A Different Gospel

(The Gospel Gap-2 Peter 1:3-9. Sermon at West Loop on 11/8/2015 by Rhoel Lomahan.) There are many "different gospels" that Christians may mistake as "the gospel." Here are a few of them:

Formalism. Formalism is blind to the seriousness of my spiritual condition and my constant need for God's grace to rescue me. It is replaced by church activities, meetings, conferences and gatherings. There is nothing wrong with participation simply as one healthy aspect of a good life. The gospel is reduced to participation in the meetings and ministries of the church. One friend told me a told me he was a slave of formalism. Whenever his members didn't attend a meeting, he didn't ask how they were doing, but rather he would say in an angry tone, "Why did you miss the meeting?"

Legalism. We Christians might have "rules" for everything: I must read 10 chapters per day, I must go to church, etc. Again there is nothing wrong with these disciplines. Legalism is not just a reduction of the gospel, it is another gospel altogether, where salvation is earned by keeping the rules we have established for ourselves and others. An insidious result of legalism is that you evaluate others based on your own standard. We can easily crush others under the weight of our legalism.

Biblicism. It is good to love and dedicate your life studying the word of God. You can study the word like a surgeon. But the danger is using the theological scalpel on others. Biblicism can drive you to become proud, critical, condescending and intolerant of anyone who lacks your "superb and superior," "excellent and exemplary" fine-grained understanding of the Bible.

Activism. The gospel is reduced to participation in Christian causes. Christianity becomes nothing more a defense of what's right rather than a joyful pursuit of Christ. You begin to see "us" and "them." Your energies are focused more on external evils rather than the evil that plagues one's own heart. As a result, it can take on the form of a modern monasticism. The monastics essentially said, "There is an evil world out there, and the way to fight evil is to separate from it." But monasteries failed because they forgot to focus on the evil inside every monk who entered their walls!