The Test of your Gospel

I once heard a preacher say that “80 to 90% of Christians are unacquainted with the gospel of grace.” I guess this estimate is not far off the mark as evidenced by the large numbers of believers who are still trying to earn what God has freely given them. If you were to ask these people about grace they would declare, “yes, I am saved by grace! I thank God for His grace!” But by their works they testify that God’s grace is not enough. Grace may have got them started, but now it’s up to them to finish. Having begun with the Spirit they are now trying to attain their goal by human effort (Gal 3:3). Instead of working out what it means to be saved, they are working hard to stay saved.

How does this happen? Usually someone tells them that God won’t accept them or bless them or be pleased with them unless they perform for Jesus. Dead religious works are sold with respectable labels like “responsibility,” “good works,” “mission,” “sowing,” and “investing.” I am not against these things! What I am opposed to is the diabolical lie that says God’s favor depends on me doing them.

Do you know that you are saved by grace and kept by grace?

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.” (Col 2:6)

How did you receive Him? By faith. How should you continue to live in Him? By faith! It’s faith in God’s grace from start to finish. Are you living by the faith of the Son of God? Or have you taken out a little works insurance? As Watchman Nee put it, the choice is between trying and trusting. You can try or you can trust but you can’t do both. Are you a tryer or a truster?

I have proclaimed the true gospel elsewhere. I have also listed some of the common ways the gospel is perverted along with some signs that you might be living under self-imposed law. What I want to give you here is a simple test to help you determine whether the gospel message you’re trusting in is the same gospel that Jesus revealed and Paul preached. It’s a simple test. Just ask yourself the following four questions. If your answers are all yes, then rejoice, for you are living on pure, undiluted grace!

1.    Does this gospel cause me to fix my eyes exclusively on Jesus?

Does this message focus on me or does it cause me to fix my eyes on the Author and Finisher of my faith? Does it emphasize what I’m doing (or not doing), or does it emphasize His finished work on the cross? Does it make me introspective and anxious or Christ-conscious and grateful?

A true gospel preacher will always seek to reveal more and more of Jesus. It took me years to realize this. When I began preaching in the 1990s, I used to preach on the kingdom. I loved the kingdom and I still do. But I now realize that my love for the kingdom was really a love for the King. Now I just preach of this Great King who loves me and gave Himself for me. Now I just preach Jesus.

Preachers, do you need a message on healing? Then preach Jesus! Do you need a series on overcoming, giving, wisdom, holiness, faith, warfare, marriage, family life, outreach, helping the poor, deliverance, Leviticus, the Tabernacle, etc? Then preach Jesus!

Whatever your need, your answer is found in Jesus and His finished work. That’s why Paul resolved to know nothing but “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Co 2:2). Any message that doesn’t reveal Jesus will likely be powerless substitute, a flesh-trip, and a wasted opportunity. Jesus is the supreme manifestation of the character and purpose of God. Any message that diminishes Jesus, insults the Spirit of grace. Jesus is peerless and nothing compares to Him. He has become for us wisdom from God and I will boast (preach) of nothing else (1 Co 1:30-31).

2.    Does this gospel increase my dependence on Jesus?

Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Sadly, much is being done apart from Jesus and most of it will amount to nothing! Instead of healing the sick, raising the dead and driving out demons – the very things Jesus said His followers would do – we’re doing other stuff. And because we’re so busy doing other stuff we’re worn out and missing opportunities to do the works and greater works of Jesus.

Let me put your mind at rest right now: I guarantee that in your own strength you cannot heal the sick and raise the dead. Don’t even try. But Christ in you can do these and greater things! Do you trust Him? Working out your salvation with fear and trembling describes the adventure of learning to do impossible things with Jesus. Here’s the test: The true gospel will always inspire you to take risks in His Name, but a false gospel promotes activity in your own name.

3.    Does this gospel empower me to overcome sin?

There are two ways to deal with sin; (1) preach law or (2) reveal grace. A law-based message will stir up the flesh in a human-powered quest for a change in behavior. This approach is inherently flawed for the purpose of the law is to inflame sin (Rm 7:5). Thus, any “success” with this approach will only lead to the graver sins of pride, self-righteousness, and the truly fatal sin of unbelief in the grace of a good God. Ultimately the law is powerless to deal with sin because it leaves the heart untouched (Col 2:23). Worse, it releases condemnation (which some mistake for conviction) and ministers death, just as it was designed to do (2 Co 3:7,9).

Grace declares that Jesus conquered all sin on the cross (He 9:26). You are not holy because of your behavior but His (1 Co 1:30). A preacher of grace will deal very practically with sin by seeking to reveal your true identity in Christ. You are a new creation with a new nature. Your old sin software has been nailed to the cross and you are no longer sin’s slave (Rm 6:6,20). Appetites are dealt with by recognizing who you are in Christ and reckoning your old self as dead. Again, the focus is on Jesus, not you. Jesus was tempted in every way yet was without sin. As you rest in Him, you will find grace to help you in your time of need (Heb 4:15-16).

The law does not provide useful guidelines for Christian living. We turn rules into idols when we put our faith in them instead of Christ. The Bible is very clear; the law empowers sin (1 Cor 15:56) and only a revelation of God’s grace can teach us to say no to ungodliness (Tit 2:12). Here’s the test: a false gospel will keep you sin-conscious, but the true gospel will make you Christ-conscious. Which describes you? Are you sin-conscious or Christ-conscious?

4.    Does this gospel release peace and joy?

The kingdom of heaven is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rm 14:17). If the gospel you’re listening to doesn’t reveal Jesus and the gift of His righteousness, then you will never experience the peace and joy that comes with it. It really is all about Jesus. He took our sin and gave us His righteousness (2 Co 5:21). This is what the gospel reveals – a righteousness from God that is received by faith from first to last (Rm 1:17). When you know that God has made you as righteous as Jesus, you will be empowered to reign in life (Rm 5:17).

This test is actually about righteousness: Are you resting in His or are you trying to impress Him with yours? A false gospel will seek to manufacture righteousness through works and holy living. By prescribing a course of action for you to take, it will instantly fail the above three tests. It will burden you with loads you cannot carry and expectations you cannot live up to. Before you know it, you will be as stressed and joyless as Martha.

Here’s the test. If you stopped doing the things you are doing for Jesus, would you feel guilty? What if you sinned, stopped giving, or skipped church? I’m not encouraging you to do any of these things – sin is stupid. But someone who knows they are clothed with His righteousness will never battle guilt and condemnation. Even when they sin they will sense the Holy Spirit convicting them of their continued righteousness in Christ (Jn 16:10). Conversely, one who’s bought into a false gospel will never know lasting peace. Even when they’ve performed there will always be a sense of “but have I done enough?”

Paul began every one of his letters with the phrase, “Grace and peace to you from God the Father.” It is only a revelation of God’s favor that brings true peace. Know grace, know peace. Worldly peace is temporary, but the peace of God – that sense that everything is coming together for good because you belong to Jesus and His favor rests on you – passes understanding (Php 4:7). It fortifies your heart and mind so that in all circumstances you find yourself overflowing with thankfulness (Col 2:7). No matter how severe your trial, you will be able to find rest – indeed, even joy – in His mighty, loving arms (Php 4:4).

So how did your gospel do? If you honestly answered no to any of these four questions, then I have Good News for you.
___
Related posts:
- Are you religious? Take the test
- Two religions: Works and blood
- Be earnest and repent (Rev 3:19)

Comments

  1. This is a wonderful post. 1 Cor 2:2. You are so right on. Everything begins and ends with Jesus.

  2. keith blond says:

    Awesome Paul, you have outlined the true Gospel message and any person in doubt of the true message of Grace should be able to see the light.

    Unfortunately, there will still be those who oppose the message because their theology will be contradicted [especially the teachers and Ministers] and then PRIDE takes over, so these people rob themselves and even worse, a whole lot of other people whom they influence.

    That me dear friend is the sadness that grips my heart.The Church has been unwittingly fed a wrong message, most times in good faith and the congregants buy thbe message because they trust the person delivering the message. I was such a congregant, but I thank God that I have not allowed pride to ruke my life.

    I have had hot discussions with ADVENTIST – WHEN i TELL THEM THAT THE LAW is obsolete, they get cross, but I say it’s not me telling you read the BIBLE.
    Always, when I share the Gospel of Grace, there is opposition and recently a good meaning man in the USA, who loves GOD,talks about striving and reaching a higher plane and then he quotes JAMES, etc.
    NO amount of discussion from me is going to change his thinking because it is ingrained and we need to pray that people t=like thsi have a SAUL/PAUL experience.
    God bless, and thank you for the truth. keith

  3. Mark Stevenson says:

    Hey,I loved this article,so full of truth and very challenging.

  4. Tom NeSmith says:

    This is absolutely great! Attempting to better oneself (in order to make God have a better opinion of oneself) is of the flesh and ultimately full of haughtiness, pride and fake humility. It looks “good” on the outside… and may cause others to think how “godly” one is… but it’s filth and stinks as bad as rotting flesh on a hot day.

    Thank God that He has made us perfect in Him! A done deal… not to make sin in any way appealing… but to make approaching Him and even living with Him in His House something that can be a daily experience!

  5. keith blond says:

    Paul i sent your wonderful mail to many people, but as always the Grace message get’s attacked, like this gentleman, who continues to desire to STRIVE. I find this so sad.

    My dear Keith,
    I am not arguing that Grace does not save, because indeed Grace alone does save. The question that must be answered, is what is salvation? And is it exactly the same for everyone who accepts Christ as their Savior? Will the man or women who dedicates themselves to the Kingdom and who strives to be Christ like, received the same reward as the faithful slacker? Will the innocent who never heard of Christ and dies without baptism receive the same damnation as those that worship Satan. God forbid, for He is prefect in Justice and Mercy. I hope the my questions do not offend, for they are intended only provoke thought and invited deep seeking prayers, where in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him”. Many years ago, I learned the Light of Christ grows brighter with our efforts to obey and that gaining knowledge of Christ is eternal. Isaiah 28: 10 ‘ For precept must be upon precept, line up line, here a little and there a little” until our knowledge grows prefect. The man who thinks he has all knowledge and light deprives himself of greater knowledge and light. There is more knowledge and greater understanding of the wonders of our Lord available to all who open the hearts to greater enlightenment and seek it continually through searching prayer. For pure knowledge, like Grace, comes only from Christ our Lord. Lovingly, J—–

    • Tom NeSmith says:

      The topic of grace leaves people with nothing to hang on to… because it’s so not human nature! So “Grace alone does save”, but just to be sure… do this and do that and God will be extra nice. Yep… so utterly sad… and demonstrates that the person who authored that note does not understand God. On the other hand, we don’t understand Him with our brains… but with our hearts do understand… or maybe “accept” is a better word.

      Does it matter how much knowledge and light a man has? What does that mean, anyway? Giving up and letting go of our deed-driven concept of salvation is so hard to do. But, that’s the way we gain a heart understanding. Brain knowledge is actually a form of pride. Heart knowledge is a form of love.

      Keith, how did you come to your view on grace?

      -Tom

  6. I continue to run into problems with the idea of rewards. Mostly the way that is taught is indeed to reintroduce works. Any further helpful comments here?

  7. McDaniels Gyamfi says:

    Thanks so much for this blog. Last March marked my 14th year in ministry as a Pastor. Didn’t know anything about grace, I mean anything except I’m saved by grace. Something happened in my life in November of 2010 during a time of prayer in my house. I have an open vision, which is not the usual way God speaks to me. In this vision, I saw two ladies approach me and then one of the made a very profound statement that has changed my life entirely. Prior to this vision, I was doing a series dubbed “The Jesus I never knew” SO the lady told me this “You will be travelling the world (For the work of ministry) but the only thing that can change people is Grace” The moment she mentioned of Grace, I had a flash of Jesus in my spirit mind.

    I was a little bit confused and shocked to my bone because I really didn’t understand the connection between Jesus and Grace. I thank the Lord for giving me the revelation of the gospel of grace which is personified in the person of Christ. I felt being born anew on November of 2010, and changed everything about the Church to be fully centered on Christ on all of my messages. What a breakthrough for so many people in our Church understanding the gospel of grace which has the power to transform. There is not a person on this planet earth who can tell me beside Grace there is any other thing that can radically transform your life inwardly and outwardly.

  8. Thanks Paul, again and again you enrich our hearts. What is your take on this “Giving money an assignment” Which in essence is sowing a seed into the kingdom work by assigning the money to DO a specific thing for you. For instance, you want your son to be healed of incurable desease, you take $100 and put it in the offering plate as you specifically command God to move on your behalf beause of your hundred dollars……I see work and manipulation!
    Grace and Peace to you.

    • Now that’s twisted. It’s like saying God’s grace isn’t free. It’s like saying Jesus didn’t provide everything we need already (see Eph 1:3) including healing (1 Pet 2:24). It’s like saying if you plant corn you’ll raise a crop of elephants (Gen 1:25). This doctrine is anti-Christ and, as a work of the flesh, utterly fatal. I would drop-kick it back to the pit from whence it came.

      Your Father loves you. He hates sickness so much that His Son suffered as part of a coordinated plan made before time, to redeem us from all the effects of sin. How can you put a price tag on that?

      • Hi Paul, Do you believe that God through His Son redeems us from all the effects of sin in this temporal life? The reason I ask is our experience in our church. One of our pastors who has a kidney disease was forced to quit as one of our pastors due to his weakened state. He has been prayed over and anointed with oil by the elders. Although he has not been healed he says his walk with Jesus has become so much closer. His sermons always showed such a love and compassion for The Lord. Today in his weakened state he has written a book on the love of and hope in Jesus he wishes to share with others who are also struggling with sickness. In contrast a woman in our church always wanted to be healed( she had been in a wheel chair for 12 years unable to walk due to her illness) but had many doubts. One day through God’s Grace was prayed over …got up and walked and is still walking today. Would like your clarify your understanding of healing today? Thanks again!

      • If you check out the subject index, you will find every article I’ve written on the subject of healing.

      • Hi Paul,

        I read your article on healing. “Something is wrong with our receiver” when healing does not come. In my life I am so grateful that I am saved that I never placed much emphasis of healing here in this temporal life. Not to say I didn,t pray for healing for my mother who had cancer and died and prayed over her to be raised from the dead as she lay on the hospital bed but our life is so short compared to eternity.

        There are pastors who believe they have/had the gift of healing. People came to them for healing and supposedly hundreds and thousands through the grace of God were healed, however, some of these same preachers who apparently tried to teach others about receiving what was already done hand something wrong with their receiver and died due to sickness and disease.

        I know those that are sick became a lot closer to Christ in their relationship with Him and if you ask them they would not have traded. Some preachers spend too much time preaching other benefits instead of focusing on saving grace through Jesus.

        A person doesn’t have to be born again to want health or prosperity. One of the pastors we support lives in Iraq. They understand the cost of following Jesus as even some new believers were burnt alive in front of him. They understand picking up the cross daily and living for The Lord . Those people weren’t coming to The Lord for health and prosperity. They were coming for forgiveness and love.

  9. Perhaps this is elsewhere on your blog (just found it a few minutes ago, so if it is, please forgive my redundancy), but I would add one additional test:

    Is your gospel message promoting freedom?

    Many of the Bible studies I read put me back in chains–that horrible place where it’s all about what I do, and I can never, ever do enough to be successful. The freedom test is one quick test I often do (well, that and my tendency to take things to their ultimate extreme just to see where I WOULD go if I didn’t know a thing or two about grace).

  10. Excellent and accurate words,i pray for more enlightenment, favour and open doors of ministry for you in Jesus name

  11. Currently in need of a revelation.

  12. thanks for sharing this gospel of grace. I live in Nigeria and I no longer attend church services because I am sick and tired of being hammered with the law. Your blog and others like it are my only source of spiritual nourishment.the closest grace church I know is over 500km away. Thanks.

    • Kelechi i know how you feel. Ive spent years hearing law and trying to please God that i almost lost my mind. I thank God for this blog on Grace. Its what i needed but its going to take awhile for the law mindset to go but im working on it :)

      • Hi dotun and kelechi, I’m nigerian too and new to grace though iv been a christian 4 15yrs. But now I’m free to love free to worship Him who loved me 1st and gav Himself 4 me. I go to church and am careful wat I hear cos a lot of hellfire and brimestone preachers r in 9ja. This blog has been a blessing and I’m growing daily. I also got Joseph prince books and listen to Andrew wommack. Paul keep up d good work ur a blessing

  13. Looking unto CHRIST the author and finisher of our faith!

    God bless you.

  14. oh .. its so very bless message for us ..
    paul and jayson thank you for sharing to me this kind of message ..
    im very thankful because i have learn more ..

    kenjie :)

  15. There is also another test.

    “Does preaching this gospel cause me to be misunderstood as saying “Let us sin more so that Grace may abound” ?

    Because Paul was accused of saying so, and if we are not being accused of the same things, then, maybe we are not preaching the same gospel that Paul preached.

  16. How do I meet/know/believe this forgiving, loving Jesus? I don’t really understand, sadly (very sadly).

  17. Paul,
    Do you associate physical and spiritual healing together? Just curious because of the reference of Isaiah 53:5. Would you not agree that this reference is to salvation? With that said let me be clear God heals today both physically and spiritually. But you have a propensity for hermeneutics which I greatly appreciate I wanted to hear what you think about this passage. Thanks again for your heart and passion for God. It is contagious!

    • I believe Jesus’ work is a complete work. It deals with sin and all the effects of sin. So yes, I believe it provides for our healing as well. Check out the posts on healing (listed in Archives>Subject index).

  18. Great post Paul..I love that line that our “sin software has been permanently erased”. Just read this in a book you recommended “Grace Works” by Dudley Hall…”The whole purpose of the new covenant is to build up the inner person so that the believer operates first of all out of the spirit in obedience to God’s promptings. But manipulative,bewitching ministry ignores that bedrock truth and appeals instead to our untrustworthy human emotions”. ….
    It’s in Christ alone that we are completed, totally acceptable to God i.e. Christ plus nothing else!

  19. Paul began most of his letters with I, I, I. In fact, that is all he talks about. You might want to go through your checklist and compare it to Paul’s writings. In Romans he refers to himself 103 times. In 1 Corinthians, he refers to himself 175 times. In 2 Corinthians, he refers to himself 103 times. In Galatians, he refers to himself 69 times. How can you keep your eyes on Jesus when all Paul talks about is himself. Can Jesus even get a word in edgewise?

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