In reference to her current job, a lady told me the other day that she had regretted not seeking fuller clarification during the interview, as to the meaning of certain words and phrases communicated to her by the job interviewer, regarding her job function. It brought to mind a favorite expression used by the communication gurus, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” The gurus tell us that, ‘saying what we mean’ is more than simply choosing words and expressing them, because they have at least three meanings: what you mean, what the listener thinks you mean and what the dictionary tells us they mean.
How appropriate this advice today, in this time to Christians when sharing and proclaiming our gospel message. When communicating our holy God, the Lord Jesus, the Bible, Salvation, end times, eternal life, eternal death and so on, are we certain we know Who and what we mean, Who and what the listener thinks we mean and, that our meanings align perfectly with our “dictionary” the Bible? For the past few weeks I’ve had 2 Corinthians 11:4 constantly on my mind; for if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you may well put up with it.
Since leaving the man-centered institutional church system, the Holy Spirit has been increasingly impressing upon me that the church around the world (for the most part) is not the church that Jesus or the apostles left us. There is most definitely “another Jesus, a different spirit, a different gospel” being preached and the attraction these hold for church-going people is magnetic. Without coming on as a judge and juror, a guaranteed way to test the reality of what’s said here is to share with a church-goer what the Bible declares about the true Jesus, Spirit and gospel, then brace yourself for the response. Angry responses quickly and clearly show where they’re at. Non-angry responses ask for more information or help.
In my first church as a born again Christian, I sat under a pastor who taught that if one wanted to find out Jesus’ perspective on a matter, then read all His words in the gospels from a red-letter edition of the Bible. “Start with Jesus first,” he said, implying that the other writers were of secondary importance. In my ignorance and naivety this sounded like a wise thing to do … that is until (much later) I fully grasped the profundity of, In the beginning was the Word, (Jesus) and the Word (Jesus) was with God and the Word (Jesus) was God John 1:1. After that I saw it as an unwise statement to make; but I also see how easy it is for Christians to be led off the track to follow another Jesus, a different spirit, and a different gospel.
“Oh yes, but that was Paul, Jesus didn’t mention it,” I’ve heard church-goers say – especially in reference to woman elders and pastors exercising spiritual authority over men in the church. “That’s in the Old Testament, that doesn’t apply today,” some will say, in reference to end-times prophecy, or the Jews, Israel, Jerusalem and God’s never-changing will about it all, or matters of “cultural relevance” such as abortion and same-sex marriage. “Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality,” they say. Given that Jesus is God, we find that God said a lot about it! Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Matthew 5:17-19; Romans 1:26-27. “The God of the Old Testament; so cruel,” the church-goer said. “His name is Jesus,” I replied. The response? Covert anger.
Go into most churches today and you will find they will have a lot to say about Jesus: what He did, what He said, what claims He made for Himself; they’ll talk about Him dying on the cross for our sin, His resurrection, the gift of salvation, eternal life etc, … all of it essential for us to be reminded of, or to learn if we are ignorant of. But they will not get to the core issue, which is why He came, said, did, died and rose again. Many see themselves as ‘seeker-friendly’ not wishing to offend. As a result, people are left thinking of Jesus as a good Man, full of love, compassion, tolerance, understanding and pity for them … happily believing He is more like them, when the reality is they ought to be more like Him Romans 8:29.
If this is kept up for long enough, what develops is a mentality that believes it’s doing God a favor by turning to Jesus, by coming to church, by getting involved in the church program etc. They would never say that, but they don’t have to; actions speak louder than words – always. That’s what makes it so easy for them to smugly and self-righteously talk about “cultural relevance” and how it should be applied in today’s church. Strong words; yes, because this is what shows up. They can pull a Scripture from the Bible to back up whatever it is they want to say and do, believing they have Jesus’ mind on the matter, not believing for a nanosecond that it’s the mind of another Jesus they’re expressing.
So why did Jesus come, say, do, die and rise again? Jesus came to reveal the nature, character and will of God, YHWH … the Creator, the Upholder and Maintainer of the Universe. He is the Sovereign and Great King over all that He has made. There is none like Him, nobody His equal. There is no greatness, no might, no strength and no power like His Isaiah 40:25-26. God, YHWH … is high, holy, all-glorious and He dwells in heaven. Like YHWH, heaven is a holy place. Nothing but purity and perfection lives there. That means all people who fall short of His glory and perfection will not be seen in His presence. This is what makes Romans 6:23 such an important Scripture for all peoples to take seriously, not flippantly.
There are a lot of nouns and adjectives in the words and phrases communicated in the above paragraph. Christians not sure of their biblical meanings would be wise to seek fuller clarification from a Concordance or Bible Dictionary rather than any secular dictionary. God’s meanings and man’s meanings are bound to differ. People ask, “Do you wanna hear the good news or the bad news?” Most church leaders don’t ask that; they simply give the good news; He who believes in the Son has everlasting life. It is a rare leader who will finish the Scripture, he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him John 3:36. Any leader who doesn’t talk about the wrath of God worships another Jesus.
As a result of our sin inheritance from the first man and woman in the Garden, we are all, by nature children of wrath Ephesians 2:3. In other words, we have more than simply “messed up in life” as some are fond of saying, we have offended God, broken His holy law and in His sight deserve death (separation from God) – hell. That’s what we deserve, but that’s not what we get. We get Jesus instead … the One who died for me, the One who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him 2 Corinthians 5:21. Righteousness is what it’s all about, not “cultural relevance.” These churches worshiping another Jesus never talk about righteousness! It’s foreign language to the “culturally relevant.”
What does it mean for a Christian to become the righteousness of God? It means not only do we believe that Jesus was crucified for us; it also means we believe we are crucified with Him. To understand and appreciate the grace of God poured out upon us, we must know Christ crucified – dead to self, alive to Christ. It has been said, “God’s grace cannot stand with man’s merit.” Indeed. There’s nothing we can offer the Lord except a crucified self. The more simply we rely on the Lord for everything, the more devotedly we’ll walk before Him expressing everything biblically relevant, snubbing our noses at all deemed “culturally relevant.” Anything less is to abuse the grace of God rendering it null and void in our life.
Worshippers of another Jesus will quickly tell you God is love 1 John 4:8. But they are slow to tell you He’s holy, perfect and righteous as well and that it’s only by being washed in the blood of Jesus can we be made the same. In other words, Jesus’ coming, saying, doing, dying and rising again was for this purpose. God can’t use us unless we come under the same process. We need to be told this otherwise we lack understanding and respect for such love. We then start confusing it with human emotion and reasoning making all sorts of excuses for our behavioral compromises and those of others, justifying that which in reality God does not justify. None of this is the work of the Holy Spirit; it is a different spirit – a religious spirit.
The Holy Spirit energizes Christianity, the religious spirit energizes churchianity. God has no tolerance for the religious spirit; it is a usurper, a spirit from Satan’s camp. Churchianity has you receiving a different gospel – a watered down, wishy-washy, weak “gospel” which is not a gospel (good news) at all, it’s bad news! You become a religious slave. Churchianity talks about being sorry for sin and God’s forgiveness for sin, but it never talks about the need for repentance from sin … change your mind, change your heart attitude towards sin, turn away from it, turn to Jesus, turn to the Scriptures, read them, study them, understand them, live them, let the Holy Spirit speak to you through them and become empowered by them.
Those allied with the church of another Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel believe themselves to be saved and bound for heaven. They are not. They are a works-based people, not a faith-based people. The religious spirit drives its people; the Holy Spirit leads His people. The religious spirit fosters self-righteousness, pride and conceit; the Holy Spirit fosters Christ-righteousness, humility and modesty. The religious spirit causes its people to be men-pleasers; the Holy Spirit causes His people to be Christ-pleasers. The religious spirit says love is more important than truth; the Holy Spirit says truth is more important than love. Without truth to define love, we’ll never know what true love is.
Not sure where you stand in all this? Tell Jesus you want to stand solely for Him. Ask for the revelation of the Holy Spirit and embrace everything He reveals. Dump all from the religious spirit. Just like the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit always says what He means and means what He says. He desires to teach us likewise. It is only the Holy Spirit who can inspire His people to biblical relevance and in the process of doing so He delivers us from all “cultural relevance.” All cultures bow to God, YHWH. It is never the opposite. “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” Matthew 7:15. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” 1 John 4:1.