addressing the mutilated gospel

Posted: March 15th, 2010 | Filed under: life | 16 Comments »

I was nineteen when I decided to give Jesus a chance. I started going to church, making Christian friends and studying the Bible. I never had a particular awareness of ‘sin’, though I knew I was a ‘sinner.’ I knew that I was not living a ‘Christian’ lifestyle but I never claimed to be a Christian, so I didn’t care. However, I did see my lifestyle as the root of all of my problems.

When you change your friends, habits and influences, it’s absolutely impossible to not see a significant life change. I was a an acid tripping pot smoker. All of my friends were on drugs and barely getting by. I had given up on dreaming about a future and being somebody. I changed my life because I got pregnant. My childhood was really bad and I wanted to create something better for my own daughter. That’s why I became a ‘Christian.’

It was easy for me to make the changes. Christians love newbies. They love teaching people how to be a good Christian. I was a clean slate. I didn’t care what the life required and I jumped in head first. I was likable and my enthusiasm was charming. I really wanted to be the best Christian I could be. I was extreme and uncompromising. For nine years, I never knew I was missing something.

My life hit a crossroads when my uncompromising stance and desire to be a good Christian weren’t enough to keep me from making bad choices. I was comfortable and confident in what I had created. The idea of me doing anything wrong was ridiculous.

Something has happened since then and I’m consumed by the need to explain it.

I did everything right. I had all the desire in the world. But it wasn’t enough. I knew how to talk and I wasn’t faking it. I knew how to act and I wasn’t forcing it. I was just like everyone else I knew and I counted myself in with the one’s who weren’t struggling. I was beyond that.

I didn’t realize I made Jesus a lifestyle. I didn’t know that I wasn’t ‘alive’ because I felt alive. Doing good feels good. Having a cause to sell out to is an adrenaline rush. ‘Sold out for Jesus.

Falling changed everything. I learned something through my own sin that nothing else could have taught me.

I thought I was on the right path, but it was just a religious path. It felt right because it was so much better than where I came from. The affirmation I got from fellow Christians told me it was right. If I was aware of committing a sin, I would beg Jesus to forgive me and start all over. I’d tighten the reigns on myself. I did everything I could to not have to revisit the cross.

I had a conversation with someone over the weekend about Hebrews 6. Particularly this passage:

It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. -Hebrews 6:4-6 NIV

This person is feeling the overwhelming guilt of repeating a sin that they have had to ask God to forgive in the past. Their preacher taught on this passage and they looked up other teachings and it confirmed their fear that they are beyond forgiveness.

My spirit groans at the horrible misuse of scripture to condemn the fallen. I know that false teaching is prevalent, but when I actually see it burying people in their mistakes, it makes me want to scream.

This passage is not about repeating sins for which you have been forgiven. It’s about not believing in the power of Jesus sin conquering death in the first place. You can hear it, accept the clean slate, practice morality and still fall. If you’re aware of your sin and someone tells you that you can start over, you’re going to take it. This doesn’t mean that your spirit has been ‘enlightened’, it means that you can try really hard to not do it again.

I talk about the ‘enlightening’ that my own experience has taught me and the continued ‘enlightenment’ that I receive through the Holy Spirit every time I write.

So, I’ll write this to that person I had the conversation with and to the rest of you who feel like you are beyond forgiveness because of your sin. Your sin, because of Jesus, does not have the power to sentence you to death. You will fail in numerous ways for the rest of your life. Those of us who have been ‘enlightened’ never preach about ways to keep yourself from sin, that is preaching ways to keep you from needing Jesus. If you reach that point of awareness, then you are further from Jesus than any moral failure can take you. We preach about Jesus and Him crucified. Period.

The power of believing in who Jesus is and what He did does not give you the power to not need Him. It gives you the assurance that:

The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture. -Romans 8:34-35

Not even the worst sins listed in scripture….

Being ‘enlightened’ is through the power of the Holy Spirit who comes in and assures you that though you will fall, because of your faith in Him, He is sticking up for you in the presence of God.

Sin is not the deal breaker, your lack of faith is.

So many people are walking around in their self-righteousness and preaching the condemnation of Hell to those who are not as ‘good’ as they are. They don’t know what to say to the fallen. They fear for them. Fear is the driving force behind judgment. Fear is the driving force behind affirmation for those who have managed to keep their sins hidden. Rewards for morality is horribly damaging to the spirit of freedom. When you point out the ‘goodness’ of someone you deem good, you are always alienating those who know they are flawed.

So many people are walking around with the weight of their sin because they don’t feel like Jesus will want them anymore.

What have we done to the Gospel?

The same people who preach the unfailing love of God put stipulations on that Truth and put the power back in the hands of the believer. Measure up or get kicked out. We remove the ‘bad influences’ and make examples of the sinners. Salvation by self-control is the message. Prosperity by visualization, self-indulgence and self-satisfaction in moral sweat are what is killing the spirits of those who refuse to fake their ‘arrival’.

Jesus wants your flaws, He wants your brokenness, He wants the displaced, dissatisfied and the disillusioned. He never had time for the self-righteous rants of the religious. If you’re a failure, then He’s your best friend. Jesus had a reputation and that reputation is your best ally at this point.

By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” -Luke 15:1-3



16 Comments on “addressing the mutilated gospel”

  1. 1 Becky said at 5:32 am on March 15th, 2010:

    Very well said! I'm glad I read this today!

  2. 2 April said at 6:26 am on March 15th, 2010:

    Oh. Wow. I have so much going on in my head and heart, I don't know how to fit it all sweetly in this box! I have conflicting thoughts here- On one hand- I have a problem with many Christian books, leaders, who teach our daughters to strive for purity, dress modestly, listen to certain music, etc. They teach this above a relationship with Jesus. Teach them to seek Jesus Christ! Teach that Jesus is the answer. … Jesus is the purifyer of our hearts and gives us the desires that glorify him and yes… sin is inevitable. I know I was taught this as a teen to strive for purity… so I took it upon myself to "be pure". I became self-righteous and eventually fell hard which as your fall taught you- I learned I needed Christ, need relationship with him. On the other hand- I have not experienced judgement from the church. I was welcomed with open arms when I acted un-Christian, I just didn't want to go.. chose not to go. The church I am part of now, same thing. I have not seen anything but open arms. Also- where does accountability come into play as a body? I want a sister in Christ to help me out of the pit of sin… point me to the cross… not ignore it if she sees me going down a dangerous path… I would want help. So- any thoughts on that? Sometimes I feel in the body- sin is ignored among friends, and should be addressed in love. Not judge, but lovingly confront.

  3. 3 Sisterlisa said at 11:24 am on March 15th, 2010:

    Thank you, Serena. Yes, the religious bury people in condemnation.

    April, Matthew 18.

    The word 'accountability' is abused in many churches today. There must be love.

  4. 4 Serena Woods said at 11:34 am on March 15th, 2010:

    Becky: Awesome. 🙂

    April: It's awesome you haven't seen judgment in the church. Way too many have. It's widespread and incredibly misguided and destructive.

    When someone falls down, it's imperative to have others around them who remind them of grace. This isn't the experience that the majority have, however. People get caught up in the fallout of sin and forget that there is grace.

    You may have had a very balanced experience with someone confronting you with your sin. You've experienced an exception to the crushing reality that so many are drowning in.

    SisterLisa: thanks for your thoughts. 🙂

  5. 5 April said at 12:09 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    yes, Matthew 18. Exactly. Of course there must be love. I think I said that. 🙂

    I'm still confused. oh well.

  6. 6 Anonymous said at 12:46 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    "Salvation by self-control is the message."

    And if ever this were true, there would be no need for Christ to have sacrificed Himself for our sins.

  7. 7 Anonymous said at 12:49 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    One more thing: Any mutilated or watered-down or holier-than-thou or you're-not-good-enough "gospel"…

    …is not The Gospel.

  8. 8 April said at 12:57 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    Agreed! I think there's an attitude/heart/grace adjustment needed on both sides, though. Hear me out… Let's say someone fed you the so called your not good enough gospel- should they be subject to grief from you or grace? I think they are human and need to see grace just as much as you! 🙂

    just sayin'.

  9. 9 Serena Woods said at 1:39 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    Anonymous: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

    April: I'm not sure I understand your questions or what area of today's blog that brought them on, but I'll do my best to give you some scriptures.

    There is a difference between someone having sex with their boyfriend when they should be abstaining and someone who is preaching a false doctrine.

    The person who fails to abstain and get their flesh under control is dealing with the flesh. The person who is preaching a 'mutilated gospel' is dealing with their spirit.

    A person can be an alcoholic, a drug user, a homosexual or a chronic sex addict and still have a relationship with Jesus. A person who preaches false doctrine has no idea who Jesus is, yet claims to.

    I'll put it in terms that may be less controversial: It's not about what you do is about what you believe. Doing is flesh, believing is spirit.

    Christians who have made bad choices:

    If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. -Galatians 6:1

    Religious people who know nothing of grace:

    Don't let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don't even hang around people like that. -Ephesians 5:6-7

    In either case, you never give up on someone. It's only a matter of time for God to help them sort out their misconceptions. Love them and hope with them. Try to be the first one there when they look up from their mess. (That means stay within reach.)

  10. 10 April said at 2:28 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    I guess I misunderstood something somewhere. And I am going through something with a friend right now that's got me reeling. I'm Sorry. My heart really hurts a lot these past few days. I must be speaking from emotion alone.

  11. 11 I'm that person said at 5:17 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    Thank you so much for this blog. I struggled again yesterday with all the guilt and shame and I struggled even harder today. God has showed me comfort this evening and I even managed to eat better than I have been. You are a true blessing and I love what you do. You are a woman of God and a great encourager. I'll try not to research a sermon again like I did that one and then end up reading "someone else's theory" I truly am feeling more at peace and just so you know I believe that I have just been on a "religious path" as well, but I have made a brand new start and am living for God the right way! I know that I will still have valleys, but I will have a better understanding on how to get back on solid ground. Thank you Jesus!!!

    Thanks Again,

    Love ya

  12. 12 Kelly Langner Sauer said at 6:56 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    That passage in Hebrews is so freeing in some ways too, Serena. It absolutely blows me away that this grace I have come to know is not something I can ever escape. Seriously – it is literally impossible for me to believe anything but what His Spirit has taught me about Him, about who I am in Jesus, about the Gospel. It's amazing. There is so much praise there…

  13. 13 Serena Woods said at 7:07 pm on March 15th, 2010:

    Yes! Kelly, you're absolutely right. I'm so glad you said that.

    "It is impossible…"

    It is impossible to not believe what you believe. It is impossible to escape the Truth.

    🙂 When you know it, you know it.

  14. 14 Julie said at 9:35 am on March 17th, 2010:

    Romans 6: 15What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. 18You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

    19I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[b] Christ Jesus our Lord.

  15. 15 Serena Woods said at 9:47 am on March 17th, 2010:

    Quoted from ’fall from grace’ 11/16/2009:

    Ignoring religion and devoting yourself to it are both dead ends. God has set things up to where you can’t win within yourself. You are bound to your need for Jesus.

    So, what do we do with our freedom? Obviously we can’t win by doing whatever we want and we can’t win by obeying all the rules. The only way to keep your freedom is to live selflessly. Whatever that means to you. The root of sin is self, so if you live selfless, then you are not looking for your own gain and your not focusing on your rule abiding abilities.

    For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day. -Galatians 5:17

    Selfless people are free to love. That’s why we were set free. To love.

  16. 16 DebS said at 4:45 am on March 24th, 2010:

    I believe the point of Hebrews 6:4-6 is that either those 'enlightened' people were never really born again to begin with, or that they are Christians who were led away by false teaching. If you read Hebrews 5:11-14 and 6:1-3 the author talks about how we need to mature as Christians past the fundamental teachings that brought us to Christ in the first place: repentance, faith, baptism, laying on of hands, resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgement. If we stay stuck as babies drinking only milk, we will not mature, and as it says in 5:14 'But solid food is for the mature who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.' Philippians 3:12-21 goes along with the Hebrew scriptures. 12: 'Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me . . . 13: . . . But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14: I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus . . . 16:Only let us live up to what we have already attained.' I think of it this way: there is a tightrope strung between two platforms: grace and righteousness. Even if my righteousness is like filthy rags I must still try to live a righteous life. However, I am unable to fully live righteously without grace. So, I balance on the tension of this tightrope between grace and righteousness, acknowledging that I am saved by grace through faith, and that I need to strive for righteousness by grace all at the same time.

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