"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Grace under Siege 47: The Gospel of Flourishing

     Our leadership prides itself on the fact that Grace Church is "popular" and "well-liked" in Long Beach. What's not to like? We're friendly, we do good deeds in the community, and we are careful not to say anything offensive.
     The gospel of flourishing is characterized by its refusal to be offensive. Its concern with "not offending" trumps truth. It bends over backwards to be "inclusive" and "tolerant" by not only accepting everyone--but also everyone's beliefs. Like not telling a woman who "prays to Mary and the Saints" that Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. And refusing to instruct an adulterous husband to get his tail home and keep his marriage vows. We wouldn't want to offend an adulterer as Nathan did King David by confronting him with his sin and turning him back to righteousness.
      Yet the gospel IS offensive. The Bible refers to the offense of the cross. Serving a Lord who was "made sin for us" by being put to death as a criminal outside the city so he wouldn't pollute it is offensive. And Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of the church, is offensive. He is “a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense. . .”,  "a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall."  We are promised in that passage "the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame," that to those of us who believe, this stone is precious. But we are also warned that if we are ashamed of Him in this life, He will be ashamed of us in the next.   
     One aspect of being inoffensive means not discussing any nasty subjects like sin, cross, crucifixion, blood, repentance, judgment, hell (except in relation to members of the church who don't agree with the leadership). That knocks the heart out of the gospel right there.
     Since those who preach "flourishing" have thrown out the facts of our sin and our need for a Savior, their Jesus is a sham. Why would God set aside His divine rights, take on flesh, humble himself to the point of a disgraceful death if we are pretty good joes the way we are? Like the Glory of Christmas we once watched at the Crystal Cathedral, the extravaganza is all real down to the last sheep and donkey--until you get to the manger. In the manger is a plastic doll.   
     The real Jesus is all about truth--He speaks the truth, He IS the truth--and he offends all kinds of people, if necessary, in order to keep them from losing their eternal souls. He asks, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" It is a risk he is willing to take. The gospel of flourishing is the wide, easy road that involves no risk-taking.
     To be offensive is to be divisive. The Jesus of flourishing without being divisive is not the Jesus of the Bible. He warned us, "Do you think I came to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” 
     WOW was chastised and ultimately driven from the church because she allegedly "offended" someone at a tea by speaking about the glories of the coming Millenium. (Proof that there was an actual "someone" other than the elders themselves has yet to be established.)
     A couple who received permission to share the gospel with children at one of our annual Commuity Carnivals had the audacity to put a flag outside their booth showing Jesus Christ returning in the clouds! An elder made them take it down, claiming "someone was offended." Although there were 3,500 people there (in addition to hundreds of Grace volunteers) I very much doubt a single one of them objected to the banner. But the fact of the literal coming return of Christ (like the Millenium) does not correspond to the "beliefs of the leadership," so that glorious hope of the gospel was banned.
     These three Christians were not ashamed of Jesus Christ or the offense of His cross. To them Jesus says, "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. . . Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
      The apostle Peter wrote, "To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps." Follow Him in suffering.
     Peter says, "Dear Friends, don't be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through. . .because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering. . ." Partners with Him in his suffering.   
     The gospel of flourishing is pleasant, comfortable, soothing to one's self-esteem. Would that it were true! Wouldn't it be delightful if we Christians never had to fear or face the displeasure of men, never had to suffer for our faith? Who is going to be offended by the gospel of flourishing: "Go into all the world and make people happy!" 
      That's certainly a more palatable message than "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me."
     "You will be hated by all for My name's sake." 
     "If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also."  
     "For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him."  
     "Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
     Don't get me wrong. The true gospel is the source of true flourishing. The true gospel recognizes that we are dead because of our offenses, alienated from Godobjects of His wrath, depraved, and without excuse until we receive Jesus Christ by faith. Only when we receive and believe in Him do we become children of God and receive eternal life. At that point, we are born again: He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 
     Christ takes up residence inside us. We bypass judgment and enter eternal life at the moment we first believe and we will never perish; no one can snatch us out of His hand. Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
     Out of the true gospel--and only out of the true gospel--flows true abundance and true flourishing: Joy and blessing. The kingdom of heaven. Life. Salvation. Reigning with Him. Flourishing that lasts forever.

(Verses, in order: Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6; Galatians 5:11; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 9:33; I Peter 2:4-8; Luke 9:26; John 8:45; John 14:6; Galatians 4:16; Luke 12:51-53;  Matthew 5:10-12; I Peter 4:12; I Peter 2:21; Matthew 16:24-26; Matthew 10:22; John 15:20, Philippians 1:29; 2 Timothy 3:12; Ephesians 2:5; Ephesians 4:17-18; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 1:28; 20; John 1:12, John 3:3, 16;  I Peter 1:3; Galatians 2:20; Colossians 1:27; John 5:24; I John 5:11-13, John 10:28, Romans 8:35-39; I Peter 4:13-14; Matthew 5:10; Matthew 16:25; Matthew 10:22; 2 Timothy 2:12.)


  1. Sister, preach it to the rafters! It's so refreshing to hear the True Gospel preached and wonderful Bible verses cited. I'd rather sit in a Church sitting on a chair with springs poking me in the rear end and hear the true Gospel preached than to sit in a comfy chair hearing a non-offensive, fuzzy version of the Gospel. Big Lots have cheap seat cushions to purchase if needed!

  2. jessica you nailed it. i've been looking at it as seeker friendly, but no it's their gospel! that's why they get angry when people shine the light on it. Bob reed

  3. Bob, in some cases "seeker-friendly" just means "people-pleaser."

    1. jessica, seeker-friendly, people-pleaser one and the same. are you are missing my point? instead of the full gospel, they have watered down and/or ignored what they either don't want to preach or don't believe. because it is not of God, they don't have a loving spirit when confronted. it's their "gospel of flourishing"-- hence to defend it they have to get angry and shut (shout?) people down. the "gospel of flourishing" is the disease, the anger is a symptom of that disease. we need to concentrate on the disease and you did that well with your quoting of Scripture. bob

  4. I didn't mean to distract from your main point, Bob. You're right. I know their message is off base and I had seen that they defend it with (often vehement) anger. But I had somehow not quite seen the connection between the two, the fact that the anger is a symptom of the disease. As with any other sin we try to cover up, we are the most ferocious when we know in our hearts we are the most wrong.