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on March 30, 2011
What is the gospel?

It seems like such a simple question, doesn't it? Yet, if you ask 10 different people, you might get 12 different answers.

Why is that? Why is it that there seems to be so much confusion over what all who profess faith in Christ believe is the greatest news of all?

Why have we traded something so glorious for a pale substitute--a counterfeit? That's the question at the heart of Trevin Wax's new book, Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.

So why do we fall for counterfeits in the first place? Why are they so alluring? The reality, according to Wax, is that they're just easier than the real gospel. Counterfeits don't cost us anything, and indeed, they can make us quite popular in the eyes of non believers.

"Yet a counterfeit gospel will always leave our souls impoverished at just the point we should be enriched. Counterfeits leave our hearts and affections for God depleted at just the time we should be overflowing with passion to share the good news with others." (p. 13)

Our acceptance of counterfeits has led to a threefold crisis within the Church. Where we should have clarity of the gospel story, we have confusion. Where we should have bold proclamation, we lack conviction. Where we should have vibrant gospel community, we instead retreat from society or become exactly like it.

I greatly appreciated reading Wax's succinct identification of the crisis within Evangelicalism; indeed it was something of an "aha" moment for me as it described many of the frustrations I have had when speaking with fellow believers in my community. This is in no way meant to malign anyone in our city, but when churches see themselves as "homeless" because they're between buildings or believers don't feel like they can share their faith with someone because they don't have any answers to hard questions that might arise, there is something wrong.

Wax quickly moves from identifying the problem to the solution, tackling each aspect of what he describes as the three-legged stool of the gospel, first by unpacking the genuine article followed an examination of the counterfeits.

The Gospel Story. Leg one focuses on the big story of the gospel--Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. The story the context that gives the announcement meaning and fulfillment. To say that Jesus Christ died in your place so your sins could be forgiven doesn't have sufficient weight unless you understand the back story. "Christ died... in accordance with the Scriptures," wrote Paul. Wax describes a story answers the deep questions we have about life and existence because it ties all our individual "stories" to the big story of Jesus, and this is a glorious thing, indeed.

Wax follows up his overview of the gospel story by examining two counterfeits. The first is the therapeutic gospel. This counterfeit targets the fall; confusing "our spiritual symptoms (a troubled marriage, anxiety, anger, addictions) with our spiritual disease (sin). . . . Sin is recast as an obstacle to finding happiness. It's whatever gets in the way of my becoming all that I ought to be." (p. 44)

This counterfeit manifests itself in ideas such as "God wants me to be happy," that sin is a lack of self-esteem (so we shouldn't talk about it because it just makes people feel bad), that Jesus will make my life better, or that God is some sort of cosmic vending machine who is obligated to bless you for your obedience. This inevitably leaves us in a place where we become "more interested in the gifts than the Giver." (p. 56) We don't want God, just what He can give us.

The second counterfeit is the judgmentless gospel. This counterfeit "diminishes the need for the gospel announcement, and eventually changes the make-up for the gospel community as well. . . . Our efforts to minimize boundaries between who is `inside' and `outside' the kingdom dilute the power of our witness." (pp. 68-69)

This counterfeit manifests itself in modified forms of universalism that suggest that heaven is the norm, or in the downplaying of the afterlife for a focus on the "missional life," the thought that "God doesn't send anyone to hell, people choose to go there," or even a twist on "God knows the heart," turning the warning into a promise.

The Gospel Announcement. Leg two is the key--the life, death and resurrection of Jesus change everything. He announced the arrival of God's kingdom, His perfect life is offered to all who trust in Him and we are declared righteous in God's sight because of it, and His death and resurrection bring about the forgiveness of our sins and our reconciliation with God. It's truly the news that changes the world!

Yet, we again find counterfeits. We trade the glorious announcement of Christ for a moralistic gospel. Here, we tell people they need to get right with God without telling them who God is; we offer good advice instead of Good News ("Good advice sells books, but the gospel changes hearts. Good advice is popular, but the gospel is powerful," writes Wax [p. 112]); we begin with grace and move back to the law, forgetting that its whole point is to show us why we need to be saved; and we even spiritualize the gospel announcement so it becomes a form of self-help, rather than something that fills us with awe and wonder.

We also trade the announcement for the quietist gospel, turning the good news into a message that is only personal. It becomes only about individual salvation; it creates a false dichotomy between the sacred and secular, heaping guilt upon those who work regular jobs instead of being in some form of full-time vocational ministry; and it tries to push Christianity out of politics, forgetting that while faith isn't a political weapon, it always has implications.

The Gospel Community. Leg three deals with the implications of the gospel--the birth of the Church. The gospel announcement brings about the formation of gospel community, one that "is empowered by the Holy Spirit to be a blessing to the nations by bringing the good news of salvation and living distinctly from the world for the good of the world." (p. 170)

Like the rest, this too has its counterfeits. The first, and one of the most popular today, is the activist gospel, which "unites us around social action or political causes rather than the gospel itself" (p. 174). And it's incredibly appealing because it brings immediate results to those who pursue it, even as it completely wears them out.

Where the quietist gospel tries to limit the impact of the gospel announcement, the activist gospel focuses only on its impact. So we find ourselves in culture wars, speaking "out against adultery in society while overlooking the adulterer singing from the choir loft" (p. 175), raging against our hobby horses, but not doing battle with sin. We serve as errand runners in the quest to make the world a better place, believing that politics is the primary way to change the world. We look to education as the solution to the world's ills, ignoring the truth that ignorance isn't our biggest problem--our rebellion against God is far more serious.

This counterfeit is probably the most personal to me as it impacts my day job (I work at for a Christian NGO) and, I've seen how easy it is to get sucked into this trap. Activism is very alluring, but the cause can too easily supplant the gospel. Reading this chapter offered me an opportunity to recalibrate and refocus my attention on where it needs to be, especially as I write.

The final counterfeit Wax describes is the churchless gospel. This counterfeit reduces the importance of the local church to the degree that people do not see the importance of the institution at all, or don't see the need to attend regularly.

One variation is put forward in Pagan Christianity by Barna and Viola, who paint everything about the institutional church as utterly pagan and worthy of opposition, and the only hope for restoration if to abandon the organized church and adopt structureless forms of Christian fellowship. Another suggests that the local church is optional, but if you have fruitful Christian fellowship through a parachurch organization or college ministry, then you don't really "need" it. The third most common variation suggests that the church is actually a hindrance to true spiritual growth for people who love Jesus and want to be like Him.

Wax ends Counterfeit Gospels where he begins, reminding readers again of the beauty of the true gospel and a plea to counter the counterfeits by telling the gospel story, making the gospel announcement and inviting others into the gospel community. This is a challenge all of us, myself especially, need to hear. The truth is, counterfeit gospels are ugly--pale imitations that fail to help, encourage and save. We need to immerse ourselves in the gospel as we find it in Scripture and let that drive our motivations.

Instead of the activist gospel, we should pursue gospel-driven activism. Instead of fleeing from the institutional church, we should embrace the opportunity that God has offered for our sanctification to increase and to serve others in love and humility. Instead of relying on politics or education to change people, we need to bring the light of the gospel to politics and education. And instead of offering good advice, we need to start announcing good news. If you're inspired by the gospel, if you want to be captivated by its beauty, I would wholeheartedly encourage you to read Counterfeit Gospels.
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on April 5, 2011
I've been following with great interest blogger Trevin Wax's research and writing about the gospel on his blog, Kingdom People, for months. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to read a pre-release copy of his new book, based on what he's learned: Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope.

The premise of the book is that "counterfeit gospels"-ways of thinking and speaking about the good news that are diluted or distorted-are the biggest threat to the church today. These counterfeit gospels cause a gradual drift from the truth of Scripture that is less obvious, but no less dangerous, than blatant heresy, persecution, or a number of other threats. These counterfeits are like candy: pleasant to the taste, but leaving us spiritually malnourished. In extreme cases, they may lead to outright heresy, but in most cases, they either dilute the truth or teach it out of proportion. There's often enough of a saving message to reconcile us to God, but as Trevin says,

"...the watered-down version never satisfies our longings. Nor will it empower us for service, or embolden our witness before a watching world." (p. 13)
He goes on to define the gospel using the concept of a three-legged stool. The three legs are story, announcement, and community.

Story is the "big picture", God's sweeping plan of redemption for all of Creation. We often see it referred to as "Creation-->Fall-->Redemption-->Restoration". This is the overarching grand narrative told from Genesis to Revelation.

Announcement refers to the announcement of Christ's life, death, and resurrection and our personal, individual response to it. This is the "God-->Man-->Christ-->Response" component, addressing our individual salvation.

Community describes the embodiment of the gospel as we are shaped by it and live according to it's truth as a community of believers in the world...a present manifestation of God's Kingdom.

Each leg of the stool is essential. Cut one off and the whole thing tips over:

"Each leg of the stool is important because each relates to the other two. The gospel story provides the biblical narrative necessary for us to understand the nature of the gospel announcement. Likewise, the gospel announcement births the gospel community that centers its common life upon the transformative truth of Jesus Christ. Though the New Testament authors generally use the word 'gospel' as referring to the announcement of the crucified and risen King Jesus, a closer look reveals that they never separate the announcement from the back story which gives it meaning-nor the community that the announcement births." (p. 16-17)

He goes on to say:

"The counterfeit gospels in the church today resemble the biblical gospel in some ways, and yet fail to incorporate and integrate all that the Bible says about the good news. Each counterfeit is like a colony of termites, eating away at one of the legs of the stool, and therefore toppling the stool and damaging the other components as well." (p. 17)

Each counterfeit focuses on one leg of the stool, overemphasizing and/or distorting it. The rest of the book evaluates six common counterfeits, grouping them according to which leg each one targets. It explores the therapeutic, judgmentless, moralistic, quietist, activist, and churchless gospels. Each chapter addresses one of these, describing the different forms each one takes, what makes it attractive, and discussing what each gets right and wrong. Wrapping up each chapter, Trevin advises how to counter each counterfeit biblically, concluding with a list of Scripture references that address each aspect of that particular counterfeit.

I really loved this book. There are so many different "versions" of what is encompassed in the gospel, and each one has parts that ring true. How do we sort it all out and keep the main thing the main thing? I grew up in an environment that emphasized the "announcement" over the "story" and "community", and for years I struggled with where those pieces of the puzzle fit...I knew they were biblical and important, but couldn't reconcile exactly where they fit in to the picture. I have to say that Trevin's three-legged stool concept is one of the most helpful models I've encountered...it really lays out very clearly what I've come to understand slowly over a number of years...that the gospel encompasses much more than just a set of facts to be believed at a moment in time to get you "in", and each aspect is essential. In fact, I'm using this model in a family discipleship class that my husband and I are teaching when we discuss communicating the gospel to our children.

The way the counterfeits are categorized according to which leg they overemphasize or distort is well done. Everything is organized and laid out very clearly. The charts scattered throughout were super helpful. I especially like this one that compares all six counterfeits at a glance.

Counterfeit Gospels is an incredibly timely and needed book. It seems like in general, confusion reigns in today's churches about the gospel. Counterfeit Gospels is just the prescription needed to clear through all the obscurity and bring clarity and understanding. In short, I think it's a must read and give it my highest recommendation! It released on April 1 and I encourage you to get your hands on a copy!

Thanks so much to Moody Publishing for the advance review copy! All opinions expressed are my own. Also, since this was an unedited proof copy, I can't guarantee that the page numbers cited will coincide with the published version of the book.
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on April 2, 2011
The Bible records that "the gospel ... by which also you are saved" is "that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1Corinthians 15:2-5). Often, due to unconscious self-deception or tacit pre-commitments to humanist notions, men attempt to substitute the biblical gospel with a counterfeit gospel. Trevin Max in "Counterfeit Gospels" delivers a much-needed wakeup call to the modern church as a way to refocus believers on that which Paul called the "utmost importance."

Herein Wax provides an outline of the gospel as he refutes gospel counterfeits (therapeutic gospel; self-help; make me happy gospel; no judgment, hell or sin gospel; no church gospel - overly individualistic).

Romans 4:5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.

Jesus announces the Gospel in the first chapter of Mark with the words "repent and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15) forasmuch as the advent of the kingdom of Heaven was at hand. The author informs the reader that Christ's perfect life (Jesus never sinned in thought, word or deed; He obeyed God's Law perfectly) is given to all who repent and believe the goodnews. The believer has all his sins expiated (removed, forgiven, and cleansed); additionally the believer receives Christ's imputed righteousness. Thus one cannot work for one's salvation; the believer trusts Christ alone for acceptance by God; furthermore the believer follows hard after Christ because he is now saved, out of gratitude, not in an effort to gain merit.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I advise that the believer to always remember the 3 G's:
Guilt, grace and gratitude.
1. All people are guilty before God due to sin;
2. by Grace alone God saves us as we trust in Christ alone;
3. the saved now obey God's word out of gratitude for all He is and for all that He has done for us in Christ.

Titus 3:4 "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men."

If you are confused about the central truth of Christianity, the Gospel, or if you want to be stirred by the truth of the gospel anew, then you should pick up this volume for it will help you pin all your hopes on Jesus Christ: His person and work.

See the New Apologetic book:
Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity
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on October 5, 2013
"The Real Deal or a Cheap Imitation?"

"The best way to identify a counterfeit bill is to know the real thing. The same is true with the gospel. We need to know the truth if we hope to discern the imitations."

In "Counterfeit Gospels," Trevin Wax talks about the most common assumptions people make when they think of the gospel. Other people, on the other hand, have felt misled in the topic, causing them to question their faith or to walk away from it. What Wax points out is how common it is for people to be confused because they, more likely, don't understand the entire story. He suggests that we need to learn the entire story from the very beginning. When describing the gospel, Wax refers to it as a "three-legged stool": the gospel story (the narrative of Scripture); the gospel Announcement (about Jesus Christ); and the gospel Community (God's church).

The six, most common counterfeits mentioned are: Therapeutic, Moralist, Activist, Judgmentless, Quietist, and Churchless. Wax states, "Counterfeit gospels are appealing because they cost us less in the eyes of the world." His solution is for people to understand what the gospel really means in order to truly welcome Christ.

Although I am neither spiritual nor religious, I did like reading this book. It isn't really for me, to be honest; however, other people may appreciate the book. I would recommend it for those who would like to educate themselves more on the topic of the gospel, or for those who want to read it for personal development.
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on May 4, 2011
If someone accused me of "turning to a different gospel" I think I'd be offended. Are you calling me a heretic? Are you saying I've abandoned the great Gospel of Jesus Christ? How dare you accuse me of preaching a counterfeit gospel?

Pause on that thought, we'll return to it.

In Counterfeit Gospels Trevin Wax wants to present the fullness of the Gospel. The Gospel is like a three-legged stool in which if one of these legs is emphasized to the point of eclipsing one or both of the other legs, the Gospel cannot stand. Furthermore, within each leg stands the possibility of distortions. These distortions Trevin refers to as "counterfeits". The Gospel with its respective counterfeits looks like this:

3 Legged Gospel: 1.Gospel Story 2.Gospel Announcement 3.Gospel Community
Counterfeits: Therapeutic gospel; Moralistic gospel; Activist gospel; Judgmentless gospel; Quietist gospel; Churchless gospel.

Many people want to boil down the Gospel to the "Gospel Announcement" and this leads people into the error of seeing the Old Testament as irrelevant to the Christian life. But the Gospel announcement without the Gospel story makes no sense. To say that Christ died for our sins presupposes that we have a problem which is carefully explained and elaborated throughout the O.T.

Many other Christians see little need for the Gospel community. As long as they accept the message of the announcement they are good to go. But this continues to perpetuate the error of distorting the fullness of the Gospel:

"The gospel story is the context in which we make the gospel announcement. But we must not neglect the third leg of this stool, the gospel community that the announcement births." - p.154

There exists within each leg of the Gospel proper the possibility of distortions. In the Gospel Story many preach the erroneous therapeutic "feel good" gospel which is never too far from the judgmentless gospel. In the Gospel Announcement many proclaim a moralistic "you can do it" gospel which is never far from its individualistic counterpart, the quietist gospel. In the Gospel Community many proclaim the erroneous activist gospel and the churchless gospel.

What makes a counterfeit a counterfeit is that it resembles the real thing, with perhaps a wrong emphasis here or minor distortion there. But in the end, it amounts to a counterfeit of the real holistic Gospel.

Assessment:

I don't think this book would stand a chance against sharp criticism from liberal Christians. But it's not made to. The intended audience is clearly conservative Evangelicals who may not have a balanced understanding of the Gospel from an Evangelical perspective.

On the whole I think Trevin's assessment is pretty accurate, though I still content against his assertion that "under this one truth (Penal Substitution) all the other atonement theories find their place" (p.95). Trevin places the raising of the Christus Victor motif in a place of prominence above the Penal Substitution under the counterfeit of the "judgmentless gospel" where he writes disapprovingly, "Jesus' death is more about defeating humanity's enemies (death, sin, Satan) than the need for God's wrath to be averted by His sacrifice" (p.73).

But at least I can see where he's coming from. The frustration I am beginning to feel is that people seem to downplay the real issue, the root of humanities problem - separation from God as a result of Adam's rebellion - and the need for reconciliation through the Penal death of Christ on the cross. I don't think that Penal substitution and Christus Victor stand opposed to each other. I agree with Trevin that to raise the Victor motif to the point of eclipsing or making void the Penal aspect of Christ' death does result in a counterfeit.

But I would add that to raise the Penal view to the point of eclipsing the Victor aspect of Christ' life, death, resurrection and ascension - something too common among conservative Evangelicals - equally results in a counterfeit. I don't recall Trevin adding this balance. But then again, I didn't expect he would since he tends to favor this theory himself.

On the whole, I thought it was well done for a book written on a popular level. I agree with Jim Belcher's assessment of this book when he described it as "a full-orbed and robust view of the gospel".

Returning to the pause. This book is not about accusing anyone of preaching a counterfeit gospel. In fact, I think I've emphasized on point of these counterfeits or another throughout dialogue and preaching. This book is an encouragement to keep the "full-orbed" gospel in mind, to keep a healthy view of the gospel and a warning against accidentally falling into one of the many distortions of the gospel out there. Survey the comments on this blog - comments that include this very author - and you'll see what I mean. In dialoguing and defending our views we tend to overemphasis one point or another, usually amounting to a distortion of the healthy gospel. I'm glad Trevin wrote it.
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on April 30, 2011
"Christians and non-Christians are often drawn to counterfeit gospels. Even those of us who have walked with the Lord for many years may be inclined to accept cheap imitations of the truth. Why? Because they are easy. They cost us less. And they make us popular with people whose opinions matter to us." - Trevin Wax from Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope

One of the common things a tourist runs into in a big city is counterfeits. You can purchase a counterfeit Rolex for only a fraction of the cost of a real one. For a small investment, the tourist can own something that looks like what millionaires wear on their wrists to keep time. However, it may look like a Rolex and even have "Rolex" stamped on it, but ultimately it is a counterfeit. It lacks the same structure, design, durability and internal components of a real Rolex. It fails to hold up the same way an authentic Rolex will.

I'm afraid Rolexes are not the only thing being counterfeited today. A plethora of so-called "gospels" are passing themselves off as the true gospel. None other than Rob Bell's controversial best-seller "Love Wins" is just such a counterfeit. Shortly after reading it I learned of a new book titled "Counterfeit Gospels" by Trevin Wax. Wax develops curriculum for the SBC with Lifeway. Being a fellow Southern Baptist myself, I excitedly nabbed a copy of his book and dug into it. I found it refreshing and challenging.

Wax begins by laying out the basics of the true Gospel with the illustration of a three legged stool. Each leg represents a critical part of the Gospel and if any one leg is removed then the stool falls. These three legs are the "The Gospel Story", "The Gospel Announcement" and "The Gospel Community." Each counterfeit insidiously attacks one of the three legs of the true gospel.

Wax identifies six specific counterfeit gospels: therapeutic, judgmentless, moralistic, quietist, activist and churchless. The therapeutic and judgmentless attack the Gospel Story. The moralistic and quietist attack the Gospel Announcement. Finally the activist and churchless attack the Gospel Community. Wax begins the study of each counterfeit with a chapter dedicated to the particular "leg" of the stool, then follows with individual chapters to each attack on it.

The book offers an approachable depth that helps the individual believer see through the many counterfeits invading the church today. I believe it is essential reading for any church leader and believer in Christ. Leaders must make sure they avoid perpetrating a counterfeit and believers must be sure they do not fall into the trap of following one. Wax's work is scholarly and detailed. It's not a book you'll plow through in a day or two, but one you will slowly wade into that will lead you to look into your own faith, the faith community to which you belong, and the Christian faith as a whole.

My biggest concern is that the authentic Gospel is becoming rarer in the 21st Century. Wax expresses a deep love and understanding of the Gospel. Each chapter concerning a counterfeit offers advice on "countering the counterfeit" which will help those who find themselves embracing something other than the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The stakes are high. The Apostle Paul said:

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)

Those are strong words from the Apostle Paul when he dealt with a counterfeit gospel in Galatia. The stakes are high. The eternal fate of souls is determined by how one embraces the Gospel. Paying a large sum of money for a Rolex and finding out later that it is a counterfeit is a tragedy. Investing your faith in a gospel message and finding out later it is a counterfeit is the greatest tragedy in life. Wax's book will help readers discern the real from the counterfeit in an effective way. It is perhaps the most relevant book I have read outside of the Bible since becoming a Christian.

Disclosure of Material Connection:
I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
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on August 1, 2011
Mr. Wax splits the gospel into its three essential parts. Background story (creation, fall, redemption, restoration.), why you need a savior in the first place. Life of Christ and how He provides the good news through His death and resurrection life. Community. What you are saved to do and to be in the body of Christ. And then shows how dropping or twisting one of these creates the six major (and a few minor) fake gospels. Gospel as therapy (let's make you happy, rich and comfortable in this life!), Judgment free (sin ain't all that bad, what hell?, other religions are probably saved too), Moralist (now you are saved so these are the 16,108 laws you must obey perfectly), Quietist (religion is for in church only), Activist (you are saved to change the world politically and socially), Churchless (It really is all about me). And then shows how to correct each with the real complete gospel. Excellently done.
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on May 3, 2011
Counterfeits are commonplace. At most check-outs these days the cashiers are armed with pens whose ink is specifically formulated to turn a certain color when a fake is presented for payment. There is no such pen for theological counterfeit. In his recent publication, Trevin Wax has sought to provide such a tool. Counterfeit Gospels is a very accessible and very timely corrective.

Even if the differences between counterfeit and true gospel are slight there is still much to be lost. Wax writes, "In extreme cases, a counterfeit gospel may lead to heresy, a distortion of the biblical gospel so devastating it leads straight to hell. But in most cases, counterfeit gospels represent either a dilution of the truth or a truth that is out of proportion. There may still be enough of a saving message to reconcile us to God, but the watered-down version never satisfies our longings. Nor will it empower us for service or embolden our witness before a watching world" (13). You may have enough right to save your soul, but not enough to fully enjoy the relationship with the Father or the power of the Holy Spirit.

Trevin presents the Gospel in three separate parts: The Story, The Announcement and The Community. By examining each part and the counterfeits that attach to each one he helps us understand the many ways that Satan, sin and the flesh can lead us astray into a false gospel. They also try to separate the three necessary parts from one another. The gospel is a message that must be proclaimed as it brings us into a new relationship with God and his covenant people.

I really appreciated this book and the way it was structured. Placing the counterfeits against the real message helps makes the differences much clearer. By bringing clarity into our understanding of the true Gospel it enables us to walk with more faithfulness and confidence in a world of false gospels and competing messages.

NOTE: To comply with regulations of the Federal Trade Commission I would like to state that I have received a complementary copy of the aforementioned text as compensation for my review.
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on April 30, 2011
The gospel.

As believers, it should be foundational to our understanding of God, the world, and ourselves. We ought to be able to explain it anytime we need to, strive to live out its truths daily, and we ought to be able to point out error when a false version of it is proclaimed (and be able to use scripture to explain why). Unfortunately, this is not always the case. This is why I'm thankful for books like Counterfeit Gospels by Trevin Wax.

Wax wrote Counterfeit Gospels to address what he feels is a threefold crisis facing the church: 1) A lack of gospel confidence (believing that the gospel message has power by itself); 2) A lack of gospel clarity (our ability to articulate the truth of the gospel and why people need to hear it); and 3) A lack of gospel community (no distinctions between the church and the world, or, worse yet, feeling the church is unnecessary).

To address these issues, Wax proposes a three-legged stool metaphor for the gospel, and this makes up the structure for the book. For each leg - Story, Announcement, and Community - Wax explains the biblical truth of the gospel as it pertains to that area in one chapter, then he takes two chapters to examine two counterfeits that distort or outright deny that truth.

I was a big fan of the structure of the book as it allowed for easy compartmentalization of the ideas being discussed. The format clearly sways towards reductionism at times, and some will balk at the terms and broad brush strokes with which distortions are painted, but these instances are pretty minimal, and overall I think Wax was fair to the different views of the gospel he discusses.

My favorite discussions centered around the distortions of The Announcement, The Moralistic Gospel and the Quietist Gospel, as these are the two I tend to lean towards when I begin to lose sight of the true gospel. The Moralistic Gospel says we can manipulate God and earn his favor (or at least succeed in improving our behavior with His help) by law keeping. This is a dangerous counterfeit that shows up in many conservative, evangelical churches today as many sermons are preached about moral improvement with no mention of Jesus Christ who gave us his righteousness. It's a subtle counterfeit but very powerful and destructive. The Quietist Gospel, on the other hand, reduces the message of the Kingdom to only individual salvation and creates an "us vs. them" mentality within the church. This is also very prevalent today.

The gospel is the power of God for salvation to all who believe (Romans 1:16), and it's extremely important that we get it right. Books like Counterfeit Gospels are needed resources to help believers think through the different distortions of the message that look very similar to the real thing, but will lead us down dangerous paths if we're not careful.
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on February 17, 2016
Almost every page in my book has hi lighting on it. This book helped me see the gospel clearly in a way that I had never before. Although, in the years since reading this book I have come to see what Trevin missed...or at least what he does not emphasis in the book...specifically the Kingdom of God. This book is great but I would recommend supplementing it with NT Wright How God became King and Simply Jesus.
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