Guarding Sound Faith By Unmasking Old Lies - Discover the Book Ministries

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Guarding Sound Faith By Unmasking Old Lies

GEM-20

080330AM

 

As we open to Acts 20:17, may I remind you of an old truth? “There is nothing new under the Sun”, that’s what God’s Word said three thousand years ago by Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:9). When it comes to the state of Christ’s Church, that truth is very helpful.

Satan has just one old playbook. His lies and tricks are old, have been used repeatedly through the centuries, and are all clear to spot. Each generation of believers faces very new and real attacks of these very old and familiar lies and deceptions. For years I have reminded you of Satan’s original pack of deceptive lies in Genesis 3. They are still with us. Remember the tools Satan used in the Garden of Eden-

  • Doubt God’s Word: “Hath God said” (An attack on whether God has even spoken);
  • Doubt God’s Plan: “ye shall not surely die” (An attack on the Penal Substitutionary Atonement-only those who will trust in the perfect death of God’s Substitute will be saved).
  • Doubt God’s Authority over Life: “your eyes shall be opened” (An attack on Biblical Epistemology-whether God’s Word is the source of truth to live life God’s way.)

Stand/Read/Pray

One of the current issues that many are talking about is called the Emergent Church Movement. When examined closely, we find these same three errors present. But before we dive into the present, we need to see that some of the errors of the ECM are also the very same issues that Jesus confronted in the main stream of Bible believers in His day. In fact, we could say that-

Jesus Faced the
Same Situation

Jesus confronted the four main religious groups in His day, who were Bible believing, but had mixed in false teachings and practices. We examined many of these issues three years ago when they first came up in June of 2005; in a message I called  “How to Spot a False Teacher”; and I will repeat again Christ’s call to guard sound doctrine.

By New Testament times Jesus faced four different types of so called Bible (Old Testament) believers, within organized religion. All four based their actions upon some part of God’s Word (the Old Testament), but all had very serious doctrinal flaws that almost completely obscured any truth they might have rightly held.

Bible Believers of
Christ’s Day

Here is a summary of these four main religious groups of the day, all of whom claimed to believe and follow God’s Word in Christ’s day.

1.    Essenes: The most unique Bible believers of Christ’s day were the Essenes. They were mostly unmarried men, who perpetuated their movement often by adopted children from other Jewish families. They lived in a secretive, exclusive, self-denying, and usually isolated communal settlements like Qumran, in ruins today on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. These men spent most of their time either copying or discussing the Scriptures. They produced the world famous Dead Sea Scrolls-discovered by accident in 1947. Essenes sought no contact with culture nor influence on society; and are not specifically mentioned in the New Testament.

2.    Pharisees: The most influential of all the mainstream Bible believers of Christ’s day were opposite of the Essenes. Pharisees were the very public, very influential, and very self-seeking. Though possibly even more exclusive than the Essenes, Pharisees could be found everywhere in the Jewish Society of Christ’s day. Jesus exposed them as doing “all their deeds to be noticed by men…” (Matt. 23:5-7).

The Pharisees formed a self-righteous, “holier-than-thou” community within the society. They believed strongly in God’s sovereignty and that they alone were right about God’s Word. They considered themselves to be deeply spiritual; but this spiritual life was entirely focused on their external beliefs and practices-never their hearts. Their lives were driven by the doctrines that their revered spiritual “leaders had devised over the previous several centuries as supplements to God’s Word.”

“These doctrines were known collectively as “the tradition of the elders,” concerning which Jesus gave the Pharisees one of His strongest rebukes, charging them with “teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matt. 15:2-9). They loved to debate doctrine, but they often failed to live it. The emphasized God’s Sovereignty but neglected His love ” as Jesus told them, “You have neglected…(Matthew 23:23)”.

3.    Zealots: The least spiritual and most fervent of the mainstream Bible believers were the Zealots. Focused completely on political activism, blatant nationalism, and even violence, the Zealots were dominated with capturing their culture and society, with what they perceived were God’s goals.

4.    Sadducees: Finally, the most powerful group of mainstream Bible believers were the ultraliberals called the Sadducees.  They arose during the intertestamental period, but from among the priests (Acts 5:17). They cared little for religion, especially doctrine, and denied the existence of angels, the resurrection, and most things supernatural (Acts 23:6-8). They believed in extreme human autonomy and in the unlimited freedom of the will. Jesus called their belief system “leaven” because it led to spiritual pride, superficiality, “and no concern for the genuine inner spiritual life or for the welfare of their fellow man. The “leaven of the… Sadducees was the hypocritical, self-serving, dead externalism about which Jesus warned His disciples (Matt. 16:6)”.

Fast Forward to
Bible Believers Today

Throughout most of its history the church has had its own brands of Essenes, Pharisees, Zealots, and Sadducees . “The Essenes were separatists; the Pharisees were traditionalists; the Zealots were activists; and the Sadducees were modernists. They represented the same primary types of religious factions that are common today.”

As I read this list, instead of trying to pick out the faults of others you know, ask the Lord to show you if any of these elements are present in your view of God’s Word.

1.    In Christ’s day, Essenes were separatists who believed the key goal of life in God’s Word was as much separation as possible from the evils of the world.

Today, we have modern Bible believers who share the Essenes emphasis that the goal in life is to stay as far away from any known sin or sinner as we possibly can.

2.    In Christ’s day, Pharisees were traditionalists who believed God’s Word plus their system of doctrine. Their primary concern was learning the teachings handed down by revered teachers over the centuries. They focused on adhering to the teachers of God’s Word rather than the Word, and totally relied on the teachings of their revered teachers to understand or interpret God’s Word.

Today, we have modern Bible believers who share the Pharisees emphasis that the teachings of their revered teachers have become more authoritative than the Bible.

3.    In Christ’s day, Zealots were activists who believed God’s Word called them to radical political activism. They looked down on fellow Jews who would not append all their time trying to change society.

Today, we have modern Bible believers who share the Zealots emphasis and spend their lives trying to plug all the holes in the moral dike of American culture, and hold back the tsunami of sin in the world.

4.    In Christ’s day, Sadducees were modernists who focused on neglecting the authority of God’s Word by denial and syncretistic (blending in pagan ideas) modifications that fit their own religious agenda.

Today, we have modern Bible believers who share the Sadducees emphasis that we can’t be dogmatic about anything in God’s Word, and everything is valid and to be considered.

But Jesus taught us that none of those ways were right.

  • To the Essenes His Word says pleasing God is in a changed heart, not merely a disciplined body.
  • To the Pharisees His Word says godly change is first internal, not external.
  • To the Zealots His Word says to change individuals by conversion, not to change culture by revolution.
  • To the Sadducees His Word says the Scriptures are given as the authority we follow, not some ideas of man we can blend in, to build our own system of belief and practice.

Jesus Warned All Four
Types of Bible Believers

The main message that Jesus preached to the religious people of His day was the longest and most public of all His teachings called the Sermon on the Mount. If you analyze what Jesus said as a religious person of the day, believing and obeying the Bible selectively, it would be very painful to your beliefs.

“The dominant message of the Sermon on the Mount is that one must not find comfort merely in right theology, much less in contemporary philosophy, geographical separation, or military and political activism.

“Right theology is essential; so are being contemporary in the right way, separating ourselves from worldliness, and taking stands on moral issues. But those external things must flow from right internal life and attitudes if they are to serve and please God. That has always been God’s way. He told Samuel, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). In Proverbs, wisdom says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (4:23).”

“When the Pharisees with whom Jesus was having lunch were bothered that He did not ceremonially wash His hands before eating, Jesus said, “Now you Pharisees have the habit of cleaning the outside of your cups and dishes, but inside you yourselves are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not the One who made the outside make the inside too? But dedicate once for all your inner self, and at once you will have everything clean” (Luke 11:39-41, Williams). That was His message for every sect of Judaism .”

As grace-energized believers who are sound in faith, when we look at the error of the Sadducees, we can see a common element with what we are facing today.

They modified God’s Word by adding pagan philosophies and secular ideas to the Bible; and this blending of non-truth with God’s truth is called syncretism.

What Happened
After Christ’s Ascension?

In Acts 20 Paul tells us that right from the start, Satan had a two pronged attack-first, sow Christian-look-a-likes in Christ’s church as the tares among the wheat; and second, blend in error (syncretism) to distort the true doctrines taught by the gifted pastors and teachers.

Satan especially attacks all who wield the sword of the Spirit as Bible teachers. He seeks to destroy them, or disable them by attacking their physical health, or distracting them through disunity in the body-anything that hinders the Spirit-energized teaching of the Word, is Satan’s method.

Satan was very successful, especially in getting the church to blend in pagan ideas (known as syncretism or religious syncretion).  Within the first two centuries after the Apostles, every known heresy still with us today was being taught in the early church.

The post-Apostolic Fathers as they are known in Church History are a veritable mine field of terribly wrong doctrines and practices. In fact, for just a moment, let me just list all of the old deceptions found among the writings of the early church leaders.

None of the Church Fathers (leaders, writers, and pastors from AD 100-300) could ever say with Paul, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9)-because they were not INSPIRED to write the very Word of God. We can trust the New Testament writers’ God-breathed words completely. But looking at what they wrote and said is alarming.

Even a skimming of the writings of these church leaders yields immense doctrinal flaws, errors and even outright heresies. Some of these men were very influential over the early church, men like Origen, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Cyril of Jerusalem, and Augustine. What were some of the false teachings they held? For example:

  • Origen taught that God would save everyone and that Mary was a perpetual virgin;
  • Irenaeus believed that the bread and wine became the body and blood of Jesus when consecrated, as did John Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem;
  • Athanasius taught salvation through baptism;
  • Tertullian became a supporter of the Montanist heresies, and a promoter of a New Testament clergy class, as did his disciple Cyprian;
  • Augustine was the principal architect of Roman Catholic dogma that included his support of purgatory, baptismal regeneration, infant baptism, mortal and venial sins, prayers to the dead, penance for sins, absolution from a priest, the sinlessness of Mary, and the Apocrypha as Scripture .

We can never say that all of these men were totally wrong; on the contrary, many of them were deeply used to preach the Gospel, protect the church from great errors, and help clarify doctrine. But, to just embrace them because they were from the early church and did many things right, is to walk through a veritable minefield of heresies.

Religious Syncretism
Is Deadly

There has always been this same struggle within the church. A hundred years ago it was seen in what was called liberalism, today it is seen in what is being called the emergent church movement (ECM). Those same three lies that Satan pushed into Eden are now being pushed in Christ’s Church.

  • Doubt God’s Word: “Hath God said” (An attack on whether God has even spoken);
  • Doubt God’s Plan: “ye shall not surely die” (An attack on the Penal Substitutionary Atonement-only those who will trust in the perfect death of God’s Substitute will be saved).
  • Doubt God’s Authority over Life: “your eyes shall be opened” (An attack on Biblical Epistemology-whether God’s Word is the source of truth to live life God’s way.)

And those old deceptions are what we need to stand against. As grace-energized believers of sound or healthy faith, our response to these dangers of the ECM, should be:

Danger #1: Guard the Authority of the Bible

ECM error centers upon a rejection of the absolute authority of the Bible. Here we ask questions like “Is the Bible inerrant?” And “In what sense the Bible is God’s communication to us?”

Examples of this total loss of holding onto God’s Word as authoritative can be seen in some of the ECM’s leaders irreverence which includes referring to God as a chick, and as a Cosmic Child Abuser (describing the crucifixion of the Son at the Father’s will). The negation of the authority of God’s Word causes ECM writers to question God’s sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, as well as a denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a denial of the sin of homosexuality, and a denial of hell.

Danger #2: Guard the Cross

Another great area of concern with the ECM is the cross. When some ECM leaders are ask questions like “What is the meaning of the atonement”? And, “Did Jesus actually pay for or purchase anything on the cross?” the answers are very disturbing. Jesus declared that He knew why He had to die; He came to die as a substitutionary sacrifice for sin. We cannot read the New Testament and conclude otherwise.

Matthew 20:28 “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

But some ECM writers teach that the cross simply serves as a profound demonstration of the love of God. One writes that on the cross, Christ “absorbed all the pain, all the suffering caused by the breakdown in our relationship with God and in doing so demonstrated the lengths to which a God who is love will go to restore it.” (Chalke)

The most visible leader and ECM writer says, “The Christian faith should become a welcome friend to other religions of the world, and not a threat.” He goes on to write that not all people need to be Christians to follow Jesus. Some may be able to be “Buddhist or Hindu followers of Jesus.”  (Brian McLaren)

The doctrine of penal substitution–the understanding that, on the cross, Christ died in our place, bearing the penalty for our sin-is thus rejected by such ECM teachers.

As true disciples of Jesus Christ, we see the reality of sin in God’s Word, and the necessity of personal salvation. The simplicity of the gospel is in the Cross Christ (I Cor. 1:18); and all that is rooted in a proper, high view of Holy Scripture (Romans 10:17).

When the Authority of the Bible is lost, then sin and salvation through Christ is no longer important, the Church loses its witness and conviction-and all that’s left is a shipwrecked faith.

Danger #3: Guard the Truth

A third concern with the ECM is concerning the very nature of truth. Here we ask questions like “What is truth?” and “Does Christianity give us an accurate picture of the way the world really is, and can we know it?” And, “Can we know for sure what God has said and confidently stand and proclaim that as Absolute Truth?”

To many prominent ECM leaders the answer is , “No!” They say and write that we can’t be dogmatic, authoritative, or even sure about doctrines laid down in God’s Word that have always been believed by evangelicals throughout all of Church History.

Satan has just one old playbook.

His lies and tricks are old, have been used repeatedly through the centuries, and are all clear to spot.

Each generation of believers faces very new and real attacks of these very old and familiar lies and deceptions. Satan’s original pack of deceptive lies in Genesis 3, are still with us. Grace-energized believers who are sound in the faith, watch out for modern (or ancient) movements in the Church that use the same tools Satan used in the Garden of Eden-

  • Doubt God’s Word: “Hath God said” (An attack on whether God has even spoken);
  • Doubt God’s Plan: “ye shall not surely die” (An attack on the Penal Substitutionary Atonement-only those who will trust in the perfect death of God’s Substitute will be saved).
  • Doubt God’s Authority over Life: “your eyes shall be opened” (An attack on Biblical Epistemology-whether God’s Word is the source of truth to live life God’s way.)

Next time we will see Lord willing, “Where else are Ancient Heresies springing up in the Church of the 21st Century?”

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