The church’s greatest danger is not the anti-gospel outside the church. It’s the counterfeit gospel inside the church.
… Imagine the church without the true gospel. What would it look like? Ray Ortlund gives some possibilities:
- “a confident manipulation of managerial technique”
- “a drive toward church growth”
- "a deep concern for the institution of the family”
- "a clever appeal to consumerism by offering a sort of cost-free Christianity-lite”
- “a sympathetic, empathetic, thickly-honeyed cultivation of interpersonal relationships”
- “a warm affirmation of self-esteem”
All of these false gospels exist in our world. Many peoples lives are spent worshiping in accordance with their false gospel—and God is re-fashioned to fit their human gospel.
The “Entertainment god” is always showy and glamorous, funny and always easy-going. Sin doesn’t get mentioned and the hard times, the pain and suffering in the world are rarely addressed in a personal way. But the music and the show is great!
The “Self-esteem god” is full of tips to maximize your potential, always ready with a reassuring word—never a rebuke or criticism. Sin is never the problem—only low self-esteem, which is always someone else’s fault. The self-help God exists to tell you that you can do it. No matter what. You have everything you need within yourself to be a better person, to become what you want to become…(just watch TV and tune to the right channel on Sunday morning!)
All very man or woman-centered gospels are self-worshiping. God exists to serve us, we don’t exist to serve him. You see, it all comes back around to idolatry. Who do you serve? That question is inseparably linked to the answer to “What gospel are you believing?” It all affects what God you are truly worshiping. Because we are all worshiping a god of some sort, either the true one or a false one.
I think the Westminster Catechism got it right when it says, “the primary purpose of human beings is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”
That truth supersedes all the false gospels.
So worship is all a matter of heart: A heart devoted to the true gospel and glorifying the Christ of the true gospel.
Worship Is Obedience
Eugene Peterson strikes at the heart of true worship in a way that I had never truly understood before. It profoundly changed by attitude to Scripture and worship. Peterson wrote:
…at age 35 I bought running shoes and began enjoying the smooth rhythms of long-distance running. Soon I was competing in 10K races every month or so, and then a marathon once a year. By then I was subscribing to and reading three running magazines! Then I pulled a muscle and couldn't run for a couple of months. Those magazines were still all over the house, but I never opened one. The moment I resumed running, though, I started reading again.
That's when I realized that my reading was an extension of something I was a part of. I was reading for companionship and affirmation of the experience of running. I learned a few things along the way, but mostly it was to deepen my world of running. If I wasn't running, there was nothing to deepen.
The parallel with reading Scripture is striking. If I'm not living in active response to the living God, reading about his creation/salvation/holiness won't hold my interest for long.
[The most important question isn't "What does this mean," but "What can I obey?" Simple obedience will open up our lives to a text more quickly than any number of Bible studies, dictionaries, and concordances.]
Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book (William B. Eerdmans, 2006), pp. 70-71; paraphrased in the September 18 entry of Men of Integrity (September/October 2009
Ever wonder why you just can’t get into reading and studying the Scriptures? It is possible that you aren’t reading/studying for the purpose of obeying God. If obedience isn’t your motive, you’ll find your interest is lacking. If you want to obey God, you’ll find that your interest in Scripture increases.
Bible studies, classes and small groups are for the primary purpose of increasing obedience to God, aren't they? Of becoming more Christlike? If we aren’t concerned with that, what gospel are we serving?