Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Snake Oil Gospel

One of the colorful characters in the old west was the snake oil salesman. He would come riding into town in a fancy wagon, selling an elixir to cure all of everyone's ills. Sometimes we as Christians can treat the gospel like snake oil. We can claim it is the solution to all of everyone's problems--immediately. In this I am not just talking about the health and wealth gospel (though it is an extreme form), but there are many who would not follow this view who still seem to put forth Jesus as some sort of happiness pill. Is there any wonder we sometimes find people who say they tried Christianity and it did not work for them.

What then does God promise? The chief thing He promises is forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7). That God took all the wrong things we have ever done and nailed them to the cross of Christ (Colossians 2:13-15). We no longer have to bear the guilt and shame of what we done, as Christ has dealt with them (Romans 8:33-34). He also promises when we accept this forgiveness, He will begin to work in us to transform our lives (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13) and use us to accomplish His work in the world (Ephesians 2:10; Colossians 1:29). He also promises we will know Him (John 17:3) and be His friends (John 15:14, 15, 16:27) and His children (John 1:12). And ultimately we have the assurance of being with Him forever (1 John 5:11-13; John 10:27-30). We are also promised we can have joy and peace based on these things (John 14:27; 15:11).

But the thing we are not promised is no problems in this present life (John 16:33; 1 Peter 4:12,13; Acts 14:22). We are told our troubles will produce perseverance (James 1:2-4), that God will cause them to work together for our good (Romans 8:28), that they are minor compared to the glory promised us (Romans 8:18), and that God will comfort us in them (2 Corinthians 1:3,4), but not that they will not happen. We are also not told we will never disobey God, but if we do and admit it to Him (1 John 1:8-10) we can put it behind us and go on with Him (Philippians 3:12-16).

But the bottom line is that all the things God promises are based on the forgiveness of sin (Romans 3:23-28). God offers a relationship with Him, meaning and purpose in life, and the joy and peace that come from knowing Him and knowing we are forgiven by Him. But first we must face the sin question and bring it to Christ to deal with (Ephesians 2:1-9). Let us not promise people, though, that if they do this they will have no more difficulties in this life. Let's quit peddling snake oil.

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