May 29, 2016 Text: Galatians 1:1-12
Dear Friends in Christ,
Aaron Neville sang a song called, “Everybody Plays The Fool.” Part of the chorus goes like this, “Everybody plays the fool sometimes, there’s no exception to the rule.” What fools you? A magician? The break in your putt? The reaction of a spouse or child to something you tell them? Your body and mind not working together? Does the devil ever fool you into believing something you shouldn’t?
Paul is addressing the Galatians in our text and speaking to us . . .
“DO NOT BE FOOLED!”
People are gullible and easily fooled. It’s like the science teacher who set a beaker of colorless liquid on a windowsill near an open window. He then casually remarked, that if this bothered anyone, they should let him know. Shortly thereafter, students started to wheeze and cough, and soon this spread throughout the room. When the teacher asked what the problem was a student said that the beaker was giving off a strange odor. As you might have guessed, the beaker was filled with water.
People want to be fooled. They will believe things that their common sense says can’t be. People will believe most anything if you package and present it properly. People are gullible.
There are others who prey on people like this. They take advantage of the person as they swipe their money. Many make a living convincing people there is a better way to health and wealth, a better way to find purpose in life, a better way . . . to God?
Religion has always had your quacks and crackpots, your gurus and preachers that discover something “new” amid that which was never lost and is unchanging. This is not new. Just ask St. Paul. He writes, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” (v. 6) Paul knew about those claiming some new breakthrough in religion. He knew about those who claimed faith had to evolve over the years. He knew about those who claimed that Scripture is outdated or not complete. He knew about those who claimed a special revelation from God or found a new purpose. He knew because they were as prevalent in his day as in ours. He says to the Galatians and to us: “Do not be fooled!”
There will always be people who try to convince others that they have discovered: a better way to grow the church, a better way to come to Jesus, a better way to find purpose, a better way to market the church, a better way to live. It sounds good at first, but delve deeper and you find it always requires a tweaking of the Gospel. They do a little theological plastic surgery and there it is. “I am astonished you are so quickly…turning to a different gospel” – which is no gospel at all. Changing the Gospel destroys the Gospel. Do not be fooled!
This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ: God in his mercy sent his only-begotten Son into our sinful world. Jesus gathered that sin and carried it to the cross of Calvary. Under the load of our sin on that cross, He suffered and died. He paid the price demanded of our sin. He fulfilled the Law and redeemed us from sin and death. Jesus was laid in the tomb but rose again on the third day. He ascended to heaven where He rules at the right hand of God the Father. He has risen and so shall we. Because of what Christ has done for us we have forgiveness and life and salvation. Our heavenly mansion is prepared. We continue to experience God’s grace through Word and Sacrament.
That is it. There is only one Gospel. But my human mind says I must participate in my salvation – different gospel. This book says if I do the right things on earth I will have a better seat in heaven – different gospel. My neighbor says if I don’t speak words I don’t understand I’m not God’s child – different gospel. The TV preacher says if I send him more money I will have more money in my bank account – different gospel. My friend says I must be tolerant of all kinds of behavior because God is love – different gospel. Do not be fooled – there is only one Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ pleases God, not man. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s plan, not man’s plan. Paul even says, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (v. 10)
A Pastor from one of our seminaries served a small, rural parish in Iowa. The fellowship hall and kitchen were located in the basement. On the outside wall of the kitchen, facing the fellowship hall was a thermostat. Every week for every meeting, Bible Class, fellowship event, this Pastor would adjust the thermostat up or down. His did this for two years until a member pulled him aside and said, “Pastor, that thermostat isn’t connected to anything.” They give him the thermostat as a going away gift.
Do not be fooled. Like that thermostat, a different Gospel from the one found in Scripture has no power. It’s useless for your salvation. There is only one Gospel found in the love of our Savior Jesus Christ who has saved us from death and opened the gates of everlasting life to us. Amen.