I am sure there are more versions of that kind of gospel today and I presume there will pop up more and more of them in these last confusing days where Satan appears as an angel of light. However, I want to merely focus on two different manifestations of the crossless gospel I have met particularly on the internet since I began to write online comments in English on December 1, 2011. I would like to refer to these two confusing sub-categories as Spiritless Salvation of the Sinner and Spiritual Self-Salvation.
Whether it is coincidence or not, the first false gospel is rather accepted by men, the second by women. It might have to do with the fact that men by nature are inclined to rely more on their reason so that they are more easily convinced by facts and sensible deliberations. Women, instead, tend to be more spiritual by nature, but alas, that can be dangerous if they rely more on their feelings than on what the Holy Spirit really wants to tell them. Both “gospels” spring from biblical roots, yet they have turned into false teachings because they both left a balanced approach to Scripture and those people who follow these teachings lack a continued support by God’s Spirit who alone leads us into all the truth. Basically, both sides cannot discern the spirits and thus offer a mix of truth and lies.
To put it very simple, you can say that both approaches are founded on Jesus’ words “It is finished.” As for the Spiritless Salvation of the Sinner, here we find a focus on justification by faith alone which was the heart of the Reformation. Needless to say, it does not represent the true scale of the Reformation. However, those preachers proclaim that we are and will stay sinners who cannot really be changed as long as we live in sinful flesh. Maybe, they do not tell you these things frankly right away, but if you listen to them for a longer time, you might get the impression that there is NOTHING to do for you. Jesus did it all and now you can sit down, lay back and – fall asleep, I would add. Since if we have fallen asleep (spiritually), we will easily fall prey to Satan’s deceitful schemes. It is no coincidence if you, sooner or later, find out that these people keep living in sin for they believe that there is no hope for them to ever be changed as long as they walk the earth.
I admit that it is indeed true that we, apart from abiding in Jesus, cannot change ourselves – ever. But Jesus did not send the Holy Spirit on Pentecost so that sinners remain sinners forever. Instead, He provides spiritual power for a renewal of our mind and heart so that a genuine new creation will be seen at the end of a long and often painful sanctification process. It is evident to me that someone who has not yet received the Holy Spirit can easily be tempted to believe this gospel lie, since, without the Spirit’s power we truly remain stuck in our old Adam nature. So, this gospel approach is not easy to discern. I was thinking about mentioning a few names of theologians and pastors who preach(ed) such stuff, but God nudged me to encourage every reader to ask God themselves whether they have listened to such people or not.
Regarding Spiritual Self-Salvation, well, that is a very modern approach, I would say. It has been influenced by so many different non-Christian sources so that it is now very difficult to outline its features with only a few brief strokes. What this false gospel has in common with the Spiritless Salvation of the Sinner, is the fact that there is nothing to do for us any longer. But these people believe that Jesus endured all our pains on the cross. Therefore salvation of body, soul, and mind is ours in the here and now. The only thing we had to do was to accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and then every blessing in heaven would be ours forever. If you now wonder about the spiritual part of this gospel approach, well, it could not be easier and more confusing at the same time. Somehow I am reminded of the Word of Faith movement since these people, too, say that you only need to receive/accept what is already ours in Christ and then – that was it. You will be healthy and happy and – Jesus was a nice guy. What do I mean by that?
Neither one of these approaches hold the Holy God in high esteem. The Spiritless Salvation of the Sinner gospel might still preach the Christ, yet He seems to have become a helpless God who is not able to interact with us human beings at all. Due to the conviction of being hopelessly sinful, you can observe proponents of this belief fall into sin without real repentance after having done so. The reason is, they had no real relationship with God and Christ and therefore they do not fear God. The conviction that Jesus did not come to save us from our sins (see Mt 1:12) is deadly poison that has been spread by Satan.
The Spiritual Self-Salvation gospel might also claim to believe in Jesus, but here, too, you do not need a powerful God to save you from your old lifestyle and natural inclination to rather do, or at least think, the worst things that are rooted in our old and fallen nature’s heart. You can quasi open up toward “God” and then you will FEEL how the “Spirit” will fill you up with all good things. Dear brothers and sisters, good feelings can be sooo misleading!!! 😦 Our soul is able to change its feelings by simply thinking or visualizing pictures on the mind. You can sing songs and watch wonderful films which make you feel happy, but… for a certain time only. Then you need to repeat your preferred method of getting some good feelings. However, the author of this kind of happiness was not necessarily the Spirit of God! All people in this world were created by God and have received a soul from Him that functions that way. If you now wonder which joy has come from God and which only from our soul, then it might be helpful to realize that our soulish joy depends on circumstances while the joy of God is able to fill our hearts DESPITE adverse circumstances. God’s joy and peace are not logical and they are subtly and quietly fulfilling and satisfying like nothing else on earth. A rather loud and gimmicky joy that keeps us still focused on our old self instead of feeding on the peaceful presence of the Eternal God, is the sad result of having been successfully deceived by Satan. If such people who seem to permanently be able to go softly, softly would ever ask their neighbors about how they felt being confronted with their extreme emotions, they would most probably get disappointing responses (but only if those others were being honest toward them).
In both cases we see that neither God nor Christ is the center of their preaching, nor is He the center point of the lives of these people who fall prey to these false gospels. Even if we included legalistic preaching here – as another false gospel approach – you could observe the same feature. Every false gospel is focused on us poor and miserable human beings. Whether the “gospel” condemns, sets free (seemingly), or offers a soulish kind of freedom, none of them will bring forth the fruit of God’s Spirit in our lives so that others could realize that the Eternal God still lives among us. Instead, false gospels force us to still live after the flesh and follow the wrong spirits.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal 5:19-26 ESV)