We live in a culture inundated with voices. Everyone has an idea, an opinion or a set of steps for us to follow.
But how often do we stop to consider the voices we are hearing?
In 1 Thess. 2:13, Paul says to this young persecuted church, “This is why we constantly thank God, because when you received the message about God that you heard from us, you welcomed it not as a human message, but as it truly is, the message of God.”
The Gospel is the message of God.
So why is it so important they receive the message of God rather than the message of man? What’s the difference? Paul knows there is power in the message of God that is not in the message of man.
Stop and consider the messages you are hearing; the voice from the screen, from the page, from the friend, from the church. Are they messages of man or the message of God? Sadly, they can look eerily similar yet be tragically different.
The difference between the message of man and the message of God is simple: means and ends. The message of man holds man and self as the chief end. The message of God holds God as the chief end. Those seem pretty different. However, the message of man can wholeheartedly be infused with the means of God to make it sound like the message of God.
Here’s an example:
Did you know God loves you? In fact, He is head-over-heels for you! He has an amazing life planned for you. The Bible says He has plans to prosper and not to harm you – to give you hope and a future – everything you dream. It also breaks his heart that you are in this spot with your relationships, finances, low sense of self-worth or even doubt.
Did you know Jesus died on the cross to show you how much He loves you? He gave us His Word to give us places to turn when we need encouragement, support or answers.
Will you give God your storm today? Will you break off the chains of fear? Will you remember these verses when you start to doubt that you are anything less than perfect – just as God made you and sees you?
You deserve more than this, and God wants to give it to you.
Q: Message of man or message of God?
A: Message of man.
What’s difficult about the message of man is that so much of it is absolutely true! God does love you. He does want what’s best for you. But what is often done in offering the contemporary Christian Gospel (which is really no gospel at all) is that the right elements are offered:
YOU -> GLORY -> GOD.
But they are in the wrong order:
GOD -> GLORY -> YOU.
Same elements, same words; it even has the Bible in it. However, the chief end is not a glorious God – it’s a better you. You are the end. God is the means.
While they look similar, there are a few areas where these two messages tragically diverge.
THE BIBLE. The Bible is used merely to support a point.
The message of man views the Bible as a resource to consult, not an authority to stand under. Often verses or promises are applied in a way that supposedly benefits the listener, but the fact that these promises were given to different people at different times for different reasons is ignored. The Bible is seen as sufficient, authoritative, and inerrant – until it conflicts with other voices. But the Bible is not another voice to be consulted or considered. It is the transformative story of the Good News of Christ.
THE CROSS. The cross is used just as a means to display the love of Christ.
While the cross does display the love of Christ, it equally displays the wrath of God as the just penalty on the sin of man. To understand the cross, the ideas of atonement, justification, and sacrifice must be conveyed as well. Not that these big words have to be used. It can be as simple as “Jesus died in our place.” Jesus didn’t die on the cross because he was a really nice guy who like Van Gogh, mutilated himself as a sign of affection. Jesus bore the wrath of God you and I deserve so that we might be freed from that penalty. We are crucified with Christ so that we may live with Christ.
SIN. Sin is not something we have done; it’s something done to or around us.
We must walk through the storms of life – whatever they may be. The message of man identifies those storms as sin. The Bible says sin is something we have done because we have hearts that love sin (our way and deception) more than God (His way and truth). We don’t need to be freed from the storm around us. We need to be freed from the sin inside us.
What’s so condemning about the Gospel of man is that you and I are terrible gods.
The earth and everything in it was made for the glory of God, not the glory of us. We cannot bear the weight of glory. We will turn it into pride that consumes, abuses and ultimately destroys us and those in our path (cue flashback to Gollum and the ring).
The Bible continually reinforces the ideas of personal responsibility, holiness and the primacy of a glorious God – things lost in the message of man. They may not make us feel good about ourselves, but they will lead us to worship a BIG glorious God. In so doing, we learn how to rightly see ourselves in light of the surpassing view of God.
The Gospel is not about how God fits into our story, but how we fit into God’s story. It is the message of God and it is more than enough.
Cling to the Word of God. Cling to the message of the gospel. Cling to the cross of Christ. In so doing, like the church in Thessalonica, no matter what comes your way, you can stand and say, “Jesus is better.”