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The Gospel of ME
By David A. DePra
The latest trend, over the last twenty years, is for the church to preach the gospel of ME. And it WORKS – if what you want are mega churches and tons of money. Everyone is interested in themselves. And the gospel of ME gives them what they want.
The gospel of ME is a message which promises that God wants to make YOU into the best person you can possibly be. He wants to solve your problems, bless you with health and finances, bolster your self-esteem, and take everything you are and make you into a person who looks and acts just like Jesus. In short, The Gospel of Me offers you what you want. And it offers a God, and a Savior, who promises to give it to you.
This sounds great, doesn’t it? And after all, doesn’t God love us? Surely then, He would want what makes us happy. Surely then, God would affirm us, and require nothing – no change, no suffering, and no conviction of sin – along the way.
Not only does that SOUND good to most Christians, but it is representative of a trend that is literally sweeping through the Body of Christ. Here is only one of thousands of quotes on the matter, taken from one of today’s best-selling Christian books:
Youonly bring God enjoyment by being you. Anytime you reject any part of yourself, you are rejecting God’s wisdom and sovereignty in creating you. (The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, p. 75)
What does he mean by, "being you?" If he means that we should do as we please, or whatever comes natural, and offer no apology for it, and expect God to affirm it, then this teaching is terrible error. If He is talking about surrendering yourself to Christ, well, that would be another thing. But read again those words. Does it sound as if he is telling us to surrender to Christ, or does it sound as if he is saying that God accepts us just as we are – without any intention of changing us? Indeed, it does sound like that is what he is saying.
If you read teachings like this one, the consistent theme, is that you and I ought to stop wanting to change, and start accepting ourselves as we are. In other words, our big problem is not that we are sinners in need of deliverance, or Christians who are in unbelief. No. Rather, it is that we don’t accept ourselves. The solution is therefore to begin legitimizing, affirming, and accepting ourselves – all under the presumption that this is what God is doing.
The Way GOD Made Us?
The statement that God has created you the way you are is especially damaging. Ask: Did God create you in Adam? Did HE do that? If He did, then God created a spiritually dead human being, with no capacity for Truth. In effect, God said, "I am going to create this person with a sin nature, and everything that goes with it." Did God do that? Did He build into you all of your faults and sins and weaknesses – such that you should now not reject any part of yourself? Such that you have no need to come to Christ in repentance for deliverance?
Can anyone see what is going on here? This is a teaching which eventually legitimizes us, and removes the need for repentance and the new birth. You will never hear that taught, mind you, in fact, these teachings will always talk about the new birth. But the Cross? Well, most of the time it’s a doctrine – not a dynamic under which we must come.
In reality, God did NOT create you in Adam. This doesn’t mean that He didn’t know you before you were born, or have a plan and purpose for you. It doesn’t mean that there is not a new person in Christ Jesus that God wants you to become. But God didn’t make you the way you are. Rather, you got born into this world IN ADAM – and became what you are through upbringing and moral choices. And none of it can turn out good. There is nothing good about us in Adam. There is simply no material to work with. That is why there is only one solution God offers for Adam: The Cross.
Yes, God loves us in Adam – totally. While are YET sinners, Christ died for us. But that is the point. The fact that God loves us in Adam mandates that He reject what we are in Adam! Why? Because we are dead in Adam, and in bondage to sin and self. Thus, God loves us by rejecting what we are in Adam – by providing full deliverance from Adam.
If God were to say to us, "I love you so much, that even in Adam, I affirm what you are, and simply want to bring out the best in you," it would NOT be love. Our failure to see this betrays our lack of conviction of sin and need for Christ. God cannot tell us that He accepts us the way we are – unto the end that He LEAVE US there. No. God accepts us the way we are in the sense that He opens the door to Christ even while we are yet in sin. But all of it is unto the end that we might come OUT of what we are TO Christ.
For instance, homosexuality is sin. But God does not shut the door to Christ on a person who is a homosexual. But neither does He say, "I made you this way. I accept this and affirm it. Let’s celebrate it." No. He says, "I accept you in the sense that I offer you freedom through my Son – to the disregard of your sin." This is the case with ANY sin. God never accepts sin. He never affirms sin. He never affirms anything about Adam! But because God is love He made a way out of Adam to Christ for each and every sinner.
This Truth is verified by the fact that if a sinner does see the way out of Adam through Christ, and over a lifetime, rejects it, he is condemned. God offers deliverance, not affirmation, for the sinner. That is love. God won’t help us destroy ourselves by affirming our sin, but gave Himself for our deliverance. Thus, if you reject the deliverance, what are we to say, that God loves you so much that you are nevertheless saved? No. In that case, God loves you so much that He must condemn you. He must give you your choice. There isn’t any other way morality, justice, and holiness can be real.
Now, can we see that ALL OF THIS is completely impossible – it is impossible for a sinner to see his condition and come to Christ – if that sinner is told that he simply needs to accept himself the way he is? Can we see that this is, in fact, that lie of the enemy? The very foundation of the gospel is that we all need deliverance from sin. The Gospel of Me, however, suggests that all we need to do is stop thinking of ourselves as sinners.
A False Teaching
I am not suggesting that those who teach this false gospel are doing so to deliberately try to deceive. But I am suggesting that they do not understand the gospel. They can’t understand it. Because if they did, they would not be teaching what they teach. It is NOT the gospel found in the Bible, and it helps NO ONE find reality and Truth in Christ.
Until we come to the place where we realize that there is nothing about us that is acceptable to God – in Adam – we will not repent and find life in Christ. Instead, we will remain comfortable with ourselves – and worse, we will have these teachings to help us. But in truth, the only way to find completion in Christ is to first renounce and repent of everything we have done, and everything we are, in Adam. The Gospel of Me, while occasionally giving an obligatory assent to this Truth, smears it over with it’s emphasis on God bringing out the best in US.
So you see, God wants to give us Himself. He wants to complete us and bring us into the fullness of His plan and purpose. But He cannot build us up in Christ, unless there is a concurrent tearing down of Adam. He cannot. And He will not. And any other teaching is error.
Let’s get something straight: "The Gospel of Me," is nothing more than a denial of the Cross of Jesus Christ. I didn’t say it was a denial of the doctrine. No. Everyone believes the doctrine. But it is the denial of the reality and the personal application. And as such, The Gospel of Me is, "another gospel." Indeed, any teaching which denies, neglects, waters-down, or makes the Cross less than central is of SATAN HIMSELF.
I recognize that all of this sounds negative, especially over and against, "The Gospel of Me," which sounds so positive. But Satan is, after all, an angel of light. And in the end, there is nothing new about, "The Gospel of Me." Satan’s goal has always been to get us to legitimize a reason to neglect the Cross, all in the name of God’s love for us! This was His temptation of Jesus in the wilderness! "You don’t need to go to the Cross, Jesus, you can have all that God wants without it. Just worship ME." The enemy seeks to get us comfortable with ourselves aside from Christ, all the while celebrating Him as a Bible character. It is another way of exalting man, but giving God credit for it.
The gospel – the true good news – is initially negative. To the old man. That’s why there is such a thing as, "the offense of the Cross." You must come to terms with not only your SIN, but your SELF. God does not accept you in Adam, and embrace you just as you are. No. In Adam, God pronounces the death sentence upon you. But the good news is that you are free to bring all that you are to the Cross and be delivered from sin and self. Then, God accepts you, and raises you in Christ. But not because of you. Because of Christ.
This is the only way to true wholeness and spiritual health. You have to – not accept the old – but be delivered from it. God offers us no other solution – but His solution is total and final.
Of course, when people say, "You should accept yourself because God accepts you," it sounds so good. It also tends to lift off of us our self-imposed guilt and condemnation. So people buy into it. But the fact is, you should reject yourself where God rejects you – in Adam -- and only accept yourself on the grounds He accepts you – in Jesus Christ.
We must see this: God accepts us for no other reason than Jesus Christ. But that is not bad news – it is good news. For God accepts Jesus totally.
If anyone still doubts the Truth about this, read the New Testament. You will not find ONE verse which so much as suggests that God affirms, accepts, or lauds anything about us – other than His acceptance of us because of Jesus Christ. You will not find one hint that God’s love and redemption keeps us as we are. You will not find a scrap of a notion to the effect that even after we are saved, that God’s goal is to get us to love ourselves, accept ourselves, or to be tied up with ourselves. No. It is all about Christ.
To most people, high self-esteem means that we accept ourselves and feel good about ourselves. On the other hand, low self-esteem means that we reject ourselves and feel bad about ourselves. The goal is therefore high self-esteem. It makes for a happier, healthier person, and really, would solve (we assume) many people’s problems.
There are those today who teach that God’s goal for us is that we develop a high self-esteem. They figure that if God loves us, then we ought to love ourselves – and that will translate into high self-esteem. Thus, to achieve this, tell people that they should never reject anything about themselves, because God doesn’t. Tell them that they need to accept and love everything about themselves.
The trouble with this psycho-babble, and that is what it is to God, is that none of us of lack self-love. Our problem is not a lack of self-love -- it is too much self-love. Now, before you doubt this, let’s read what the Bible says about the subject:
For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord the church: (Eph. 5:29)
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Matt. 19:19)
Paul openly states that no one hates himself – but loves himself. And Jesus commands us to love others as we do ourselves – which is predicated on the knowledge that everyone loves themselves! But if this is true, then what exactly is LOW self-esteem? Isn’t it self-hate, or a lack of self-love?
Nope. If you will notice something about high self-esteem and low self-esteem, they both have one word in common: SELF. This is not without meaning. High self-esteem is self-love satisfied. Low self-esteem is self-love frustrated. Both are based in self-love. Totally. It’s just that folks with low self-esteem can’t seem to meet their own expectations. Those with high self-esteem do. But the problem with both of these is the SAME: Self-love. Man in Adam is totally cursed with it.
Human thinking gravitates really between high and low self-esteem. But what God offers is something OTHER THAN, and totally OUTSIDE OF those possibilities. It is a possibility which no person can provide or even see on his own. God offers CHRIST-esteem.
Christ-esteem is a product of knowing Jesus Christ. But rather than lead us into a self-approval, Christ-esteem leads us to leave ourselves alone. Rather than get us to accept ourselves, Christ-esteem leads us to embrace HIM. Rather than affirm our sins and faults, Christ-esteem is a focus on the fact that we are both forgiven for them, and in the process of being delivered from them.
Can we see the difference here? God is seeking, through Christ, to get us to repent of our old life, and to be so caught up in Christ, that we are able to leave ourselves with Him. The Gospel of Me, on the other hand, suggests that the whole goal of God is to get us to affirm, love, and accept ourselves, exactly as we are.
The problem with human beings is not low self-esteem. The problem is that without Christ we are dead. We need life – His life in us.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a message that ought to bring us to the place of total helplessness and need – at first. If I don’t see I’m a sinner, I will never repent, or see the need for a Savior. Oh, I might say I believe the doctrines which state those Truths – everyone believes those! But there is a huge difference between believing the doctrine which says I ought to repent, and actually being brought to repentance. I must be exposed for what I am before God in order to be converted! And what I am going to be exposed as will NOT be pretty, comfortable, or enjoyable.
But you see, this is, is it not, the offense of the Cross? It is exactly why, in this Satanic climate of a politically correct world, preaching the Cross is considered a negative message. It is why a minister who preaches the Cross is not popular, and why a church which preaches it is not successful. People don’t want to be told they are sinners. They would rather be lied to, and remain comfortable.
Today if you preach a message which makes people feel good about themselves, you will fill your church. If you tell people that they really aren’t all that needy, they will flock to your church. Preach about all the things which Jesus wants to do for them, and require NO repentance, and everyone will be interested. Preach a, "seeker sensitive," message – which is nothing more than saying what people want to hear, and you will build a mega church. But in the end, you will not be preaching the Truth.
I do realize that one of the reasons this is so is because so many have preached the Cross from a wrong spirit – one of condemnation. Their message has been self-righteous and threatening. They have preached, "Believe in Jesus, or else!!!" This isn’t the gospel. God doesn’t say, "Admit you are a dirty rotten sinner, and live in the depression of that for the rest of your life, and believe in Jesus, or I will send you to hell!!!" No. What God does say is, "You are already in hell and on your way to eternal hell. Jesus came to give you life. Now, repent of what you have been towards God and embrace Him."
One of the fundamental problems with human beings is that they are filled with guilt and condemnation. There are some exceptions. But most people, especially Christians, live under a continual sense of NOT being accepted by God. Thus, if you preach, "The Gospel of Me," you are going to provide them with a way to lift off of themselves all of that condemnation. It will FEEL GOOD. They may think they are free. But it is a lie. The solution here is not to get people to accept themselves. It is to get them to come to Christ.
People are filled with condemnation, not because they lack self-acceptance, but because they do not believe God. God DOES offer us salvation, regardless of our condition, or sin. But His salvation does not sort of kick in once you are able to accept yourself. It kicks in once you realize that God accepts you, not because of yourself, but because of Jesus Christ.
In the final analysis, we will never learn to accept ourselves until we admit we are totally unacceptable to God – but that He accepts us in Christ. Then we will accept ourselves on the SAME TERMS as God accepts us – because of His Son.
When I present myself to God, do I have confidence before Him because I’ve accepted myself? No. When I present myself to God, I refer to Christ. I say, "All I have to stand before You, Lord, is Your Son." Isn’t that enough?
If to me, self-love means that I accept sin and legitimize it, then my self-love is not God’s love. The only healthy self-love is one wherein I love myself with the same love that God loves me – wherein I view myself through the eyes of God. And God always loves by making us holy – not by settling for what we are in Adam.
There is a new Bible, "translation," out – it really isn’t an accurate translation – called, "The Message." The thrust of the work is not Jesus Christ, but ME. One quote will suffice:
God’s wisdom…goes deep into the interior of His purposes…it’s not the latest message, but more like the oldest – what God determined as the way to bring out the best in us. (I Cor. 2:7, The Message)
Here is the KJV:
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Cor 2:7-8)
I am not a, "KJV only," person. But does anyone see the slightest resemblance between what the KJV Bible actually says in this passage, and what, "The Message," translates? Read again the translation by, "The Message." Then read the Bible. Do you see any mention at all in that verse about God wanting, "to bring out the BEST IN US?"
The translation of this verse in The Message is a good representation of The Gospel of Me which permeates it, and so many of today’s books. It all about ME – about God, "bringing out the best in ME," about legitimizing ME. All in the name of God’s love and acceptance, of course.
Some folks who have bought into this type of thinking would try to say that, "God bringing out the best in me," is nothing more than spiritual growth. But this is error. That is NOT what spiritual growth is at all.
Spiritual Growth is not God bringing out the best in me. Rather, spiritual growth is God bringing out the life of CHRIST through me. And in order to bring out the life of Christ through me, God has to get me out of the way. Thus, we are back to the work of the Cross.
Not the words of the apostle Paul:
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)
Notice especially the word, "Yet NOT I, but CHRIST." Not I, but Christ. That just about says it all. Paul is revealing here a Truth which it seems that few people have seen. That Truth is this: Come to the Cross, and surrender yourself into the hands of God – and in the end, feeling good about yourself won’t even be an issue. You will leave yourself alone. You won’t be bouncing back and forth about yourself. You will be too caught up IN HIM. This is not maybe. It is not a dream. It is the WAY IT IS – it is the reality of coming into a knowledge of Jesus.
The knowledge of Jesus Christ is that which carries us outside of ourselves. Once we know Jesus Christ, the result isn’t going to be that we finally accept self, or reject self. The result will be that we will leave ourselves alone – to Him. The whole issue of self-esteem won’t even be in our thinking. HE WILL BE.
There is no GOSPEL OF ME. There is only the gospel of Jesus Christ. And it hasn’t changed for two thousand years. We are all still born in Adam, and need new life in Jesus Christ.
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