Beware of the Grace-Robbers! It is not about works!

I don’t know if you have seen the messages of the self-proclaimed prophet John Mulinde.  His preaching and testimony have been all over the internet and he travels world spreading the word about what he calls his prophetic message.  Giving him his due, he is an engaging and powerful speaker.  His delivery is smooth, comforting and riveting.  “This man is being heartfelt and deep, I must hear more” you immediately think as he slowly lays out his message which he claims is of repentance and a call to prayer.  It is presented in the style of a personal testimony complete with a dramatic appearance of Jesus in a vision.  Jesus in a vision is what we all wish for right.  I would just love to see Jesus.  I am not sure I would want to see John Mulinde’s Jesus though.  You see when Jesus appears in his story, it is not to praises to Jesus and with awe and joy, but rather the story seems to focus on Mulinde’sshortcomings and Mulinde somehow is the center of a story about Jesus.

According to the multiple telling of this vision, Jesus appears in order to rebuke the then Christian Mulinde for his sin telling him that despite believing in Him, if Jesus returned fr his church, Mulinde would not be included as his work was not enough.  When Mulinde repents, Jesus refuses his repentance.  If your skin is crawling right now that is a good sign but the supposed prophet goes even further than that off the deep end and says Jesus told him he needs to do more works before his repentance will be accepted.  Hushed voice and tears in abundance accompany the tale and it is a vivid and compelling story that has been drawing people in all over the world in person of through online videos.  There is one major problem with the message though, actually there are a ton but let’s just be simple here, the message is just plain wrong.  It defames the name and nature of Jesus the Savior and steals His glory in the name of focusing on a man.  In doing so it also appears to be a rehashing of the message of the ancient opponents of the Gospel, the Judaizers, in a new and shiny package designed to rob us of the grace that God has for us and the love and gratitude we should be showing Him.

John Mulinde is not alone in his false view of the Gospel message as there are many people preaching this version of the gospel out there today and its been a consistent threat to Christians since Jesus walked the Earth. It is compelling to our flesh, yes, emotional, sure, effective in getting people to try harder, sure, but it’s exactly counter to the message of Jesus.

The message of the Bible is pretty simple.  In regards to keeping the Law, God says that it is impossible for man on his own to do.  The Law is perfect and holy, but man is sinful and will sin no matter how hard we try not to sin.  Paul was the picture of this futility as every moment of his life before Christ was about trying to work for God and keep the law and yet when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus, his life was exposed as being all about rebellion, coveting and evil doing.  “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”, Jesus said.  Paul tried really hard to be good but failed spectacularly as it turned out he was just trying to get what he, Paul wanted.  A few of us can relate with that level of failure, I suspect.  It is only Jesus and the Cross that sets us free from this futility through His atoning sacrifice.  Not by making us better, we still fall on our faces on a regular basis and need His continual work in our lives through sanctification, but through His blood washing us clean in the eyes of God.  That is, though we still sin and will always sin, when God looks at us He sees the righteousness of Jesus on us.  In other words, we are seen as righteous not because we actually are righteous, but because of how great Jesus is and how completely He paid the price for our sins.  It is finished means it is finished.  Paying for our sins is done forever once we are saved by the One whose life was given as payment for those sins.

Those that would steal from us the grace of God from the beginning have not been happy with this simple answer to the question of sin.  Having been offered a way out of the prison of their own sin caused by their own effort by the grace of God, they bind themselves with the chains of legalism.  Originally, the Judaizers argued that those who became Christian through the work of God were not truly saved unless they also kept the Law, ignoring the fact that it is impossible to keep the whole Law, Paul addresses this in multiple writings, but Galatians 5 comes to mind.

The modern version of grace-robbers are generally more subtle, but no less dangerous.  They usually argue that true salvation is Jesus plus something that depends on our efforts.  They take the free, full grace of God and make it contingent and frankly arbitrary based upon some guy’s made up line to reach defining what is good enough for God.  It is like a person being rescued from a shipwreck on the high seas, taken to land, and placed in the middle of an Indiana corn field.  If that person began to make swimming motions in the middle of that Indiana corn field and decided that they were going to going to drown or not  thousands of miles from the ocean based on how well they are miming swimming.   The actions of the rescued adds nothing to the rescue and if done after the rescue is complete make little sense when one understands the context.  The rescuer is also seriously insulted by being discounted.  Similarly, God’s grace also goes from a free unconditional gift given by a loving Father to His children because He is good, to a prize given to one’s self based upon whether we think we have been good or bad. The creation dictates to the Creator whether we have met His standard. Honestly, even on our best days when we feel like we are doing a good job for God, how many sins do we overlook?  Yet, those who seek to be good enough by works want us to make our righteousness dependent on our actions.  Yikes, no thanks.  Grace is freely given without anything on our part contributing ….or else it’s not grace.

The worst part about the message of the grace-robbers is that it appeals to all of us to some degree and it relies upon elements of truth to ensnare us.  Our flesh wants to make the worship about us and what we do.  Man has been doing this since the beginning.  We love building our religious towers of Babel over and over again to try to work our way to God.  God’s conviction shows us every day that despite the great work of Jesus saving us, we through our flesh still sin every day in ways that disgust us.  Our human desire is to want to try harder to do something to be better.  Jesus’ answer though is to simply trust Him.  He will continue the good work He started in us until its completion.  He invites us to cast our cares, including cares about our failures and sins on Him so He can care for us through the struggle.  If we make it about relying on Jesus, then every struggle is about relying and trusting in Jesus.  If we make it about us, then who is the struggle about?

Which brings us back to John Mulinde and his ilk.  His message given over and over again is that Jesus appeared to him in a vision and told him that he would not be coming to heaven if Jesus returned that day, that his repentance was not enough and that John Mulinde had to work harder.  That though Mr. Mulinde stated he believed before this time, he was not saved by the blood of Jesus because he did not work hard enough.  This is just false doctrine.  Jesus plus works is not consistent with the Bible.  It is also worth noting that it takes the attention off of Jesus and what He did to the person and what he does.  Taking attention away from Jesus is never good and a Gospel that is inconsistent with that laid out in the Bible is not good news at all.  As Paul said in Galatians 1:

 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 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!

I’ll stick with the Gospel, thanks!

 

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