Reversing the Gospel

Posted: September 30, 2011 in books, faith, false teaching, gospel, music, theology

This morning, I heard something on the radio that almost drove me to tears.  My wife will attest that I walked in the door quite upset, immediately launching into a rant about what I had just experienced.  At the risk of seeming like a grumpy curmudgeon, I want to share what caused me such distress and draw people’s attention to a problem that seems quite prevalent in American Evangelicalism today.  My hope is that my reflections will drive us to the Cross, God’s wondrous redemption of sinners.

My Terrible Morning

As I was driving in my car, the song “Someone Worth Dying For” by Mikeschair started to play.  If you aren’t familiar with the song (I wasn’t), check out their website and then open up the music player.  Here is the first verse:

You might be the wife, waiting up at night
You might be the man, struggling to provide
Feeling like it’s hopeless
And maybe you’re the son, who chose a broken road
Maybe you’re the girl, thinking you’ll end up alone
Praying God can you hear me?
Oh God are you listening?

So far so good.  The songwriter is hitting on an important reality that many Christians struggle with: feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and despair.  He continues with the chorus:

Am I more than Flesh and bone?
Am I really something beautiful
And I wanna believe, I wanna believe
I’m not just a wandering soul
That you don’t see it and you don’t know
And I wanna believe, Jesus help me believe that I
Am someone worth dying for

To be honest, I was completely shocked when I heard this.  It’s not that his first two questions are wrong – like I said before, he’s hitting on a real struggle that all of us will face at some point in our lives.  However, his petition to God and (implied) answer is, in my humble opinion, an utter reversal of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Do you see what is happening?  The songwriter has stripped faith of its proper object (God’s lavish and undeserved love toward sinners in Christ), instead directing his despairing listeners to trust…in themselves.  Not only is this theologically reprehensible, it doesn’t actually offer any real or lasting hope.  Why?  Because we’re not worth dying for.  That’s the point…

After a short bridge and a repetition of the chorus, he continues:

You’re worth it
You can’t earn it
That the cross has proven
That you’re sacred and blameless
Your life has purpose

When considering the first two lines together, it seems as if he is saying that we can’t earn God’s love because we already have it, according to our inherent worth.  Even if he is linking this worth with Christ’s saving death on the cross, it still misses the point.  We aren’t any more deserving of God’s grace as Christians.  Our salvation doesn’t give us license to begin to look to our own self-worth for confidence and hope.  Rather, we must still look to Jesus, “our righteousness and sanctification and redemption,” (1 Cor. 1:30).  Sadly, Christ seems oddly absent from all of this, except when the singer is asking Jesus to help him believe in himself…

My point is not to diminish God’s love for his people.  The cross does indeed prove the Father’s incredible love for us!  His love is truly incalculable and should always enable us to, “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16; cf. Eph. 3:12)!  But it demonstrates this love precisely because “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Rom. 5:8).

The rest of the song repeats what has already been mentioned.

I’m Not Trying to Be a Jerk…

I don’t bring all of this up to maliciously malign this band; I’m sure their intentions were good.  However, it seems very clear to me that they have been careless in writing this song, offering an answer that is not really the answer, a hope that will ultimately disappoint, and a gospel that is not really good news.

Perhaps, the most dangerous thing about this song is its “Christian” cloak, lulling people into unthinking consumption.  A continual diet of this type of “gospel” will inevitably impact the way a person thinks about their salvation.  Is it something that God did wholly of His mercy and grace?  Or was it something that I had coming, because “I’m worth it…”?

This is why Christians need to be constantly reminded of the true Gospel, as proclaimed in the Scriptures.  There are innumerable false gospels out there, subtly seeking to lure us away from trusting solely in the grace of God.  Tullian Tchividjian hits on this exact issue in his new book, Surprised by Grace, when he writes,

I once assumed the gospel was simply what non-Christians must believe in order to be saved, but after  they believe it, they advance to deeper theological waters…[However,] as Tim Keller explains it, the gospel isn’t simply the ABCs of Christianity, but the A-through-Z.  The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it’s the fuel that keeps Christians going every day.  Once God rescues sinners, his plan isn’t to steer them beyond the gospel but to move them more deeply into it. (16)

Wise words that we would do well to remember and heed, especially when we’re feeling the weight of despair, sadness, and sorrow.  When those times come, embrace your unworthiness.  Then remind yourself of this glorious truth:

You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:1-9)

  1. Great post Matt! Your zeal for Christ’s gospel has manifested itself once again!

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