The Danger With Watering Down our Christian Message

Some of you may remember the 2002 conviction of the Kansas City pharmacist Robert Courtney who was charged with the unconscionable act of diluting the cancer treatment drugs, Gemzar and Taxol, in order to greedily boost his profits.

An attentive Eli Lilly sales rep. noticed a discrepancy between the amounts bought and sold by Courtney.This suspicious discovery set the ball rolling for a Lilly investigation, but they found nothing. However, the persistent sales rep. warned a nurse who worked for an oncologist whose office was located in the same building as Courtney. The oncologist had a sample of the medication tested and the cold-blooded pharmacist was busted.

Courtney ultimately pled guilty to diluting the drugs during a period of time spanning from November 2000 to March 2001. In the end, he was convicted of pharmaceutical fraud and sentenced to thirty years in federal prison. He’s fortunate he wasn’t tried for attempted murder.

This pharmacist literally held the power of life and death in his hands, but for the sake of selfish personal gain he diluted the cancer drugs to the point at which they were of no help to anyone. Likewise, some people sadly choose to do the same kind of thing with God’s eternal life-saving truth. But this matter is much too important to allow ourselves to be swayed by the mob mentality, media manipulation, or any other sin-promoting pressure groups. Watering down God’s Word is deadly, and anyone who does it will be held eternally accountable before God.

In a recent editorial in Good News magazine, Rev. Rob Renfroe discussed the trend of the mainline (actually, more like “flatline”—as in, dead) denominations to liberalize their stance on the hot-button issues of our day. He responded to the people who state, “The culture is changing and we’re going to lose people, especially young people, if we don’t change.” As Rev. Renfroe noted, this argument is sadly being made by many of our compromising church leaders who “tell us that we had better reflect the values of the culture…or we’ll become irrelevant.” However, as he also stated, “The church is called to be countercultural. We must live differently than a materialistic and hedonistic culture…we must call people to self-denial of all that is contrary to what God has revealed to be his will.” In fact, the only real way for the church to lose its relevance is to abandon that which causes Christianity to stand out, our moral distinctiveness from the world.

Pastor Renfroe also revealed another easily demonstrable problem with liberalism’s faulty logic. “The numbers do not bear out what liberals tell us,” He said, “all of the mainline churches…have changed their positions to allow practicing ‘gay’ pastors and ‘gay’ marriage. And they are all declining in numbers – and rapidly.” The point is this: There is nothing at all attractive about a morally distorted and sexually perverted form of the Christian faith. When people are searching spiritually, they are looking for something authentic and bigger and beyond themselves. They are not looking for something that has absolutely no transformative value whatsoever. Only the pure, unwatered down Gospel can truly offer people what they so desperately need. And what people need  are lives fashioned by the Word, and not the Word fashioned to fit their lives.

So, the “progressive” (actually, the “perversive”) message is a futile notion that leads to nowhere. It is impotent and sorely lacks the seal and efficacy of God’s divine authority. The only thing the modern liberal twist on the Bible will produce is the further hemorrhaging of faithful believers who inevitably migrate to other churches or denominations, which have remained committed to the teachings of Scripture and the historic doctrines of the Christian faith. Christ’s true believers have absolutely no use for sappy, sentimental fluff, masquerading as a poor, pathetic substitute for the spiritually satisfying meat of God’s unadulterated Word.

It is the height of self-centeredness whenever an individual steers clear of sharing any essential truths that people might find hard to hear. Rather, we must love people enough to tell them what they need to hear, even at the risk of personal attacks. To do otherwise is to demonstrate a neurotic narcissism, in which we do or don’t do whatever it takes to make sure people like us. And if the choice of our words is solely determined by the praise we will receive, then how is that love for others and not just love of self?

The faithful followers of Christ also know that an inoffensive Gospel is no gospel at all (Gal. 5:11). The good news (hope, grace, salvation) makes absolutely no sense without the preexisting bad news (sin, judgment). For if it is taught that each person can excuse their own particular sins, then people will logically assume that there must be nothing to be saved from. Therefore, such a message is an affront to God because it usurps His divine authority and replaces it with a conveniently relativistic mutant.  

Moreover, if person is “won” to a watered-down gospel, they really haven’t been won at all. Instead, they have merely been deceived into accepting a false sense of security and a feel-good fraud. Thus, they remain just as lost as ever and are still headed to a Christless eternity in hell. All such false teachers will be held most accountable for their misleading proclamations. In fact, the Bible unequivocally issues this firm warning, “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” For those preaching an anemic “gospel,” the millstone will most certainly be the heavy weight of responsibility that hangs around their necks due to the shameless preaching a sin-promoting message. According to the book of Ezekiel, these gutless deceivers have blood on their hands (Ez. 33:6).

So, what about Jesus? Did our Savior water down his message to avoid “losing people?”

When Jesus looked deep into the heart of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10, he saw that greed had a death grip on his life. Therefore, Jesus presented him with a very challenging and personally difficult decision. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). Unfortunately, this young man, with all of his empty religiosity, walked away from the matchless Savior, leaving behind the greatest opportunity that he had ever been offered. And Jesus did not chase him down and say, “I’m sorry, please come back. Did I say ‘all?’ You don’t need to sell all…just make a nice donation to our church building project and that’ll be enough.” No, Jesus did not say anything of the sort. He did not soften or water down his message. It was surely a sad moment for Jesus to experience, but false converts are not converts at all. He let the Rich Young Ruler walk away.

Or what about the incident recorded in John Chapter 6? When certain disciples said that Jesus had delivered a “hard teaching,” the Bible records that “from this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66) (an interesting biblical reference number, I might add). Once again, in this situation, Jesus did not compromise the truth. He did not say, “Pleeease, don’t leave.  I’m sure I can tweak my message so that it’s a bit more to your liking. Don’t you realize that I need you to stay so I can count you on my annual church statistical reports? I’m sure we can work something out. Come back!” Nothing remotely like this ever entered Jesus’ mind. This is not some kind of self-serving numbers game we’re trying to play. We are not called to pad our membership roles; we are supposed to be involved in a true kingdom building enterprise, and the pitifully lame liberal “gospel” will never accomplish such a thing. Of course, it’s never easy to see lost people depart from the life-transforming person and power of Christ. My heart aches terribly every time I see this happen, but we certainly do them no favor by watering down the truth. Jesus didn’t do it, and neither should we He changed the world, the world didn’t change him. Anyone who even considers such a disgraceful thing is not following in the spirit and footsteps of our great Savior.

In a YouTube video that went viral in November of 2009, Penn Jillette, one half of the comedy magic duo Penn and Teller, criticized atheists who argue that Christians should not share their faith with others. Despite being a non-believer, he definitely understands the importance of not pulling any punches when it comes to fully and forcefully sharing all that you believe.

“I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize,” Penn Jillette said, “I don’t respect that at all.”

“If you believe that there is a Heaven and a Hell, and people could be going to Hell … and you think it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward… how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?”

“How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you and you didn’t believe it,… there’s a certain point where I tackle you, and [everlasting life] is more important than that.”

Exactly! I couldn’t have said it better myself. How is it than an avowed atheist can figure this out, but so many individuals who call themselves Christians cannot? It’s really not that complicated. When it comes to God’s Word, and all we have to do is believe it and share it…holding nothing back…watering nothing down.

When it comes to the Gospel and all of God’s truth for that matter, please do not add water. After all, this isn’t a pancake or biscuit mix we’re talking about. And this isn’t a popularity contest. This is eternal life and death!

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.

Jeff Allen is both a senior editor and columnist for BarbWire. He also serves as senior pastor in a mainline Christian church in Indiana. He is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene. Jeff is involved in several community ministries.
You Might Like

Join the conversation!

We have no tolerance for comments containing violence, racism, profanity, vulgarity, doxing, or discourteous behavior. Thank you for partnering with us to maintain fruitful conversation.