Should we throw out the baby with the bath water?

I get distressed when I see or hear of Christians I know, like, and admire, who also listen to and follow those who teach false doctrine.

For the purpose of this short article, we therefore need a criteria, a set of parameters that we can use to distinguish good and sound teaching from self-centered and erroneous teaching. I suggest the Bible as that criteria.

For those who would reject the Bible as that criteria, a different conversation would be in order. I’d be glad to talk to you more if you’d like.

My encouragement to the body is this: If someone distorts, misrepresents, or blatantly teaches against the Bible as part of their teaching, then all of their teaching must be suspect and therefore disregarded as spiritual nourishment. A religious speaker can’t be “mostly right” anymore than the Bible can be “mostly accurate” or God can be “mostly divine.”

This occurs everywhere from well-known national television evangelists to local teachers and preachers. Those who teach and preach must teach/preach the “whole counsel of God.”

Acts 20:26-27 – Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.

 

Have you heard of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You Might be a Redneck if…?”

Well, here is Pastor Harvey’s “They might not be worth listening to if…” in no particular order. If your admired Christian speaker is/does the following, it might be worth praying about whether to continue to follow his/her teaching or not.

 

1. They spend more time worrying about receiving your money than communicating that God provides all needs. Philippians 4:19 – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

 

2. They spend more time bashing the church or her leaders than lifting up her head. (I’ve seen too much of this one on facebook lately) – Colossians 1:18 – “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” Beware of anyone who claims to serve the Bridegroom (Jesus Christ) but slanders the Bride (the church). See Ephesians 5:25-27.

 

3. They spend time condemning those who believe in minor doctrinal issues that do not pertain to nor disqualify people from salvation, and ignore the biggest ones of all. For one of many examples, if a person is more concerned about the version of the Bible being read than the receptiveness of the person reading it, they’ve missed the forest for the trees. Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

 

4. They recite and propagate the world’s wisdom, even though it completely contradicts the wisdom of the Bible. Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

 

5. They neglect the great Commission in favor of their own personal ideas for what is best. Matthew 28:18-20 – And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

6. They only preach that we are meant to be successful, that we have a great destiny, that God wants us to prosper, etc. For example, James 4:10 says “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” If a speaker teaches that the best way God can lift you up and exalt you is in a material manner, beware. God has much better ways of sustaining and providing for His children than the satisfaction of man’s wants. God DOES want the best for you. And that best is to completely and wholeheartedly abandon self by pouring your life into worshiping Him and serving others. It isn’t about receiving, nor is it about self.

 

7. Their riches are extravagant. Simply put, spend the money on what matters, if you have that much money. For example, James 1:27 – “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” The world has stained too many of our more prominent ministries.

 

8. Their version of the gospel is inoffensive to the lost and comfortable to the saved. If they preach a gospel that does not bring a sense of conviction, then it isn’t a complete gospel. 1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it isthe power of God.”

 

9. Their version of the gospel is hopeless to the lost and offensive to the saved. Some ministries present a God that is only a vengeful judge. As I preached the other morning – to some God will be a terrifying judge one day, but to others, He is our loving Redeemer. John 3:16-17 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

 

10. Comfort is their unspoken theme. The problem with being a casual, comfortable Christian is this: Serving God is not comfortable. Obeying God is not easy. You can’t say “yes” to God half-heartedly. Following God requires more than good intentions. Worship is not passionless. Christ requires all. You can’t obey Him mostly. You can’t obey Him 99 %. Multiple verses to support – which one to cite? Colossians 3:17 – “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

 

And a BONUS one – this one is free!

11. They don’t love children. I love the church I pastor (Bethel), and one of her shining bright positive areas is that she loves children. You want to get on God’s bad side? Mistreat a child. I shudder to think of all the self-identifying Christians in my own life who I’ve seen mistreat children, or who mistreated me when I was a child. I’ve actually been in church services where the speaker was harsh about children disrupting and treated them and/or their family with obvious contempt. Don’t do that. You better be nice to the children, even the squirrely ones! 

 

Be blessed and follow God, not man!

 

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What’s a Christian?

As I mentioned earlier, there are doctrines that are considered essential to the Christian faith. There are also cases where some beliefs, if embraced, are contrary to the Christian faith.

Back in one of my seminary courses – apologetics, I believe, I was exposed to a website I’ve used over the years. It is entitled “Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry” and is from a gentleman named Matthew Slick. I have some denominational-belief-related differences with him occasionally but I’ve always found him to be solid on his core stuff. Anyways, the following is from his website at http://www.carm.org and his from an article entitled “Yes, there are essential Christian Doctrines” which can be located in its entirety here.

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Primary Essentials

  1. The Deity of Christ
    1. John 8:24, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
      1. This is where Jesus clearly taught what you cannot deny and you must affirm.
    2. Jesus is God in flesh (John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14). See also John 1:1,14; 10:30-33; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 1:8
  2. Salvation by Grace
    1. “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace,” (Gal. 5:4).
    2. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast,” (Eph. 2:8-9).
      1. Both these verses show salvation is by grace through faith, not by works and that to add works is to not be saved.
  3. The Resurrection of Christ
    1. “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith,” (1 Cor. 15:14). “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins,” (1 Cor. 15:17).
      1. These verses clearly state that if you say that Jesus did not rise from the dead in the same body He died in as he prophesied in John 2:19-21, then your faith is useless.
  4. The Gospel
    1. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Gal. 1:8-9, NIV).
    2. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 defines what the gospel is: “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
  5. Monotheism
    1. There is only one God (Exodus 20:3; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8)
    2. “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments,”  (Exodus 20:3-6).
      1. We can see that God will visit iniquity on the descendents of those who do not follow the true and living God.

Secondary Essentials

Secondary essentials are likewise necessary truths, but there is no self-declared penalty for their denial — yet they are still essential to the Christian faith.  Again, by way of example, Jesus says that he is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by him, (John 14:6).  I call this a secondary essential because there’s no penalty associated with its denial.  Nevertheless, it is a statement of absolute truth and is an essential Christian teaching that cannot be denied.

  1. Jesus is the only way to salvation
    1. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me,'” (John 14:6)
      1. Jesus declared that he was the only access to God the Father.  To deny this is to deny what Jesus said.
  2. Jesus’ virgin birth
    1. “’Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which translated means, ‘God with us,’” (Matt. 1:23).
      1. Without the virgin birth, we cannot substantiate the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus being God in flesh.  This would put at risk what Jesus said above in John 8:24, where he said, “I said, therefore, to you, that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”
  3. Doctrine of the Trinity
    1. Matt. 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,”  (See also, Matt. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6.)
    2. This doctrine is not represented by a single verse per se, though it is hinted at.  The doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at systematically by looking at the totality of Scripture.  It is, nevertheless, the proper representation of scriptural revelation concerning the nature of God.

Our faith is only as good as who we put it in. There are false teachers who redefine God, redefine Christ, and redefine the gospel to their own destruction. Jesus warned us about false Christs and false teachers in Matt. 24:24.  Paul clearly said in Galatians 1:8 that anyone who preaches a false gospel is to be cursed.  Therefore, we can see from Scripture that there are doctrinal/propositional truths we cannot avoid and that these truths cannot be governed by experience and/or the ambivalence of emerging “conversation”. If that were the case, we would not need the propositional truths given to us by God in the Bible.

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Of course, as a Southern Baptist, I would always encourage members of my own church and/or denomination to refer to the Baptist Faith and Message for a concise listing of core doctrines and beliefs. You can find that here.