A popular phrase around the world is “Fake News”. This is due to many people in the media who present news stories as truth, when in reality, these stories are false, or mixed with a little truth and a lot of error.
Just as there is fake news in the media, there is fake news in many churches. These churches present a message to people that is filled with incorrect teachings, yet are presented as biblical. These teachings are circulated throughout the church in a variety of ways: sermons, small groups, Sunday school classes, discipleship programs, mentoring relationships, counseling sessions, revivals, and conferences.
The foundation of fake news is legalism. Legalism is a teaching that conveys the message that salvation, fellowship with God, closeness to God, the blessings of God, acceptance by God, and/or a right standing with God is achieved through faith in Jesus plus religious activity or morality, rather than simply received by grace through faith in Jesus alone.
Legalism communicates fake news this way: There is something you must do to make yourself right with God beyond simply resting in his grace by faith. On the list of things to do are: attend church regularly (Sunday morning and night, as well as Wednesday nights - yet at these churches. they are not learning about the new covenant of grace), join a small group, go to Sunday School, memorize Bible verses, pray regularly, have a quiet time, stay in fellowship and close to God by having no unconfessed sin in your life, find an accountability partner, witness, serve in a ministry, tithe, speak in tongues, be baptized in and a member of the correct denomination, raise your hands in worship as the praise band plays, etc...the list goes on and on and on.
That is fake news.
What is the good news?
The good news is that Jesus, by his grace, did everything for you to make you right with God, save you, and keep you close and in fellowship with God. There is nothing you have to do. You do not have to obtain or maintain salvation through religious activity or morality. You do not have to check anything off a religious list. The cross is enough. His resurrection is enough. His ascension is enough. His forgiveness is enough. His grace is enough. Simply by faith receive what he has done for you. Receive and enjoy his gift of grace.
As you rest by faith in God’s grace, which is what he has freely, fully, and forever given to you in Jesus, you are resting in the good news of the gospel, rather that being manipulated by the false news of legalism. You will rest by knowing you are dearly loved, completely forgiven, and totally accepted by God because of what Jesus has done for you. You will rest by knowing you can never be “out of fellowship with God”, since he has made your heart his eternal home and now lives in you through the Spirit of Jesus. You will rest by knowing God is your loving Father. You will rest by knowing there is nothing you must do to obtain salvation or maintain salvation. You will rest by knowing you can’t lose your salvation. You will rest by knowing there is nothing you must do to “get right with God” or “stay right with God”, because Jesus made you eternally right with God.
The good news of grace is that Jesus did everything for you, leaving you nothing to do. You simply receive and rest by faith in the grace God has given to you in Jesus. That’s the real news of the gospel. That is the good news of the gospel. That is Grace News!
Unfortunately, there are many religious leaders and teachers who are opposed to the real news of grace...the good news of grace. They want to continue to pedal their fake news and their religious to do list. They even go so far in the presentation of their fake news stories to slander those who communicate the good news of grace as “being light on sin” and “giving people a license to sin”.
However, their false news is nothing new. It happened in Jesus’ and Paul’s generations. Both Jesus and Paul were slandered by the “false news” peddlers of their times when they were accused of being light on sin and giving people a license to sin.
Who were the false news people of Jesus’ and Paul’s generations? They were the Pharisees and Judaizers.
The Pharisees were a group of people who prided themselves on their religious activity and morality, placing themselves above others (Luke 18:9-14). They believed their religious performance and moral behavior was superior to others, achieving for them eternal life (salvation) in God’s kingdom. A casual reading through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John reveals the attitude of these fake news peddlers in Jesus time. They hated Jesus for his grace toward the prostitutes and tax collectors, especially when Jesus said the prostitutes and tax collectors were entering the kingdom of heaven before they were (Matthew 21:31-32).
And why were the prostitutes and tax collectors entering God’s eternal kingdom ahead of the Pharisees? Unlike the Pharisees, they were very aware of their sin. They were aware of their need for grace. Therefore, they had a great appreciation for grace, which led to repentance (admitting our sin and receiving God’s grace) which totally transformed their lives. They knew religious activity and morality would not gain them entrance into God’s kingdom. They knew they were too sinful to enter God’s sinless kingdom. They knew their only hope of entering God’s kingdom was by faith in God’s grace being poured out abundantly through Jesus.
They believed the good news Jesus shared...the real news Jesus shared… “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18)
They knew their only hope was to simply believe. No religious behavior needed to gain entrance into God’s everlasting kingdom. No moral behavior needed to gain entrance into God’s everlasting kingdom...just believe. This simple belief totally changed their lives.
What was the response of the fake news peddlers toward Jesus? They slandered him. They confronted him. They accused him. They plotted against him. They spread fake news about him. They arrested and crucified him.
One of those fake news peddlers about Jesus was Paul. Amazingly, Jesus, after his ascension, presented the real news of grace to Paul. Jesus, then, took the leading peddler of the fake news about God, about Jesus, about salvation, about eternal life, and about forgiveness, and made him the greatest broadcaster of the good news of grace (Acts 20:24; Galatians 1:10-12).
Through Paul, Jesus revealed the truths of grace (Ephesians 3:1-3). Paul proclaimed the good news of God’s grace in cities all over the Roman Empire (Acts 20:23-24). He proclaimed the once and for all forgiveness that Jesus secured eternally for us in his death through grace (no more having to maintain forgiveness or fellowship through endless confession of sin). He proclaimed the gift of righteousness that comes to us by grace and is received by faith. He proclaimed we are justified freely by grace. He proclaimed we are at peace with God because we stand by faith in grace. He proclaimed we are no longer under the condemnation of the law, relating to God in fear as judge, but that we are under grace, relating to God in love as our Father through the Spirit of Jesus who lives in us.
Just like with Jesus, the fake news peddlers of Paul’s time hated Paul. The Pharisees were still around. They tried to kill Paul.
Then there were the Judaizers who peddled their own version of fake news. They mixed the good news of grace with legalistic requirements, rituals, and rules, just as many churches and ministries do today. They slandered Paul. They accused Paul. They sought to ruin Paul’s reputation because of his emphasis on grace. They spread false stories about him (Romans 3:8).
However, Paul tried to counter their false news by continuing to spread the good news of grace. He wrote letters directly to believers, seeking to get the truths of grace to them by going around the religious leaders of his day.
But this was difficult.
The false news people of his time, the Judaizers, dominated the news stories and were showing up in the churches Paul and his grace companions had started (Galatians 1:6-9). They were infiltrating churches, pretending to be grace-believers, countering the real message of grace with the false message of legalism (Galatians 2:4-5). Consequently, large amounts of people believed their false, legalistic news stories and deserted the good news of grace (Galatians 1:6, 5:4).
Because of the reputation and status of these religious, false news peddlers, many people returned to their religious practices to gain assurance of their salvation, believing that “by grace through faith” was not enough. Paul called this return to religious practices for righteousness “falling away from grace” (Galatians 5:4). He defended his position on grace, Jesus’ position on grace, in his letter to the Romans and Galatians. In Galatians, he said, “I do not set aside the grace of God. For if righteousness [a right standing before God], could be gained through the law [religious activity and morality], then Christ died for nothing!” (Galatians 2:21)
Not much has changed since Jesus’ and Paul’s generations. Many pastors and church staff still dominate the news stories in their sermons and ministries. Some withhold the good news of God’s grace, others dilute it with legalism. It happens all over the world.
Consequently, believers in Jesus remain uneducated about the good news of God’s grace. They have been discipled in a legalistic, religious system that teaches there is more to salvation than simply believing. They are told their is something they must do to gain or maintain salvation. They are told that to stay in fellowship with God they should have no unconfessed sin in their lives, which is done, they are told, by keeping short accounts on sin. They are told that to be a “good Christian” they must be a part of a small group or serve in a ministry. They are told that if they want to be blessed by God they must tithe. They are told if they really want to grow in their relationship with God they need to have a daily devotion and memorize BIble verses. There is always more do. Consistently, they hear messages from the BIble containing verses that are taken out of context. These false news stories drown out the facts of the good news of God’s grace.
Then, on top of all this, the legalistic, false news peddlers slander the grace teachers, seeking to ruin their reputation as Bible teachers by accusing them of “being light on and giving people a license to sin”. The fake news peddlers forbid great teachers to speak in their churches and ministries. They go so far as to fire grace teachers.
Yet, just as Jesus and Paul did, teachers of grace must fearlessly demonstrate and proclaim the good news of God’s grace to people. We must go around the fake news peddlers of our time and take the truth of God’s grace directly to people. And this is happening...God is going around the fake news peddlers to announce his grace to people all over the world.
In our generation, God is getting his message of grace out in many different ways. Local churches and ministries no longer dominate and control the message. God is taking his message of grace directly to his people. As a result, people are being liberated from legalism and are falling in love with God as their Father. New grace-based churches are being established in communities all over the world, even though they are being slandered by the legalistic leaders in their towns. But that is okay...so was Paul and Jesus.
Sadly, people are not hearing about the good news of grace in their churches or ministries. They have heard thousands of sermons, been encouraged to improve their “prayer life”, exhorted to fast to grow closer to God and to see him move in their lives. They have been told to read their Bible more. They have participated in hundreds of small groups, attended many church services, revivals, and conferences, had accountability partners, kept short account on sins, taken communion, memorized Bible verses, and faithfully had their quiet times, yet they have never been told the true news of God’s grace. They continue to hear legalistic false news, coupled with sermons and discipleship programs designed to get them to do more. That was me at one time, both a hearer and teacher of false news.
I admit, there was a day when I was a false news peddler, teaching people that fellowship with God, acceptance with God, blessings from God, and being right before God came through religious activities and morality. I exhorted people to pray and read their Bible more, never teaching them about the good news of God’s grace. But God, in his grace, allowed the true story of his grace to intersect with my life. He went around the false news peddlers of my day, of which I was one, and brought me the good news of his grace, the true news of his grace, through a book called Classic Christianity by Bob George and through Bob’s radio program called People to People.
I read Classic Christianity while I was on a plane. I listened to People to People while in my car. God went around the places I should have learned about grace, the churches and ministries I was involved in, and allowed my eyes to read about grace through Classic Christianity and opened my ears to hear about grace through People to People.
For my wife, she was fortunate to hear about God’s grace in a local church. After growing up in a highly legalistic church, the Lord led her to a church where the Pastor had learned about grace. The Pastor of her new church had also read a book by Bob George called Growing In Grace. That book changed the Pastor’s life and he was bold enough to share God’s grace in his church, even though he was persecuted heavily and eventually removed.
So what news have you heard at your church?
The false news of legalism? A teaching that says there is something you must do to obtain or maintain salvation. Sermons that tell you to try harder and do more….read your Bible more, pray more, fast more, serve more, participate more, memorize more, give more, ask for more forgiveness. A teaching that tells you to stay in fellowship with God by “keeping short account of sins”. A teaching that says there is something you must do to earn God’s blessings. A teaching that tells you that if you do not obey God he will curse you, but if you obey he will bless you (the old covenant of law).
...the real news of grace? Grace is everything God has freely, fully, and forever done for you through Jesus, leaving you nothing to do. You now rest by faith in all he has done. Through Jesus you are forgiven forever, not under law, under no condemnation, eternally saved, at peace with God, in fellowship with God, blessed by God, a permanent member of God’s family, and a loved and accepted child of God.
Here are some verses that are not fake news of legalism, but the real news of grace.
But now, apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, as attested by the Law and the Prophets. And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.
Now the wages of the worker are not credited as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness…just as David proclaims the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him. (Romans 4:4-8)
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many! Again, the gift is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment that followed one sin brought condemnation, but the gift that followed many trespasses brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive an abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! (Romans 5:15-17)
The Law was given so that the trespass would increase; but where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness, to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)
For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. (Romans 6:14)
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.
(1 Corinthians 15:10)
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. (1 Corinthians 16:23)
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may overflow in thanksgiving, to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 4:15)
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)
I do not set aside the grace of God. For if righteousness comes through the Law, Christ died for nothing. (Galatians 2:21)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen. (Galatians 5:18)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the Beloved One. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:3-8)
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved! And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages He might display the surpassing riches of His grace, demonstrated by His kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourselves; it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance as our way of life. (Ephesians 2:4-10)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Philippians 4:23)
We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard about your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all the saints, springing from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood the grace of God. You learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, and who also informed us of your love in the Spirit. (Colossians 1:3-8)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (1 Thessalonians 5:28)
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who by grace has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed. (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:18)
Grace be with you all. (1 Timothy 6:21)
He has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not because of our own works, but by His own purpose and by the grace He granted us in Christ Jesus before time began. And now He has revealed this grace through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the gospel, to which I was appointed a preacher, apostle, and teacher. (2 Timothy 1:9-11)
The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all. (2 Timothy 4:22)
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people.It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (Titus 2:11-14)
Grace be with you all. (Titus 3:15)
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philemon 1:25)
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because He suffered death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:9)
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace…(Hebrews 13:9)
Grace be with you all. (Hebrews 13:25)
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints [those who by faith have been declared righteous by God]. (Revelation 22:21) - The last verse in the Bible!
I hope these verses encourage and strengthen you, causing you to grow deeper into God’s grace and closer to him in relationship. My prayer for you is that through this post the real story of God’s grace has intersected with the story of your life, changing your life forever!