A plant finds a nook and grows on the side of a building. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Galatians 5 records the fruit of the Spirit: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.’
A couple of observations for what that looks like, though:
- They’re not the fruits of the Spirit; you don’t grow a ‘love’ tree and reap love. Plant the seed of the Spirit (i.e. be a Christian) and the fruit will grow.
- Fruit can take a looooong time to grow.
- Fruit grows in seasons.
The Bible is pretty keen that we get the message of Christianity right. The apostle Paul writes to the Galatians and says, ‘even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.’ Even if an angel came down from heaven and preached a different message? This is clearly important.
But it’s sometimes very difficult to spot a false gospel – when several significant leaders all claim to be Christian but all preach a different gospel, which one should we respond to?
Well, if you work in a bank then you might be trained on how to spot counterfeit money. Makes sense. But how would you be trained? I can tell you what you wouldn’t do: you wouldn’t spend ages looking at every different counterfeit anyone can think of, because how would you know if a new counterfeit appeared? What you’d do is study the real thing in such detail that you’d simply know how to identify the real thing, and therefore what to reject as false.
Surely the same’s true with Christianity. I remember finding a website a few years ago which literally specialised in as many different heresies as it could find. I’m sure the owners of that site had great intentions but surely they’d be doing a better job for themselves and the global church if instead they simply aimed to familiarise everyone with the genuine gospel?
So here’s how to be an expert on spotting false gospels: completely immerse yourself in the Bible. Read it, re-read it, and read it again. Learn how God thinks. Then, when someone preaches some false gospel: ‘God wants everyone to be healthy by faith!’ we can instantly respond with: ‘That just smells funny; Timothy was sick but Paul’s instruction was for him to drink some wine.’
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.