Failing Forward is not the Gospel

Today I will be discussing an article in the Christian Post, the article can be found here. The article is titled:

The Bible heroes who fell forward

By Greg Laurie, CP Contributor

I’m going to show my hand a bit early on this post. As I read this article it seemed very much like most American Evangelical sermons. There was little scripture, there was mention of something that we aren’t doing and motivation to do that something better, and no mention of repenting of sins, Christ Crucified for those sins, and a life lived in daily repentant faith.

The New Testament book of Hebrews includes a collection of great heroes of the faith, men and women whom God used and blessed. I find that interesting, because those people messed up. They weren’t perfect examples. But the funny thing is that chapter 11 of Hebrews mentions only their victories and not their mistakes. That is because God sees what we will become, not necessarily who we are.

Article: The Bible heroes who fell forward

Let’s notice here how he describes the saints good works, good fruit, as victories and their sins, as mistakes. This chapter is all about faith which points to Christ. He won’t be talking about Jesus or faith today. In fact, I think he only mentions faith one more time but as a title given to Abraham, the father of faith. For most protestant sermons, at least far Protestant “messages“, the focus is on you and your life. You aren’t really a sinner you just have some areas where you need to get better. The goal is the victorious life, to have it all figured out, to live your best life now, to be the best you that you can be; namely, it’s christianized self help.

The Bible tells us that Moses “chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 NLT). Moses understood that God’s worst was better than the world’s best. You, too, may take God’s worst. But you’ll also get God’s best: purpose, meaning in life, the joy of the Lord and the guaranteed hope that you’ll go to heaven when you die. 

Article: The Bible heroes who fell forward

But with the world, it’s a bad deal times two. That’s called a lose-lose proposition. You’ll have the short-lived pleasures, of course. But afterward those pleasures have consequences. You’ll have to face the repercussions of your actions, your sins and your behavior. And the Bible says that ultimately there’s a final judgment when nonbelievers will stand before God.

Article: The Bible heroes who fell forward

That is as close to the law and Gospel that he gets. He never mentions Jesus, the atonement for your sins. Instead he says you might get oppression but you’ll get purpose, meaning in life, and a guarantee that you will go to heaven when you die. So, face value, oppression is then what gets you meaning in life and eternal life in heaven? Everyone else, he says, has short lived pleasures but they will have repercussions, consequences, and final judgement. So, then, his point is avoid sin, be oppressed, and you will go to heaven. How is this message any different from the worlds religions? Answer, it’s not. I know I have sinned, will he give me the comfort of Christ Crucified for those sins? No, the comfort you get to try to soothe your seared conscience is to try harder to avoid sinning and be oppressed. This is no comfort at all to the troubled conscience.

Yes, Moses failed, but he failed forward. That simply means that he learned from his mistakes. And we need to do the same. Some people just keep doing the same things over and over again. They make the same mistakes, fall into the same cycle of sin, struggle with the same addictions, and it just goes on and on and on.

Article: The Bible heroes who fell forward

What does any of this have to do with Jesus? What does this have to do with repentant faith in the promised Messiah, that they hadn’t seen this Messiah but yet still had the gift of faith even though it was veiled? It has nothing to do with the point of Hebrews 11. He is just telling us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and to learn from our mistakes and to try harder, without repentant faith in Jesus given by the Spirit. This is the same message that could be given in a self help seminar.

On the other hand, if you make a mistake or do something wrong but own it and learn from it, that is a well-learned lesson. That is failing forward.

Article: The Bible heroes who fell forward

So if you have sinned and yet learn from that sin then your sin isn’t that bad you just “failed forward“? Where in the Bible does it discuss the doctrine of ‘failing forward‘? In what category of a christian dogmatics book will you find the doctrine of ‘failing forward‘? I’ve never seen it. That’s because he is making all of this up.

Maybe you’ve said, “God could never use me. He could never work through me.” The truth is that God loves broken people, and He can change them. We see our flaws. We see our shortcomings. But God sees something different. He sees who we will be one day. We see a broken life, but He sees a life put back together and used for His glory.

Article: The Bible heroes who fell forward

That’s the end of his article. Are you worried that you might be one of those that has to stand in front of God for judgement for the sins you committed? Well the good news, according to Greg, is that God loves broken people and can change you because he sees who you will become, just put your life together and use it for his glory. So, what’s the problem with that? You might have missed it. He says that God loves people because of who they will become. Not only does this toss you back onto focusing on cleaning up your life but God’s love, according to Greg, is based on your changed life. It’s not based on Jesus’ active obedience of living a perfect life for you and His passive obedience to be Crucified as a payment for your sins. It’s not based on you being clothed in His robe of righteousness, of Christ’s merit given for you through the gift of faith. Greg’s Gospel is no Gospel at all. It’s only Law. Do this, yet it is never done, don’t do that, but I’ve done it. Try harder, I can’t. A Gospel that points you back onto yourself is a false Gospel.

What is the point?

13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Hebrews 11:13

39 These all, having been commended for their faith, didn’t receive the promise, 40 God having provided some better thing concerning us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:39-40

1 Therefore let’s also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

The entire point of Hebrews chapter 11 is that those saints only saw a glimpse not what we now know in full; that is Jesus Christ Crucified for your sins. Out of that veiled Gospel they had fruit of repentance, they had living faith, how much more is our fruit and our faith now that the veil is lifted, we know Christ has been crucified for our sins, raised for our justification, and the gift of faith we receive is from that very Gospel of Christ who is not just the founder of that faith but also the perfector of that faith.

Therefore, repent of your sins. One thing Greg was correct on was that there will be judgement for the unrighteous, those who reject the gift of faith, who refuse to allow the Spirit to grow fruit in keeping with that repentant faith. You are not the answer to your salvation, Christ is the answer. All the failings that you have done, paid for. All of it. Your life, your new regenerate life, will struggle against daily sins. This is because of the gift of faith in you, this is the fruit of the Spirit, that fights against your sinful desires. You will fail. You will sin, you will see yourself with disdain because of your new passions from faith. You will see your sin, and start to hate it, you will grow more and more fruit yet never reaching perfection. You will sin. When you do, cross yourself, and imagine those daily sins written on paper and placed into the Savior’s hands on the cross two thousand years ago. Nailed there, soaking in blood, erasing the writing of your sins. They are gone, forgiven, paid for. This is the life of daily repentance. God has you as His own dear Child because He bought you back from the dominion of the devil and has placed you in His bosom.

The goal of this post is to help you to see that just because someone says something about God doesn’t always mean it’s true. Go to the biblical text and read it in context. Always keeping your eyes on Christ because He is what the Bible is about (John 5:39). May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. With your sins forgiven, go in peace.

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