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Grace Energized Men Guarding Sound Faith Against Ancient Heresies

GEM-22

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Before the celestial “shock and awe” judgments of the Tribulation are unleashed, God’s Word describes a time characterized by false teaching and teachers SO strong, that it would even sweep away even true believers (Mark 13:22) if they were not sealed by the Spirit of God.

In Matthew 24 Jesus describes the world before He returns in His Second Coming, as a world where the love of most has grown cold because of false teachers (Matthew 24:11-12); and where “the Faith” will be nearly extinct (Luke 18:8).

The end of the church age is shown in Revelation 3 to be like the church at Laodicea where truth is light, self-centeredness is heavy; materialism and personal agendas run deep, and true Biblical spirituality is shallow.

As we have already seen, Paul foretold that the days would be a time of great “falling away”; and Peter, Jude and John all described this final time pervasive false doctrine across the world. As we open to the tiny letter of Christ’s other earthly brother named Jude look at verse 3.

Today we see such a sweeping array of deceptive false teachers as just the foretaste of this birth pang, which Jesus warned about and described–forming before our very eyes.

Never before has wrong teaching and beliefs about God been more widely proclaimed than in our day. I a continuous, 24/7 river erroneous teaching about God flows around the world: on radio, TV, cable, webcasts, podcasts, simulcasts, books, magazines, and everywhere in between-our world is increasingly filled with lies about God. And to this growing cauldron of darkness and lies comes the triumphant truth that-

Jesus Christ is
The Key

Please stand with me and listen to Jude 1:3-4, 16-25. Pray

The storm of lies raining down upon us today is a constant reminder why Christ’s Church is to be filled with well grounded, grace-energized men and women who guard the truth that Jesus Christ gave us. We should be constantly declaring the truths we hold from John 14:6, to the confused world around us that:

  • Jesus Christ is the Way-there is NO other road to God than the Lord Jesus Christ. Any belief system that is hostile to Him, denying of His deity, or claiming His insufficiency is FALSE.
  • Jesus Christ is the Truth-at the center of all truth that leads to God is the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul says that general revelation has two means: conscience and creation. Jesus Christ is right in the middle of the human conscience as the Creator who breathed life into the dirt that was used to form Adam; and He is squarely in the center of the created Universe as He is also the Creator of everything in the heavens and on the Earth. Any philosophy, religion, or science that is hostile to Him, denying of His deity, or claiming His insufficiency is FALSE.
  • Jesus Christ is the Life-the only way to live a life that is guilt-free, fear-free, full and overflowing, is in the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who come to Him find His complete forgiveness of every sin, and His complete transformation of their lives. Any religion, church, denomination, or Bible teacher that is hostile to Jesus Christ as God in human flesh who died a substitutionary death for sin, or that denies His deity in any other way, or claims His insufficiency is FALSE.

But that absolute assertion of Christ in John 14:6 is not widely held by modern Christians. George Barna recently reported that in America,

“Christians have increasingly been adopting spiritual views that come from Islam, Wicca, secular humanism, the eastern religions and other sources. Because we remain a largely Bible-illiterate society, few are alarmed or even aware of the slide toward syncretism – a belief system that blindly combines beliefs from many different faith perspectives with God’s Word.”

That leads us to consider the-

Ancient Heresies in
The Church of the 21st Century

It’s axiomatic to say today that “There are no new heresies”.  For example, looking closely us we can see elements of the following ancient heresies in modern religious movements around us today. Because of a growing ecumenical, try-to-not-offend anyone (but God) movement around us today, we are often asked to overlook the deadly false teachings of groups, that often are made up of such warm and gracious people.

  • We can see elements of the Arian Heresy in Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • We can see much Religious Syncretism in the Roman Catholic Church, the Emergent Church Movement, and the Unification Church (Moonies).
  • We can see elements of Marcionism, Syncretism, Universalism, Gnosticism, and Nestorianism in all the New Age versions of “Christianity” like the talk show force Oprah Winfrey is always promoting.
  • We can see elements of Islam’s view of Jesus are similar to the Docetist and Ebionist Heresies.
  • We can see elements of Roman Catholics fall into Semi-Pelagianism and, often, Mariolatry (the worship of Mary as equal with Christ and holding Divine attributes).
  • We can see some Charismatics fall into Glossolalianism and Montanism.
  • And many modern media-based ministries, especially televangelists, fall into almost every heresy known and unknown!

Here is a concise list of the false teachings that can be found in the writings of the early church. This list is a good reason to be very careful in embracing the writings of someone just because they were an early Christian leader.

The Known Heresies of the
Early (Post-Apostolic) Church

1.    “The Way” or Christ’s Death as the Substitute for sinners was under attack. These heresies were those that led to damnation.

  • Arianism (Arius, Eudoxius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eunomius): Reduces Christ from the Divine Son of God, to a first created being. God-the-Father existed prior to God-the-Son. This is the false teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses .
  • Docetism: The Son-of-God didn’t become flesh, only appeared to die on cross. Christ descended upon Jesus at baptism, but exited just prior to crucifixion. This is in Neo-Orthodoxy and Liberalism today. The popular writer William Barclay held this view.
  • Ebionism (Athanascus): Jesus only seemed divine, but was a prophet not the Son of God. This is partly reflected in modern day Islam.
  • Gnosticism (Greek mystery cults, Jewish Kabbalah, Zorasterianism, Egyptian religion): Salvation is acquired through secret knowledge outside of the Bible. Envisions a hierarchy of spiritual beings that are progressively further from the evil material world. Matter is inherently evil. This is seen in much of so called New-Age Christianity today.
  • Nestorianism (Nestorius): Christ was a god-bearing man (as we might become), rather than both fully-human and fully-God. This is reflected in Haganism today.
  • Pelagianism (Pelagius, Julian of Eclanum Coelestius): Man is born essentially good, and is capable of doing what is necessary for salvation. This was the classic Albert Schweitzer type of Liberalism in America. Semi-Pelagianism (John Cassian): God and man both cooperate in salvation, but man must take the initiative. This is seen in extreme Arminianism.
  • Perfectionionism: (AKA: Legalism) Belief that our works bring us to salvation, or are necessary to maintain our salvation. Modern Pelagianism.
  • Unitarianism: Denial of the deity of both God the Father and Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God (or the Trinity). This is all around us today.
  • Universalism: The belief that all persons will ultimately be saved, and no one will be eternally punished. The belief is growing among well-known Evangelical groups today.
  1. “The Truth” of God’s Word was under attack. These heresies were those that led to confusion.
  • Apollinarianism (Apollinarius): Christ had no human spirit, the Logos replaced it. Sort of Jesus as God clothed in flesh .
  • Baptismal Regenerationism: The belief that baptism is essential to, and seals, one’s salvation. Present in many denominations today such as the Catholics, the Orthodox, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Church of Christ, and so on.
  • Glossolalianism: The belief that only speaking in tongues proves a person’s salvation.
  • Macedonianism (Macedonius): The Holy Spirit as a created being similar to the angels.
  • Manicheanism (Manicheus, aka: Mani or Manes): Gnostic variant believing matter is evil, God created our souls but rejected our bodies.
  • Marcionism (Marcion): Gnostic variant distinguishing two Gods: An angry, vindictive one of the Old Testament, and a nice one in the New Testament. The OT god having no validity for Christians. This was also an early tenet of Liberalism. This gave birth to Judaistism: Combines Jewish civil and ceremonial laws with New Testament Christianity.
  • Monarchianism (Paul of Samosata, Theodotus of Byzantium): Jesus became Christ at baptism, was made Son of God at His crucifixion, God according Him these things because of Jesus’ righteousness. This is just like Docetism. This is in Neo-Orthodoxy and Liberalism today. The popular writer William Barclay held a form of this view.
  • Monophysitism (Severus, Julius of Halicarnassus): Christ fully God, not human at all. And closely related is Monothelitism (Sergius, Theodore of Arabia): Christ had no human will, only divine will.
  • Montanism (Montanus): Promotion or practice of extreme and disorderly manifestations of the “Holy Spirit”. Present in some far out fringe Charismatic groups.
  • Noeticism: God-the-Father was crucified as Christ. And closely related, Patripassianism: God-the-Father and God-the-Son BOTH died on the cross.
  • Subordinationism: Any subordination of one member of the Trinity to another (in position, not role).
  • Syncretism: The combination of Christianity with anything else (esp. Judaism in the Early Church). We see this today in RCC, the ECM, the Contemplative Prayer Movement, and many other places.
  1. “The Life” as set down for us in God’s Revelation to mankind was under attack. These heresies were those that led to frustration.
  • Antinomianism: We can freely sin because grace forgives all. We can see this today in the hyper-grace heresies that advocate “anything goes” in groups associate with Christ’s church.

Why does Christ’s Church still
Stray from “Sound Faith”?

There are four dangerous trends I see in modern evangelical culture. Each of these can be observed in nearly any Bible teaching fellowship. All are dangerous and were clearly warned of by Jesus Christ in His ministry.

Danger #1: Unsound-Faith starts with an Improper Understanding of Grace

1 John 3:6-7, 10 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. NKJV

One of the greatest contributors to an unsound-faith, is a failure of self-examination. Through a faulty and presumptuous view of God’s grace, some professed believers blithely go through life oblivious to and unconcerned about their sins. Yet the Lord tells His people to examine their lives each time they come to His table (1 Cor. 11:28) . [52 words]

  • When a couples choose to live together without being married-they commit the sin of fornication against a Holy God.
  • When a person practices homosexuality-they commit the sin of sodomy against a Holy God.
  • When a person is deceptive and dishonest in business-they commit the sin of lying just like the Devil against a Holy God.
  • When a person is hateful and vengeful-they commit murder in the sight of a Holy God.

God’s Word is very clear about those who never turn from their sin:

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites,10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. NKJV

Danger #2: Unsound-Faith continues with an Improper View of Assurance

John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; KJV

Secondly, many professed Christians-and even many true Christians, have unsound-faith because they hold a false doctrine of assurance. Often it is because the person who witnessed to them told them that all they had to do was make a profession of faith, walk an aisle, raise a hand, say a prayer, and never doubt what the Lord had done in their lives. Perhaps they have been taught that to ever doubt their salvation is to doubt God’s Word and integrity.

But we have no right to assure a person of something we cannot be certain is true. God’s own Holy Spirit will witness His reality to those who truly belong to Him (Rom. 8:14-16)  . [112 words]

Danger #3: Unsound-Faith continues with an Improper Conviction about the Priority of Activity

Matthew 7:22-23 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. KJV

A third cause of unsound-faith is inordinate concentration on religious activity. Attending church, hearing sermons, singing songs of the faith, reading the Bible, attending Bible studies, and many other perfectly good and helpful activities can actually insulate a person from the very God he is supposedly worshiping and serving. Those things can cause a believer to think he is being faithful and obedient, when in reality he may not be.

This group includes those who are more committed to a denomination or Christian organization than to the Word of God. It includes those who are academically interested in theology-even orthodox, biblical theology-but not in obedience to the Bible on which that theology is based . [114 words]

Danger #4: Unsound-Faith continues with an Improper Habit of Rationalizing Sin

2 Corinthians 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. NKJV

A fourth cause of unsound-faith is what may be called the fair exchange, or balancing out, approach. Instead of confessing and asking forgiveness for his sins, a person may give himself the benefit of the doubt and rationalize his salvation by thinking that the good things he does balance out the bad, that the positive cancels the negative.

Whatever good we might somehow accomplish would not cancel those consequences of sin, any more than eating right and exercising will save the life of a person infected with a deadly disease. His only hope is in receiving a cure for the disease, not in trying to balance off its deadly effect by keeping his body otherwise healthy. This is the superficial person, the one who has had little or no instruction in the gospel and who thinks that his attending Sunday school as a child, having been baptized, being a church member, or other such things put him in good standing with God . [162 words]

Among the most precious words Jesus ever spoke are His words in John 14:6. As we open there this morning, let me underline in your minds what He said.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. NKJV

Jesus is The Way you must follow; He is The Truth you must believe; and He is The Life you must live.

Hold Him close today!

APPENDIX:

Should we Reject Everything
Coming Out of the ECM?

Our answer is no. Indeed, we should share their dissatisfaction with certain abuses or deficiencies within Evangelicalism. We should resonate with their criticisms of consumerism, their emphasis on an authentic lived-out faith, a move toward decentralized leadership within the church, and with what many consider the heartbeat of the movement, their passion to be missional.

“The church should stop mimicking the surrounding culture and become an alternative community, with a different set of beliefs, values and behaviors.

Ministers would no longer engage in marketing; churches would no longer place primary emphasis on programs to serve members.

The traditional ways of evaluating ‘successful churches’ – bigger buildings, more people, bigger budgets, larger ministerial staff, new and more programs to serve members – would be rejected.

New yardsticks would be the norm: To what extent is our church a ‘sent’ community in which each believer is reaching out to his community?

To what extent is our church impacting the community with a Christian message that challenges the values of our secular society?”

One writer describes the missional church “as a body of people sent on a mission who gather in community for worship, encouragement, and teaching from the Word that supplements what they are feeding themselves throughout the week.”

Discipleship is to Ground
ALL Believers in the Truth

1 John 2:12-14 uses the analogy of physical growth to describe three stages of Christian development.

Read in I J2.12-14

Child    Young    Adult
12) I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
13) I have written to you, children, because you know the Father.    13) I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one.
14) I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.    13) I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.
14) I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning.

Children are unstable and need security.
Young men face special temptations that must be overcome.
Fathers step closer and closer to God in order to find life solutions.
The new Christian learns about what the Christian life is and how to live it.    The young Christians master the fight over the world, Satan and flesh by God’s Word.    The mature Christian develops a deep and strong faith to carry out God’s work.

John first divides all believers into three categories: “children” (babies in Christ), “young men” (those who have been around a while but still really struggle), and “fathers” (who are mature and serving Christ’s church but so aware they are imperfect). He then describes the condition and needs of each.

“These very clear distinctions identify 3 stages of spiritual growth in God’s family.

  • “Fathers,” the most mature, have a deep knowledge of the Eternal God. The pinnacle of spiritual maturity is to know God in His fullness (cf. Phil. 3:10).
  • “Young men” are those who, while not yet having the mature experience of knowing God in the Word and through life, do know sound doctrine. They are strong against sin and error because they have His Word in them. Thus they overcome the wiles of the devil, who makes havoc of children (cf. Eph. 4:14). Since Satan’s efforts are in falsehood and deception, they have overcome him.
  • “Little children” are those who have only the basic awareness of God and need to grow. All are in God’s family and manifest Christ’s character at different levels”.

Level 1: children are those who have never grown or been trained. Either they are brand new babies in Christ or they have stayed that way for some reason. Children need to understand what they have in Christ. They have struggles with three areas: sin, forgiveness, and security in Christ. If you struggle with what is right and wrong in God’s sight, wonder whether He could ever forgive you, and sometimes wonder if you are even really saved-John says you are a child in the faith. These saints need training and nurture from older believers in these three areas until they are strong in their faith.

Level 2: John speaks to the second level of growth he calls the “young men”.  This group knows they are saved but are so aware of their spiritual lives and the powerful temptations they face that they can easily become very discouraged. They often fear they’ll never be able to be victorious and wonder why they fail so often. This group needs to be trained (think discipleship) in who they are in Christ (that they are already victors) and how to overcome (through Word-filled obedience) one area at a time in their lives and bring that area under His gracious Lordship.

Level 3: John talks about those who are fathers and mothers of the Word. They can nurture spiritual children. They have a walk that talks and they use their life to mentor others.

 
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