Sugar Coated Gospel

In New Testament times, the apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy, warning him to do the things that will avoid the trend we are now seeing in the modern day church:

2 Timothy 4:1-5(HCSB)Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching. For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new. They will turn away from hearing the truth and will turn aside to myths. But as for you, be serious about everything, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The original Greek word translated myths here means “fiction” or “nonsense.” Paul issued the same type of warning to a group of believers in Corinth. False doctrine was slipping into this first-century church, threatening to weaken its spiritual foundation. Can you hear the cry of the apostle as he cautions the new believers against this subtle satanic spirit?

2 Corinthians 11:2-4(HCSB)For I am jealous over you with a godly jealousy, because I have promised you in marriage to one husband—to present a pure virgin to Christ. But I fear that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ. For if a person comes and preaches another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or you receive a different spirit, which you had not received, or a different gospel, which you had not accepted, you put up with it splendidly!

The deception Paul warned about is rampant today in America and all over the world, and I am concerned for the family of God. People who need desperately to hear about the shed blood of Jesus and how God loves them and has a plan for their lives must first wade through piles of garbage and mucky polluted rivers before hearing just a morsel of truth. We are reminded of the prophet Amos when he bellowed out these words:Amos 8:12(HCSB)People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east, seeking the word of the Lord,but they will not find it.

Lovers of the Truth

We’ve all heard the saying that a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. That may be true. But today, in the spiritual sense, there is no medicine coming behind the ear candy. The doctors of the Word, the preachers, are afraid to prescribe the medicine that was made available from heaven’s pharmacy 2,000 years ago. They see the disease but are afraid to properly treat it for fear of offending. They have become tolerant.

From God’s perspective, the diagnosis and treatment have always been clear: Sin is the disease. The blood of Christ is the cure. Repentance is God’s method for putting the two together.

That’s not a sweet message. For Jesus, it was a bitter cup. It wasn’t sweet when the crown of thorns was pressed upon His head and blood spilled into His eyes. It wasn’t sweet when they took a whip of leather holding pieces of glass and stone and shredded His back like a farmer would plow a field. It wasn’t sweet when they blindfolded Him, slapped His face and mocked His deity.

No, it wasn’t sweet when they placed a beam on His raw, exposed shoulders and forced Him to carry His own cross. It wasn’t sweet when He fell under the load.

It wasn’t sweet when they laid His body on the beams and pierced His hands and feet. It wasn’t sweet when the cross dropped in the hole and ripped even further the flesh that had just been pierced. It wasn’t sweet when He lifted His voice and said, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” It wasn’t sweet when He pierced the heavens with these words: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

I’m speaking of the gospel story—the penetrating truth of what Jesus Christ had to endure so that we could be adopted into His family. Now, 2,000 years after His brutal death, we find pastors glossing over and sugarcoating this message in order to avoid offending society’s delicate palates with the bitter truth. They have become tolerant politicians.

Jesus was never motivated by how His message would be received. In fact, He reduced His congregation to just a faithful few after preaching a full-course meal on sacrifice. His command of “Eat My flesh and drink My blood” transformed His cheerleaders into cowards. They walked away.

He didn’t chase after them. He didn’t change His message to cheer them up. When they sought sweet words, He didn’t give them tasty, sugary morsels. They needed truth and thats what He gave them.

The Bible is a gritty book. Very raw. Very real. It was written about and to deal with people just like us, people just as needy and screwed up as we are, encountering a God who would rather die than spend eternity without them.

Yet despite that, it seems like Christians are uncomfortable with how explicit the Bible really is. They feel the need to censor it and God.

For example, look in any modern translation of Isaiah 64:6(NLT), and you’ll find that, to a holy God, even our most righteous acts are like “filthy rags.” The original language doesn’t say “filthy rags”; it says “menstrual rags.” But that sounds a little too crass, so let’s just call them filthy instead.

And let’s not talk so much about Jesus being naked on the cross, and let’s pretend Paul said that he considered his good deeds “a pile of garbage” in Philippians 3:8(NLT)Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ  rather than a pile of crap(Skubala), as the Greek would more accurately be translated.

And let’s definitely not mention the six times in the Old Testament that the Jewish writers referred to Gentile men as those who “pisseth against the wall.”

1 Samuel 25:22(KJV)So and more also do God unto the enemies of David, if I leave of all that pertain to him by the morning light any that pisseth against the wall.(At least the King James Version got that one right.)

The point?

God’s message was not meant to be run through some arbitrary, politically correct,holier-than-thou politeness filter. He intended the Bible to speak to people where they’re at, caught up in the stark reality of life in a broken world.

Dozens of Psalms are complaints and heart-wrenching cries of despair to God, not holy-sounding, reverently worded sermons. Take Psalm 77:1-3(NLT)“I cry out to God; yes, I shout. Oh, that God would listen to me! When I was in deep trouble, I searched for the Lord. All night long I prayed, with hands lifted toward heaven, but my soul was not comforted. I think of God, and I moan, overwhelmed with longing for his help”

And rather than shy away from difficult and painful topics, the Old Testament includes vivid descriptions of murder, cannibalism, witchcraft, dismemberment, torture, rape, idolatry, erotic sex and animal sacrifice. According to Paul, those stories were written as examples and warnings for us 1 Corinthians 10:11(HCSB)11 Now these things happened to them as examples, and they were written as a warning to us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.. So obviously they were meant to be retold without editing out all the things we don’t consider nice or agreeable.

What about Ezekiel 16(which says Whore in almost every verse), God compared Israel’s rebellion using bold, provocative and sexual language that would make our grandmothers blush.

I believe that Scripture includes such graphic material to show how far we, as a race, have fallen and how far God was willing to come to rescue us from ourselves.

God is much more interested in honesty than pietism(sanctimonious, hypocritical, insincere, self-righteous, holier-than-thou,churchy;goody-goody)

And that’s what he gives us throughout Scripture, telling the stories of people who struggled with the same issues, questions and temptations we face today.

Peter struggled with doubt, and we hear all about it.

Elijah dealt with depression; Naomi raged with bitterness against God; Hannah struggled for years under the burden of her unanswered prayers.

David had an affair and then arranged to have his lover’s husband killed. Noah was a drunk, Abraham a liar, Moses a murderer. Job came to a place where he found it necessary to make a covenant with his eyes not to lust after young girls Job 31:1(HCSB)I have made a covenant with my eyes.How then could I look at a young woman?

It’s easy to make “Bible heroes” (as we Protestants might say) or “saints” (as Catholics might refer to them) out to be bigger than life, immune from the temptations that everyone faces.

I find it encouraging that Jesus never came across as pietistic. In fact, he was never accused of being too religious; instead he was with sinners so much that he was accused of being a drunkard and a glutton

Matthew 11:19(HCSB)The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds..

Jesus never said, “The Kingdom of God is like a church service that goes on and on forever and never ends.” He said the kingdom was like a homecoming celebration, a wedding, a party, a feast to which all are invited. But you must take off your garments and put on the wedding outfits.

This idea was too radical for the religious leaders of his day. They were more concerned about etiquette, manners, traditions and religious rituals than about learning from and hanging out with Jesus. And that’s why they missed out.

That’s why we miss out.

Mark 7:1-7(HCSB)The Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Him. They observed that some of His disciples were eating their bread with unclean—that is, unwashed—hands. (For the Pharisees, in fact all the Jews, will not eat unless they wash their hands ritually, keeping the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they have washed. And there are many other customs they have received and keep, like the washing of cups, jugs, copper utensils, and dining couches.) Then the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, “Why don’t Your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders, instead of eating bread with ritually unclean hands?”

He answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: These people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.7 They worship Me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commands of men.

They had God in the flesh but could not see Him through their religious eyes, because He didn’t come looking and acting like THEY though He should.

No Repentance Required

If we want to be relevant, if we want to be effective, we must preach the cross, the blood, repentance and sacrifice. We must preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

What ever happened to these words of Paul that echo through the corridors of time? 1 Corinthians 9:16(HCSB)For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason to boast, because an obligation is placed on me. And woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!. And how about, (1 Corinthians 2:2(HCSB) For I didn’t think it was a good idea to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

When Paul spoke of lusts, he was referring to anything people set their hearts on outside of Christ. Such people seek teaching that will gratify their carnal desires. They want leaders to deal gently with their evil ways. They want tolerance. They cry, “It’s not really sin. All I did was make a mistake. I just slipped up a little bit. Don’t tell me to repent. Don’t make me come to an altar. Just gimme some sugar, Pastor. Gimme some sugar.” We are called to be the Salt of the earth not the sugar of the earth.

Matthew 5:13(HCSB)13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

Today’s junk-filled jargon, all in the name of Jesus, reminds us of the trouble in Isaiah’s day when the people said, Isaiah 30:9-11(HCSB)They are a rebellious people,deceptive children,children who do not want to obey the Lord’s instruction.10 They say to the seers, “Do not see,”and to the prophets,“Do not prophesy the truth to us.Tell us flattering things.Prophesy illusions.11 

Get out of the way!Leave the pathway.Rid us of the Holy One of Israel.

Paul said, 2 Timothy 4:3(HCSB) For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new.

The people are going after these teachers and bringing them together. They’re gathering all the prophets, the teachers and the lukewarm pastors together. They’re reading the same materials and agreeing with one another. Why? Because they want a message that’s not offensive.

What is happening? We’re allowing the people to decide what to eat for their spiritual dinner. Rather than toiling to prepare some fresh bread from heaven and offering them a clean, cool cup of water from God’s fountain, we are letting their desires determine the meals we serve. What parent would allow their children to decide the evening’s menu? Their plates would be full of cookies, cake and candy!

I believe the devil’s favorite time of the week here in America is Sunday morning. I don’t think he minds seeing people go to church. In fact, I think he wants to get as many people to church as possible because he knows they’ll hear a sugar-coated, lukewarm, “relevant” message.

They’ll go to a 50-minute service in which the sermon is barely 20 minutes long. They have a “religious itch,” and the pastor will scratch it by saying, “You’re fine. Everything’s wonderful. Everything’s OK.” Then they’ll walk out feeling good about themselves. All the while, they’re living in sin and thinking nothing of it.

The people are never confronted—never challenged with a heart-to-heart, riveting message spoken in love that can change their lives. Rather, they receive some hollow message on how to cope, when 90 percent of their problems come from their sinful lifestyles.

2 Corinthians 2:17(HCSB)17 For we are not like the many who market God’s message for profit. On the contrary, we speak with sincerity in Christ, as from God and before God.

This verse contains a figure of speech known as a Simile.  Figures of speech are the Holy Spirit’s markings of what is most important in His Word.  This verse says more than most believers realize.  What does it mean to ‘water down’ the Word of God?  In place of ‘water down’, I decided to use the term ‘sugar-coat’.  The intended purpose of both is the same.

The verse tells us clearly that many, not a few, water down the Word of God – they corrupt it.  They add a word, delete a word – whatever they can do to attempt to support their religious beliefs and doctrines.  This is a serious problem because it amounts to people who are guessing at the meaning of God’s Word which God calls “private interpretation”.  If studied enough, a faithful believer will see that the Word of God interprets itself.  God strictly forbids guesswork, but don’t take my word for it.

2 Peter 1:20(HCSB) First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation,

The two words One’s Own deserves some study.  A closer look reveals that this word in its Greek form is the word ‘idios’  and it means ONE’S OWN.  The Scriptures are not open to one’s own interpretation.  We get our English word ‘idiot’ from this Greek word idios.

I would like to use some very simple, clear, and possibly unexpected examples of what it means to water down God’s Word.  By watering down the Word, the adversary, the god of this present world, the devil, often makes an attempt to make himself appear less evil than he is in reality.  My first example is so simple, it may appear harmless and, to some, even a bit humorous.  But that is just what Satan wants you to think.  Then he has you where he wants you and can subtly control your thinking, and in turn, your actions.  Then he will do only what he can do and that is to steal, kill, or destroy.  So let’s get it right because the rightly divided Word of God is the only thing that defeats the enemy and isn’t that what you want – to stop being defeated and to start being more than a conqueror like the Word of God says you should be?  So don’t let the simplicity of any example make you believe the opposite of it’s true purpose.  If you do, you will open your mind to the enemy’s destructive tricks and he is a master at trickery and deception.

Satan waters down and sugar coats the Word of God and we drink and eat it every day – with implications that can be deadly.

How do you not water down the Word of God? The answer to this question is very simple as is everything with the true God.  You must be familiar with it which means you must study it diligently.

2 Timothy 2:15 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth. 

It takes study, time and practice to correctly teach the Word of God.

1 John 2: 17(HCSB)17 And the world with its lust is passing away, but the one who does God’s will remains forever.

Many Christians think that all they need to do is to read the Word of God.  But it must be PRACTICED.  You must work at it and actually it is very exciting.  Think of it as a treasure hunt.  The deeper you dig, the greater the treasure.  The more you renew your mind, the greater power you have in your spiritual walk.

Romans 12:1-2(HCSB)Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

You must renew your mind to walk with the power of God

There is one main Scripture that stresses a major principle regarding evil and its origin.  And time and time again, you will hear people misinterpret this principle by omitting only one word.  And this is just what the enemy wants you to do – omit, add or change a word of what’s written in the Bible.  Then you no longer have the Word of God, but you have what is referred to as one’s own (IDIOT) interpretation – guesswork.

Although we went over this verse before, it is a fact that we learn by repetition, so let’s read it again.

2 Peter 1:20(HCSB)20 First of all, you should know this: No prophecy of Scripture comes from (IDIOS)one’s own interpretation,

People always talk about money being the root of all evil.  This is not a correct statement according to the Word of God and its accuracy.  This is how the enemy sugar-coats the Word.  Actually, there is nothing wrong with money unless a certain emotion is attached to this subject.  That emotion is love.  Let us go to the Word of God and see what is says about the subject of money.

1 Timothy 6:10(HCSB)For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and by craving it, some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

It IS NOT money that is the root of all evil, but the LOVE OF MONEY that is the root of all evil.  That’s a big difference from the first erroneous statement.  Satan sugar-coats the Word and makes everyone feel that if they have money, they are subject to evil in some form.  But that is not true.

This is how major misinterpretations occur and then when practiced long enough, they can become doctrine.

So remember, if you are too busy to study God’s Word, it’s not that you are too busy, it is because it is not a priority to you. You need to make it priority. Until something becomes a priority we usually don’t make time for it.  God will reward you greatly for the efforts when you dig for His treasures.  Then you will not corrupt the Word of God and you will eventually see that the Word of God interprets itself – in the verse, in the context or where it was used before.  People sugar-coat fattening foods that have no nutritional value.  Let God strengthen you and keep you strong spiritually with the rightly divided Word of God which will bring you the more than abundant life.

John 10:10(HCSB)10 A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I (Jesus)have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.

The best way to stop sugarcoating the Bible is to actually read it for yourself and discover what you haven’t seen before.

I don’t believe we’ll ever recognize our need for the light until we’ve seen the depth of the darkness. So God wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with us about life, temptation,forgiveness and grace.

Only when the Bible seems relevant to us (which it is), only when the characters seem real to us (which they were), only then will the message of redemption become personal for us (which it was always meant to be).

We don’t need to edit God. We need to let him be the author of our new lives.

When we are born into this world today, we still share this original sin.  That is why it is so important to be born again of God’s Spirit.  We are born as body and soul people.  When we become born again, we become body, soul and spirit.  To acquire eternal life we must confess Jesus Christ as Lord in our life and believe that God raised him from the dead.

Romans 10:9-10(HCSB)If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.

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