic theology to the exclusion of communion, dependency, and worship of Christ. 
    • “Psychologyism” (psychatrics): One who sees Christ as a therapist for ‘hurting’ people who need spiritual healing. Focus on ones own hurts and victimization, and thus becomes self-absorbed and thus not seeing need for redemption! For these, the problem is unmet needs—the sin is against me rather than sin against God! 
    • “Socialism” (relational dynamics): Fellowship is what drives these believers. The interaction of relationships fuels the fire of their faith. The point here is to find someone(s) to whom we can relate. Our communion with people can replace a desire to commune with Christ. Church becomes a social club, and when this changes, so does our fire.

Never underestimate how spiritual drifts can bring gospel shifts, which can lead to false gospels.  A false gospel is no gospel at all!

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to[a] his own glory and excellence,[b]4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,[c] and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities[d] are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that heis blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins (2 Peter 1:3-9, ESV).

 

[1]This term and the following lists of counterfeits are taken from Timothy S. Lane and Paul David Tripp’s book How People Change (New Growth Press, 2008), 255 pages.

 

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