Christianity 201

May 23, 2018

The Love of Money and the Teaching of False Doctrine

Today’s devotional’s title is actually a new title for something which appeared here five years ago. I re-titled it because I wanted you to see that there might be more than a casual connection between the two. Yes, false teachers teach falsely about many subjects — not just finances — but the often-quoted verse about the love of money is found in a larger context of something different: False doctrine.

It’s always good to frequently remind people in your sphere of influence that the chapter headers and paragraph headers in modern Bibles are not in any way part of the text. A few days ago here, I learned that when you create a particular headline, you send peoples’ thoughts in a particular direction that doesn’t allow what is written to speak for itself. It’s the same with the publishers of Bibles.

I Timothy 6 (NIV sans header) begins:

6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

In the Full-Color Bible edition of the NIV (a newer Bible from Standard Publishing formatted similar to the Rainbow Study Bible) there is a header that says,

Danger of loving money

That header tends to funnel us directly to the “love of money” section at the expense of the earlier verses, at the expense of what precedes it.

Here is how some of today’s popular Bibles highlight this passage:

False Teachers and the Love of Money (NIV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NLT – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NRSV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teachers and True Contentment (ESV – middle of vs. 2)
Instructions to Those Who Minister (NASB – start of entire chapter)
Warning about false teachers (CEB – start of vs. 3)
The Lust for Money (MSG – start of vs. 2)
The dangers of false doctrine and the love of money (Phillips – start of vs. 3)
False Doctrine and Human Greed (HCSB – middle of vs. 2)

The second part of verse five is the pivot around which the text moves into a discussion of finances, but we emphasize those verses about the love of money to the point of neglecting the section about those who teach false doctrine, especially as described in verse 4 and 5a.

  • he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. (HCSB)
  • …has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words… (NRSV)
  • …has an unhealthy craving for controversy… (ESV)
  • …He is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. He has a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words… (AMP)
  • They don’t understand anything but have a sick obsession with debates and arguments. (CEB)
  • …he is a conceited idiot! His mind is a morbid jumble of disputation and argument, things which lead to nothing but jealousy, quarreling, insults and malicious innuendos—continual wrangling (Phillips)
  • If others are teaching otherwise and bringing unhealthy conversations to the community, if they are not sticking to the sound words in the teaching of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, if they are not teaching godly principles— 4 then they are swollen with conceit, filled with self-importance, and without any proper understanding. They probably have a gross infatuation with controversy and will endlessly debate meanings of words. (The Voice)

Certainly any look at what takes placed in the Christian blogosphere and in the comments section on news websites dealing with religion stories shows the preoccupation for words and controversy. Many of those writing are simply not qualified to make blanket, authoritative pronouncements.

But it’s interesting that many of these very people are also called out for their preoccupation with money. It is as though the two conditions go hand in hand.

The second half of vs. 5 in the NIV also needs to be considered in the light of prosperity teaching:

“…who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

This is the message of many faith teachers; that living life God’s way will result in financial gain, whereas the scriptures teach God’s provision for needs. Matthew 6:33 says that if we seek God’s kingdom “all these things” will be “added” to us, but the “things” referred to in the preceding verses are food, drink, and clothing; in other words physical necessities.

Does this work both ways? If the unhealthy obsession with doctrinal controversy leads to wrong teaching and wrong prioritization about finances, can a wrong attitude about money also warp our reading of scriptural truth that impacts our core theology? It would be hard to make a case that one causes the other, but the characteristics we see in people on particular issue “A” often indicate a potential for problems with topic “B” …or “C” or “D” or “X.”

Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Don’t let the Bible’s teaching about the love of money in I Timothy 6 cause you to miss that money issues are often part of a larger issue, either in someone’s character or in their methodology for interpreting the Bible.

 

 

December 5, 2017

The Church of Sardis Needed Strengthening

by Russell Young

At the beginning of his revelation to humankind, the Lord pronounced blessings on those who would hear and take to heart the fullness of that revelation. Following this he commended the seven churches for their strengths and admonished them for their failures. At the end of his revelation he promised a presence in the New Jerusalem for those who overcome. (Rev 21:7) They were to do something to find eternal fellowship with him, not to passively rest in mental “belief” or in the “acceptance” of his gift of grace.

His address to the churches was not to the church corporate but to the body of the churches. To the church in Sardis he stated, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard: obey it and repent.” (Rev 3: 1─3 NIV) The blessing that the Lord had proclaimed rested in the need for those of Sardis to wake up and to obey what they had received.

It is easy for a church to have a reputation of being alive. A reputation is derived from the impressions of others. A church can be very active within itself and within the community, as was likely the church in Sardis. However, the Lord declared it to be “dead,” or perhaps, its members to be dead. He left them with the call to “obey” and dismissed their reputation of being alive.

The issue of concern to him appears to be that of personal righteousness, since he addressed the state of their coverings and commented that a few people had not soiled their clothes. These he proclaimed would walk with him dressed in white. “White” raiment stands for purity and holiness. Those who don’t wear white will be left shamefully exposed. He admonished the church in Laodicea to buy “white clothes to wear, so so[they] could cover [their] shameful nakedness.” (Rev 3:18 NIV) Apparently the need for personal righteousness had been lost in the church of Sardis and in the minds of its people. The Lord said that he or she who “overcomes” like them would be dressed in white, that their name would not be blotted from the book of life, and that he would acknowledge them before his Father and his angels.” He did not say that they needed to confess him as Lord but that they had to live out their confession through obedience–to do something, if they were to avoid death. Even though the church had a reputation of being alive, the Lord’s assessment was that most of its members were dead.

The need for personal righteousness is seldom declared; it is assumed to have been given as an act of grace by the Lord. Many claim to rest their hope “in the righteousness of Christ alone” without exploring the meaning of their pronouncement. Paul warned his readers not to be deceived. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6: 7─8 NIV) Pleasing the Spirit requires obedience to him. The writer of Hebrews declared that “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5: 9 NIV, Italics added.) Those who have chosen to walk in darkness—apart from the Spirit, or who do not recognize the need for obedience due to deceptive teaching will reap destruction even though they may have attended church many times a week and have a reputation for being alive because of their busyness and activity.  The Lord commends his children for their righteous acts and gifts of mercy; however, without holiness no one will see him. (Heb 12:14 NIV)

There are many false doctrines being presented that bring comfort to the dead, but the Lord cautioned the church of Sardis, and his people through them, to “Wake up!” The promise of a place in the New Jerusalem is only offered to those who “overcome.” (Rev 21:7) Does your walk need strengthening? Do the teachings of your church need strengthening? The church in Sardis was found wanting and needed strengthening.


Author Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. His book Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.


Our Thursday contributor, Clarke Dixon, also looked at the church of Sardis earlier this year. Click here to read Dead Churches, Like Sardis.


Yes, today’s first scripture text did indeed form the basis of a Bob Dylan song, When You Gonna Wake Up.

August 28, 2017

A Different Gospel

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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In yesterday’s Sunday Worship column, I commented on a detail of The Prodigal Son story that I had not noticed before. I am constantly amazed at the depth of the parables, how many different lessons there are to be gained from what is always just a few short verses.

But we need to be careful when he hear something new that it conforms to everything else we have been taught. Someone has said, “If it’s new it’s not true.” I am not comfortable with such a sweeping generalization, but obviously in the course of Christian history, there have been many people who have come along with new ideas; some helpful and instructive; others rather off base.

In 2 Corinthians 3-4 Paul writes,

I am afraid, however, that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may be led astray from your simple and pure devotion to Christ.  For if someone comes and proclaims a Jesus other than the One we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the One you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it way too easily.

Paul says this twice in the same paragraph in Galatians 1:7b-8

Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be under a divine curse! As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you embraced, let him be under a divine curse!

Years ago, I had the responsibility of coordinating two completely different Sunday morning services at our church. The first service was meant for believers, and I asked a friend, who specializes in cult research to do a message for which I gave him the title, “How Does a Rocket Go Off-Course?” In other words, I wanted him to share not so much how groups come along with something completely out of left field (i.e. The Book of Mormon) but rather how orthodox groups suddenly seem to take a turn down a road of questionable theology.

I suspect it starts out with one small particular point of doctrine. Perhaps it’s something a reader wishes was in the text. Perhaps it’s a word that has been less than perfectly rendered in one of our translations. Perhaps it’s a lack of attention to the context of a particular verse. Perhaps it’s just a lack of sleep the night before due to bad pizza!

The problem is once you start undoing a working systematic theology, because of the inter-relatedness of the parts, you can end up undermining the very nature of God, or the essential plan of salvation. Some may find the study of theology boring, but there is a real beauty in how the various doctrines can fit together, if the theology makes sense.

I also want to point out what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:2

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.  (NIV)

It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you–unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. (NLT)

The second rendering, in the NLT suggests something that is true far too often, and that is many people have come into the faith family believing things that “were never true in the first place.” Again, using the analogy of a rocket that has gone off course, we need to apply what rocket scientists call “a mid-course correction.” We need to gently steer that person away from the false understanding which, left unchecked, will lead to other errors or perhaps lead to great frustration in their Christian growth and life.

 

 

June 26, 2017

The Devil is a Liar

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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We’re back for yet another visit to Blogos. The featured writer this time is Anthony Barbato. Click the title to read at source and then check out some of the other articles.

Satan, Father of Lies

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
  – John 8:44

Honestly, there’s not enough time in the world to tell you all the ways Satan lies to us. Just as there’s no limit to God’s goodness, there’s no limit to Satan’s deceit. And no wonder, as he’s the “father of lies.” Christ tells us in John 8:44, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

One thing Satan continually does though, is cast doubt upon God’s word. Let’s take a look at his exchange with Eve in the garden.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5

After this Eve eats the fruit and gives some to Adam to eat as well. You see, first Satan calls into question God’s word. And then, even when it’s affirmed, he twists its meaning. This is essentially Satan’s primary desire. Since the Lord is the only source of truth (Ecclesiastes 12:11), it’s of course where Satan is focused. He doesn’t care which lie you believe, just that you don’t believe the truth. People who are part of a false religion are just as doomed as the atheist (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Peter 3:16; Revelation 20:15).

Satan doesn’t care which lie you believe; people in false religions are just as doomed as atheists. tweet

Aside from that, here’s a quick list of the most attacked beliefs of God’s truth as revealed in Scripture:

1. The Depravity of Man — This is the clear Biblical teaching that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Men are fallen creatures (Romans 3:10-18), wretched beings (Romans 7:24), and in need of a new birth (John 3:1-21). Because of our sin we face eternal separation from God, and nothing apart from belief in Christ through the drawing of the Father can save us (John 6:44; Acts 4:12). In short, men are sinners, incapable of saving ourselves from God’s judgement without the intercession of the Son by God’s immeasurable grace (Genesis 8:21; 1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Ezra 9:6; Job 9:2, 15:14; Psalm 14:1; 51:5; 53:1; 58:3; 143:2; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 9:3; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 3:17; 17:9; 22:21; 32:30; Micah 7:2; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; Romans 3:10-18, 23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8).

2. The Deity of Christ — The deity of Christ is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God the Father, the image of the invisible, co-eternal, and equal to Him as the Word become flesh (Deuteronomy 18:18; Isaiah 9:6-7; 16:5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 5:2; Mark 14:61-64; John 1:1-14; 5:18-23; 8:58-59; 14:7-9; 10:30-33; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 1:15-19; 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8).

3. The Sacrificial work of Christ — This is the belief that Christ died for our sins, taking our place in judgement and fulfilling God’s plan to reconcile us to Him (Isaiah 53:4-5; Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 2:2; 3:5; 4:14; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14).

4. Christ’s Resurrection — The belief that Christ was raised on the third day “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4), showing His victory over death (Matthew 12:39-40; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6-7; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17; Romans 1:4-5; 4:25).

5. Salvation by grace through faith alone — The belief that we are saved only by the grace of God, through our faith in the sacrificial work of His son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24-28; 5:6-9; 9:16; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:4-9; Philippians 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:3-7).

Again, I can’t tell you all the ways Satan lies. What I can tell you is he will disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and twist God’s truth in a way that appeals to our own sinful nature (Genesis 3:5). The good news is, as Christians we are not ignorant of the Devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). And because of the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 119:89; Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 40:8; 55:10-11; Matthew 5:18; 24:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20-21), we can test everything against God’s word (Acts 17:11). Also, we can trust the Spirit to lead and protect us (John 15:26; Ephesians 1:13-14). In closing, we are not to fear the Devil, but we are to be mindful and aware of him (1 Peter 5:8). The Lord is perfectly able to lead and protect us as His children (Colossian 1:21-23; Jude 1:24-25). I’ll leave you with a passage I think sums it up perfectly:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:1-4


May 29, 2013

Allowing the Text to Speak

It’s always good to frequently remind people in your sphere of influence that the chapter headers and paragraph headers in modern Bibles are not in any way part of the text. A few days ago here, I learned that when you create a particular headline, you send peoples’ thoughts in a particular direction that doesn’t allow what is written to speak for itself. It’s the same with the publishers of Bibles.

I Timothy 6 (NIV sans header) begins:

6 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

In the Full-Color Bible edition of the NIV (a newer Bible from Standard Publishing  formatted similar to the Rainbow Study Bible) there is a header that says,

Danger of loving money

That header tends to funnel us directly to the “love of money” section at the expense of the earlier verses, at the expense of what precedes it.

Here is how some of today’s popular Bibles highlight this passage:

False Teachers and the Love of Money (NIV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NLT – middle of vs. 2)
False Teaching and True Riches (NRSV – middle of vs. 2)
False Teachers and True Contentment (ESV – middle of vs. 2)
Instructions to Those Who Minister (NASB – start of entire chapter)
Warning about false teachers (CEB – start of vs. 3)
The Lust for Money (MSG – start of vs. 2)
The dangers of false doctrine and the love of money (Phillips – start of vs. 3)
False Doctrine and Human Greed (HCSB – middle of vs. 2)

The second part of verse five is the pivot around which the text moves into a discussion of finances, but we emphasize those verses about the love of money to the point of neglecting the section about those who teach false doctrine, especially as described in verse 4 and 5a.

  • he is conceited, understanding nothing, but has a sick interest in disputes and arguments over words. (HCSB)
  • …has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words… (NRSV)
  • …has an unhealthy craving for controversy… (ESV)
  • …He is puffed up with pride and stupefied with conceit, [although he is] woefully ignorant. He has a morbid fondness for controversy and disputes and strife about words… (AMP)
  • They don’t understand anything but have a sick obsession with debates and arguments.  (CEB)
  • …he is a conceited idiot! His mind is a morbid jumble of disputation and argument, things which lead to nothing but jealousy, quarreling, insults and malicious innuendos—continual wrangling (Phillips)
  • If others are teaching otherwise and bringing unhealthy conversations to the community, if they are not sticking to the sound words in the teaching of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, if they are not teaching godly principles— then they are swollen with conceit, filled with self-importance, and without any proper understanding. They probably have a gross infatuation with controversy and will endlessly debate meanings of words. (The Voice)

Certainly any look at what takes placed in the Christian blogosphere and in the comments section on  news websites dealing with religion stories shows the preoccupation for words and controversy. Many of those writing are simply not qualified to make blanket, authoritative pronouncements.

But it’s interesting that many of these very people are also called out for their preoccupation with money. It is as though the two conditions go hand in hand.

The second half of vs. 5 in the NIV also needs to be considered in the light of prosperity teaching:

“…who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”

This is the message of many faith teachers; that living life God’s way will result in financial gain, whereas the scriptures teach God’s provision for needs.  Matthew 6:33 says that if we seek God’s kingdom “all these things” will be “added” to us, but the “things” referred to in the preceding verses are food, drink, and clothing; in other words physical necessities.

Does this work both ways? If the unhealthy obsession with doctrinal controversy leads to wrong teaching and wrong prioritization about finances, can a wrong attitude about money also warp our reading of scriptural truth that impacts our core theology? It would be hard to make a case that one causes the other, but the characteristics we see in people on particular issue “A” often indicate a potential for problems with topic “B” …or “C” or “D” or “X.” 

Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

Don’t let the Bible’s teaching about the love of money in I Timothy 6 cause you to miss that money issues are often part of a larger issue, either in someone’s character or in their methodology for interpreting the Bible.

April 14, 2013

Controversy in the New Testament

I ran this yesterday at TOL, but wanted it here as well, even though it doesn’t have a specific scripture reference.  The author is popular Christian counselor and author Jay Adams.  Click here to read at source.

Sometimes it may seem that we spend too much time refuting falsehood. All of us are chagrined at the preponderance of error both within and without the Church. We may write off those who attempt to combat it and set forth the truth in clarity over against it as “heresy hunters.” The term is used pejoratively; but should it be? Take a quick look at the Books of the New Testament, merely scratching the surface, and see what you think.

  • In the Gospels Jesus warns against false teachers, speaks of wolves in sheep’s clothing and the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The record of His ministry is one of conflict with those who refused to accept the teaching He set forth.
  • Acts contains the record of the church’s first major controversy over whether or not a person must become a Jew before he could qualify as a Christian. A church council was called to settle the matter. Paul goes to lengths to warn the Ephesian elders about wolves who would devour the flock and schismatically draw away disciples to themselves.
  • Romans is an entire doctrinal treatise about justification by faith alone in contrast to salvation by works, and how sanctification follows thereafter. In it, Paul also takes up the rejection of the Jewish church.
  • I Corinthians is loaded with problems; schism, misuse of gifts, church discipline, marriage and divorce, and on, and on, on.
  • II Corinthians takes on false apostles who had invaded the church and charged him with pretending to be an apostle. The place of apostolic authority is set forth, along with the qualifications of an apostle.
  • Galatians is a sterling defense of Justification by faith alone over against those who taught otherwise, and were upsetting the church by Judaistic legalism.
  • Ephesians is less controversial, being a universal epistle rather than directed to the adverse circumstances of an individual or a congregation
  • Philippians deals with a split in an otherwise good church. But it has to do with self-centeredness and sets forth a key Christological passage.
  • Colossians is consumed with fighting Judaistic Gnosticism.
  • I & II Thessalonians take up false teaching about the Lord’s coming and eschatology.
  • I & II Timothy & Titus teach “healthy” doctrine over against many false ideas. And, in them, Paul doesn’t hesitate to name specific heretical individuals.
  • Philemon is a welcome exception.
  • Hebrews, in its entirety, combats all influences that would cause Jewish Christians to revert to Judaism.
  • James utterly destroys the idea that one can have genuine faith that does not result in good works.
  • I Peter explains how the New Testament church is no longer a physical political entity, but that the church is now the spiritual people of God, the new Israel.
  • II Peter warns against scoffers and libertines unsettling the church and reveals the true picture of final things.
  • I John argues quite effectively throughout the book against Gnosticism of a Cerenthian sort.
  • II John warns against hospitality for heretics.
  • III John deals with church discipline gone so far astray as to virtually destroy a church.
  • Jude throughout its entirety is an exhortation to contend against the libertines who invaded the church that failed to listen to the warnings in II Peter.
  • Revelation speaks of the warfare of God against apostate Judaism, the first persecutor of the church, and Rome, the second persecutor, and predicts the fall. It also mentions cults like the Nicolatians.

Now, in light of the above, if you can, tell me, why we should not be prepared to detect and refute falsehood in the Church?

 

September 9, 2012

Protecting The Flock from Attack

For today’s post we make a return visit to Elsie Montgomery at the blog Practical Faith. Even though I find myself currently immersed in the worship life of two different congregations, I can honestly say that I am not aware of any factions within either of them. For that I am thankful, especially because my job causes me to sometimes have to listen to people from other congregations voice various complaints. Still, pastors and leaders need to keep their eyes open for things that would disrupt the work of the Holy Spirit in our churches. Elsie titled this Wolves in the Church, and as always you’re encouraged to click the title to read at source.

In our many moves, we have attended many churches of all sizes. Some were small and struggling. Others were healthy and growing rapidly. In my observations and experience, it seems that the biggest blessings are for those leaders and congregations that are concerned with God’s glory. Personal desires and ambitions have no place and because of that, the churches whose focus is on Jesus Christ are blessed, united and strong.
 .
However, the Apostle Paul knew that strong churches would become targets. Our spiritual enemy will attack, using whatever will work to divide its members and crumble its foundations. The church at Ephesus was a strong church. When he met with their leaders, Paul warned them…
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:28–30)
Here, “fierce wolves” seems to apply to those who teach false doctrine in an effort to draw people from the truth. These wolves want to build their own kingdom and will try to split the church toward that end. However, pastors must be watchful against all that tends to injure and corrupt a congregation. If false teachers and other factions come in, the elders of the church must put them right or put them out. Yet, this is a task for which they receive little training.

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Most courses offered by seminaries for a Master of Divinity degree do not offer instruction in how to deal with those who try to split or corrupt a congregation. There are a few online sermons that explain how to spot wolves and deal with them, but I get the impression that those preachers learned this from experience rather than advance preparation.

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This problem actually requires more than one person. Church leadership at its best is in a congregation with a plurality of elders. In fact, the word for Christian elders in the New Testament is almost always plural. These days when individualism, authoritarianism or even economic necessity make the pastoral role a “one-man show,” churches still must promote teamwork in their leadership.

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However, that leadership must be God-given. Paul said, “The Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” The Lord motivates and gifts men to be leaders. Their job is to be caring, pastoral and corrective. They are to watch their own selves even as they protect and feed the people of God. Their role also includes admonition of those who stray, which presupposes resistance and even opposition. I’ve never envied the duties of a pastor!

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As one preacher says, this leadership will be serious, conscientious and intensely personal. After all, this is the church of God, bought with the blood of Christ. It does not belong to the pastor, or the elders, or the congregation.

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Not only that, even with today’s emphasis on spiritual gifts and special roles, such as administrator, educator, counselor, church-growth strategist, and so on, the Bible puts greater emphasis on shepherding, tending, feeding, and protecting the people of God. We are like sheep and we need good shepherds.

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Wolves are not interested in caring for the sheep. They want a following. They want power. They want to be in authority and have the strongest voice in all decisions. They are more interested in feeding and protecting themselves. In every church we have attended, there are a few who may faithfully attend, but constantly gripe about leadership and authority. They are not interested in unity or in promoting peace and spiritual growth. If the pastor knows how to deal with these, they tend to move on, looking for easier prey in another congregation. If not, the pastor will eventually be brought down and the congregation will fall with him.

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Lord, nothing is more distressing than observing a church divided against itself, particularly when this division is fueled by wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. As You said to the disciples, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15) and “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

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Most of the time regarding these matters, I feel about as wise as an oblivious dove. I struggle with objectivity and clarity regarding those who do these wolf-like things. Are they dangerous? or merely disgruntled? Yet either way, You say to pay careful attention to myself. I am not an elder but can certainly pray for and support those who lead Your church with integrity and in the desire to glorify You.  Amen.
~Elsie Montgomery
I apologize for the dots between paragraphs. Reblogging from Blogspot to WordPress is always difficult, but normally I can eliminate the unwanted HTML tags after a few tries. Today it just wouldn’t work.

July 15, 2011

Guard Your Doctrine

When you say your prayers at night you probably ask God to keep those close to you from falling into danger.  It’s normal for us to ask our Heavenly Father to keep us safe, strong and healthy.  And it’s equally normal for us to ask God to protect our spouse, our children, or perhaps our pastor or pastoral staff from wrongdoing.  Because we’ve all heard stories of people who fell into sin or into a pattern of sin.

But the Bible teaches us that in addition to guarding our actions, we need to guard our beliefs.  Never has this been more important than it is at a time when certain doctrines are under the microscope of challenge. 

1 Timothy 4:16
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

If someone were falling into negative behaviors, or addictive behaviors, or criminal activities, or feelings of despair or hopelessness, or dangerous thoughts; we wouldn’t hesitate to guide them safely back.  But what about when someone falls into a doctrinal belief that does not represent what the “church fathers” would have considered orthodoxy?

In another letter to Timothy, Paul writes:

2 Timothy 4:3
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

It’s not surprising therefore that it is also to Timothy that Paul writes the oft-memorized verse:

II Tim 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (NASB)

Here’s verses 14 and 15 in The Message:

Repeat these basic essentials over and over to God’s people. Warn them before God against pious nitpicking, which chips away at the faith. It just wears everyone out. Concentrate on doing your best for God, work you won’t be ashamed of, laying out the truth plain and simple. Stay clear of pious talk that is only talk. Words are not mere words, you know. If they’re not backed by a godly life, they accumulate as poison in the soul.

 

To Titus, Paul writes:

Titus 1

 6 An elder must be blameless…. 7 Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless… 9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

We tend to think that someone in Christian leadership has failed when they have done something wrong, but clearly failure also happens when we believe something wrong.  Someone has said,

Collapse in the Christian life is rarely the result of a blowout, it is more often the result of a slow leak.

In a world of spiritual compromise we have to guard that our doctrine doesn’t ‘leak.’  Here’s our theme verse again, I Tim. 4:16 in The Message version:

Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.