Christianity 201

May 14, 2017

Contending for the Faith

by Russell Young

Believers are not called to a relaxed, passive life. They are called to fight, to contend for the faith. Jude wrote, “I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 1:3 NIV) To contend literally means, ‘to compete for a prize, and figuratively means, ‘to contend against an adversary.’

Jude was encouraging believers to contend with “godless men, who change the grace of our God into license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4 NIV) That is, he was encouraging them to fight against those who misrepresented God’s grace allowing believers to feel free to engage in immoral acts. Giving this freedom was the result of allowing them to deny, reject, or disavow the sovereignty and lordship of Christ. Christ never lived, tolerated, or taught the allowance of immorality but condemned it. There are many today who preach Christ as saviour and reject the need to honour his sovereignty and lordship in their lives. Jude presented his admonition to contend for the faith to those who are “kept by Jesus Christ”, to believers.

The church has not done well at contending for the faith since the grace of God has been promoted as being a gifting that pardons all godless behavior that arises from the believer’s “doing” or practices, which results in freedom from judgment even for defiance of the Lord’s (Holy Spirit’s) right to their lives. The widely-promoted definition of God’s “sovereign grace,” as meaning ‘pre-creation election,’ has eliminated the need to recognize the practical lordship or sovereignty of Christ in the “believer’s” daily life; thus, it maintains that he or she will not suffer harm for any immoral behavior or unrighteousness of heart. Such teaching automatically gives license for ungodliness. However, Paul taught that God’s righteous requirements were accomplished through obedience to the Holy Spirit. “[H]e condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV)

The church has not contended for the faith, but has endorsed the freedom derived from definitions of “belief” and “grace” that have given “licence” for immorality. Such allowance has been given to build numbers in the kingdom of God and to dispense with the need for personal righteousness. Jesus said, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Lk 16:16 NIV) It must be appreciated that no one can “force” or crowd himself into the kingdom. Entry comes through Christ alone as revealed in the truths of his Word; no one can enter without having satisfied the “righteous requirements” of the Law…not one “stroke” can be left out.

Why has the church not contended for the faith? The message that God’s “sovereign grace” has met a person’s needs is both appealing to teach and to receive. It seems, as well, that as people flocked to press their way into the kingdom, or were attempting to be pressed in by evangelists, proclamations of such hope became popular and its presenters were to some extent idolized and copied. Their gospel, even though not that of Christ, has become accepted.

Why have the students of God’s Word not raised a hew and cry about neglect of the need for repentance and the development of righteousness and holiness? Those who love the Lord and his gospel need to listen to Jude and make their voices known. Long-accepted teaching that licences the “believer” to fearlessly neglect the Lord’s sovereignty in life and that gives licence to ungodliness needs to be re-examined and rejected.

Paul taught that in the last days people would have a “form of godliness but denying its power,” and cautioned them to have nothing to do with them. (2 Tim 3:5 NIV) The “power” is the Holy Spirit (Christ in you) and his power for achieving a sanctified life is often ignored and its necessity denied. Paul also cautioned Timothy, “For the time will come when men 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. They will turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim 4:3 NIV) Has this time come? In these, Paul also proclaims the failure of the church to contend for the faith.

The LORD prophesied concerning the end times through Isaiah, “The earth mourns and dries up, and the crops waste away and wither. Even the greatest people on earth waste away. The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin. They are destroyed by fire and only a few are left alive.” (Isa 24:4─6 NIV) God will bring his wrath on humankind in the last days, not because they have rejected his “grace,” but because the earth’s people will have rejected his government…his laws, statutes, and everlasting covenant. His prophesy should not be taken as referring to the non-confessing people but to all people. By the end a great deal of teaching from “learned” men and women will have set aside the need to satisfy God’s laws, statutes, and everlasting covenant. The licence of which Jude spoke will have been fully realized. If God’s requirements are not made know, those who are seeking him will miss the mark.

The Lord said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:24 NIV) Matthew records this admonition as follows: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13─14 NIV) If an “effort” is required, its reality must be made known and not left hidden behind the curtain of God’s grace.

Believers must appreciate that their time on earth needs to be given to “contending for the faith” and the building of the kingdom of God. Judgment will befall those who neglect the service to which they have been called and for which they have been gifted. (1 Cor 3:14) That “contending” needs to be with those who have not heard the gospel, with those who have heard a misrepresented version of the gospel, and with those who are actively misrepresenting the gospel.


Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of 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.

October 4, 2016

Avoiding Deception

This is from Annie at the blog Eyes Wide Open which came recommended to us. Click the title to read at source, and then navigate the site to find other articles.

Look Each Time You Bite

worm-inside-appleIt may be hard to recognize false fruits for what they are, especially in these confusing times. But one of the reasons Jesus tells us to constantly be in communion, relationship and prayer with Him is because the more we know Jesus, the easier it is to discern truth from lies.

Satan is very deceitful. He knows that the Lord tells us we will recognize truth and those who follow Him “by their fruits.” He wants to confuse us and throw us off base. He is a counterfeit of Christ, friends. And he has refined his fake products and fruity, luscious goodies to the point it is very hard to see that they aren’t the real thing – the truly GOOD thing – unless we go deep below the surface and we seek the truth in the Lord.
Seek the truth in the Lord ~ 

  • Diligently.
  • Regularly.
  • And with a heart and desire to know JESUS.

In the process we can recognize our real enemy much easier. He is the antithesis of Christ and the fruit he provides for us to consume is rotten ~ to the core.

Do we really think that the enemy does not know what the Word of God says? Do we really think the enemy forgets that he needs to counterfeit GOOD fruit as well?

He is formidable, make no mistake about it.

BUT GOD!

God tells us clearly in His word that the more we press in to Him and our relationship with Him, the more we can see the real truth ~ HIS truth, for what it is.

We need that. We need discerning eyes and hearts and minds all the more at this juncture on planet earth.

So is it true? Pretty is what pretty does? Yes – if we are pure inside, it will shine through ~ it is true.

But not all outward beauty is inwardly beautiful and true. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

Many are pretending, friends. Many say all the right things and give us exactly what our itchy little ears want to hear. Many are also deceived – I know I find that I have been often. Usually I find out such things about myself only as the Lord helps me to see it – as I spend time in relationship with Him, He reveals such things to me.

I think it is so important to remember that all the time; that we can be deceived and that many others who are deceived may lead us down the wrong path if we are not careful.

Hint: It’s about more than politics. It’s a spiritual conspiracy.

So it is good to keep in mind that sometimes we still see what we think is good fruit, but if we dig a little deeper, we often see that it is rotten inside.

Again I say – But God!

We truly can trust in the Lord that He will guide us and lead us, friends. But we have to do our part as well. We must be active participants in our time spent with Him, in nurturing our relationship with Him, and in KNOWING JESUS.

Knowing Jesus makes things that are not of Him, all the more clear.

Just some thoughts that I had today as I did my devotions, and I wanted to share them with you.

Maybe we should check out the fruit – especially before we take a bite.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every tree bears GOOD fruit, but the bad tree bears BAD fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Matthew 7:15-18

June 5, 2016

The Destruction of Faith

Note: This article is a companion to last Sunday’s article on Building Faith, and presents the reverse or opposite case of what can take place in a person’s life.

•••by Russell Young

The destruction of faith is not a topic that that brings joy to a person’s heart although it is an issue that needs consideration.  How many people do we know that have walked away from their faith or have left the church?  People come to faith because they have been persuaded of the gospel message.  Something must have happened to convince them that faith has no place in their lives, that their persuasion was false.  Of course there can be a lot of reasons for this.  The parable of the sower reveals some.  Faith, or commitment to faith, can be lost for lack of understanding (Mt 13:19), persecution and trials (Mt 13:21), and the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth (Mt 13:22).

The church can do something about these issues but in many instances has lost its way.  If teaching presents that a believer was designated (elected) to enjoy God’s heavenly kingdom from before time, this parable lacks sense as does falling away.  If the church teaches that a person’s initial commitment of faith brought about his eternal salvation (eternal security), again, the issue of falling away has no relevance.  The problem is that false teaching is destroying the faith and the hope of many.  Although this writing will not speak directly to either the issues of election or of eternal security, the broader issue of false teaching and its impact on faith will be addressed to some extent.

There are many promises that are presented in the gospel but they are not for all people in all circumstances.  When a person mistakenly believes that they apply to him or her and they do not see their evidence in their lives, the whole gospel message becomes suspect.

Promises directed to committed saints and to the apostles do not apply to all who have confessed belief.  A person who is seeking the “pleasures” of the world and who is interested in appeasing his own flesh should not expect the same blessings as the believer who has “died to self,” and may even be giving his or her life in difficult and meager circumstances.  Revelation 21:7 reveals the promise of entrance into the New Jerusalem for those who “overcome”, not to all who have confessed belief.  The apostles presented many promises in epistles to their readers.  They did not mean to suggest that everyone who read their letters would enjoy the same hope.  Their promises applied to those who are purposefully or committedly walking in the light.  Yet, the need for the righteous living that is in accordance with the will of God is seldom mentioned or at least with any conviction.  Even the Lord addressed his disciples by using the all inclusive pronoun “you” and he was not including Judas in many of these instances.

Passages such as John 16:23 present real challenges to faith for many people. “I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (NIV) The immature and uninformed believer may accept that he or she will have any request answered.  When it is not, the truth of God’s Word will be questioned.  How many times have you heard, “I tried Christ but it did not work”?  The key to the above passage rests in the phrase “in my name.”  That is, if you ask something in the manner and for the purpose that Christ would have asked, it will be answered.  Christ came to do his Father’s will, to build his kingdom.

When something is done “in the name of Christ,” it is really being presented as being offered according to the character or authority of Christ.  Christ was really saying that if you make a request in his name, you are making it as if it was coming from him and with his authority.    Those whose motivations are the same as the Lord’s will have their prayers answered.  Those who do not appreciate the character and mission of Christ cannot speak in His name; to offer a petition that would be contrary to His moral make-up or ministry purpose would besmirch his holy name.

To encourage his readers Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7, NIV) Accordingly, Paul’s promise was that a person’s heart will be “guarded.” Although any petition might be made, the petitioner must accept at the same time that Christ is going to guard his or her heart and so the request may not be answered if it would prevent the petitioner’s development or taint his or her heart.  It is probably fair to accept that prayers that do not hinder the proper development of a person’s heart according to Christ’s goal or workmanship (Ep 2:10) will be answered.

The problem is that much of current teaching is leaving out the need of a transformed heart and the manner in which that is accomplished.  Instead doctrines that deal with pre-creation election and eternal security have left no purpose for the Spirit’s ministry.  Paul wrote, “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us -not for our earthly enjoyment, but in order to develop the product or heart through God’s working) with groans that words cannot express. And he [God] who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:26-27) God’s purpose is to create a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.

The church has become weak and ineffectual concerning its mission because the ministry of Christ has been lost.  Some have gathered hope and are either consciously or unconsciously being led by the Spirit.  However, current ministry teaching is most amenable to those who in their affluence have few worries in life and are not subject to great persecution and trials.  What needs to be given to the church is the truthful establishment of a person’s hope of glory and the believer’s cost or faith commitment in accomplishing it apart from what he or she considers their due blessings in this life.  Faith is hard to build but easy to destroy.  Commitment brings discomfort and even pain.

October 6, 2011

Neil Anderson on Prophecy

Throughout October we’re looking at devotional and study materials located at one of the largest repository of online resources by Christian radio broadcasters, OnePlace.com   This time, Neil Anderson looks at manifestations of prophetic gifts in  a piece he titled, The Proper Use of Prophecy.

The Bible says there is only one intermediary between God and man, and that is Jesus. False prophets and teachers often function like intermediaries. When God sent the prophet Nathan to David, it was for the purpose of bringing conviction in order to establish righteousness. In the church age, bringing conviction is a primary ministry of the Holy Spirit.
The proper use of the gift of prophecy would reveal unrighteousness in order to establish people in Christ. Once people are living righteously with the Lord, the Holy Spirit will lead them. False gifts will not consistently promote holiness but often will specify decisions concerning direction in life. That function is the role of the Holy Spirit alone,
...because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.(Romans 8:14).
Some churches encourage their members, including the immature, to come into the fullness of the Spirit with manifestations. I ask, “Why not the fullness of the truth?” It’s the fullness of the truth the Holy Spirit has promised to lead us into. I’m deeply concerned for young converts in ministries that push for them to seek total manifestations of the Spirit. Many have not had the time to understand the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets. The church at Corinth had similar problems. They were exhorted by Paul to get back to the basics of faith, hope and love, and govern very closely the use of tongues and prophecies in public worship because God does everything decently and in order,
But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way.
A pastor received a letter from a former staff member who was dismissed for moral reasons. The letter contained a prophecy for the pastor’s church. I asked, “Why would God give a prophecy for your church through this man?” I suggested that they shouldn’t even read it since it would function like a curse. Everything that happened in the church would be evaluated by the prophecy (either to substantiate it or invalidate it).
If a person or church is earnestly seeking the Lord, God will work through the lines of authority He has established in His Word.
Prayer: Father, protect me from false teaching and guide me into all truth by Your Spirit.
~Neil Anderson

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.