GOSPEL OF CONVENIENCE
By: Bodť Adeboyejo
ďThis is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.Ē 1 Timothy 1:15
On a weekend outing with my wife, several Saturdays ago, she pointed out to me a group of young men dressed in black suits, white shirts and black ties going up an alley. She told me that they were Mormons, and that she was used to seeing other young men, similarly dressed, usually in pairs in some of the roughest neighborhoods, sharing their faith. Just like the Jehovahís Witnesses do.
For a minute I pondered over what she said and asked her, rather rhetorically, ďWhy is it that itís the cults (the Mormons, the Jehovahís Witnesses) that are going about trying to make disciples of their faith? Why are they the ones trying to imitate Christ and carry out His mandate of, going out into the world, making disciples of all nations? Why are the cults the ones not ashamed of their gospel, even though itís not the power unto salvation? Why is it that they are the ones teaching and training their members to go out on the streets and witness? Where are the Christians? Where are we who profess to be lovers of God, and joint-heirs with Christ? Where are we, who profess to know and have the Truth? Why are we not going about making disciples of all nations?
Iíll tell you why? Itís because most Christian churches are not teaching and training new and old converts alike about discipleship, and how to make disciples of others. Itís because the focus of the Church is so far removed from the focus of Jesus Christ. Itís because the Church of today is busy looking at Godís hands, looking for what they can get from Him, and not what they can do for Him. Itís because the Church today has left tending spiritual things to mind irrelevant, mundane and perishable things like prosperity. Theyíve set their affections on earthly things, and not on the things above (heavenly things), like Paul admonished the Colossians (Colossians 3:2).
Itís because the Church of today is packaging Christianity as a gospel of convenience. A gospel of ease, where once a person gives his life to Christ, heís done his part, and all he has to do is sit back and relax while he watches God bless him abundantly. After all itís easier to get people to join a church telling them what they will get from God rather than telling them what theyíll do for God, once they give their lives to Christ.
So, while the cults are busy teaching discipleship to their members, the self-professed churches of Christ are busy teaching on prosperity, divine healing, faith, gift of tongues, etc. While the cults are busy working and walking the neighborhoods, the self-professed churches of Christ are busy organizing crusades and raising money to build mega churches or busy begging for money on TV and radio.
Consequently, while members of those cults hardly, if ever, talk about prosperity or getting rich, the primary concern of the average Christian is about God blessing him or her with a nice car, bigger house, a husband or wife, etc. As if God cares about what kind of car we drive. Or the kind of house we live in or the kinds of clothes we wear. God doesnít care and doesnít want us caring about perishable things like riches, which was why He told us not to lay up treasures on this earth.
So if God does not care about riches the way we do, and is only concerned about seeking and saving the Lost, why are most churches not emphasizing discipleship, and teaching their members how to be the Lordís disciples? Iíll tell you why. Itís because the gospel of discipleship does not pack out auditoriums or stadiums, like the gospel of prosperity or divine healing. Telling people to pick up their cross and follow Christ doesnít sound as good as telling them to ďname it and claim it,Ē or ďconfess it and possess it.Ē
What does the Bible Teach?
Hearing some preachers preach on prosperity, divine healing, or faith, youíd think thatís why Jesus came to the earth or what salvation is all about. Instead Jesus taught and warned us against loving riches more than He did about us having it. He said, ďDo not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Ē (Matthew 6:19-21)
Jesus did not come to the earth, lived, died and was resurrected so that we might be rich. He said, ďI have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.Ē (John 10:10.) That is eternal life! Therefore, all through the teachings of Jesus or the early Disciples, never once did anyone preach on prosperity or healing. In fact Jesus or the Apostles rarely talked about money. And where they did, it was often in reference to meeting other peopleís needs, not about them being rich.
Even with divine healing, they didnít heal people to make a public show of them, much less make a ministry out of it. They healed because they had compassion on the people not because they wanted attention called to them, which was often why Jesus in particular would tell those He healed not to tell anyone. The exception was in the case of the lepers, because the Law required that lepers showed themselves to a priest when healed before they could be readmitted into the society. (Leviticus 14:2)
Thatís why throughout the life of Jesus or the Apostles, their primary concern was spreading the gospel, seeking and saving the Lost. And in the course of doing that, if they saw people that needed healing they healed them. And where the Bible mentioned faith, it wasnít from the point of using it to get natural things like houses, cars, etc., naming it and claiming it. Rather, faith was often used as it relates to having faith in Christ or having the faith of Christ.
Now, let me say that the leadership of the Christian Church today should not take all the blame for the state that the Church is in, or for not teaching its membership discipleship and how to disciple others. We the members should share in the blame too. The fact that we have not been taught about discipleship and how to win souls for the Lord does not mean that we could not have taught ourselves. After all, we have the Bible as our guide. Studying the life of Jesus and the Apostles, in the Gospels and Book of Acts, gives us an idea of how to witness and disciple others.
I realize that thatís not enough. We also need the boldness to share the gospel. And boldness only comes when we are fully persuaded of what we believe. This makes one to ask, ďAre we really persuaded about Christ and the gospel?Ē Or better yet, are we truly filled with the Holy Spirit? Because Jesus said in Acts 1:8, ďBut you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
To know how to disciple others, we must first learn to be disciples. A friend, who grew up in a Jehovahís Witness family, told me that the Jehovahís Witnesses are successful at indoctrinating their members through isolation, i.e. spiritual isolation, where the members are strongly discouraged (and often warned) from reading other materials except for the Watch Tower publications, their Bible (The New World Translation Bible), etc. And if they are caught reading other materials, they are often disciplined or excommunicated from the church.
Isnít it interesting how the Devil imitates God in a perverted way!
The idea of isolation is not new. Itís what the Bible teaches. Itís what God wants of us. He wants us to isolate ourselves unto Him, learning of Him through His Word. That is, knowing nothing else except ďJesus Christ, and Him crucified.Ē God wants us separated unto Him where He can have our undivided attention. Moses separated himself to God, and spent time alone with Him, 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 34:28). Jesus at the beginning of his Ministry also separated Himself to the Lord when He was in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights, fasting and praying.
Jesus had His disciples around him for 3Ĺ years, keeping them close to Him and teaching them daily. Besides, when God called Paul to preach the gospel, he said that he conferred with nobody, but for 3 years isolated himself with God, in Arabia, allowing the Holy Spirit to teach him (Galatians 1:15-17). Thatís why he said he didnít receive his gospel from anybody nor was taught by anybody but Christ. (Galatians 1:11-12) Likewise we are to ďisolateĒ or ďseparateĒ ourselves unto Christ, learning the Bible, rightly dividing the Word of truth.
Fellow Believers, let it be known unto you that Christianity is not a gospel of convenience. At least not in the sense the Church is portraying it today. Itís not a do-nothing gospel. It is a do-something gospel. It is a gospel of reconciliation! Itís nice that we volunteer in ministries; sing in the choir or serve on the usher board or even write about discipleship or seeking and saving the Lost. But the greatest and the most important work we can do as Christians for Christ is seeking and saving the Lost. After all is said and done, thatís what our quality of life will be measured by!
Thatís why we all have been given the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, just as God through Christ has reconciled us unto Himself, we ought to reconcile others. So, in the spirit of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ, letís "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.Ē (Mark 16:15) Starting from our households (Jerusalem), our friends and neighbors (Judea), our co-workers (Samaria) and everybody we encounter in our sphere of influence (the outer most parts of the world).
Now, donít confuse working for Christ with being justified or made righteous. Our salvation is not based on works, i.e., what we do or donít do for Christ. That is, we are not justified by works but by grace, lest anyone should boast. Our righteousness is based on the righteousness of Christ through faith in Him. So, unlike the cults that base their righteousness or salvation on works, we work because we cannot help it, ďFor we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Ē (Ephesians 2:10) Amen!