One of the primary activities of Satan in this age is to blind the minds of the lost to the light of the glorious gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:1-4). Sadly, he is very successful in his work. How does he do it? It is not so much by trying to get rid of the gospel altogether, but by promoting counterfeits in its place (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15)
When any works of man whatsoever are added to the finished work of Christ, the gospel has been perverted (Gal. 1:6-12). It is sad but true that many professing Christians actually help Satan hide the gospel from the lost by failing to clearly present the gospel as it is written in the scripture.
1 Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2 By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
(1 Cor. 15:3-4)
In this present age of grace there is only one proper response to the gospel of the grace of God. Sinners must simply BELIEVE the gospel, trusting in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ alone for salvation (Rom. 3:19-28; 4:4-5; 11:6; Eph. 1:13; 2:8-9).
There are false gospels that are easy to spot because they plainly require works for salvation. However, the goal in counterfeiting something is to make it look as close as possible to the real thing. The closer it is to the truth, the more deceptive and dangerous it is.
The most subtle way that Satan counterfeits the gospel is not by denying the cross of Christ and the necessity of faith, but by disguising works as faith. The following cliches, which are based on a superficial knowledge of scripture accompanied by a failure to rightly divide the word of truth, do just that.
A cliché is a sentence or phrase, usually expressing a popular or common thought or idea, that has lost originality, ingenuity, and impact by long overuse.
“Ask Jesus into your heart.”
On the surface this may sound like an innocent statement, but that’s exactly what makes it so deceptive and dangerous. In salvation, it is God that invites the sinner to believe the gospel, not the sinner that invites God to do anything. The idea that people get from this cliché is that they need Jesus to come into their heart to help make them a better person, but in salvation we are “created in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:10) and He is “our life” (Col. 3:4).
The verse that is commonly used to support this cliché is Rev. 3:20, but that verse is not about:
- The door of a heart
- This present age
Another verse is Eph. 3:17, but Paul is speaking to believers in the context. Christ lives in every believer, but He wants to dwell (i.e., make Himself at home) in our hearts. This does not come by asking, but by faith.
This cliché is usually used in the context of trying to get sinners to walk the aisle and say the sinner’s prayer at the altar. Where is any of that in the scripture? You don’t have to walk an aisle, repeat a prayer, or kneel at an altar to be saved. You must simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved (Acts 16:31). You might pray out of a believing heart when you get saved, but you aren’t saved by praying. The flesh is religious and has no problem repeating a prayer to get a ticket to heaven!
“Give your life to the Lord.”
Salvation is in receiving the gift of God, not giving a gift to God! This cliché confuses salvation with service. Those who have been saved by grace should willingly offer themselves to serve the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 8:5).
“Turn from your sins and accept Christ.”
The clear implication of this cliché is that you must clean yourself up before God will accept you. No sinner has the capability of turning away from his sins, which is why he needs to be saved in the first place (Rom. 3:9-20). Repentance is a heartfelt change of mind. A sinner repents when they believe the gospel because they change their mind about sin in that they want to be saved, and they change their mind about what they were trusting in that they are now trusting Christ. The apostle Paul did not emphasize repentance like John the Baptist and the apostle Peter did when they preached the gospel of the kingdom to Israel. Furthermore, Christ does not need our acceptance which is why the phrase, “accept Christ” is found nowhere in the Bible.
“Make Jesus the Lord of your life.”
This is a favorite cliché of Calvinists. They also like to say, “If He is not Lord of all then He is not Lord at all.” This is known as Lordship Salvation. It is largely based on the discipleship requirements concerning the kingdom found in the Gospel records. First of all, Jesus Christ is the Lord, so He does not need us to make Him Lord. Submitting more and more to the Lordship of Christ in every area of our life is something Christians should do (Rom. 14:7-9), but it is something that we will never completely apprehend in this life.
The Power is in the Gospel
We simply need to give the gospel as it is written in the scripture and beseech sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). If we believe the gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16), we will not rely on man’s wisdom of words (1 Cor. 1:17-18).
3 For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile:
4 But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. (1 Thess. 2:3-4)