Several years ago the cable television mogul Ted Turner spoke at a banquet in Orlando where he was given an award by the American Humanist Association. During his acceptance speech, he criticized fundamentalist Christianity.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Turner saying that Jesus would probably “be sick at his stomach” over the way his ideas have been “twisted.”
Turner claimed he had a “strict Christian upbringing” and at one time considered becoming a missionary. However, he became disenchanted with Christianity” after his sister died, despite his prayers. Turner said the more he strayed from his faith, “the better I felt.”
There are a lot of reasons why people reject Jesus, turn from their faith, or become enamored with false religion. But it’s a fact. It’s always been a challenge. Even for baptized believers.
In one of the most sobering texts of the Bible, the apostle Paul addresses this reality in Galatians 1:6-7.
“I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”
This text speaks of several important truths that we need to consider.
(1) Beware of counterfeit Christianity. Turner is actually correct in saying that Jesus’ teaching has been “twisted.” Just like in Paul’s day, people are perverting the gospel. There are many today who are identified as preachers, Bible teachers or religious leaders who are teaching a “different gospel.”
The health, wealth and prosperity gospel is a “different gospel.” Indeed it is twisting the scriptures to teach that a Christian will never encounter any problems and will always enjoy financial success. Don’t be deceived in sending televangelists $20 with the hope you’ll get a $1000 check in the mail next week!
Denominational doctrines are too numerous to enumerate here. But as John warned, “many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Thus, we need to “test” them. Compare their teaching with the Bible. And always be aware of Paul’s warning about accepting a distorted gospel.
(2) The true gospel is a product of God’s grace. Grace and gospel go together. They are not mutually exclusive. To accept the grace of God is to believe and obey the Gospel.
Paul once affirmed that his mission in life was to “testify of the gospel of the grace of God” (Ax. 20:24). The Gospel is “Good News.” It originates from Jehovah God. Was manifested in the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Revealed in totality by the Holy Spirit. And recorded by the inspired apostles. (Jn 1:14; 16:13; Eph 3:3-6)
Grace is favor that is unmerited and undeserved. Sinners are saved by grace through faith in obedience to the gospel (Eph 2:8-10; I Pet. 1:22). God provided a plan through which we could have fellowship with Him, but it can only be found in Jesus (Eph 1:3-10).
(3) There is the possibility of apostasy. Paul’s warning to the Galatians reminds us that some were in danger of falling away. They were moving away from the pure gospel to a perverted gospel. Later in the epistle, the apostle bluntly says to those who had returned to Judaism, “you are fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
The tone and tenor of the New Testament letters is an exhortation to faithfulness. To keep on keeping on. To continually examine ourselves. To watch for pitfalls. And to avoid Satan’s snares. A saved person can fall away and become unfaithful.
Sadly, we see too many young people today who have been duped by “another gospel.” They have been persuaded to accept an ecumenical fellowship foreign to Jesus’ teaching of “the strait and narrow way” (Matt 7:13-14). The idea of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one body and one hope” (Eph 4:4-6) is belittled as outdated and old-fashioned. In many cases, like Paul, I am astonished that it occurs. But it does.
The warning of Scripture and the lessons of history remind us to “earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to all the saints” (Jude 3).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman