On “The Gospel You Win Them With” (Be Careful)

Phyllis Nissila

I’ve been pondering an expression spoken by a pastor who was emphasizing the critical need to “preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2) to the unsaved.

“What you win them with,” he said, is what you win them to.” In short, be careful what you preach. They will follow.

And it might not be the right path.

public domain image of arrowsA scan of Christian print and broadcast media reveals there are many gospels (teachings/revelations) ”not Christ crucified” out there, and plenty of people whether out of ignorance or “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) follow. *

There is the “prosperity gospel,” for example, promoted by those who are “supposing that gain is godliness” (1 Timothy 6:5).

There are the, as my father used to call them, “Churches of What’s Happening Now” messages, i.e., New Think for a New Age, often derived from the teachings of the actual New Age Movement and ancient pagan “mystical practices” re-packaged for contemporary seekers.

There is the vanilla-coated love message that, lest any turn away offended (and leadership loses “nickels and noses”), excludes any mention of that which Jesus often warned us about: Hell and the real existence and power of Satan.

But perhaps the most distracting and destructive of all the false gospels are those centered on “works,” that is, on the implication that when Jesus took His last ragged breath on the cross and proclaimed “It (His sacrifice for our sins) is finished” He didn’t really mean it. According to these gospels, there still are some behaviors we have to engage in to earn and/or maintain our salvation.

I grew up under the heavy influence of one such gospel, as I’ve detailed in my “Out of the Fire: On Leaving Roman Catholicism” series. The religious milieu of my early years included many gospels, actually.

Jesus Christ crucified is in the mix in that religious system and I became a Christian while yet attending; however, there are many other items, relics, you might say, of Roman Catholic thought and dogma evolved over time under the guise of “sacred tradition” (on a par with God’s Word, they teach) and added to the core Gospel. And the pile-up began just a few hundred years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.

There is the Catholic teaching on Mary, Jesus’ mother, for example, deemed by the papacy to be a “Co-Mediatrix/Redemptrix” with Jesus [1].

There is the gospel of papal infallibility, meaning, when the pope speaks ex cathedra on matters of faith and morals, he speaks “as God,” that is to say, “without error” [2].

There are many lesser Catholic revelations one can follow, too, and achieve some kind of blessing, grace, or time off of Purgatory, so to speak, if the instructions are precisely followed. Examples: various kinds of “novenas” and other ways to earn “plenary indulgences (which can also be applied to the souls of the deceased),”  “First Friday,” and “First Saturday” “devotions,” and so on [3].

Roman Catholicism also markets “sacramentals,” i.e., items such as crosses, medals, “holy water,” to name a few, one can “use” or apply to attain some kind of special spiritual accommodation. The list is long [4].

But the Roman Catholic Church is not the only religious system to market a gospel of works. There are many others, some, skilled in much subtler, seductive ways.

There is the Church of the Intelligentsia (equating education with edification) the Church of Emotion (equating feeling with faith), and the Church of the New Revelation (equating titillation with truth).

Not that intelligence, education, emotion, and a new understanding of the Word of God (not to be confused with a new interpretation based on a new worldview) are necessarily not of God. Those achievements and experiences may be genuine by-products of walking with and growing in Christ.

arrow from the public domainBut in this world where truth is so easily diffused by distractions, delights, and demons, we are well advised, as the preacher above noted, to make sure the emphasis—and the experience—of our “message,” our “Gospel,” is on Jesus Christ—the Foundation of the Church; the Alpha and the Omega; the Same, Yesterday, Today, and Forever; The One and Only of Whom God the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17, NIV).

We are well advised to preach the only One by Whom we are saved—sans additions, subtractions, bells, whistles and/or apostasies—a salvation of which it is said, “For by grace (charis: gift, blessing, favor, kindness) are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-8, KJV).

And when the gift of this extraordinary Gospel is unpacked for those hungry for spiritual truth, the power of such a great love given us by the Father through Jesus Christ has all the power needed in and of itself to draw all men unto Him.

And the angels sing…

Stay the path.

UPDATE: For those who have yet to “taste of the Lord and see that He is good,” here’s some encouragement:


*For a good resource on churches and teachings not aligned with core Christian teachings, here is a good site to explore. There are many others, of course. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/

[1] On Mary as Co-Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix with Jesus: http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/mary-mother-of-salvation

[2] Teaching on Papal infallibility: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm

[3] Teaching on indulgences: https://www.ewtn.com/expert/answers/indulgences_conditions.htm

[4] Definition, teachings, and list of sacramentals: http://www.sacramentals.com/

Images from the public domain.

This entry was posted in Commentaries, Ex-Roman Catholic/Catholicism, most recent posts, Out of the Fire: On Leaving Roman Catholicism, Purgatory and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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