The Gospel Of Self

“When God says don’t he means, what? …. He means don’t HURT yourself!” —James MacDonald

I liked that. When I first heard James say that, I liked it a lot. I thought, that’s right. Sin hurts us! It brings all sorts of bad consequences, not to mention spiritual death!

But maybe that’s a bit misleading. Perhaps it’s only partly true.


As I’ve grown up in the faith, I realize that James’ teaching is actually somewhat dangerous if left at that point. It’s dangerous because the focus is … on ME, MY, and MYSELF.

The fact is, much of his teaching ultimately caters to the culture of self. He has a lot of truth in his sermons. He does teach the Gospel, that Jesus’ sacrifice paid for our sin to reconcile us to God the Father. Over all, James has really sound theology.

But there’s this: Much of his teaching makes our daily lives and our self-centered interests too prominent. Much of his teaching suggests that the Bible is a manual to smooth out the troubles in our life so that we can lead wonderfully successful lives.

It’s important to note that James also will teach that if we don’t suffer trials and discipline from God, we should question whether we’re actually one of God’s children. So, he does teach that.

The truth about our sin is that it soils every good intention, every prayer, every act of service, every good deed in which we engage. Avoiding the things for which God says “Don’t” and focusing on the notion that it “hurts me” is the Gospel of Self.

But having listened to him for several years, the prominent theme is focused on self-satisfaction, feeling loved, feeling accepted, being free of anxiety …etc.

Some will claim that it’s making the Bible practical for our daily lives. True enough.

But, again, it focuses on half of the equation. And, only the lesser part of the equation at that!

The truth is, when God says, “Don’t” what he means is “Don’t dishonor Me!”

Our sin is from birth. Our every action—even the good works we do, even our prayers—are so smeared with sin that we cannot please Him.

The truth about our sin is that it soils every good intention, every prayer, every act of service, every good deed in which we engage. Avoiding the things for which God says “Don’t” and focusing on the notion that it “hurts me” is the Gospel of Self.

It miserably fails to address the fact that we’re born in total rebellion and offense against God. So much so that even our strict observance to avoid those things God says, “Don’t,” results in more sin!

How does that result in more sin, you ask? Because we’re thinking “I don’t want to hurt myself!” instead of thinking, “This offends God Most High!”

The unrepentant sinner doesn’t want to hurt himself. The unrepentant sinner wants to have a life free of anxiety. The unrepentant sinner wants to enjoy peace and prosperity.

What the unrepentant sinner does NOT want to do, is recognize that his life is an open grave of putrid death before God.

The unrepentant sinner does NOT want to render unto God what is God’s …. such as the Glory and Honor to which no one else can claim.

The unrepentant sinner is NOT concerned about the offense his life is before God Most High and that this offense is not only marked by disobeying the negative commands—the ‘Thou Shalt Nots’—but also in failing to obey the positive commands—the ‘Thou Shalts!’

When David sinned by lusting after Bathsheba, plotting to cover up the sin, then plotting and arranging for her husband’s murder, it certainly hurt him. It also dragged many people into sin, hurting THEM! Bathsheba was lured into the relationship in violation of her vows to Uriah. She was then complicit with the deception of trying to get Uriah to sleep with her to cover up the sin. David’s captain and troops were accessories to murder in the plot that David devised.

We may sacrifice daily, hourly, by the minute … but no amount of our goats, rams, doves and sheep will ever atone for our increasing debt. Only one has paid the full price.

David’s confession, however, didn’t say to God, “I broke your commandments, Lord, and I’ve hurt myself!” He didn’t even say, “Against poor Bathsheba, the innocent Uriah and the noble Joab!”

No, David’s prayer was, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (Psalm 51:4)

David was broken and contrite before God, recognizing that his sin confirmed God’s judgment and His justice. Unlike Saul, who tried to parley with God by claiming some good deed to off-set his disobedience, David confessed that his rottenness from his mother’s womb (Psalm 51:5).

There was no “Self” in David’s prayer. There was only looking to God Most High in penitence and abject humility, affirming the spotless character of God and resting entirely on His mercy and grace.

Our sin is from birth. Our every action—even the good works we do, even our prayers—are so smeared with sin that we cannot please Him.

When God says “Don’t” what He means is, “Don’t offend My Glory!”

We need desperately to realize that every sin of self, every outburst of anger, every point of strife, even our attempts to do good, unless washed by our intercessor, Christ, are only adding to the offense against our God Most High.

We may sacrifice daily, hourly, by the minute … but no amount of our goats, rams, doves and sheep will ever atone for our increasing debt. Only one has paid the full price.

That price included your humble service. That price demands your full repentance. That price should call you back to renounce any claim you might have to be called a son or daughter, but hope to be accepted as a servant.

Thankfully, God’s response to the poor, meek and mournful souls is to throw a feast and declare us fully restored as clean sons and daughters!

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7 Comments

  1. I’ve been reading Jeremiah and was struck by the two sides of obeying & disobeying. God is clear–feel shame, be moved and mourn over sin, and hear what I am saying and you will live and be blessed and I’ll bless you; or you ignorant fool! You don’t listen and I will laugh when you call on me! I will remember you no more. To be a Christian is to care what God thinks so much that our every decision and thought is to ask “is this honoring God?” I fall short there. We all do. But God knows those who are His and those who are His desire to honor God with their lives. We all tend to be selfish but hopefully, we are growing less and less self centered and more and more God honoring. I haven’t listened to James in years but a few months ago, I watched a video about a marriage that he helped save and it was really all about promoting Harvest Bible Church and tooting James horn. I was not impressed.

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    1. Yeah, I read an article about James and Harvest and how he got them 65 million in debt and then had to expand the “tithing base” to help pay for it. When people objected, they were nullified and excommunicated.

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      1. Yeah, and he never really said he was wrong. He publicly shamed these men and then did a back page apology. And he continues to speak for God, saying what God is doing. Very sad to see someone go bad.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I used to really like him and listened to many of his sermons but then I started hearing things about him that didn’t sit well with me. He endorses people like Beth Moore and TD Jakes which I find repulsive. Seems so sad too because he used to be a good teacher, but now he seems like he’s a false prophet.

        Liked by 1 person

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