Why must the gospel remain the same?

At times, change can be a good thing. I know it was for me. Over a decade ago, I made a change and moved to the DFW metroplex. Growing up, I never thought I would live in Dallas, but when the opportunity presented itself, I took it. I not only took the opportunity because I thought it would help me advance my career faster, but I also made the move because I felt like I needed a fresh start in order to work on my relationship with God. Starting afresh can be a good thing. It can kick start the change in our life that we need.

Take the change in the weather we have experienced over the last couple of days. At the beginning of the week I was dressed in layers of clothing with mountains of blankets on me. Yesterday, I was sitting on my back porch with no jacket on. Today is forecasted to be even warmer. The change in the weather is a welcome change. It is definitely for the better.

But as welcome as change can be at times, change isn’t always for the better, especially when it involves our core beliefs. Our core beliefs determine why we do what we do. They undergird our behavior. If we change our core beliefs, our behavior, our actions are going to change. So change, especially change for change’s sake isn’t always for the better. That’s especially true when it comes to the gospel. Why is that?

Why shouldn’t we change the gospel?

(1) Changing the gospel makes salvation impossible.

If we are forced to rely on our own works, we’ll never experience salvation.

When I was in college, I let my credit card get a little bit out of control. Nothing too crazy, but it wasn’t something I could pay off while I was in college. I just worked part-time at a climbing wall. It was a fun job, but it didn’t pay a lot. I ended up graduating college with some debt. Now, I didn’t keep that debt for long. After I got my first job out of college, I paid the debt off.

We often think of salvation like it’s a debt we have to work off by doing good works. If we do enough good works, God will forgive us and we will experience eternal life. But that’s not how it works. God doesn’t accept our works as payment towards our debt. He only accepts the work of Jesus on our behalf.

In Galatians 1:3-4 we read:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,”

(Ga 1:3–4)

It was Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf that gave us peace. It was His sacrifice that delivered us. Not our works. That’s the case because that’s how God designed it. Notice that Paul says that this is “according to the will of our God and Father,” Since God doesn’t change, the payment He requires doesn’t change. If we change the gospel to a works-based system of salvation, we make salvation impossible because God doesn’t accept our work as payment towards our debt.

(2) Changing the gospel leaves us with a disturbed conscience

Starting in the middle of verse 7 we read,

“but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

(Ga 1:7b)

The idea here is that changing the gospel doesn’t help us instead it hurts us. Paul tells us that these folks are troubling the Galatians. It troubles them. It troubles us because a works-based system produces emotional distress. It makes us uneasy because we don’t know where we stand. We know that’s true because when you talk to folks who are caught up in a works-based system you hear them more often than not say something to the effect of: “I sure hope I have done enough.” They don’t know if they have done enough. They just hope they have done enough. Which means they are left in limbo. Always wondering if they are good enough. That affects us. It affects us emotionally because it produces a disturbed conscience.

As Christians, we don’t have to worry about where we stand. If we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are God’s children. We will experience salvation instead of eternal damnation and separation from God — All that is good and beautiful. We can be sure of that because Jesus’ work is enough. It has satisfied God’s wrath. So we don’t have to worry. We don’t have to live with a disturbed conscience, but those who change the gospel do.

(3) Changing the gospel means we aren’t delivered from bondage.

In verse 4, we learn that Jesus

“gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age.”

(Ga. 1:4)

If we add works to the gospel, that means we don’t understand or believe the gospel. We aren’t trusting in Jesus as our Savior, which means He hasn’t delivered us from bondage. Since we can’t deliver ourselves, we remain in bondage. Satan remains our master and we are his slaves. All we have to look forward to is what this world can offer us because there is no resurrection to eternal life. That is a sad state in which to exist.

(4) Changing the gospel means that we are taking worship away from God.

In verse 5, Paul tells us that our salvation should result in God’s glory forever and ever. But if we make salvation a work that we do, we steal God’s worship away from Him. Instead of it being about God’s grace and sacrifice on our behalf, it’s about our work. What we do. Our ability to muster the effort, to crack the code of salvation. When we think like that, we’ll find that we start praising ourselves for what we’ve done, instead of what God has done in our lives. Changing the gospel steals worship away from God.

(5) Changing the gospel means that we will face a curse.

In verse 8 Paul says,

“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.”

(Ga 1:8)

The idea here is that those who change the gospel will face a curse, and that curse is eternal damnation. Or as one commentator puts it:

To be anathematized then means far more than to be excommunicated. It means nothing less than to suffer the eternal retribution and judgment of God.

 George, Timothy, Galatians, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994), xxx, 98–99

Conclusion

Changing the gospel isn’t a good idea. Even though we are experiencing a massive change in our world, we must hold fast to the gospel. It is not something we should change, it must remain the same. We must rest in the unchanging message of the gospel. If we do, we will experience salvation, deliverance from this present evil age in which we find ourselves, we will have something for which to look forward. We will have hope in this dark world.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything.

Christian, don’t seek to please the world.

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” (1 Jn 3:13)

The world is not our friend. The world hates us. That is strong language, I know, but it is true.

Hate is a word that is tossed around without much thought of what it actually means. To hate someone means you wish they never were or that you wish they would disappear, never to return again. You want them to cease to exist. Not only do you want that person to cease to exist but you want their ideas and actions to disappear as well.

When John tells us that the world hates us, he means that the world wishes Christians ceased to exist, which means the world is not our friend. The world would rather we not be around.

The world has a disdain for Christianity because they believe we limit their freedom. Any institution that does not agree with complete and utter freedom of expression is an enemy of the world. Their power must be removed so that the individual can operate without any restriction.

These ideas might sound eerily familiar. They are being played out in our nation as I write this post. But they are not new. Man has hated the things of God from the beginning, seeking to throw off God’s rule in one way or another since Adam and Eve’s rebellion in the garden.

If we have learned anything over the millennia it is that God’s people are not friends of the world. We cannot give a little and be ok with those in the world. Complete and utter capitulation is the only action that will do. This is why those who try to please the world, like the progressive liberal church or those in the liberal camp themselves, constantly find that the goal posts are moving. One day they are progressive enough and are celebrated. The next they are being cancelled because they haven’t moved far enough fast enough. They are not on the right side of history, as some would say.

As Christians, we should not be surprised the world hates us. Knowing that must not get us down. Instead, we must continue to trust in Jesus, resting in His sacrifice on our behalf, experiencing joy in our restored relationship with the Father, and finding hope in Jesus’ return.

Christian, don’t seek to please the world.

Your walk must match your confession

“If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.” (1 Jn 1:6)

Not as much today, but certainly in days past, cultural Christianity was dominate, especially in the Bible Belt. As time has progressed, cultural Christianity has waned, even in the Bible Belt. While that might mean Christians don’t experience as much favor in society as we once did, I don’t believe the death of cultural Christianity is a bad thing. For one, it has actually strengthened the church. Those who profess the name of Christ are actually believers and churches operate less like Country Clubs and more like, well, the church.

While Christianity has begun to lose its pull on culture, another form of Christianity, one just as detrimental, has increased. Progressive Christianity is filling the vacuum of cultural Christianity. But while cultural Christians were still exposed to the true gospel, progressive Christians are not. The true gospel is replaced in progressive churches with a different message.

While the difference between cultural Christianity and progressive Christianity is stark, neither represent the truth and neither provide true life change. Both are false gospels that keep one walking in darkness.

As we learn from our verse this morning, those who continue to walk in darkness, even if they say they have a relationship with Jesus, are liars and are not practicing the truth. Those are strong words, but they are true. Those who adhere to progressive Christianity and cultural Christianity need to hear those words. As well as those who attend a gospel-centered, Bible believing and preaching church need to hear those words. Our life much match our confession. If it doesn’t, we do not have fellowship with Jesus. We are not Christian. We don’t have hope.

In saying our life must match our confession, I am not saying we should live a legalistic lives. That is one of the major mistakes of cultural Christianity. The idea that we can clean ourselves up is a false one.

If we can’t clean ourselves up, how can our life be a test of our faith?

Our life can be a test of our faith because a life lived for Christ springs out of a heart changed by Christ.

If Jesus is our Lord and Savior, our heart has been changed. Our heart, in biblical language, refers to our will, wants, and desires. Those have been changed to match God’s. When our heart is aligned with God’s heart, we live in manner consistent with the light. We won’t want to walk in darkness. We will instead desire the light. We will desire the things of God.

Whether you are on the more liberal or legalistic end of the spectrum or right in the middle, your walk must match your confession or your confession is not true.

We have more than we deserve, bless the Lord all His saints

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pe 1:3-5)

We are such a blessed people. Not only has the Father given His only Son so that we might experience salvation from His wrath. But He has caused us to be born again to a living hope. A hope that will not perish or be defiled. It will not fade. Instead, it is kept in the most secure place possible — it is kept in heaven.

When Jesus returns, He will bring His kingdom with Him. A kingdom that is perfect. One that will never be defeated. One that will last for all eternity. Finally, when Jesus returns and sets up His kingdom, we will be able to experience life as God designed. There will be no sickness, no death, no disunity, no racism, no winter storms. There will be nothing that hinders our ability to live as God has designed.

We can trust that will take place because Jesus was raised from the dead. After three days in the grave — there was no way He was just faking it — He rose from the dead. After interacting with well over 500 people for 40 days, He ascended into heaven in front of the disciples. He promised to come back. His promise is guaranteed because we have been sent the Holy Spirit who works in our life day in and day out.

We are a blessed people. As blessed people, we should bless God. We should praise Him. We should submit our lives to Him giving Him His due worship by allowing Him to guide and direct our lives instead of trying to guide and direct it ourselves.

Blessed the Lord all those who have experienced God’s blessing. We have much more than we deserve.

Let the gospel empower you to run the Christian race with endurance

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,” (Heb 12:1)

Many have come before us and Lord willing many will come after us. We are not the first and only generation to follow the Lord. We exist in a long line of witnesses (see Heb 11). These witnesses should serve to bolster our faith in the Lord. When life is not going as planned, we can think back to Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel and others and meditate on how they continued to trust in the Lord despite the adversity they faced.

Our God is a faithful Lord who is worthy of our trust and worship. We should, as the writer exhorts in today’s verse, lay aside our burdens and the sin that clings to us and faithfully run towards the Lord with endurance.

How do we run with endurance?

We look to Jesus and the good news of His sacrifice on our behalf. The writer continues in verse 2,

“looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:2)

If we are wavering in our trust, if our burdens seem too heavy, and sin too appealing, we need to look to Jesus. We need to mediate on, preach the gospel to, ourselves. The gospel should both warn us and encourage us. On the one hand it should warn us. Our sin is so repugnant its wages is death. But on the other hand, our God loves us so much that He was willing to pay the penalty for sin Himself so as to rescue us from its misery and outcome.

Let that sink in. God died the death we deserve so that we might experience release from the bondage of sin and death. What an amazing God we serve!

On this cold winter’s morning, turn to Jesus and let Him warm your heart, let Him and His cross work melt your burdens and sin away so that your affections grow hot for Him. Praise Him! Worship Him! Trust in Him! Run the race set before you with endurance!

Prioritize community and seek out those who will hold you accountable.

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Heb 10:24-25)

There are no Lone Ranger Christians. We cannot live the Christian life on our own. We need one another. If we believe we can live the Christian life alone, we are sadly mistaken. Jesus and our Bible is not all we need. We need one another.

Not only do we need one another, but we need others who will be honest with us. We need brothers and sisters in Christ who will speak the truth in love into our life (Eph 4). If all we surround ourselves with are people who refuse to stick their neck out to tell us the truth, we are no better off than living the Christian life on our own.

Prioritize community and seek out those who will hold you accountable.

In saying that we should prioritize community, I’m not saying it will be easy. Living in community with others is difficult. It is even difficult to prioritize the time to be with one another. We must be intentional and purposeful. Community doesn’t just happen it is planned and fought for.