I recently found this statement on a Christian leadership blog:
“Jesus’s approach was (and is) to love people into life change. The Pharisee’s approach was to try to judge people into life change. I think more people have been loved into changethan judged into change. I think following the approach of Christ is the best and most rewarding way to go.” (Emphasis mine)
Right off the bat, know that I do not personally know the author of that comment. I am in no way standing in judgment over the statement’s author, or any other person. Neither do I doubt for a second the heartfelt sincerity behind the statement. I am making an observation concerning the state of evangelism in much of today’s professing church.
It seems that everywhere I turn in today’s evangelical environment appeals to believe in/accept/receive Christ are made almost solely on the basis of having one’s ‘life changed’. Don’t get me wrong, I think that on the surface, it’s a great appeal! Don’t we all want our lives changed at some level? I’d be a liar to assert that I don’t, that’s for sure. And doesn’t Jesus change lives? He sure does! Not a single person throughout all of history has come to Jesus and NOT had their life changed! And aren’t we supposed to share others how Jesus has changed our own lives? Of course we are!
So if Jesus does change lives, and testimonies of how Jesus changed our lives are important when witnessing to others, what’s all this about gospel ‘treason’?
I’m so glad you asked! Please bear with me.
I could answer that from several different perspectives, I could tell you that the first record of Jesus’ ministry tells us that he said “The time is now at hand…repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15) I could tell you about the times we are told that Jesus specifically told someone to deal with their sin. I could tell you about the times Jesus spoke specifically about Hell. I am equally certain that for any of those arguments you would have some way of justifying your gospel of ‘life change’. I know them all, and have in times past used them. Therefore, I’m not going anywhere close to those arguments!
Rather, I rest my case on just two passages of scripture, the first of which are words spoken before the birth of our Savior:
“. . . and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Those are the words spoken by angel of the Lord, who appeared to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father when he was having second thoughts about marrying Mary. Not only did the heavenly visitor deal with Joseph’s concern, he named the child to be born and stated the reason for his birth, that “he will save his people from their sins. The second passage comes much later, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, after Pentecost and the birth of the church, and confirm the reason given by the angel to Joseph:
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins . . . was buried, (and) was raised on the third day. . .”
1 Corinthians 15:3-4
Those are the words of the Apostle Paul, in a letter to believers in the Corinthian church, reminding them of the gospel message he had previously preached to them, probably during one of his missionary journeys.
In two short passages we have the very reason Jesus came to earth and an apostolic affirmation that Jesus carried out His Divine mission.
So “Where’s the treason?” you ask again. I’ll tell you.
Alongside definitions of treason having something to do with overt acts to defy and overthrow one’s government, treason is also defined as simply “betraying a trust”.
Concerning the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ, those who tell us that Jesus came to earth for ‘life change’ are preaching, as Paul stated, ‘another gospel’. They betray a sacred trust to remain faithful to the true gospel, defined for us so clearly in two simple passages..
Furthermore, when that trust is betrayed, all the while knowing that ‘life change’ is nowhere given in scripture as a reason Jesus entered our world, lived a sinless life, was crucified, buried and resurrected, there is an open and ‘overt’ act involved in the betrayal.
Does that mean there’s an act of intentional betrayal? In all likelihood, I have to say no. Most of those who preach ‘life change’ as the principle purpose of Christ’s coming know that He died for the sins of men, but place that little tidbit of information on the stove’s back burner, as if it was merely something running in the background that needed to take place before we could all have our lives changed.
Am I personally calling anyone a traitor to the gospel? Most assuredly, I am not. How dare I, having once been that very traitor? I have no right to personally indict anyone for anything. What I do have, as a blood bought child of God, is a duty and desire to repent when the written, revealed word of God convicts me of sin. I have shared but two passages that convicted me of my ‘gospel treason’ and have long since repented.
Why not just keep my thoughts of ‘treason’ to myself, as a sort of personal lesson that doesn’t really apply to others?
Well, because these two passages, among many others, apply to each and every person who names the Name of Christ. Either they mean what they say, or they don’t. If they mean exactly what they say, to redefine the message of the gospel is to betray a sacred trust, and therefore ‘gospel treason’.
And as to why the gospel of ‘life change’ has almost completely saturated the evangelical landscape – that’s another topic for perhaps another blog post.