The Bible Belt: Not the Real Gospel
Inspired by the religious conversations going on over at Kenny's blog, I decided to transcribe a portion of one of my favorite sermons given by Mark Acuff - the pastor of my old church in Chapel Hill (and the father of one of the singers of SpencerAcuff, another in a long line of now-defunct bands that I loved).
Mark was discussing the book of Galatians. That book is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Galatia. The folks in that Church were being taught that Christ's death isn't enough to save us....that, in order to be saved and have a relationship with God, one also needed to follow the Mosaic laws. Paul, a former Pharisee himself, vehemently disagreed and wrote to explain how the Gospel means that Christ's sacrifice is all we need to be restored to God.
This book has often been interpreted to mean that we are saved by faith alone...that we don't need the Mosaic law or any other moral code (important as those are to just living) to be restored into a relationship with God.
Mark Acuff agreed with that interpretation, but he also applied the book to condemn our Bible Belt sub-culture. The Galatians added extra requirements onto the Gospel before one can be called a "Christian" and be right with God....and we in the "Christian" sub-culture are doing the same thing. We tend to be suspicious about anybody who is different from us. Anybody who doesn't look like one of us clean-cut "Christian folk", who can't speak Christian-speak, who isn't a proud American, who cusses...........that person can't be a Christian. Judging by how many of our churches appear racially, we might add "anybody who doesn't look like us"...if we're being honest with ourselves. And so we begin to make the Gospel - which is supposed to be a call to freedom - look like nothing more than a reflection of our Southern Bible-Belt Evangelical culture.
And that's a damn shame. For, in doing so, we are trying to create barriers between people and God. With that, I leave you to Mark's words:
The Gospel is at risk of being swallowed up in a religious sub-culture that looks spiritual. And it looks godly. But it's deadly.
You know what the greatest threat to your spiritual life is?
Is it getting drunk and partying? Nope. Is it sleeping around? Nope. A bunch of parents are getting really nervous right now. [Laughter.] Is it getting somebody pregnant or getting pregnant? Nope. Is it getting really fuzzy on what you believe about God because you had your first biology course or your first New Testament course or your first philosophy course? Nope. Is it becoming obsessive about Carolina/Duke/State sports? Probably. [Laughter.]
But actually none of those things come even close. All of those things represent serious detours that may radically alter your life. But, listen, Satan's not that obvious. He's just not. He's clever. He's much more subtle than that. You know what the biggest threat to your spiritual life is?
It's plugging into Christian ministry - getting involved in church.
"Mark, what are you saying?" If we train you and equip you how to be part of the culture [meaning the Christian sub-culture], we risk becoming Galatians.
"Mark, are you saying weÂre not doing the real Gospel?" We may not be doing the real Gospel.
If our Gospel doesn't rescue people from this "present evil age" it"s not the real Gospel. If our Gospel just connects us with people just like us - and maintains and sustains our racial divide, our class divide - that's not the real Gospel. If our Gospel doesn't make us radically hate sin that caused the death of our Savior and so transform our lives into holiness, that's not the real Gospel.
If our Gospel doesn't change the world, that's not the real Gospel.
Some of you watched the Panthers/Patriots game last Sunday? Remember, they said this about
Don't you think if that was a statistic about the power of the Gospel it would have had some other words? "500 churches and I tell you the crime rate in this place is next to nonexistent. The need in this place...they're thinking of renaming this city. It shouldn't be called