In my first year of proper work after Bible college, I saved like mad and bought a ticket to Thailand for my summer holiday. I had no accommodation, no plan and very little money – yet it was a great holiday.
In Thailand, I was amazed to find all kinds of very fashionable branded clothing, like Puma, Adidas, Nike and Ray Ban, for very, very cheap – a fraction of the normal cost.
The problem was that the articles were not genuine and not authentic, they were counterfeit. The T-shirt or sunglasses may look good initially, but usually you soon discover that the product is inferior, substandard, deficient and second-rate.
The same is true when it comes to religion.
The Bible tells us about Jesus, about his life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, heavenly rule and promised return. It tells us that by trusting in Jesus we are forgiven of our sin and declared right with God. It’s this gospel or momentous news about Jesus that saves us and it’s this gospel that keeps us growing as Christians.
We never move beyond the gospel of Jesus: the gospel is the genuine article.
However, there are all kinds of religious practitioners offering counterfeit and false gospels – often under the banner of Christianity. They will use Christian words and Bible verses, call themselves prophets or apostles or ministers, but what they’re peddling is a counterfeit product that is inferior, substandard, deficient and second-rate. And not only that, it is extremely dangerous.
How often are there so-called Christian conferences that promise you the latest secret to spiritual growth, the newest insight to true victorious living, the undiscovered power of positive thinking or special experience that you give you the edge.
The unsaid presumption is always the same: the simple gospel of Jesus is great to start with, but for really successful Christian living you need something more (and they’ll tell you what in exchange for a small donation).
Peter, in the letter of 2 Peter, says that this is nonsense.
Peter says that in the gospel of Jesus we have everything we need and more. We can never move beyond the gospel. What we need is to be reminded of the gospel and to grow in our understanding of and obedience to the gospel.
When Peter wrote this letter (about 65 AD) many people had believed the gospel of Jesus and become Christians. These new Christians were in danger of being misled by false teachers who were promoting a fake gospel.
These false teachers were promoting their false and counterfeit gospels in the guise of Christianity (2 Peter 2:1). They promised freedom: freedom from sin, freedom from the hardships of this world, and a new victorious living in Christ. They promised freedom, but they themselves were not free, they were slaves of sin (2 Peter 2:19).
Notice how the great Apostle Peter, close friend of Jesus, integral member of the 12 disciples and leader of the early church, addressed the Christians he wrote to:
“…To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours….” (2 Peter 1:1)
The Christian’s faith, says Peter, is not deficient or sub-standard, but it’s as precious and valuable as the faith of the Apostles.
Why? Because the Christian’s relationship with God does not depend on the quality of one’s faith, but on Jesus – and thank God for that because my faith is not that great at the best of times.
“…To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1)
The Christian’s faith is as precious and of equal worth to the Apostles’ faith because the righteousness of Christ has been credited to the Christian.
This is extremely important. False teachers generally say that you need to increase your faith and then God will give you what you pray for. They say that trusting Jesus is not enough and you need something more.
The Apostle Peter says that your faith in Jesus is enough because it depends, not on you, but on who Jesus is and what he’s done. Christians don’t need a conference to somehow top-up their faith or add to their faith; they simply need to be reminded to keep trusting and obeying Jesus. (2 Peter 1:5-7, 12-15)
Either a Christian or you’re not; you either trust Jesus or you don’t; there’s no levels of Christianity.
You don’t need Jesus plus healing or success or speaking in tongues or an experience or good works or breaking the blood curse or appeasing the ancestors. All you need is Jesus.
If anyone tells you that they have discovered the secret to Christian growth or a new insight into victorious Christian living, please tell them to read 2 Peter!
If you simply trust Jesus, you are the genuine article. You have all you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). You don’t need an extra blessing, a new experience or a fresh-outpouring of the Spirit, all you need is Jesus.