The Anti-Gospel

In the 21st century, the American Church is more known for what it is against than what it is for.  I was watching a late night talk-show host interview people on the street asking them to recite the “Ten Commandments.”  Most of the people did pretty good.  “Don’t steal.  One God.  Dont say God’s name in vain.  Don’t kill.  Don’t lie.”  But what stuck out to me was one person’s response “You can’t do anything.”  Admittedly, I laughed.

From the outside perspective and many newer-Christian perspectives, that is pretty much true.  Not only can I not do anything outlined in the Commandments, but I can’t have an abortion, have sex outside of marriage, watch porn, lust after women, be homosexual, be prideful, be angry at someone, curse my brother, cheat on my math test, be selfish, gamble, drink alcohol, or smoke crack.  I can’t even watch the Packers crush the 9ners because I am suppose to be at church on Sunday.  This is just a pinch of all the “rules” projected by Christianity.

If I can learn to adapt the Ten Commandments into my daily lifestyle, I might have a chance at this mystical place called Heaven.  If I can somehow only have sex with my wife, not be homosexual, learn to bite my tongue when my brother pisses me off, be drug an alcohol free, and upgrade to a DVR so I can watch the game after church, then I might be able to do this Christianity thing.  Believing in God is pretty crazy, but just in case He is out there, I will live a “good life,” because a “good God” wouldn’t send a “good person” to a “bad place,” if it exists of course.

If you were like me and have fallen into this way of thinking, you are a victim of what I’ve learn to understand as “the Anti-Gospel.”  This is not only the opposite of the Gospel, but living this way opposes the Gospel. We’ve missed it.  I’ve read the Bible.  It is packed full of rules…rules that seem to be impossible to follow.  After I read the scripture buried in Leviticus telling me I can no-longer enjoy the blessing that bacon is, I decided to read a little more carefully.  It turns out, Christianity was never about following rules.  It was never about trying or faking to be perfect.  It was never about earning your way to a place called Heaven.  It was never about waking up and trying not to be gay or watch porn.  It was never about not having sex or DVRing Packer games.  I missed it.

Lets think about this. According to Christianity, there was this guy named Jesus who called Himself the Son of God. As the story goes(leaving out several details), He was crucified on a cross for the sins of men, something the Bible calls grace. His only wish was that people would love Him back. If I choose to live for Jesus, then the death that Jesus suffered pays the debt of everything I’ve ever done wrong.

Wait a second, if Jesus pays my debts for me then why am I trying so hard to follow this book of rules I could never master? Here is where I respond, “exactly!” You see, there is no way I will ever earn my way into heaven, yet I keep trying. I keep trying to be perfect and follow all of the rules, as if my fate depends on myself. But living and thinking like this is saying “I don’t need Jesus, I am going to try and do it myself.” This, of course, is not the Gospel. The Gospel is, as much as I don’t deserve it, if I choose to follow Jesus, He’s got me covered.

Now, if you have been going to church for a while you may be about to freak out on me.  You are going shout out some holiness and righteous scriptures and how Jesus didn’t die so we could live however we want.  In response to you I would say, “I agree.”  Now, on the other side of the room is the person who is reading this and is fist pumping because they’ve just learned about their ‘get out of jail free’ card.  “Jesus doesn’t want me to follow all these rules, He just wants me to live free!” To that person I would likewise agree, to an extent.  Christianity isn’t about following rules, its about following Jesus.  

The Anti-Gospel will lead you to think that you need to follow the rules, but the authentic Gospel reminds you its all about following Jesus.  I gave up following the rules a long time ago because I always fell short, I always messed up, and then I would tear myself apart.  This constant feeling of failure almost drove me away from Christianity.  But then I began to realize it wasn’t about trying hard and not being good enough, it was just about Jesus.  Simply saying “I want Jesus.”  Take your focus off of everything that you’re doing wrong and focus on the person who did everything right.  That’s the Gospel.  It was never about earning it yourself, it has always been about honoring the One who earned it for you.  

If you struggle with the idea of Christianity because of all the hypocrites I want to challenge you to do something.  If you have embraced Christianity and are feeling dry and defeated or you are searching for a little more in life, I want to challenge you as well.  Don’t look at Christianity like a restricted lifestyle.  Don’t look at Christianity like “things I can and can’t do if I want to be right with God.”  If it makes you feel better, don’t even call yourself a Christian.  Just pursue Jesus.  Don’t look at the Bible like a list of rules, but read the stories about Jesus, who He was, and how He lived.  Lastly, quit trying to fix yourself.  Instead, redirect your time and energy to learning about Jesus and I challenge you to pray to Him.  Take a season to pursue Jesus.  If nothing happens, you can go back to your old life of working to be the person that you want.  What I have found in my own life is the more I pursue Jesus, the more I find peace with the man I see in the mirror.

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10 Comments Add yours

  1. Mr. Melendez says:

    Don’t forget Jesus said if you love me you will follow my commandments. He actually had 2 really important rules that govern everything we do and say. The love commandments.
    I do agree that being a great rule follower does not save you, but if you are saved then you are born again or born of the spirit. that means you should show the fruit of the spirit. Otherwise your post is really important since people need to know that Jesus saves, not rules. But being a christian is not living without any rules.

    1. brettshoe says:

      Mr. Melendez, thank you for your comment.
      I think that when Christians view “loving God and loving people” as “rules,” we have failed. Love is not a rule of Christianity, it is the foundation of it. Out of love comes everything else.
      I agree our lives should bear fruit because of the Spirit that lives within us, but no fruit comes from following rules. The fruit in our lives is produced from our heart, it is only when our heart is properly postured will our lives display any fruit of God’s goodness.
      But regardless of fruit, while it is nice to see, Jesus’ grace covers both lives’ filled with fruit and those without it. I cannot agree with your comment “being a christian is not living without any rules.” I am a Christian and I don’t live my life by rules. I live my life worthy of the calling I have received. Yes, this means I refrain from doing certain things, but its not because I want or have to obey any rules, it is because I have chosen to honor God and walk in the ways that Jesus did. I love Jesus and honor His commandments, not because I want to follow the rules, but because I love Him.

  2. Brigette says:

    That was real and deep and timely! Thank you. I’m going to share this om my Facebook page.

  3. Clay Cook says:

    These are good thoughts but I must interject. the Gospel is not about me, me, me, in other words how do I make it to heaven tater it s about serving others. “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’… As christians we need to get away from living for our own salvation and start serving others it is only through service that we can truly know God.

    1. brettshoe says:

      Mr Cook, thank you for your comment.
      I agree, the Gospel is not about myself or ‘how do I make it to heaven.’ I apologize if I did not make that clear. The Gospel is about Jesus.
      To say that the Gospel’s main purpose is to serve others, I think that is slightly misguided. We aren’t saved by the works we do for others, we are saved by the work Jesus did for us. I think that by saying our main purpose is to serve others, while genuine and noble at heart, is incorrect. Our main purpose is to serve Jesus. Out of service to Jesus then comes serving others, compassion for the hurting and poor, obeying God’s commands…etc. But the perspective in every situation is focused on Jesus, not on myself and not on services I provide to other people. In Matthew 7, Jesus talks about people who served others in the name of or in honor of God, but Jesus responds “I never knew you.” “γινώσκω” is the Greek word used here for “knew.” In the Greek, γινώσκω represents “knowing in relationship” in English. They were focused on the act and not on God and Jesus wanted nothing to do with them. I stand by my point that Christianity is solely about shifting our perspective to having a relationship with Jesus and not jumping through hoops.

  4. Clay Cook says:

    My point is when you serve other you are serving God. Of course it has to be done with no amount of puffiness. Look at me I serve the poor is not service but selfish acts to make you fill like you are doing something correct in order to get to heaven. Perhaps we are splitting straws. I do agree with you last comment ‘ I stand by my point that Christianity is solely about shifting our perspective to having a relationship with Jesus and not jumping through hoops.’ But you cannot have a personal relationship with Christ in a vacuum.

  5. Brandon Babcock says:

    Brother in Christ,

    Thank you for reminding or maybe even teaching some of us that humankind is supposed to follow Jesus, the One who saves, rather than keep a set of rules in hopes of earning salvation.

    In regards to knowing and applying the Ten Commandments, we cannot forget that the Jewish people read Exodus 20:2-3 together and collectively as the first commandment: “2 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.” With this understanding, the Ten Commandments should be read and lived out as responses to the salvation or deliverance they received from the Lord, and not as rules to follow. In other words, because the people were saved from slavery in Egypt, they should respond to their salvation by having no other gods before the Lord. Each commandment that follows should be interpreted with the same introductory formula: “Because I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery, you shall…”

    Understanding the Ten Commandments as ‘responses to salvation’ rather than ‘rules to earn salvation’ will position our hearts correctly before the Lord. This ‘response to salvation’ is the same method of interpreting Pauline literature in the New Testament. In Colossians 3, Paul exhorts the people to remember that they have been raised to new life in Christ, and because of this new identity, they should respond by removing their old selves (who they were before salvation) and clothe themselves with the qualities of Christ.

    How do you respond to your salvation? With obedience or with rebellion?

    I love the blog! Keep up the good work!

    1. brettshoe says:

      Thank you for sharing some wisdom, master theologian! 😉

  6. Josh says:

    Proud! Great thoughts! Thanks for putting them down.

  7. So I have to say I came to this blog because my friend had posted “you’re beautiful” letter on Facebook and I was curious. However it let me to explore you blog a little deeper reading more and discovering how similar our thinking was. Then I read this article, it was as if someone was peeking into my mind and pulling out what I have always thought and felt; however continually failed to express in words. It is the way I lead my life and follow my heart. Those on either side of the stands never seem to truly understand; sometimes making me question everything despite my extremely strong faith. It filled my heart to see someone think the way I think; to know someone else can lead their life the same way. I left your blog with some much more than the “you’re beautiful” post (which was lovely). Thank you for reminding who I am and continue to strive to be.

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