Tag Archives: Gnosticism

How to shipwreck everything

In the early days of Christianity two dangerous heresies presented themselves to the church: legalism and gnosticism.  Take your choice, either will shipwreck your faith.

Many Believers with Jewish roots embraced the lie of legalism: Jesus and the law.  Jesus clearly brought them into life through no effort of their own, but labor and laws kept the whole apparatus in motion.  It was a hamster wheel of performance with religion shouting from the sidelines, “IT’S NOT ENOUGH!  YOU MUST DO MORE!  More Bible reading!  More prayer!  More attention to witnessing!  More careful obedience to the law!”  Paul blasted the Galatians: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”  (Gal. 3:3)  Legalism in today’s church reveals itself in endless cycles of “recommitment”.  We cry tears at the altar, make pledges and promises, beat ourselves up, and decide one more time to “do better”.  But nothing really changes because it’s an empty system of human effort and determination.

But Greek believers chose Gnosticism:  Spiritual growth meant ever deeper experiences and knowledge.  We see it today in the frantic pursuit of supernatural experiences.  “If only I can get to those meetings and fall-out under the power of the Spirit, I’ll reach a new level of spirituality.”  Hogwash!   Gnosticism, too, is a hamster wheel of chasing ever deeper experiences:  “You’ve had Holy laughter?  But have you had gold dust fall on you?”  “Oh really?  Well what about an out-of-body experience?”  And so we run from here to there following signs, wonders and experiences.  (Signs and wonders are rather to follow us, but that’s for another day!)

The key to spiritual growth is neither deeper commitment, nor endless supernatural experiences.   It is in the simple choice of believing God.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ… for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:16-17)  Faith in what?  In the fact that Jesus has accomplished the entire work himself, and the only thing left for me to do is to believe that good news.  Everything begins and ends right there in the wonder of receiving all that God has so freely given.