When a false gospel is preached, it seems that often the falsehood is simple derived from over-emphasis on one trait, one gain, one reward, etc.
For example, a gospel of “prosperity” is considered false because of its focus on personal gain and the misconstrued beliefs that follow, like that Christians should always prosper and that Jesus exists to make us happy. Likewise, a gospel of “experience” may put excessive value on the personal encounter with God, leading many to believe that whatever they feel or interpret must be true.
When such a one-sided gospel is presented, it is often to make the true Gospel more palatable. “Gospel” means “good news.” The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel. It’s the good news that we are redeemed in Christ and can be reconciled with God. But that is big news, and, while giving the deepest joy and peace and purpose to life, is also hard news.
Often false gospels are just snippets of the easier parts of the good news. They address one particular need that is being felt.
Many false gospels, rather than sharing the truth of Jesus Christ, select and run with a chunk of the truth easier to accept for those who aren’t looking to give their lives over to God, acknowledge their sinfulness, and spend eternity glorifying the Lord instead of themselves (and really, how many of us are eager to do that?)
Prosperity gospels share good news about feeling fulfilled and gaining what you desire, not self-sacrifice or laying up treasures worthy of heaven and denying the power of currency of this world. Experience gospels validate feelings and soothe fears of inadequacy at the cost of standing on the more difficult to like, whole truth.
Sometimes, apologetics becomes a false gospel of reason and intellect. Addressing the needs of those who find God irrational or Christianity foolish, the false gospel of apologetics often fails to address the aspect of Christ that is indeed foolishness to this world and that isn’t rational within our bounds of reason.
Apologetics can be presented as being supportive of faith rather than supported by faith. Further, rather than basing a relationship with the Lord on a faith so deep and true that it includes reason, apologetics at times suggests that as reason stands, faith can have a place if you’d like it to.
It’s not that apologetics or appreciating intellect is wrong. Or that the Lord causing you to prosper or blessing you with His presence is anti-Jesus.
Few false gospels that live under the auspices of Christianity say “this is it. It’s all intellect. It’s all in your heart. Or it’s all in your wealth.” It’s rare for such false gospels to even claim to be anti-Jesus.
But rather, in “sheep’s clothing,” many who proclaim false teaching seem harmless and even enticing (Matthew 7:15). At their core, many false gospels fit within the confines of truth, but rather than building up off the foundation of Christ, they build out additions to make the space of faith a little more comfortable.
In Jeremiah 5:30-31, we read that:
“An appalling and horrible thing
has happened in the land:
the prophets prophesy falsely,
and the priests rule at their direction;
my people love to have it so,
but what will you do when the end comes?”
2 Timothy 4:3 seems to echo the words: “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.”
It’s no surprise that false teachings always seem to align with the fears or obsessions of current generations or cultures. Many arise not out of a desire to divert from the truth, but to gratify the part of the flesh that is currently hungering most. Like a piece of candy given to a crying child, false gospels are given in response not to needs, but to desires.
We’re a part of that. Our demands to have things our way and to have our preferences often affect the truths we’re willing to hear. We feed and reward those churches that perhaps aren’t heretical but certainly aren’t mature, wholesome, or Biblically-based when we fail to seek the Lord for what He says we need. Instead, we tell the Lord or we direct His words in order to meet the wants that we perceive.
Imagine what we lose.