Friday, February 8, 2013

Discerning--part two

The last blog posted on this site, was concerned with the problem presented by Biblical churches getting off track, pursuing new and often strange things. The call was made for renewed discernment with strict scrutiny in relationship to God’s Word when considering any teaching coming our way. The lack of discernment leads to disaster and confusion. We are quick to condemn when we see the fallout resulting from Harold Camping’s false predictions, but fail to realize there are many more heresies being welcomed into our churches through the popular “Christian” press. Online Christian bookstores make it easy to get the latest thing in print. But what is the latest is not necessarily good. Books devoid of the Gospel and promoting a false God and false Jesus are sold right along with those that hold to the Truth. The harm done by Camping’s false predictions pales in comparison to the harm done by more subtle heresies brought into our local churches through popular “Christian” media. There was a time when we could trust a book by considering its publisher. However this is no longer the case. The larger publishers have expanded their offerings to appeal to more people. With this expansion there has come less discernment and sometimes outright false teaching. There is the need for us to return to personal Bible study and the discernment that comes through holding things under the powerful light of Scripture. We need to be slow to throw off the time honored teachings of the past; especially those strongly founded upon the Word, and be very cautious when considering something “new”.

Certainly, we in Bible teaching churches are not above error and are in need of challenge as to how we go about things. Certainly there is much to learn from a variety of sources, some of which we may not have considered in the past. However, there are certain guidelines to consider when evaluating anything placed before us. Does it present the Gospel or give a distorted view of God and His Son? Does it add to Scripture putting experience over the Word of God? Does it adhere to a literal interpretation of Scripture?  Does it use something other than the Word of God to explain the Word of God? Does it lead to some strange illogical   end that leads away from the clear teachings of the Word of God? In answering these questions we can avoid distractions and even heresy that keep us from doing what we have been called to do which is to preach the Gospel in the time we have before the Lord returns to take His Church to be with Him.
The Gospel needs to be foremost in anything that we do as Christians and that includes Christian writing. In fact, if there is no Gospel in it, can it be truly considered Christian or more accurately described as something good in thought written by a Christian? Consider the popular books that promote prosperous “Christian” living. Do they even mention the fact that to live the Christian life you must have a relationship that comes only through recognizing what was done by Christ on the Cross and receiving this gift by receiving Him into our lives? In searching what is argumentatively the most popular of these books, this writer saw no call to placing faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Another such book, one that promises to help us find purpose in life did have a brief mention of the need of Jesus in one’s life—on something like page 173 in a 200 page book. So much “Christian” writing gives lip service to the Gospel, without majoring on it and never seems to clearly define what it is.

Some “Christian” writing, in the attempt to blow away old stereotypes about God and His Son, picture God in new and often strange ways. God is received in progressive Christianity as loving and non-judgmental, and someone Who would never send anyone to Hell. And so when a recent popular book pictures God as a matronly elderly woman and the Holy Spirit as a very New Age Person promoting the welfare of all Mankind, it is lauded by well know Christian personalities as being innovative and thought provoking, but no mention is made that this book is not only devoid of the Gospel, but supports the idea of universal salvation. Other works distort the Gospel by teaching that Jesus procured our salvation by suffering in Hell rather than by shedding His blood on the Cross, yet, little is said. In fact, those who speak out against such heresy are attacked in “Christian” media as being divisive and intolerant. However, the Gospel does divide and the Bible teaches that God is intolerant of those who teach a false Gospel.

Even more subtle, however are the works that teach good ideas but add to the Word of God. Much has been made concerning the comfort received from the testimonies of those who have supposedly visited heaven. A very popular book describes the return of a deceased loved one bringing much comfort to his parents. Another describes heaven as seen by a three-year-old boy. While these works receive praise as offering comfort to those in bereavement, the fact that the Bible already addresses this issue is overlooked. The fact that Jesus says all we need to know about heaven (In my Father’s house are many mansions…John 14) and that Paul tells us “… eye hath not seen nor ear heard…” (1 Corinthians 2:9) what God has prepared for us seems to be ignored. Comfort that is based on experience rather than the Word of God, can only be superficial and fleeting at best. Truth is not to be added to. The Word of God is sufficient or it is nothing at all.

Another trend in popular Christian writing is to attempt to teach while interpreting Scripture through some kind of lens or idea foreign to the Word of God. The most notable example of this is Camping’s use of a system of numerology to arrive at “deeper” meaning of biblical passages facilitating his false date setting concerning the end of the world. Others apply non-biblical doctrinal assumptions to explain Biblical prophecy. In like fashion, when the assumption that the Church has replaced Israel in prophecy is applied to America with the result that America is seen as a Christian nation having a covenant relationship with God, the faulty conclusion is made that America is under the judgment prophesied in the Old Testament and the events of 911 are seen to fit under prophecy. The fact that America needs to be warned to change its ways is not to be denied, however to distort the clear teaching of Scripture will only lead to greater distortions, distractions and heresy. The evidence of this is the Christian preppers who are frantically trying to prepare for a social and economic collapse that God's Word gives clear indication will happen during a seven year tribulation that takes place after God takes His Church out of this world. We must resist interpretation of Scripture that uses allegory instead of a literal interpretation of God’s Word.

The churches that still hold to the Word of God need to be discerning. Christian leaders within these churches must be ready to examine what comes our way, testing things with the Word of God. We must avoid those teachings that lead to strange illogical ends contrary to Scripture. In truth there is nothing new. Either the Truth of God will prevail or error will draw us away from our task of promoting the Gospel and making a lasting impact on a society that truly needs the Word of God.

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