Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Does It Mean to Water Down the Gospel?

Readings for the Day
Jeremiah 37-39, Psalm 79, 2 John

Verses for the Day
7 I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we[a] have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Thoughts for the Day
2 John is a short letter usually assumed to be written by John, or someone from within the Johannine community. The main focus picks up on the letter of 1 John, which warns the church about the heresy of "docetism". As the passage says, these teachers do not acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh. Meaning Jesus did not truly come to the earth as a human being. He calls this person a "deceiver" and the "antichrist". I believe the context of "antichrist" does not mean "THE Anti-Christ" or Satan, but someone under the influence of the Anti-Christ. Why? Because they are Anti-Christ. They are against Christ! They are against Christ because they deny His humanness. To deny His humanness completely changes the Gospel, who Jesus was, and how he literally died on the cross and rose from the dead.

So why all the fuss? Why are teaching and doctrine so important? Because false teaching can infiltrate the church very subtly. The most common form of this is when someone says, "Jesus was a really good teacher!" Or, Jesus' death was the ultimate metaphor for the good triumphing over evil. Or, he was not really human he just appeared to be. The writer goes on to say, "Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for." He is saying we have fought and given our lives for the sake of the Gospel, don't water it down.

Watering down the gospel is a consistent temptation for the church. I was talking to a man who has terminal cancer today. I asked him what he was thinking about lately. He said, "Jesus dying on the cross and how painful that must have been. We don't talk about that much anymore." When we don't talk about the human Jesus dying a brutal and tortuous death on the cross for the sin of all mankind, we water down the Gospel. Sometimes it is offensive to people to think Jesus died on the cross for them. What happens with this tendency is we begin to not take sin seriously. And soon we really don't need Jesus' death, because we are pretty good after all. Jesus has helped us to be a better person, because he is a good and moral example to us.

The only problem with this downward spiral is that it is not the Gospel. It is not who Jesus claimed to be. And if Jesus really wasn't human, he didn't really rise from the dead. This is why the writer says, "Whoever runs ahead and does not teaching of Christ does not have God." Although you can see this is a short letter we mustn't forget it. It is needed today as much as it was then.

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