The Responsibility for False Teachers Falls on the Congregation

wolf_eyes

For years I  have felt that it was part of my ministry to warn the people of God, mainly those who were directly under my care as a shepherd, about the dangers of false teachers. Not everyone wants to hear it. After all, many believers look at the happy smile of Joel Osteen and his success and wrongfully conclude that all his wealth and fame must mean he is on the narrow path that leads to salvation.

Never mind his failing to call sin for what it is, or for never calling for repentance. He is too busy telling his followers that gawd wants them to be rich. This is a false gospel. The need for Osteen to be called out is absolutely necessary for the health of the body of Christ. In fact, this calling out initially falls on the shoulders of the elders of the church.

As an elder, I take this responsibility seriously for two reasons: the first is that our LORD warned over and over again against how dangerous false prophets are. The Apostles also warned about the same thing. As an undershepherd, I have the same responsibility as they did to warn the flock that the false teachers are seeking to  disrupt, divide, and destroy the body of Christ. It is most loving to warn, and quite harmful to remain silent.

The second reason that I take pains to warn the flock is the affect that false teachers have had on my own family. For those who do not know, I was raised as a Christian Scientist. Not a Christian who was engaged in science, but a member of the cult that was started by Mary Baker Paterson Glover Eddy. Eddy was the sickly and misguided woman from the 1800s who plagiarized the writings of a literal snake-oil salesman,  Phineas P. Quimby. The two thought that one could heal oneself of any sickness merely by correcting their thoughts about that sickness. In other words, sin and sickness only exist as long as the thoughts of sin and sickness exist. One simply has to correct one’s thinking to eliminate sin and sickness. When you view such silliness in light of the gospel, their beliefs are quite heretical. The word of God shows us that sin must be dealt with through the shedding of blood, not the conjuring up of happy thoughts (Hebrews 9:12-14).

I believe that it was Eddy who coined the horrible phrase “passing on” as a metaphor for death. This seems to lighten the reality of death. She was attempting to remove the sting of death and make it more palatable. This is contrary to Scripture. Just read some of the genealogies in the first few books of the Old Testament. Over and over again, they tell us that both the wicked and the elect die. God’s word is emphasizing the point that we all face death. It is not merely a passing on, but a punishment for the original sin in us brought through Adam and his rebellion against the LORD. Since this is true, we can see the need for Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross.

Hopefully you can see the dangers of Christian Science. The religion offers another gospel all together and needs to be rejected.

It is for these reasons that I take the time to point out error that is put forth as truth. It is my responsibility as an elder in the body of Christ. The need to point out and correct error is not my hobby horse, but rather a part of the job description given to elders: He [the elder] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9). The responsibility of the elder is to warn against and show false teaching to be just that.

But this responsibility also rests with the congregation. Over and over again, we are warned about the coming of false prophets/teachers that would try to lead many astray. Here are just a few of those passages:

“Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher (Luke 6:39-40).”

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:14-16)”

Both Peter and Paul  warned us against such destructive men.

Paul declared to the Ephesian elders: 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 20:29-30).”

Peter wrote: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction (2 Peter 2:1).

These warnings have been given, not just for elders, but for all believers. We all need to be on our guard against false teachers. We all need to know the word of God well enough to know heresy when we hear it. However, the reality is that we are theologically lazy as a people of God. We have more technology at our fingertips that any other generation in history to aid us in our understanding of the things of God. Yet this blessing is truly a curse, because we make the mistake of thinking that we can always come back to it when necessary. Instead, we should work to hide the truth of God’s word, especially sound doctrine, in our hearts and minds so that we do not have to rely on technology (this is convicting for me as well). This way, when we do hear what the false teachers declare, we will recognize it for what it is.

I like what J.C. Ryle writes concerning the blind leading the blind:

The amount of evil which unsound religious teaching has brought on the Church in every age is incalculable. The loss of souls which it has occasioned is fearful to contemplate. A teacher who does not know the way to heaven himself, is not likely to lead his hearers to heaven. The man who hears such a teacher runs a fearful risk himself of being lost eternally.

…With the Bible in our hands, and the promise of guidance from the Holy Ghost to all who seek it, we shall be without excuse if our souls are led astray. The blindness of ministers is no excuse for the darkness of the people. The man who from indolence, or superstition, or affected humility, refuses to distrust the teaching of the minister whom he finds set over him, however unsound it may be, will at length share the ministers portion. If people will trust blind guides, they  must not be surprised if they are led to the pit.”

Ryle is not saying that there is no need for pastors and teachers in the Church. Paul  shows these offices to be gifts to the body of Christ in Ephesians 4:11-16. Yet the goal is to have the men of the church listening with their Bible’s open and be well-grounded enough to know if the pastor is preaching sound doctrine or rather some other gospel. I’m not trying to encourage theological hair spitting. Paul condemns that, too. But congregations should never put up with a man who doesn’t teach sound doctrine. Yet, far too many of them do.

There are several reasons for this shortcoming. The first is that far too many Christians fail to understand the need for sound doctrine. Learning the truths of Scripture is not easy, causing many to simply want to leave it to the clergy for their understanding. Not that all members of the congregation must become experts in theology. But the men of the church should at least have a sound grasp of the doctrines of grace so that they can lead their families in the knowledge of Christ and protect them from false teaching.

Couple this difficulty with the spirit of the day, which wants Jesus to be a go-along, get-along Messiah, and it’s the perfect storm for the rise of theological ignorance. And, therefore, the rise of false teachers in the church.

False teachers are thriving in this climate and it’s the church that allows it. We are all responsible for striving for the purity of the church. The LORD has blessed us with so many resources to help us dive deeper into that truth. Yet, we spend so much time on other things. Besides, it is just so much easier to go along, get along, and compliment men like Joel Osteen on how nice they are. Even when our LORD calls such men “ravenous wolves.”

The Blessed Woes of Christ

Sherewood Shores

“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.

“Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.

“Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

I hope that when you hear the words of our LORD, you are as comforted by them as I have been over the past several weeks. We often think of these words as being quite profound, given that they are so at odds with the world’s understanding of things. They are not rooted in the worldly system of the Great Harlot. They are words rooted in Christ’s holiness, the Father’s love, and the Spirit’s comforting power.

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“The daughters of rulers must die.”

Harsh words from someone like J.C. Ryle. But in context, he is reminding us that even though rulers live luxurious lives, their daughters, sons, wives, and even themselves, must die. We all must die. Our social standing will not be able to prevent death from coming to all of us. Ryle writes:

“It is good for us all to remember this. We are too apt to forget it. We often think and talk as if the possession of riches was the great antidote to sorrow, and as if money could secure us against sickness and death. But it is the very extreme of blindness to think so. We have only to look around us and see a hundred proofs to the contrary. Death comes to halls and palaces, as well as to cottages–to landlords as well as to tenants–to rich as well as to poor. It stands on no ceremony. It tarries no man’s leisure or convenience. It will not be kept out by locks and bars. “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27). All are going to one place, the grave.”

We know this to be true. Over the last 2 years, we have been shocked and surprised at some of the people who have died. For me, Glenn Fry of the Eagles caught me off guard. In some weird way, he was a stalwart of our culture, whether for good or ill, that I thought would always be there. But alas, death took him, along with a number of rockers that would shake our belief that fortune and fame would protect them. I know, such silliness to ever think that. It’s a problem we all have.

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Abortion is Murder, It Is That Simple

Given the March for Life in D.C. over the past week, the subject of abortion has taken center stage on Facebook, and we are witnessing some truly clear arguments against the wicked practice, as well as some typical muddled thought. I usually stay out of the fray because my friends and family do such a wonderful job in destroying the pro-murder’s arguments for the grizzly practice. But this week, I felt there needed to be some clarity. First, my friend’s post was sharing something from Matt Walsh on the March for Life, to which, she added:

I’d be there today if I could.
“Yes, every child should be given a chance to live. Yes, we affirm the sanctity of life at every stage. Yes, a child is entitled to live the life God gave him. Yes, he is, according to our country’s own founding documents, endowed by God with an inherent dignity that no one on Earth — not even his own parents — can deny him.”

One of her respondents wrote:

Without judgement of what is important to others, please. This issue is multifaceted and so personal that we cannot claim to individually understand or have a more just cause than another. Godspeed!

Do you see the problem with this argument? This woman is a basically white-washing the murder of the unborn by throwing out how “multifaceted and so personal that we cannot claim to individually understand…” She is trying to water down the issue by telling us it is too complicated for comment or cause.

Nice try. It didn’t last. When someone offers up such an argument, it’s their way of being complicit on the wrong side of the issue. She knows she is wrong, but is trying to muddy the waters so that we have to shake our heads and leave the issue alone.

Let me see if I can shed some light on the issue in four simple words: “‘You shall not murder.” It’s just that simple. Abortion is the taking of an innocent life. It’s no more complicated than that. Yes, the lives of those who commit abortion/murder may be difficult and hard. Everyone’s life is difficult and hard. But this doesn’t excuse the reality that the taking of an innocent life is still murder. That does not change no matter what excuse you may use.

My wife did respond:

Faulty reasoning. Your claim of “non-judgment” is an appeal to just cause. And if murder of the most helpless is important to others, God will judge, has judged, according to His Holy word, “Thou shalt not murder.”
Exterminating the Jews was important to Hitler.

To which the liberal replied:

There is but one Judge. I believe that as well. And we are all flawed. Some are dealt circumstances with which they may not have the resources to cope. We can only offer those whose paths cross ours what they are able to accept.
With all due respect, Hitler is a completely different platform on which to discuss murder.

Again, she sidesteps the issue by pointing to the fact that we are all flawed. Does this mean that it’s perfectly OK to make the flawed decision to murder a child? Is that an excuse?

As for “the circumstances with which they may not have the resources to cope” again, nothing but a false excuse. There are women in the deepest parts of the world, who have very little resources, that would never consider murdering their children simply for material convenience. And let’s point out that our government has spent the last 40 years providing programs for women who need help taking care of their children through welfare programs.

She also claims that “[w]e can only offer those whose paths cross ours what they are able to accept.” This kind of thinking can justify all manner of sin and if this were truly applied in society we would have anarchy. As Christians we are to proclaim the truth of the situation clearly to those whose paths we cross if given the opportunity. That is the only way we can hope that repentance will take place.

As for her Hitler comment, at least through that, this woman recognizes that abortion is indeed murder.

Is Betsy DeVos Bringing Back Prayer in Schools?

The headline, and subsequent story on The Truth Division’s website, seems to indicate that this is what the new education secretary, Betsy DeVos, intends to do once she is confirmed to the position. But when you dig deeper, you find much of what is being written about Betsy DeVos is based upon an interview she and her husband, Dick, gave back in 2001. For the mathematically challenged, that is about 16 years ago.

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The Dripping Heretic John Shelby Spong

Honestly, there is so much wrong about John Shelby Spong it is hard to say anything at all. I started this post just to share a tidbit or two about the god he worships and I find myself having to add layer upon layer of explanation so that you get the idea.

The reason for this post is that I recently purchased Spong’s book, Why Christianity Must Change or Die, in order to check a quote of his that I am using in a side project. I thought that I would start reading the book in its entirety in order to review it at a future date, but I couldn’t get past Chapter 1. His book is filled with so much heresy that it is war on the soul of a true believer. It is filled with so many lies, half-truths, and attacks on the faith of Christianity, that I find myself in agreement with those in our past who thought some books were only worth of the burn pile.

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Heresy is Easy: Orthodoxy Not So Much!

Another quote that jumped out at me from Maurice Roberts from The Christian’s High Calling, was his demonstration of the difference between heresy and orthodoxy. One is easy, the other is work.

The appeal of every heresy is that it offers a quick and easy way to the truth. It short-circuits the process by which true religion is to be known and understood. The ignorant and the unwary are snared by the zealous cult leader because he can ‘prove’ his errors by quoting two or three texts of Scripture. However, he does this stealthily and craftily because he conceals from his hearers six or seven other texts of Scripture which define or qualify those which he advances as ‘proof’ for his error.

The hallmark of any true doctrine is that it satisfies the evidence of Scripture entirely and in every place. The doctrine of the holy Trinity is just such a doctrine. It explains every text of Scripture that bears on the being of God.

The Well-Balanced Christian

Maurice Roberts has a wonderful chapter about being a balanced Christian in his book, The Christian’s High Calling, that shows the need for all believers to be balanced in our views of doctrine. Roberts writes:

To push any point of doctrine just too far is to upset the biblical balance and harmony of the truth. Stress the transcendence (remoteness) of God at the expense of his immanence (nearness) and you become a deist. Stress the immanence at the expense of the transcendence and you become a pantheist.

Just a quick explanation, a deist is someone who believes in the existence of God, but only to the point that He created the world and then stepped back from creation to let it run its course. Deists reject supernatural revelation and therefore reject the miracles of Christ, including the resurrection of Christ. Deists have morality, but no real salvation.

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A Gentle Reminder

My lovely bride loves to make chocolate candy for me, since I’m such a lover of chocolate. You can read more about that here.

The problem is that we ran out of chocolate a few days ago. She is ever attentive and asked me this morning, while she was at work, to leave her a reminder so she could make me more chocolate tonight. I thought it would be helpful to leave the can of cocoa in a place where she would see and be reminded. Then, to my delight, I discovered we had four cans of cocoa. She is really good about never running out of the essentials. Seizing on the opportunity, I placed all four cans in convenient locations. After all, can one leave too many reminders for the need of chocolate? See the photos and tell me if you think she will spot the conveniently placed cans of cocoa. (All photos Copyright TimothyJHammons 2017).

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The Hebrew 40!

According to John Currid in his commentary on Genesis concerning the flood, the number 40 in Hebrew is significant:

The rain will last for forty days and forty nights. The Hebrew number ‘forty’ is symbolic of a period of testing and trial. Israel, for example, is in the wilderness for four years of temptation. Goliath taunts Israel for forty days before his battle with David (1 Sam. 17:16). Jesus is tempted for forty days in the wilderness (Luke 4:2). So Noah and his family are about to undergo a great period of testing.

Currid also points out God’s absolute sovereignty in bringing the flood. This is interesting in light of a recent news of a liberal Baptist professor claiming that God isn’t actually sovereign. Yet, the bible disagrees.

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