A Warning From the Book of Jeremiah
It was with much sadness that I read Dr. Peter Jones' report from the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />AAR and SBL annual meeting (Dr. Jones' article) a couple weeks ago. If this was the only forum in which I was reading reports such as this I might not lend much credence to what seems to be a sort of new reformation. Unfortunately that is not the case. I read this kind of story regularly. Some of the teachings, in my opinion, are completely heretical (divergent) and I can think of only one word to describe them; disgusting. I hope that the students who have to sit through such teachings in the classroom are praying daily for discernment. True, the teachers of such dribble might be considered evangelical in the sense that they are spreading their message, but they are not spreading the true Gospel of Christ. These teachers cannot, therefore, be considered Evangelicals because, by definition, they would have to be building up, not tearing down the Church.
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I warned others in my church years ago about the dangers of questionable messages. I'm sure I learned it in school though I can't remember when or where, but there are three steps to the changes we are seeing; acknowledge, accept, and embrace. We have witnessed that with homosexuality in the Episcopal church. The thing I find completely ironic about that situation is a good part of the world, especially Europe, feels contempt for the conservative Evangelicals in the United States, but in the case of the Episcopal church, most of the Anglican world is aligning itself against the ECA because it is too liberal.
Jeremiah 23, though it was written specifically about the Israelites and Jerusalem, seems to be applicable to what we are witnessing today. And though some would argue that it is not because it was written to a specific people at a specific time, we should be able to learn from the past and apply the lessons to ourselves; learn from history so we do not repeat it. Especially interesting and poignant are the following:
14 And among the prophets of Jerusalem I have seen something horrible: They commit adultery and live a lie. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns from his wickedness. They are all like Sodom to me; the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah."
16 This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.
17 They keep saying to those who despise me, 'The LORD says: You will have peace.' And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts they say, 'No harm will come to you.'
They strengthen the hands of evildoers so that no one turns from his wickedness. They fill you with false hopes. They tell you the Lord says, "You will have peace" and "No harm will come to you." Does this sound vaguely familiar? We should pay special attention to the fact that such messages are described as "horrible." The situations described in the forgoing verses directly correlate with the teachings today that God accepts us as we are so we do not need to worry about sin because God understands we are sinful by nature and He will forgive our sins whether or not we have a repentant heart or have asked forgiveness. We have only to proclaim that we are Christians (or that we "believe in" Christ) and all will be forgiven.
That sort of teaching seems to come from those who also espouse the idea that anyone, no matter their faith or lack thereof, can enter Heaven. So much for Jesus teaching that He is the way, truth and life and that NO MAN can go to the Father except through Him. Jesus said it, false teachers deny it, so they are, in the most literal sense of the word, calling Jesus a liar. They probably do so because they do not want to believe that God is jealous or that they or people they know will actually face damnation because of their decisions. They try to fit God into their mould of what they think God should be instead of accepting God by who He told us He is in the Bible. And they call themselves Christian? A Christian is not someone who "believes in" Jesus, but someone who is His disciple. Does anyone think that Satan does not "believe in" Jesus? If Satan did not understand the person and power of Jesus why would he have expended so much effort trying to tempt Him in the desert?
By denying the word of Christ they are separating themselves to the left. (Matthew 25:31-46, 7:15-23) They certainly endear themselves to people who love their lives to the death. But the world's standards are not those by which man will be judged. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8 & 9) "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." (John 8:23 & 24)
I'm reminded of the story of the rich young lord, not because of the lesson not to love possessions more than God, but because Jesus rebuked the young lord for calling Him "good." You see, by the world's standards, individuals who teach acceptance of all people in spite of their unrepentant sin are "good people." But Jesus taught that none are good except God. So if we accept the fact that none of us are good, that we are all sinners, we have to also acknowledge that there are things about ourselves which are contrary to God and must be changed. This is in direct opposition to the idea that any of us are "good enough" to get into heaven the way we are. Jesus bought our souls at Calvary, paid the eternal price for our sin by serving as a living sacrifice, but that does not mean we can continue to live lives of sin and expect no repercussions.
Paul wrote to the Galatians about their turning from God's teaching to a false gospel, one which was not from Christ. He also spoke of how the false teachers should be condemned for eternity. Additionally, Peter wrote that false teachers "will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them-bringing swift destruction on themselves." (2 Peter 2:1b) Obviously, some heresies are not so secretly introduced.
In Matthew 23, Jesus preached against leaders who do nothing toward the cleansing of the soul; woe be to the teachers and Pharisees who do not work to clean the inside of (men) of their greed and self-indulgence. He also accused them of being whitewashed graves full of dead bones and everything unclean. We can understand from this that the outside of a person has no real meaning. Superficially, we may all appear to be "righteous" by attending church or talking about love and acceptance of all men, but if our hearts are not aligned with God, we are dead inside, spiritually.
We all should understand that we are to love the sinner yet hate the sin. What is so troubling, however, is how some of the most basic teachings of Jesus have been either ignored or misconstrued, being attributed with a "hidden meaning" that is so different than the actual words spoken by Jesus. Some people don't seem to understand that everything Jesus spoke was not a parable. In most instances when a parable was confusing, Jesus provided us with the meaning. Of course some of His teachings carry multiple meanings. But one thing you will not find in any of Jesus' teachings is acceptance of sin, only love for the sinner. Remember, when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him by the mob that wanted to stone her to death, Jesus' last words to her were, "Go and sin no more." (John 8:11)
The Bible is being perverted into just another 12-step, self-help book on how to live a life in harmony with all peoples of the world. It is being looked upon by some as merely a history book with helpful suggestions. That was not its intent. The Bible is meant to be a book on how to live a Godly life. It is God's instruction manual to His people on how to overcome the evil of this world in our quest for eternal life with Him. Its ideas are concrete. Its message is, for the most part, black and white (and, yes, red for additional emphasis of the words of Jesus in some editions).
I feel I must repeat yet again that the Great Commission did not tell us to spread acceptance throughout the world. Jesus said to "(G)o and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19 & 20) And this is certain: Jesus did not teach the Apostles to sin or accept sin; He did not teach them that anyone is worthy of heaven, and He did not teach that repentance is unnecessary for anyone.
We will probably never be able to convince the false prophets and teachers that they are promulgating lies. All we can hope for is that God will provide their students and parishioners with the wisdom and discernment to be able to recognize the false teachings as poison and the false teachers as vipers. The only acceptance we should have is that our job is to spread the Gospel, the rest is up to God. If people do not welcome us, we are to shake the dust from our sandals knowing that our job has been done, though we should never stop loving them. Do not accept, or allow others to accept, anything contrary to that of Jesus' teachings. To do so would mean certain death to them, and maybe to us for allowing such false doctrine to flourish.
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