“Gospel-Centered” and “Christ-Centered” are buzz words of the day. But what do they mean? “Be your best you!” and “God wants you to be happy!” might claim to center on the Gospel. Promises of blessing abound if you only do this, or that. And they all use Scripture to back up there claim. So what exactly is the Gospel and how can I recognize distortions of it? Trevin Wax provides a simple method for recognizing counterfeit gospels in his book Counterfeit Gospels.
A counterfeit gospel either dilutes the truth or displays the truth out of proportion. The messages may have just enough of a saving message to reconcile us to God, but it is watered down, robbing us of the Gospel power and leaving us unsatisfied in the long term.
Trevin Wax describes the Gospel as a three-legged stool: 1) the Gospel Story, the Scriptural narrative that takes us from creation to new creation, climaxing with the death and resurrection of Jesus; 2) the Gospel Announcement, what Jesus did and how He reconciles us to God; 3) the Gospel Community, a lifelong expression of repentance and faith that wells up from the bottom of our hearts and overflows into love for God and His beloved community.
Cut one leg off the three-legged stool and the whole thing tips over. Trevin Wax shows us how six common counterfeit gospels have crept their way into our lives today. For each leg of the stool, he provides examples of two counterfeit gospels that change the true Gospel message. He explains what they proclaim and even shares their merits. He also shows the truths that they distort and how to correct them.
The therapeutic gospel is one of the most common that I have seen lately, where we pursue God as an avenue of self-fulfillment, adding him into our life instead of letting Him completely re-build us. I have noticed many new books being published that might fall into this category.
The quietist gospel surrounded me when I was growing up – a gospel where one’s personal experience in switching the lever with a single prayer to escape hell was of all-consuming importance with the emphasis on the Christian’s single role of evangelism along with the value of full-time Christian service, splitting apart the secular from the sacred. Trevin Wax helped me move my magnifying glass back and see that the emphasis was distorted. My own leaning toward spiritual transformation as a primary life goal might be an over-correction.
The churchless gospel is the most proliferate in my generation and younger. There are several versions, but the most common I recognized was those who believe they do not need the local church, especially with the availability of internet broadcasts and messages that they can tailor to their self-determined needs. Trevin Wax reinforced my need for other believers in my life to correct me from falling into error and to expand my world.
The material is extremely well organized, and the idea of the 3-legged stool is an image that we can cling to in order to recognize a message that proclaims to be gospel-centered but is actually a bit distorted. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to open their eyes to distortions of the Gospel in our current culture. I believe it would be a great tool for every believer,and essential for ministry leaders, Bible teachers, and small group facilitators.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Moody Publishers in exchange for my honest review.