10 Ways We Water Down the Gospel (let’s admit, we all do it)

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The accusation that some other group or person is “watering down the gospel” is an easy one to make. It’s an accusation I’ve heard many, many times over the years– and have even been on the receiving end of it a time or two.

In fact, while I was writing this post, in some of my first quality hate-mail yet, I was accused of having a “liberal, watered down, democratic, toothless and people-pleasing gospel.” (emphasis mine)

Often, when someone else is saying something that sounds a little too loving, a little too inclusive, or a little to _______, we quickly dismiss them by saying they’re “watering down the gospel”. I’ve heard the phrase slung a million times in self serving situations.

But, then I got to thinking… do we (Christians in general) “water down” the gospel?

Yes, I think we do. All of us.

It’s human nature to find loopholes in something that seems difficult, and to conveniently discard something that we really don’t want applied to our personal experience.

But, the truth is, we all water down the gospel. The problem comes, when we chronically see “the others” as the ones doing the watering down, instead of first looking at ourselves.

I think Jesus told a story about that once… something about a beam vs. a splinter… yet, I digress.

I’ve recently been thinking about American Christianity as a whole, and the ways that our entire cultural expression of the message of Jesus gets watered down into a slow, manageable drip, instead of the knock-you-off-balance, raging fire hose that the gospel really is.

 In light of the time I’ve spent considering this question, here are 10 ways that I believe American Christianity waters down the Gospel of Jesus:

10. We water down the Gospel when we attempt to live it out in isolation, instead of in the context of community.

When we look at the story of Jesus, he very rarely did anything alone– except to go off and spend time with God, quietly in solitude. Everything else he did, was in the context of community. In fact, he dedicated his entire ministry to essentially being a small group leader– of just twelve friends. Everything else the movement accomplished, was because Jesus conducted his ministry in the context of small community.

In the life of the early Church, we see community as being key to their expression of the message of Jesus. The early Christians actually took the concept of community to a whole new level, essentially creating a type of Christian community that looked enough like socialism to make an American Evangelical cringe. Not only did they pray and share the Eucharist  together, they actually shared all of their money, possessions, food… and rejected the concept of individual ownership (Acts 4:32).

When we live out the gospel in light of America’s concept of “rugged individualism” we miss the point that the gospel is designed to bring us into authentic community where we all depend on each other in healthy ways.

Trying to do this on my own? That’s watered down- the real gospel is lived out in community and healthy dependency with those committed to doing life together.

9. We water down the gospel when we make it about changing someone else, instead of first changing ourselves.

 Ever met that person who looks at you during a sermon as if they’re thinking: “This part is something you should listen to”? It’s obnoxious.

When we see every passage, every lesson, every application as something that would be good for someone else, that’s a pretty good sign that we’re watering the gospel down to something that’s designed to challenge other people.

Yet, the gospel is beautifully balanced between individualism and collectivism, because it’s not just a challenge for them, or a challenge for the group, but is also designed to change me, and apply to myself, personally.

My preaching professor in seminary, Haddon Robinson, used to say: “Before a sermon speaks to the congregation, it must first speak to the pastor”, and I think this is a great way for everyone to look at the gospel– apply it to yourself, let it challenge yourself, and then- and only then- should you worry about applying it to someone else.

8. We water down the gospel when we make it sound like following Jesus is easy (Spoiler Alert.. it’s not!).

I think part of the reason why so many people walk away from following Jesus is because they’ve been tricked into thinking that this is actually something that’s easy.

It’s not.

Once, a man talked to Jesus about becoming a follower, and Jesus’ response to him was: “Sounds great- but just know, I’m homeless, and that might make you homeless too.” (Mt 8:20)

Following Jesus isn’t easy… this is hard stuff. It will require massive sacrifice (something I wrote about here), requires the adaptation of a radical worldview, and will usually lead you not to riches and fame, but to unending, unrecognized, unpopular, hard work.

And, if that’s not real enough for you, know this: if you decide to follow Jesus, you’re actually going to fail at it– every day, for the rest of your life. It is that hard.

When we water the Gospel of Jesus down, people mistakenly think this is an easy thing to do, an easy life choice… but, it’s not. Yes, following Jesus was the best decision I’ve ever made– but it was also the decision which has come at the highest price to me.

7. We water down the gospel when we exclude people.

When I look at the life of Jesus, one of the things that I find most attractive is that everyone wanted to hang out with him. It didn’t matter what social background they came from, what gender they were, what sins they struggled with… everyone just craved time with him.

One of my hopes for the afterlife is that God will sit us all down, give us a giant tub of popcorn, and let us watch a movie that’s 33 years long– because I just want to sit and watch the life of Jesus. The fact that people of all walks of life felt loved and accepted by him tells me that there is so much more to the story than what got recorded in scripture (a fact that John ends his gospel with in Jn 21:25). I want to see it… all of it. I just want to know more about the loving, inclusive personality of Jesus.

However, we often exclude others which is contrary to the life of Jesus… a behavior which waters down the Gospel to something that’s for us, and not them (at least not until they change and become more like us). Yet, I don’t find any of that in scripture… instead, I find a Jesus that invites everyone into relationship FIRST, and invites everyone to experience his love, FIRST.

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were consistently offended with how inclusive Jesus was, because they believed a watered down version where God’s guest list was extremely exclusive and limited.

Any version of Jesus that doesn’t start with authentic, loving inclusiveness, is a watered down version.

6. We water down the gospel when we tell people it’s clear and simple.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing clear and simple about this… it’s actually quite complex.

Jesus used to teach in complex and obscure parables, something that frustrated even his inner circle. Often, they can be found frustrated that it’s not more simplified. In fact, in his final teaching the disciples let out a collective sigh, and said: “finally you’re talking plainly with us!”

I remember in 2008 when I left for Seminary at Gordon-Conwell, I thought that going to seminary would make the Bible more black-and-white. Yet, after two Master’s and part way into my doctorate, things become a lot more gray the deeper I go. And, that’s okay. I actually think Jesus wanted his message to be complex enough that we spent our lives wrestling with it.

It’s not clear and simple, but complex. The message of Jesus is something that you could spend a lifetime wrestling with, yet never fully wrap your head around it. It is really THAT radical (and I’ve learned to love it, exactly for this reason).

We water it down when we try to remove the complexity, and mystery (see Mark 4) of some aspects of it. Just let it be what it is– minus the extra water designed to remove tension that God actually wants us to experience.

5. We water down the Gospel when we eliminate the centrality of social justice.

The act of “doing justice”, as the prophet Micah references, is hard and sacrificial work. Yet, the cause of justice was extremely important to Jesus, and became a hallmark of the early church.

In Mathew 23:23 Jesus goes off on the conservative religious leaders, and tells them that while they seem to value keeping small rules, they are missing the “more important” part of the law, which is justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

However, the idea of “social justice” is offensive in much of Western Christianity, which tends to value wealth and individualism. Glen Beck famously told his listeners to run from any church that had the term “social justice” on their website.

Similarly, the concept of “mercy” offends ones senses, and doesn’t fit within a Western, guilt vs. innocents oriented culture. Giving a murderer mercy instead of death? It offends the senses. But, Jesus is crazy like that.

I love it.

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus came to America, he’d go off on us for the same thing– because when we focus on small rules, and resist or ignore the larger need for forms of justice in society (restorative justice, economic justice, etc.)… we have watered down the gospel and missed the most important part (Jesus’ phrase, not mine), just like the leaders in Matthew 23.

4. We water down the gospel when we explain away the whole nonviolent love of enemies part.

What if Jesus actually meant it when he said: “you have heard it said ‘an eye for an eye’ but I tell you to love your enemies”?

What if he meant it when he said: “put away your sword”, “don’t respond in-kind to an evildoer”, and “he who is without sin is free to cast the first stone”?

If there’s anything we know for sure about Jesus, it’s that he taught/practiced a radical, non-violent love of enemies, and that he invites us to do the same. Instead of picking up a weapon, Jesus actually says that in order to follow him, we will have to pick up a “cross”– a symbol of radical, nonviolent love of enemies if there ever was one.

Yet, we have a way of watering those teachings down so that they don’t apply to us, or our country. We start with small loopholes, which in time grow bigger and bigger. We’re able to water it down to the point that ever expanding military budgets are embraced and supported by Christians, the pro-gun movement becomes a championed movement of Christians, and that preemptive war is taught and encouraged by evangelical leaders (as it was after 911).

Once we start finding small loopholes in the command to nonviolently love our enemies, those loopholes get bigger and bigger… until we are able to safely drive tanks and fly drones through them, with little affect on our conscience.

At that point, we need to continue watering it down, because there’s a lot of blood we need to wash away.

3. We water down the gospel when we over emphasis sins rarely mentioned in scripture, while conveniently neglecting the ones that are talked about constantly.

In my lifetime, I think I’ve heard hundreds of sermons that focused on preaching against issues that oftentimes are rarely and obscurely mentioned in scripture. Sometimes, the issue isn’t even mentioned in scripture at all, yet it gets so much airplay you’d think there were a whole book on it. This isn’t to say we shouldn’t talk about those, but should they over shadow the sins that seem to be mentioned over and over and over again?

The top two sins spoken against in scripture are idolatry and greed- sins that don’t often make the playlist in many churches today. Honestly, I rarely hear sermons on either of those topics. Maybe idolatry, but definitely NOT greed.

When’s the last time you heard a sermon condemning the wealthy who neglect the poor? That’s talked about all the time in the Bible, yet I don’t hear that message in many American churches. When’s the last time you heard a preacher condemn anti-immigrant attitudes? The Bible I read sure does talk a lot about the way we should love immigrants.

I just can’t figure out why we’d preach so often, and build entire ministries against, sins that might be referenced six or seven times– yet we never preach about the sins that are condemned hundreds of times.

I think we’re watering down the gospel so that other people’s sins appear to be worse than our own sins.

Your sins? Well, you get a concentrated version. My sins? Watered down, please.

2. We water down the gospel when we exclusively use the concept of “penal substitution” to explain the Gospel.

Many of us grow up believing that the penal substitution metaphor for explaining the gospel is the gospel. It goes something like this:

You broke the law, which made God angry. Jesus paid your fine by taking God’s wrath in your place. Since Jesus paid your fine, you can be set free.

However, the penal substitution view of the atonement, is just a small glimpse of the cross– and in isolation, is a watered down version that reduces the cross to an individual transaction.

The “classic” view of the atonement is called “Christus Victor” and is a bigger way of understanding the cross. With the classic view, it is understood that Jesus was reconciling all of creation and freeing it from the works of the Devil. Within the classic view, yes– Jesus was reconciling me, but he was also reconciling everything else he made too.

This has big implications: in the watered down version of the gospel, it’s all about reconciling individual people. However, when we look at the classic view, we find out that God not only wants to reconcile people, but that he also wants to reconcile creation (environment), broken social systems, whole communities… and that means, my job as a “minister of reconciliation” is to get busy– not just reconciling people, but reconciling everything else too.

If you’ve only understood the gospel in light of the concept of “penal substitution”, let me just tell you that the Gospel is way, way bigger than you’ve ever realized.

And, so is your part in that.

When we reduce the magnitude and beauty of what Christ did on the cross to an individualistic, legal transaction– and little more– we’ve watered it down to the point where we can’t taste the depths of its magnificent flavor.

1. We water down the Gospel when we invite people to trust Jesus for the afterlife… but not this life.

Flowing from number 2, when we exclusively use the Penal Substitution metaphor for explaining the cross, we end up focusing on getting people to trust in Jesus for their “eternal life” later, but fail to invite them into the eternal life that they can experience right now.

Maybe I’m just thinking big here, but I’d like to see people trust Jesus for the here-and-now.

Maybe I’m just weak, but I need a Jesus who can help me in the here-and-now.

I want to see people trusting Jesus with their finances, their jobs, their families, their personal safety, and everything else.

And, Jesus is good for all those things too. A Jesus that can save me later, but not now?

That’s just a watered down version.

 

You see, we all water down the gospel. The problem comes, when we chronically see “the others” as the ones doing the watering down, instead of first looking at ourselves.

_____________________

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About Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey, is an Anabaptist author, speaker, and blogger. His first book, Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus (Release date, August 2014), tells the story of his journey out of lifeless religion and into a fresh expression of Christianity. He is also a contributor for Sojourners, Red Letter Christians, Evangelicals for Social Action, Mennonite World Review, has been a guest on Huffington Post Live, and is one of the CANA Initiators. Ben is also a syndicated author for MennoNerds, a collective of Mennonite and Anabaptist writers. He is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Theology & Missiology), is currently a Doctor of Missiology/Intercultural Studies student at Fuller Seminary, and is a member of the Phi Alpha Chi Honors Society for biblical scholars. Ben lives in Auburn, Maine with his wife Tracy and his daughter Johanna.

You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Laura Shattuck

    Ben,

    Ok. I’m speechless, and let’s just be honest that is not a common state for me. This is mind-blowing and insightful. I am so glad God brought you and Tracy into my life.

  • David Cohen

    Mr. Corey, I want to apologize.I got very defensive and overzealous in regards to the inherent conflict with Israel that I as a Jew have had to wrestle all my life, that I really lashed out. Honestly, I realized that after the fact. I made my point about the need for Israel to defend her borders (and I do abide by that) but I was not right, loving or Godly to lash out and accuse/judge you. I was wrong to accuse you of ‘watering down’ the gospel. That came from my lips, not Gods.The Holy Spirit convicted me of that Mr. Corey. If you can forgive me, I pray you would. Honestly, I get riled up in the context of political affairs ( such as Israel, war, ect.) and sometimes I forget to put a human balance on it. Furthermore, I don’t take into account the consideration of the person’s perspective or their heart. I simply draw up a face value black and white assessment, and without knowing you, I judged you and accused you. In a way, honestly, I slandered you. I want to ask for forgiveness. I was wrong. I’m going to publish this I think on your site at the end of the comments as I feel bad about how I let my perspective on Israel come across. I also have been judged and I did the same. So I’m sorry. I know the feeling and in my zealousness, balance, compassion and common sense were lost. I had an entire night to reflect on this issue and spent time in prayer realizing the power of the tongue. It can divide or can bring life. While I still have my convictions, I was in the wrong. I accused you. God knows your heart Mr. Corey. After prayerful consideration, I realize that I judged it. So forgive me please. It’s a learning experience for me. Israel, especially being a Jew, is a hot button issue for me, but I must learn to engage in a thoughtful, balanced and mutually beneficial DIALOGUE instead of a judgmental rant. Lesson (being) learned. God’s best and blessing to you and my humble apology. I truly am sorry.

  • David Cohen

    And can I just say that I hope fellow believers take a lesson from me. Sometimes in the heat of our moment or our zeal, we can lash out and say things that hurt our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. In a post on Israel, I replied, being Jewish (and a Messianic one at that) and my dialogue and perspective was fine up unto the point that I personally judged Ben’s heart and motivation. That’s where thoughtful dialogue and opinion stop and judgment and accusation begin. To those on this site and to Ben himself, I do ask for forgiveness for personally judging him. That’s the hallmark of much of what I myself went through in my own walk-being accused and judged. I know the feeling. I let my personal feelings get in the way of personal judgment and that’s when Christ ceases to lead. Instead our emotions take over and we say hurtful stupid things. I’m sorry Brother Corey. I hope you read this and you forgive me. I pray God’s best to you.

  • gimpi1

    “When’s the last time you heard a sermon condemning the wealthy who neglect the poor? That’s talked about all the time in the Bible, yet I don’t hear that message in many American churches. When’s the last time you heard a preacher condemn anti-immigrant attitudes? The Bible I read sure does talk a lot about the way we should love immigrants.

    I just can’t figure out why we’d preach so often, and build entire ministries against, sins that might be referenced six or seven times– yet we never preach about the sins that are condemned hundreds of times.”,/i>

    I have wondered about this as well. As someone on the outside, it has always struck me as simple hypocrisy, but perhaps it’s not so simple. When many American Christians made the (in my opinion) mistake of marrying their Christianity to the Republican party, they were faced with several problems. The ‘winner-take-all’ capitalism that Republicans after President Regan have touted is not in harmony with much of the Gospels, but it serves the traditional ‘country-club’ Republican base very well. The view of aliens as enemy is hardly Biblical, but it is logical for a political party that is usually not favored by newcomers.

    I, personally, think that a divorce between Christianity and Republicanism is long overdue. Breaking up is hard to do, sure, but sometimes it’s the only way to be true to what you REALLY believe.

  • gimpi1

    Sorry about the double-post. I tried to edit a code and failed. My bad.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    No worries, gimpi- I fixed it for you.

  • http://www.fellowshipofthecup.com John Carothers

    I sat at communion one Sunday and listened to a pastor say that when Jesus took our sin God had to look away in revulsion. It was awful. Two days later I found Derek Flood’s essay on Christus Victor at his site Rebel God and was overcome with joy. I never knew that penal substitution was not the original view of the church.

    Bless you for talking about it!!!!

  • Patrick C

    Years ago, I walked away from my fundamentalist christian background, unable to reconcile the contradictions you identify in this post. By the grace of God, I discovered the Orthodox Church – specifically the Greek Orthodox Church. So very much of what you write about has been taught by the fathers and mothers of the Church since ancient times. Thank you for your boldness and candor. You give me hope that there is a future for Chrisitianity in America.

    In the Eastern Church, we have a ancient Christogram – ΙCXC NIKA – “Jesus Christ Victorious”. He is and ever will be.

  • slink

    Your summary isn’t really supported by your article. I quote the final line here: “You see, we all water down the gospel. The problem comes, when we chronically see “the others” as the ones doing the watering down, instead of first looking at ourselves.” I couldn’t help but notice that those 10 ways of watering down are all targeted at conservative (likely evangelical but not necessarily so) churches. It seems to me that you have only seen others doing the watering down. You claim that we all do this and yet I see no examples of how you and your peers water things down.

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    @Slink– this piece wasn’t targeted at any specific group. In reality, it was a critique of the ways I personally have watered down the gospel. Most of the critiques on this site, are ironically, critiques of my own previous attitudes and positions. Also, I’ve only belonged to conservative church traditions, so when I pull from my own experience, it certainly may seem like the critique is heavy on the conservative side. If I ever join a different type of church culture, I’m sure I’ll have critiques on that experience as well.

  • Flankus

    We water down the gospel when we pretend abortion is not murder.

  • http://www.examiner.com/mental-health-in-raleigh/darrell-hill Darrell

    Wow! Nicely said. I have a similar story to yours (fundie, seminary, dissatisfaction with America’s interpretation of being a follower of Christ), but I like your conclusions better. Me? I moved on to more secular pursuits but I’m starting to wonder if I threw the baby out with the bath water.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tweedman Steve Welch

    I feel personally convicted by this essay. Yes, I do this. I try to make the easy choices in following Jesus, and I see other peoples’ sins as worse than mine. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Steven

    thank you thank you thank you

    god bless you

  • Sarah

    Acts 4:43 – not in my bible! Is this a mistype?

  • Lee Carlton

    Your challenge is profound. I find an anointing on your critque which will serve to bring the church back from the brink of irrelevance by transforming ourselves as we seek to transform the world. If received in the spirit in which you have so humbly and graciously conveyed it, you have provided a primer for the church to begin a lot of self examination. Even if we have to come by night, I trust that Pharisee and Sadducee alike will come to inquire. I find myself both convicted and encouraged to continue walking the talk of spiritual transformation and being transformed in my inner man through further intimacy with the One who first loved me. Paul said, ‘After having preached to others, I don’t want to find myself a castaway.’ And, it never hurts anyone of us to visit at the house of Cornelius ever now and then to learn what Jesus and the Holy Spirit are still up to. For sure none among knows it all, but oh, the joy of discovery in submission to Christ and keeping the main thing, the main thing!

    Perhaps, David primed it best when he said: “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me.” “Set a watch before my lips, that I might not sin against thee.”

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  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    @Sarah– yes, it is! Thanks for pointing that out. Should be “4:32″. Will fix that now!

  • Pingback: 10 Ways We Water Down the Gospel (let’s admit, we all do it) | Life's Little Fat Notebook

  • ChrisNBama

    The Gospel of Jesus is simple to understand and difficult to live. That’s why Jesus repeatedly said things like “Narrow is the gate that leads to life but broad is the path to destruction”. Or, “pick up your cross and follow me”. Jesus announced a way of living that is in complete opposition to the way things are done in this world. I need not list how the world works, we all live it. But everything about the Kingdom Jesus preached is counter-intuitive from not saving for tomorrow but living for today and to be great you must become the least, etc. If the world’s economy is about saving and thrift, God’s economy is based on sharing and giving. You all know the parables that illustrate these principles.

    And we simply cannot abide by the Gospel of Jesus so we water it down, say the “sinner’s prayer” and live life according to the Powers and Principalities instead of the freedom of life in Christ. It’s the penalty we pay for living in Rome (empire). If you want to see what living in Christian community looks like, look no further than at folks like Shane Clairborne and the Simple Way.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    10. No, Jesus, His disciples and all who participated in the early church were nowhere close to living under the grip of socialism. They chose to share everything in common. They were not forced to do so by an elitist secular government.

    9. Actually, those who have walked with Jesus longer are more like Him, because we become like the company we keep. Those older and wiser in the Lord are called by God to teach those younger and less experienced in how to live a life set-apart from the world. No matter how much gray or white we have in our hair, we are to examine ourselves daily to ensure our hearts are right before our Lord, while the authority of God’s Holy written Word, the unblemished character of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit unceasingly challenge us to live holy, obedient lives, for the glory of God. A monumental problem in our society, as well as in the Body of Christ, is that those older and wiser among us are too often viewed as being useless and no longer productive, instead of being seen as an exceedingly valuable resource for distributing God’s wisdom and right thinking. It’s responsible and loving to notice when our brothers and sisters in the Lord have gone astray, and to help guide them back to the narrow way. With every choice we make, we head in either the direction of life or death. With every choice we make.

    8. Yes, surrendering our will and our way to that of Jesus is difficult, but with God all things are possible. He gives us what we need when we need it. However, if we are popular, that is a red flag that something is amiss. Remember, Jesus was unsuccessful with many people.

    7. How wrong you are in declaring that everyone sought company with Jesus. I’m scratching my head over how you could make such a claim? Do you not recall his first words spoken at the beginning of his public ministry? “REPENT and believe.” What was first? REPENT, that’s what, and it was revolting to most. As Dorothy Sayers said, “I believe it to be a grave mistake to present Christianity as something charming and popular with no offense in it. Seeing that Christ went about the world giving the most violent offense to all kinds of people, it would seem absurd to expect that the doctrine of His person can be so presented as to offend nobody. We cannot blink at the fact that gentle Jesus, meek and mild, was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbeted as a firebrand and a public danger. Whatever His peace was, it was not the peace of an amiable indifference.” Jesus said He came not to bring peace, but division. “Realize that the aim of the Prince of Peace is not peace with unbelief and disobedience. Those are the enemies that must be destroyed, lest they destroy. When the amnesty of Jesus is despised, division is inevitable. What we meet in the biting language of Christ is a form of love that corresponds with the real world of corruption, the dullness of our hearts and the magnitude of what is at stake in our choices. If there were no great evils, no deaf hearts and no eternal consequences, perhaps the only fitting forms of love would be a… soft touch and tender words. But such a world does not kill the Son of God and hate his disciples.” ~John Piper

    In Matthew 9:11-13, Jesus’ disciples were asked, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” He didn’t tell the tax collectors and sinners that they were fine the way they were. He didn’t join them in their sin in an attempt to relate. He wasn’t down with how they were living. He boldly declared that they needed His healing and His salvation.

    6. “The Bible is like a pool. Shallow enough that a little child can come and get a drink without fear of drowning, yet so deep scholars can swim in it and never touch bottom.” I don’t know whom to thank for this quote.

    5. Many, such as Senator Ted Kennedy and Jim Wallis of Sojourners, live(d) by what they’ve dubbed a social gospel. Incomprehensibly, they even go so far to attribute it to Matthew 25 from God’s Holy Word. Many believe if they simply: give the hungry, food; give the thirsty, drink; invite the stranger in; give clothes to the naked; look after the sick; and visit those in prison, they are good and will receive eternal life due to their own good deeds and innate goodness. The Bible clearly refutes this position. Jesus in John 15 teaches, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” When we live for Jesus, out of our faith in Him, we will do good works in His name. Faith without works is dead. But works without faith in the One who calls us to Him is for naught. It will be burned up. If we bring material bread to the hungry without, at the same time, bringing them the Bread of Life, it is not significant to God. We must first give thanks and praise to the Maker of the bread, our Bread of Life. We must bear witness to the fact that He is the giver of all gifts, including bread, and that without Him, there would be nothing to give the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. Only because of Him do we even have life. Only because of Him do we have the hands, the feet, the mouth, the heart, the knowledge, and the compassion to reach out with eternal purpose to touch the life of another, to make a difference for good in this life, as well as a lasting difference in the next. It all boils down to abiding in Him.

    4. Loving as Jesus did. Hmmm, how easy it is to get this wrong. Yes, we are indeed called to love all our enemies with Jesus’ love, including the unborn who are viewed by many as the enemy. When they are slaughtered in what is created by God to be their safest haven on earth, their mothers’ wombs, it is the most unnatural of acts – the most unloving of acts, for it is perpetrated against those made in the image of God. Both the mothers’ bodies, as well as the bodies of their unborn babies, are temples of the Holy Ghost. Not only do we sell this diabolical act of legal, non-loving, violence to our own nation, we push it on the rest of the world. Yes, we are in grave need of washing from our hands the blood of the most defenseless, innocent and vulnerable among us, those who have been entrusted to our care for protection, defense and nurture. What an awesome responsibility it is to care for children – unmitigated blessings from the Lord – one not to be taken lightly. They are so fresh from God and yet, love us!

    3. Whether or not we hear enough sermons on greed and idolatry, clear teaching is in the Bible for us all to read, study, meditate on, learn from and pattern our lives after. There is no excuse for anyone to live narcissistically. Sadly, many, dare I say most, do not open the life-giving pages of the Bible to glean from the rich nuggets of beauty, truth and goodness found therein, or else they immaturely toss aside those Scriptures they find unsavory, much like Thomas Jefferson did. I have heard some excellent sermons on greed and idolatry from exemplary men such as Francis Chan, Eric Ludy of Ellerslie in Windsor, CO, Paul Washer and David Wilkerson of Teen Challenge, to name a few. There are many exemplary men who live out their lives in service to the poorest among us – men such as Franklin Graham. I urge you to become acquainted with his Samaritan’s Purse ministry.

    Some sins we commit are against our own bodies and that is particularly grievous to God Almighty, considering our bodies are temples of the Holy Ghost.

    2. Of course Jesus will reconcile all in nature to Himself upon His glorious return to earth, when there will be a new Heaven and a new earth. Until then, satan is the prince of this world, and most in it succumb to his seduction. Life in the here and now is not supposed to be all wonderful, for there would be no need for Jesus and Him crucified.

    1. Yes, we can trust Jesus for the here and now, as we suffer through shattered dreams, pain, persecution and tribulation. He can afford us His peace that passes all understanding, joy unspeakable and full of glory, strength, wisdom and right thinking if we simply reject the seduction of the world, surrender our allegiance to Him as we repent, turn from our sins, ask His forgiveness and live in captive obedience to His Father. However, as we are taught in Hebrews, those of us who live by faith are aliens and strangers on earth, longing for a better country – a heavenly one. We do not receive here what we are promised to receive in Heaven, for if we did, we would become complacent and satisfied with this material world, and cease to seek His will and way above our own.

    We water down the Gospel of the Good News when we exclude Jesus’ teachings in part or in their entirety. We water down the Gospel or, in actuality, preach another gospel, when we attempt to bring His love to the world, without illuminating His love with His Truth! He is Holy and cannot wink at sin!

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    Ginny,

    As a general blog etiquette, if your comment to a blog is longer than the original post itself, it’s usually a good sign that instead of commenting you should just start your own blog.

    Thanks.

  • James

    We water down the Gospel when the mission of our churches effectively looks no different than that of United Way or ONE Campaign.

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    Due to your cursory reply, am I right to assume that you do not appreciate what I said here, FF (aka Benjamin)?

  • http://www.formerlyfundie.com Benjamin L. Corey

    I’m all for lively discussion, but 1,700 words is longer than most blog posts. It’s excessive and doesn’t promote dialogue.

    Here’s a great article to read on the issue: http://theamericanjesus.net/?p=10563

  • http://ourgirlsclub.blogspot.com/ Ginny Bain Allen

    I read your recommendation. Thanks, FF. I will try to do better, and I do already have my own blog.

  • Bret McAtee
  • Bret McAtee
  • lee carlton

    Both of you brothers have made some very fine, definitive observations; both worthy of consideration and discussion. It is easy to make use of a few dismissive points of the other. Being raised in a very compassionate fundamentalism of the religious right not does not preclude me from seeing it when I discern it in the equally compassionate religious left. However, the ‘narrow way’ which Jesus ascribed for us as ‘one body’ with ‘One Spirit under the headship of ‘One Sovereign’ is perhaps; that we must always rely on the Holy Spirit as we traverse the fine line between the extremes of right and left. “The broad way leads to death, the narrow way leads to life.” “The letter of the Law kills but the Spirit gives Life!” For our mutual well being as those who name the name of Jesus, and seek to follow the way of Christ in a pluralistic society; let us remember that our clearest direction is to trust in the One who has called us. As God told Joshua, ‘Be strong and courageous, turn not from hearing, observing and doing my Word, to the right or to left.’

  • Thad

    I smile to imagine how many of ‘us’ are in the business of debunking ourselves and our neighbors in the name of prophetic or confessional integrity. Last time I checked gospel inspiration led us to adventures in faith and faithfulness, believing and doing things hoped for, even when desired results remain largely unseen. When I want to hear provocative, ain’t-it-awful reports, I attend to most any of the news-as-entertainment media outlets.

    Seems an odd motivational bias to detail 10 points of gospel-living deficiency, as if to foster even one gospel-living proficiency. While sustaining focus on what ‘we’ don’t want, is it any wonder when we sponsor muddled, anything-but-that mission projects?

    For must of us vividly critical specificity is more easily articulated than inspired missional specificity. In this “watered down gospel” piece I hear one more judgmental metaphor under a larger heading of “I’m deficient and so are you”. Hard to imagine offering “come and see” invitations to a gospel-mission fellowship when so much declarative energy is spent doing self-and-other critique. Shades of ritual self-flagellation!

    Wonder what gospel outcomes we might be able to see if we were spending less effort on judgments like ‘not gospel’, ‘bad liberal gospel’, ‘bad conservative gospel’, and ‘watered down gospel’. Looking for deficiencies we are sure to find them. Looking for gospel integrity, who knows what ‘evidence’ we might find to gratefully enjoy along our faith-inspired way?

  • http://theoldadam.com/ Steve Martin

    Interesting piece.

    I do think that most do water down the gospel. But not all.

    We hand it over freely. NO strings attached. The pure gospel. Nothing to do on our part to earn even a little bit of it.

    And we also hand it over in Baptism and The Lord’s Supper. In those forms it is pure gospel, without a doubt…being DONE to us…totally apart from anything that we do, say, feel, or think.

    No water in that bread and wine.

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