Maybe you heard about the 11-year-old boy in Utah who drew some attention from the local police earlier this week for standing on the side of the road with an “Ice Cold Beer” sign.
Turns out the boy was doing nothing illegal or harmful — he had merely found a creative way to draw folks to his root beer stand by writing the word “Root” in such tiny font that it couldn’t be seen until a person pulled over for a closer look.
Unfortunately, too many churches in America today are guilty of similar false advertising with much more serious results. Theses churches do well to draw people in, but they are not drawing them in with the same message Jesus and the apostles preached, and the results are devastating.
Some of these churches preach self-help messages that appeal to man’s flesh, the message that, “You can have your best life now, if you just…,” or, “You can be your best, most legendary self, if you just…” This sounds good to the carnal-minded man, but Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it” (Luke 9:23-24).
Other churches take it a step further by promoting the false teaching that if you just have enough faith and obedience to God, then you can expect God to give you financial blessings and a life free of serious physical affliction — if you sign up today, you too can enjoy with great health and great wealth!
This false prosperity gospel hardly lines up with Jesus’s words that, “In this world you will have tribulation,” (John 16:33a), or Paul’s teaching that “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22) or Peter’s reminder that it is sometimes God’s will that our obedience to Him results in great suffering (1 Peter 3:17, 4:19).
Some churches water down the Gospel in order to draw people, promising that anyone who lives a “good life” and who “seeks after God” inherits the kingdom of heaven. This teaching leaves the door to salvation open for anyone who sincerely seeks God, including Muslims, Buddhists, JW’s and Hindus.
This inclusive, universal message that there are multiple ways to be saved sounds great, but Paul said, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10-11). Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by ME, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Other churches preach that God isn’t serious about sexual sins and or the murderous sin of abortion. Such churches place tolerance as a higher virtue than truth, and personal freedoms and rights over submission to God’s commands, making it easier for an unrepentant sinner to keep on sinning without fear of the wrath of God to come.
Paul said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (Romans 1:18) and identifies the unrighteous as homosexuals, murderers, slanderers and the prideful. Jesus preached a very literal, eternal hell, saying, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Yes, I’m afraid too many churches in America have found that a gospel of self-love, prosperity and inclusion is a much easier sell than the truth, and have traded the truth of God for lies that make people much more comfortable on their way to hell.
While there are certainly genuine Christians in these churches, the reality is that many of them call themselves Christians but have never truly repented of their sins and forsaken all to follow Jesus. They have not responded to Jesus’s hard call to come and die to self, instead having responded to a message that following Jesus comes with few requirements and all the blessings. Jesus did promise a life most abundant, but that abundant life is characterized by love, joy and peace, not those things some churches teach today.
Those messages mislead souls and end in discouragement, disillusionment and, in worst cases, eternal death.