A Works Based Gospel is No Gospel at All

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Galatians 1:6-7

The gospel is the good news of God sending Jesus to earth to become sin so He could forgive our sin, set us free from condemnation, AND give us His righteousness in Christ (2 Cor 5:17-21). The word gospel means “good news”. The single sentence that best sums up the good news of the gospel of Christ is “that God is reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor 5:19).       

The issue Paul is addressing in Galatians 1:6-7 is the turning from a grace-based gospel to a works-based gospel. Paul’s point is that a works-based gospel is “really no gospel at all”. Our salvation is based on God’s grace and His faithfulness, not our faithfulness. Salvation is based the work of God, not our works. 

According to Paul, anyone who teaches a works-based salvation is teaching a gospel contrary to the gospel of Christ. A works-based gospel is really not good news at all. Good works cannot earn salvation or heaven or God’s approval. Grace works. Works Won’t.

According to Ephesians 2:4-10, because of God’s great love for us, He chose to offer us grace out from His deep reservoir of mercy, knowing all along we were sinners undeserving of His forgiveness and reconciliation. It is God’s grace alone that saves us, through faith. Salvation does not come through works. Good deeds are incapable of earning God’s love, forgiveness, acceptance, or approval. God did all of this because He also wants to demonstrate the incomparable riches of His grace, which is expressed in His kindness to us in Christ. 

Though we were created to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us (Eph 2:10), those works cannot save us. Yet, many of us have bought into the lie of religion that makes us think our relationship with Him is based on our performance. Religion is based on rules. Christianity is based solely on a personal relationship with Christ

Salvation through grace alone is the polar opposite of salvation through works or performance. The great news of the “good news” is that God has already done it all. When God said, “It is finished!” He meant it. God freely offers salvation, forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and freedom to us. We just need to receive it all by faith. Really. It is true. God has done it all already. Receive it by faith, then walk it out by faith. 

When it comes to salvation; Grace Works. Works Won’t.

Does Christ Know You?

Matthew 7:21-23 is pretty scary. I am worried about many people who consider themselves Christians. Jesus clearly says that there will be some people who consider themselves Christ-followers who will spend eternity in hell. The actual quote is “Not everyone who says to be ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (v.21).

Then He follows that with this statement, “Many will say to me on that day ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and perform many miracles? Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you.  Away from me, you evil doers!” (v.22-23).   

Those verses should cause any Christ-follower to pause and consider their eternity. Jesus also makes it clear who gets to spend eternity in heaven when He said, “but only he who does the will of my Father” (v.21). 

Scripture is consistent throughout; obedience as evidence of the indwelling saving work of the Holy Spirit is the primary test for loving God and having a relationship with Christ (John 14:15-21).

Praying a prayer, being baptized, attending church faithfully, giving money, going through confirmation, nor any other work or deed alone can save a person. The greatest evidence of a personal relationship with Christ is the work of the Holy Spirit in you evidenced by an obedient heart. 

Obedience seems to be a key defining mark of a Christ-follower. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” The word “only” is deafening! “Only” the person who obeys God will be in heaven.    

Plastic Christians are killing the church. There are two disturbing issues; first, people who have a personal relationship with Christ, but are so bogged down with religion they are not authentic Christ-followers, and secondly, those who claim to know Christ, have been through all the motions of religion, but in reality they do not know Christ.

The second is much worse than the first. The first group is killing the redemptive potential of the local church, but they will go to heaven. 

The second group are not only killing they redemptive potential of the local church, but they will know spend eternity in heaven. Knowing the facts about Christ is different than actually “knowing” Christ. In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul tells us to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose”.

In other words, if you have a personal relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit will indwell you, and He will work in you to want to obey and to actual follow-through with obeying God. Therefore, if you find yourself not wanting to obey, or unwilling to obey God, Paul would say “with fear and trembling” you had better figure out if you truly have experienced the life-change that comes with a personal relationship with Christ. 

Because, you see, the real question is not, “Do you know Christ?”, but rather “Does Christ know you?”

The Gospel in Five Minutes

This is the 5-minute version.

Scripture is clear, we are saved by faith in Christ, through grace, not of our works or good deeds. (Eph 2:8-9) We are not saved by believing in our mind, but when we believe in our heart. (Rom 10:9-10, 13)

Have you placed your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

If not, is the Holy Spirit stirring you to place you faith in Him right now? IF he is, simply pray a simple prayer. Doesn’t have to be fancy. IF God is drawing you to Himself He already knows what He is stirring in your heart. But if you want a guide of what to pray, you can pray something like this;

Lord, I know I am broken. I know I have sinned. I know I need you as my Savior. I believe you died for me and was raised from the dead for me.

Jesus, today I choose to believe in you as the Forgiver and Leader of my life. I choose to repent of my sin and accept your free gift of salvation. Thank you for becoming my sin and dying for me on the Cross. Today, right now, in this moment, I declare; Jesus, you are my Lord. I will follow you. No turning back. I WILL follow you.

Holy Spirit, I invite you to live in & through me, to transform me and restore my brokenness according to God’s will for my life. Amen.

IF you just placed your faith in Jesus as your Savior, PLEASE email me to let me know so I can celebrate with you. tim@thecrossmatters.org

This is the 17-minute version for those interested in more explanation.

Who is Jesus to You?

Christ-following, at is most basic level, is simply coming to grips with God truly being “God”, with Jesus truly being “Lord”, and with the Holy Spirit truly being the controlling factor of your life. God’s crystal clear intention is that ”You shall have no other gods before me”.  Even Jesus had to make a choice to surrender to God’s will and purpose for His life.

We want Jesus to be our Savior and Forgiver….but we often struggle with the Lord and Leader stuff. The two concepts go hand in hand. The only way Jesus can truly be our Savior and Forgiver is if He truly is Lord and Leader.

Salvation without lordship is merely fire insurance. We want a “policy” that keeps us out of hell without the requirements like surrender, obedience, and sacrifice. Salvation is not about merely going to church, praying prayers, and getting baptized. Salvation is about living a changed life evidenced by the work of the Holy Spirit and the kind of fruit that accompanies a changed life.

Biblically speaking, this is a pretty simple concept. There is only one way to heaven and that is through a person relationship with one person….Jesus. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” He made some outrageous claims, including that He would die, and resurrect on the third day. Those outrageous claims make it impossible for Jesus to be just a good teacher or just another prophet.

Jesus could be a liar…if He made those claims knowing they were not true. Jesus could be a crazy lunatic…if He made those outrageous claims really thinking they were true, but they ended up not being true. If Jesus is a liar or crazy either how can He also be a good teacher or great prophet as some have tried to picture Him? On the other hand, if Jesus made those outrageous claims, then backed them up He can be nothing less than Lord.

Jesus is Lord. Not just our Savior….not just our Forgiver….but our Lord and Leader. With Jesus, our job as Christ-followers is to surrender to His Lordship….truly allowing Him to be our leader. God has delegated everything to Jesus due to “His obedience even unto death”.  Jesus came as the “author and finisher of our faith”.  He is our example of how we are to live.  Jesus demonstrated surrender, obedience, and sacrifice to God.  Like Paul wrote in Philippians 2:5-6 the Bible says that “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…humbled Himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus is Lord because He fulfilled all of those outrageous claims. Jesus is much more than just a Savior. Surrender your heart and will to Him so that He can be immeasurably more than all you ask or imagine.

The Question of All Eternity

Do you have a relationship with a religion, or do you have a real relationship with a real person named Jesus?  That really is the question of all eternity.

Many people “go to church”, but as the adage goes, “going to church doesn’t make you a Christ-follower any more than going to McDonald’s makes you a Big Mac” (unless of course you subscribe to the “you are what you eat” theory). Attending church, even faithfully, simply does not guarantee a person a personal relationship Christ.

Understanding a personal relationship with Christ begins with understanding that a real God sent His real Son to die on a real cross for my and your very real sin. Three days later, God raised His real Son from a real death through a real resurrection so that He could be the one and only real Savior of all mankind. A personal relationship with Christ begins with acknowledging your need for a Savior, then verbalizing a real desire and decision to make Jesus your Lord and Savior….your leader and forgiver; then inviting Him to change you from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation occurs when the Holy Spirit indwells a person or begins living in a person (Titus  3:3-7, John 7:37-39). Salvation is the result of “believing IN YOUR HEART (not your merely with your head – James 2:19), and confessing or declaring with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” (Romans 10:9-10, 13).

Religion is a relationship with a system of beliefs, rules, and traditions. A personal relationship with Jesus is a life changing interaction through a real relationship with a real Savior named Jesus Christ. The bottom line defining factor is the activity of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. Once a person truly has a personal relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit indwells them. The Holy Spirit’s bottom line delegated task from God is to make a difference in a person so He can make a difference through them. Do you recognize the activity of the Holy Spirit in your life?

2 Timothy 3:1-5 describes people with a “form of godliness”, which in the original language indicates a structured religion, “but denying it’s power”, which in the original language means “the powerful one of God” or the Holy Spirit. The description is not very flattering, but it does clearly describe our culture.

It’s all about relationship. Forget religion…it’s dead and it leads to spiritual death. Religion does not save…religion does not truly change lives… all religion does is complicate, confuse, and bore. Only a personal relationship with a real Savior changes one’s life.

How’s your relationship with God? Does it make a difference or is it just what you do because you are suppose to? Are you bored in your spiritual journey? Do yourself a favor, quit chasing “stuff”, and start chasing after a life changing relationship with God. He is real, and He really does make a difference! You will never be the same.