Updated: Jan 28
"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!"
Galatians 1: 8 + 9
A gospel that does not have Christ crucified at the centre of it -- but instead centres me and my valid dreams and my living a life of purpose and my great destiny and my divine health and wealth -- is not the gospel of Christ Jesus, and it will not save me.
What is the true Gospel of Christ? That He died for my sins that I - wicked, wretched sinner -- might be reconciled back to God and live for Him:
"...and [Christ] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised."
2 Corinthians 5:15
What is the false gospel? Anything outside of this.
I like to think that I became a Christian at the age of 16. But the reality is that I only thought I was a Christian and it was not until the global lockdown of 2020 -- when I was stuck at home with no job and no friends, babysitting my then-2-year-old day in and day out with no respite -- that I picked up 'Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus' by Nabeel Qureshi and, as David Wood painfully narrated and defended in one of the chapters Jesus' brutal death and the evidence for his resurrection, it was then I realized that I was not a Christian at all.
What I was instead, up until then, was a person who grew up in church and took what the Bible said at face value. Since the age of 16 I had lived a self-righteous life -- did not do drugs, did not curse, did not engage in fornication, did not keep bad company -- because that is what God required of me, but I actually did not know the God whose rules I was following and who had supposedly saved me from sin and death. I was actually too terrified of God, and I just wanted to please him so that I did not go to hell. And I did not want to ask too many questions about the Bible because I did not want the Big Boss to be mad at me.
What Nabeel's book did for me was to open my eyes. From his careful narration of how he came to know Christ -- not just via visions but actually through picking apart the life of the historical Jesus and the Biblical accounts of his death and resurrection -- I became re-introduced to the true Christ of the Bible. Jesus was a real man who was fully God and fully man, who lived in a real place in real time and died a real death and rose again. It was then that I began to pull the Bible apart myself and I began to delve into apologetics and I encountered Paul Washer, Mike Winger, Chris Roseborough, Alistair Begg -- defenders and followers of the Christian faith. It was then I realized that the last 16 years of my life as a Christian had been a farce. Up until March 2020, I actually had not been able to defend my Christian faith and hope in Christ, despite a direct instruction from the Apostle Paul to do just this. And this is the unfortunate mark of many Pentecostals and Charismatics.
I was born into and grew up in a church called C & S (short for The Eternal Sacred Order of Cherubim and Seraphim). Because my family moved around a bit, this meant that we also moved churches often, but it wasn't until university that I was able to choose for myself a church to attend, and what I chose was a charismatic church with a high population of university students, where the services had no official closing time because "when the Spirit is moving he takes as long as he needs." Almost every service ended with an altar call where people would be "slain" by the Spirit, given words of prophecy, laid hands on, roll on the floor, and speak in uncontrollable tongues. For many Pentecostals and Charismatics, this is a church filled with the "power of God". The Spirit of God moves by the display of spiritual and prophetic gifts and by causing people to speak in other tongues, just like on the Day of Pentecost, doesn't he? Prophecy is biblical, is it not?
Beloved, frantic and disordered displays like those described above are not of God and have absolutely no precedence in Scripture. That is not church. That is sensationalism. The debate about the manifestation of spiritual gifts in modern-day (continuationism vs. cessationism) will be for another post. However, we must not equate how we feel with the veracity of our faith in God.
As a university student finding my way in a new country, trying to make new friends, and generally navigating the world as a young adult, Pentecostalism nearly crushed me. Pentecostalism made me equate my worth as a Christian and as a child of God with the way that I felt. This is very, very dangerous. The moment we equate the music at a church service, the amount of people falling over and rolling on the floor, and the amount of prophesying going on in the meeting with the presence of God, we have elevated our experiences above God himself.
What began to happen to me at church services on Sundays was that as soon as I did not feel like I was on par with the person next to me -- who was bawling his/her eyes out (and obviously more in love with God than I was) -- then my worship to God did not feel good enough and I would go home feeling dejected because I was not enough for God. But on the Sundays that I felt good and the worship music was great, then I went home feeling really, really good! This is an unhealthy cycle and God is not in any of this. Yet this was my experience of God throughout my days at university (I attended that church for 3 years) and much of my adult life. Instead of intellectually tackling the Scriptures and knowing, loving, and fearing God in and through them, I banked my experience and love of God on my emotions. These were wild and dangerous waters.
Another thing that marks Pentecostalism is the need to work and give to the work of God. This gospel of works makes you find value in what you do for God, instead of in what He has already done for you on the cross 2,000 years ago. As a student, I was arm-strung and manipulated into giving my time, my pocket money, and my resources to building the house of God so that souls could be won for Him. Please hear me out; as Christians, it is our duty to serve God and others, but these gifts we give God must be given from a cheerful heart; we shouldn't be manipulated into serving and giving to church by pastors and leaders.
This happened time and again at the church I attended at university. I made the mistake of again attending another church much like the first during my postgraduate studies and that same manipulation was present even in a different church in a different city. I remember being scolded by the pastor of the church -- who knew that I had attended a wedding the night before, was on the bridal train, and was essentially the wedding planner -- because I showed up late to church to help with a few things that Sunday morning.
Finally, at the centre of Charismatic movement/Pentecostalism is the "like-god" delusion. Pentecostalism had me feeling like I was on top of the world; like I was God's very gift to mankind -- to my community, to my circle of influence, to my place of work, to my country. I was very, very special. I was unique. I was very necessary and the world needed me to manifest my identity and achieve my destiny, and showcase my worth because "creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed". This is the narration pushed in many Charismatic/Pentecostal circles; that you are unique and necessary, and must fulfil your God-given vision. With a mindset like this, pride, narcissism and self-centredness have become the norm. It is perfectly accepted and expected today for Christians to flaunt their houses, cars, private jets, and other things that they consider "God's blessings" in the public eye. This is the prosperity gospel and there is no precedence for it in Scripture; Christ certainly did not live or behave this way.
Because this faulty theology expects you to be grand and magnificent, the idea that being a stay-at-home mum or a grocery store cashier or a plumber, and doing this while loving and serving those in your life, is unheard of. You would be accused of not having a BIG enough dream and of putting God in a box. You would be accused of being apathetic and not trusting God with your life. This is bad theology. The Bible does not speak of Christians "fulfilling their dreams". The Bible instead speaks of Christians being created in Christ Jesus for good works.
A gospel that does not have Christ crucified at the centre of it -- but instead centres you and your valid dreams and your living a life of purpose and your great destiny and your divine health and wealth -- is not the gospel of Christ Jesus, and it will not save you. This false gospel has permeated the entire fabric of modern-day Christianity. It came with the mega church and the purpose-driven life movements, neither of which are biblical.
The only remedy is to read the Bible for yourself -- away from the limelight and noise issued by social media pastors/prophets. Make away after hearing even your own local church pastor's sermon and compare what was said from the pulpit to what is written in Scripture. Be a Berean. Seek God for yourself, read your bible for yourself, and, beloved, be set free.