[the naked gospel] closing thoughts

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September 15, 2009

Introduction

Thank you for the opportunity to write a final statement after the week of reflections on my book, The Naked Gospel.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the reviews and interacting with the readers as well. It’s been a privilege to be a part of it all!

I think it’s probably best for me to simply wrap up by telling a bit of my story, introducing some points from the book, and stating my reasons for writing it.

andrew-farleyMy Journey

I found myself lying on the floor of my apartment, begging God for answers. I was saying, “God, I’m doing everything they say to do. I’m reading my Bible four or five hours a day. I’m sharing my faith with everybody I meet. I’m at church every time the doors are open. But I still don’t feel like I’m growing spiritually. I’m stalled, and I can’t explain why. You say the truth will set me free. I’m anything but free!”

I needed God to start all over with me, and He did. Although I was already a Christian, my belief system was poisoned with religiosity. Over the next ten years, I began replacing old thoughts with new thoughts. And it changed everything for me.

Back then, if I were honest and vulnerable, my sales pitch would have been, “Would you like to become a Christian and be miserable like me?” But today I’d wish my Christian experience on everyone.

I’ve learned some radical, Scriptural truths that were right there in the Bible, that I never knew existed. That’s why I wrote The Naked Gospel – to share with others the same truths that absolutely revolutionized my life.

The Naked Gospel was written to serve as an intravenous shot of unadulterated truth that will stir all of us and perhaps even rattle some of us into considering how we’ve added to the gospel and hindered the pure power of “Jesus plus nothing” in our everyday lives.

The Christian’s Freedom from the Law

When Paul describes the law as a ministry of condemnation, he notes that the law was “in letters engraved on stones.” Clearly, he’s talking about the Ten Commandments. So, the Ten will only minister condemnation – to the saved and to the lost.

Of course, people will argue the importance of the Ten Commandments for Christian living today. But just ask them, “What did you do last Saturday?” If they did any work of any kind, then they disobeyed one of the Big Ten. They might say, “Well we’re free from the Sabbath now.” My reply, “So then, it’s the Nine Commandments that we’re still under?”

We Christians dice up God’s law to get it the way we like it. But the reality is that the law is an all-or-nothing proposition. James tells us that even if we keep the whole law and stumble in only one point, we are guilty of all of it. We don’t have the right to cherry pick, selecting the parts that are comfortable for us.

It’s 600+ Jewish commands and regulations, or it’s total freedom to serve in the newness of the Spirit. The choice is ours. But there’s no room for selecting from the law here and there and imposing a few on Christians. That makes no sense at all.

The Jewish Law, including the Ten Commandments, is perfect in every way. It’s so perfect that nobody can live up to it! It’s actually designed to allow sin to thrive in our lives, to convict us of that sin, and to point us to our need for Jesus Christ.

After we receive Jesus, all we need is Jesus. He produces the love, patience, and self-control we need for daily living. After the salvation experience, any return to the law or another rule-based system is essentially “cheating on Jesus.”

Jesus’ Expansion of the Law

Cut off your hand next time it causes you to sin. And pluck out your eye too! And while you’re at it, be perfect just like your Heavenly Father is perfect.  Oh, and go sell all your possessions.  OK, now you’re obeying Jesus. 

pharisee_crucify_himJesus amplified the law to show that it couldn’t be obeyed. The rich man went away sad. The Pharisees went away mad. Mission accomplished.

In my mind, this point isn’t really up for much debate. We need to understand the “Great Divide.” It’s not baby Jesus lying in the manger in Matthew 1 that changed everything for us. But with our “New Testament” divider page placed just before Matthew 1, we Christians can lose sight of the fact that Jesus’ death, not his birth, initiated the New Testament era (see Hebrews 9:16-17).

Therefore, Jesus was born under law. And much of Jesus’ teaching was aimed at redeeming those who were under law (Galatians 4:4-5). He told them to gouge out their eyes and cut off their hands in their fight against sin. Pretty high standards, I think.

If we Christians were truly following those teachings, and not watering them down or dismissing them, today’s churches would look much like an amputation ward at the local hospital. Instead, we recognize on some level that Jesus was placing demands on his Jewish listeners that were just too great.

As I mentioned, we see this with the Sermon on the Mount, and with the rich man too. Jesus told him to sell everything. Sell everything, really? Yes, Jesus said to sell everything in order to enter the kingdom. But today, we don’t preach this.

You’ll never see an evangelist telling people to go home and list all their belongings on eBay in order to enter the Kingdom. Why not? Those are Jesus’ own words, aren’t they? On some level, we all recognize that Jesus’ death, not His birth in Matthew 1, changed everything for us.

In The Naked Gospel, I talk about the sweeping implications of this dividing line for how we study the Bible – the teachings of Jesus in particular – and how we relate to God and live life.

Don’t Ask for Forgiveness?

The Catholic obtains more forgiveness and cleansing weekly through the mass. The Jew obtained more forgiveness and cleansing yearly through the Day of Atonement. And today’s Protestant, for the most part, believes he receives more forgiveness and cleansing as he asks God directly for it. But all three systems ignore what the Bible clearly teaches – God’s blood economy that brought “once for all” forgiveness through the onetime sacrifice of Jesus. 

That’s why I call those other systems “Cheating on Jesus.”

The phrases “ask forgiveness” and “ask for forgiveness” are entirely absent from all New Testament epistles. It has never been about making promises to God, trying harder, or listing every sin on a legal pad and waiting to be cleansed afterward.

Although it’s very religious to ask for forgiveness, it totally ignores the work of the cross. Jesus took away our sins and cleansed us “once for all.” To ask, plead, beg, and wait for a new portion of cleansing to come our way is to ignore what Jesus said from the cross: “It is finished.”

Yes, we should turn from every sin we commit. Yes, we should be honest and open about our struggles before God. But we should also be honest and straightforward about the blood of Jesus and what it accomplished – an unconditional, irrevocable, one-time cleansing from all our sins!

Requesting forgiveness is not the same as thanking God for the cleansing we already have. Now that forgiveness has been accomplished, our job is to relish the work of Jesus Christ and to deem it “enough.” As we rest in the finished work of the Son, we please the Father.

Why is this important?  Because it’s truth. God’s truth!  And believing anything else is an absurdity.

Just think about it. How many sins have you committed in your life? Millions?  OK, now how many of those have you asked forgiveness for?  What? Only thousands?  So now what will you do?  You’ve got millions of un-confessed and unaddressed sins!  You can’t go to heaven as a partially forgiven and partially cleansed person.

This is precisely why our forgiveness cannot possibly be dependent on our memory, our words, our confession, or our asking. This is precisely why our forgiveness has to rest solely on the blood of Christ.

the-naked-gospelEarly Reactions to The Naked Gospel

When some hear they can be free from religion and only need Jesus for daily living, they call the idea “naïve.” When some hear that Christians are totally forgiven for all sins – past, present, and future – no matter what, they actually get mad. They call that one a “license to sin.”

I call it the Gospel. If you’re not being falsely accused of promoting a “license to sin” then you’re probably not teaching the Gospel. The Apostle Paul was falsely accused of speaking out against Moses and the law. He also had to constantly answer this one: “Well, then, why don’t we just go out and sin so that grace can increase?”

We Christians should be accused of these things on a regular basis. Otherwise, I’m afraid we’re peddling a powerless gospel of “Jesus plus something.”

So far, The Naked Gospel has received one of two reactions – people love it or hate it. I’ve even been told that the book will “destroy America’s churches.” But I’ve also heard lots of people say things like, “it totally changed my life,” and “I’ll never be the same again.”

It’s no fun to be accused, but it’s very rewarding to see people go free. It appears that some may speak out against the book. But it also appears that the book will free lots of people to enjoy the simple, powerful message of “Jesus Plus Nothing.”

And that’s what it’s all about.

Thank You

Again, a final thank you to BibleDude.net for the privilege of being a part of all of this. It has been a lot of fun, and I can’t thank you all enough for the time you took to participate in this.

Jesus plus nothing,
Andrew Farley

 

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3 Comments

  1. Jeff

    Right on target Andrew. Thanks for sharing the truth of about God's radical grace and the freedom we have in Jesus Christ! There is such a misunderstanding among sincere Believers who attempt to mix Law and Grace.

    Reply
  2. Jeff

    Right on target Andrew. Thanks for sharing the truth of about God's radical grace and the freedom we have in Jesus Christ! There is such a misunderstanding among sincere Believers who attempt to mix Law and Grace.

    Reply
  3. deacondanwright

    The responses I've heard, and frankly seem they to make a lot of sense, is that Farley's argument is with the bible more than with religion. I would like to add that I believe he is also an opponent of historical truth concerning the Christian faith.

    It seems like for as long as I can remember I've encountered people who claim to have a problem with religion. They say that what's important, rather, is a relationship with Jesus–and forget all the rest that has historically gone along with believing in Jesus–rather, they say that a relationship with Jesus is not about religion.

    However, when I go to Farley's west Texas church website I find enough religion to drown myself: I find religious statements about beliefs, doctrines, bible, etc. I find implicit historical Protestantism and references clearly coming out of even more ancient creedal formulas. I find an “ecclesia” built on the foundations and struggles of historic religion.

    Better than 30 years ago–before becoming a Catholic–as a young Evangelical Christian I was making the same kind of claims as Farley. I was telling my friends that believing in Jesus had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with relationship, but deep in my heart I knew I was being dishonest. I knew I was lying when I told them to come to my church because we didn't have any doctrine other than faith in Jesus. I knew that even something as simple as believing that Jesus wiped the slate clean, and that (erroneously) you need not believe one iota more, brings you into the incredibly complex historical development of a religion, namely Christianity, compete with all it wonderful religious doctrine and jargon.

    Farley reminds me of the story of the king's new clothes: while he claims to be dressed in authentic relationship he is in fact standing naked clothed only with religion (as his “ecclesiaonline.com site clearly reveals). Farley's brand of religion indicates a symptom of a society disgruntled with Christianity and historical faith and, like a proverbial ostrich, he and his followers obviously choose to stick their heads in a hole rather than look at the truth squarely.

    As an academic there is something that Dr. Farley should understand: before you find enough fault in a system to toss it completely, you should study the matter. While Farley may be an expert in linguistics, he apparently lacks theological credibility. Put simply, he hasn't studied the matter. He may have studied Spanish; he may have studied linguistics and even taught language at Notre Dame; he may have even studied his bible, but he does not appear to have studied religion.

    Farley's statements such as “the Catholic obtains more forgiveness and cleansing weekly through the mass…” reveals a tremendous ignorance of Church teaching, and consequently an ignorance of exactly what God has given humanity in order to achieve salvation. He reveals a tremendous ignorance regarding the nature of the sacrifice of the Mass and its identical relation to the one sacrifice necessary for salvation. He overlooks Penance, given to the apostles by Jesus himself, as the means following Christian Baptism to achieve right standing with God.

    Farley overlooks too much history, too much of the faith handed to us that makes forgiveness so incredibly easy and so full of grace. He offers in its place a mere impostor, which is somewhat more palatable to a simple-minded generation that would prefer not to think about the difficult things in life.

    Reply

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[the naked gospel] closing thoughts

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