American Christianity: A Man-Centered Gospel
“If you meet with a system of theology which magnifies man, flee from it as far as you can.”— Charles H. Spurgeon
Many people might read this quote and think, "What do you mean a system of theology?" and others might say something like, "I'm not that into theology, I just love Jesus". In these two statements, we find the fundamental problem with American Christianity, the underlying gangrene eating away at the tissue of our "religion".
The word theology means the study of God. Theology, studying God, is the main duty of a Christian. An objection to that might be that love is the main duty of a Christian, or prayer, or any other religious practice. But how are we to know how to properly love? Or to pray? We only love correctly when we are informed by the way God has taught us to love. We can perform no Christian duties without first being informed by the character and the heart of God. Theology.
That is why theology is fundamental to the health of our faith, because we have nothing apart from knowing God.
Whether you like it or not, in some way or another, you are a theologian. You may not be a good one, but you have thought about God in some capacity and you have formed your opinions about what He is like and how He works in our lives. The only way to properly know God is to properly study Him, and the only way to do that is through scripture, Genesis to Revelation. Now there are some amazing teachers that we can listen to for learning more about God, but the thing that makes them great teachers is not their ability to speak well or their college degrees. Great teachers in the faith are great only because they stay true to the scriptures.
How does all of this tie in with our look into American Christianity?
In our culture of convenience and self-gratification we have lost sight of the true prize: knowing God. Our neatly ordered services and our concert style "worship" sets are entertaining no doubt, but what about knowing God? You may have a lot of people attending your services, but are they being shown the glory and power of their creator or are they getting "3 helpful tips on how to not hate their boss"?
When we turn our congregations towards moralism rather than towards the author and perfecter of our faith, we breed generations of people who learn to rely on themselves rather than on God. This is the man-centered gospel plaguing America's churches.
Any preaching that makes us feel empowered by any means other than Christ, is a false teaching. Preachers such as Steven Furtick, T.D. Jakes, and Joel Osteen, all use a moralistic approach when "preaching". They take passages from scripture, rip them out of context, and then twist them around to come up with this fabricated, half-truth, "ah-ha!" sort of moment. They are great speakers, and they can really get the blood flowing, but they aren't preaching the word.
The Bible and every story in it, will always lead to Christ. Every Old Testament lament and every new testament parable is all about Christ. If there is ever a moral lesson to be earned from scripture, it will come after our eyes have been drawn to the savior.
So, how do you know if the gospel you know is the right one? Which one of these sounds about right?
Jesus wants to have a relationship with you, He loves you and doesn't want your life to be a struggle. He died on the cross so that you could live a more fulfilled life, spreading love and joy everywhere you go, showing people that Jesus really does love them. God loves you just the way you are and wants you to just be the best version of you!
Jesus is the son of God, and He was born so that he could die a sinless death for sinners like you and me. We were without hope in our treason against the creator, but because of the love and mercy of God, we have been called out of darkness and into light to live our lives for Christ’s sake. We do not live for ourselves; we live to serve and to love one another. Although life is hard, Christ has promised to use every circumstance to make us more like Him. To live is Christ, to die is gain!
The first one is the bad one...I know for many of the people reading this that first one made you cringe a bit, and rightfully so. That kind of thinking is embedded into the fabric of the church right now. Every megachurch and every mainstream Christian song is drenched with this idea of a bff Jesus and "everyone's going to heaven" type of giddiness. This is deadly, it is a false gospel, and it needs to be called out.
Any preaching, singing, interpretation, or prayer that magnifies man rather than God is a disgrace to the body of Christ. God gets 100% of the glory.
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth."
2 Timothy 3:1-7
But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively. Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam's error and perished in Korah's rebellion. These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Don't be deceived, this is not harmless. People are really being led astray, unknowingly following wolves rather than shepherds.
A list for convenience:
WOLVES: Benny Hinn, Todd White, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Steven Furtick, T.D. Jakes, Beth Moore, Brian Houston, Bill Johnson, Joyce Meyer, Paula White.
These are just the popular ones. They may make you feel good, but they will hold your hand and pet your hair all the way to hell.
SHEPHERDS: R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Jeff Durbin, Todd Friel, John Piper, Matt Chandler, David Platt, Steven Lawson, Costi Hinn, Owen Strachan, Justin Peters, Sinclair Ferguson, and so many more.
Now these amazing teachers are well worth a listen, but know that they will still make mistakes and should only be used as supplemental, and remember what I said about how good teachers are only good because of their faithfulness to the Word.
Also, if you aren't attending a local church, START. Besides the Bible, there is nothing more important in the Christian life than Christian community. Go serve the body!
If you read this and you are a "seasoned" believer, I hope that this lit a fire under you to warn people away from the moralistic garbage that so many "churches" are spewing. If you read this and you are wondering if maybe you've been buying into the lies, please reach out to me or one of the other writers, we really would love to walk with you through all of this.
For God's glory and for our joy,