“Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel

Last year, I noticed a disturbing trend in some Christian schools I visited. The good news about Jesus Christ, perfect, crucified, risen, and reigning, had all but disappeared from pulpits and classrooms around me. The historical, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 gospel had been replaced with bad, bad news. The bad news was this:

  • “Boys and girls, be good people.”
  • “Students, do something nice for your classmates.”
  • “Christians, get to know your neighbors.”
  • “Teachers, love your students.”
  • “Administrators, be better bosses.”
  • “Parents, get involved in your child’s life.”

Eventually, I gave it a name – “Do Stuff.” To be sure, Do Stuff is a poor gospel substitute, but its also something much worse – a gospel killer. Do Stuff comes in the name of Christ but leaves His good news out.

Do Stuff is popular with pastors, youth leaders, and teachers because it gives them the right to give people commands without giving them the gospel. You see, explaining the gospel takes time, and Do-Stuffers want to spend their time telling people what to do.

Hating “Do Stuff”
“‘Hate’ is a strong word, isn’t it?” Why, yes, it is. And the Bible tells us to hate what is evil and cling to what is good. According to Galatians 1:8-9, teaching legalism is evil. It curses people and keeps them out of heaven, because legalism teaches us to rely on ourselves and not Jesus Christ crucified and risen. Legalism keeps us from Jesus, and we are to hate anything that keeps us from Him, even our own families (Luke 14:26).

Christians ought to hate “Do Stuff” for more specific reasons, too:

  1. “Do Stuff” lies to people about their own sin. Telling people to do good things implies that are good enough to do good things. Of course, the Bible doesn’t make this implication, but our sinful hearts do (even as we deny our sin). We are not good, and can do nothing to gain God’s favor.
  2. “Do Stuff” murders the grace of God and turns it into our works. Relying on, focusing on, and loving our works is antithetical to trusting in the grace of God.
  3. “Do Stuff” reduces the word of God to a list of actions and prohibitions. Isn’t that what our students and church members end up thinking, that “the Bible is a list of rules”?
  4. “Do Stuff” turns the messengers of God into messengers of Satan. Preachers are meant to herald God’s gospel, not their own commands! Every command of Scripture, sooner or later, is couched in the gospel!
  5. “Do Stuff” deceives people away from Christ. The focus of “Do Stuff” is always on us! It will always be man-centered! To be God-centered, you must center your teaching on GOD!

Truly, “Do Stuff” is worthy of our spite and scorn.

Spotting “Do Stuff”
Do Stuff can be hard to spot, though, because it often comes cloaked in the garb of agreeable religious duty – pray more, read your Bible more, give more, love the poor, love your family, work hard, blah blah blah. But not one of those things, by itself, focuses on Christ and Him crucified.

When you hear a message, devotion, or lesson spoken in the name of Christ, ask yourself this: “Did that teacher just tell me to do stuff? Or did he remind me that Jesus has already done it in my place, and it is finished? Did he call me mainly to faith in Christ’s work, or faith in mine?” Then you will begin to spot who is giving you false laws, and who is reminding you of the Savior.

“Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel
The Bible has another word for this false gospel, “legalism,” and another word for those who teach it, “Pharisees.” Since Jesus gives His strongest condemnations to these false teachers, we ought to heed well His warnings here (see Matthew 23).

Jesus hated “Do Stuff” because He knew it wasn’t the gospel. He lived and died and rose for the gospel, and “do stuff” isn’t it. Jesus Himself is the good news. Only by trusting Him does God forgive us, change us, adopt us, make us holy, keep us humble, kill our sin, and bring us home to glory.

Now, whenever I hear a message, I try to ask myself this: “Did that preacher just tell me to do stuff? Or did he remind me that Jesus has already done it in my place, and it is finished?”

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About B Treece
loved by God before I ever loved Him, saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone by the authority of the Bible alone to the glory of God alone, made to enjoy Him forever, happily married with wonder-filled children.

11 Responses to “Do Stuff” Isn’t the Gospel

  1. bob says:

    You give me stuff to think about. Too often I forget what I am supposed to be doing. It is easy to fall back on just doing stuff.

    • B Treece says:

      Bob,

      Thanks for reading and talking with me. Yeah, I feel the same way. It’s so easy in so many ways to be driven by legalism rather than the grace found in Jesus.

      I want to think more and write on how we’re called to think on Christ, how this is the essence of faith, and how this drives us to actually do stuff that is Christ-centered. But it’s all built on faith, not works, because faith looks to Christ and works look to self.

      Keep thinking with me,
      Britt
      crossonmyback

  2. michael says:

    So the only thing you have to “do” is believe? Or “believe” and “trust”. Those are both verbs.. Things you do.. So you don’t have to “do stuff” just “do these couple of things”.

    • B Treece says:

      Michael,

      Thanks for dropping by and commenting. I appreciate the sharpening question you imply: is faith a work or something else?

      Ephesians 2:8-9 says that faith is a “gift of God” based on “grace,” and that this excludes the boasting that comes from “works.” Faith, to Paul, is something entirely other than works. Faith does work (Eph. 2:10), but it is not work itself.

      It might feel hard to “do,” but it’s not a work we do at all. It’s a gift of God. Galatians 3:5 points again to this sharp dichotomy: “Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?”

      Or, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians in 15:10, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Paul does do work as an apostle, but it’s all based on God’s grace.

      In OT language, God dragged Lot and his family out of Sodom in Genesis 19:16 because “the compassion of the LORD was upon him.”

      Thanks for helping me clarify,

      Britt
      crossonmyback

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