Truth with Zeal:
In the beginning of the Christian church, Jesus and the apostles, spoke much of false teachers. So much so that a good portion of the New Testament deals with correcting doctrine and false teachings, leaving it impossible to know your bible and to ignore the warnings of God-breathed scripture. 1 John 4:1 summarizes the key principle, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Reading through texts such as 2 Peter, 2 Corinthians, 1 & 2 Timothy, make it clear, there are/will be false teachers, and we need to keep an eye out for them, expose them, and have no part in their work. In fact, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 speaks greatly about the day and age we are in. Fast forward a bit in history and the apologists arose in the 2ndcentury, combatting heresy in the predominant pagan culture. The position of the church was clear, worship of pagan gods, and everything related to such worship, must be rejected. Any movement away from true and sound doctrine was seen as a denial of Jesus Christ. Excommunication, and/or clear separation from the church, was the fate of the various heretics who threatened the truth. Creeds were established to draw firm lines, because the message was simple, truth matters. This type of zeal for truth can be demonstrated for quite some time in church history from Nicea to the Reformation and while there were times when corrupt systems prevailed, truth always shone in the darkness.
Poison in the Well:
Comparing scripture, and the early church’s zeal with our day is quite telling. Where scripture tells us to keep an eye out, we close both of them. When scripture tells us to test spirits, we check our brains at the door. Where scripture tells us to have no part with them, we join them. While the early church fought for truth for the sake of the true Gospel and true Jesus, we sit back and join the false teachers. The early church made themselves holy from paganism, so much so that they would have nothing to do with their worship, while we play songs in congregations written to worship a cheap imitation of the gospel and Jesus. Our culture when reading Paul’s words, “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (1 Corinthians 1:21) brushes it aside and says, eat, drink, and be merry. While the early church would excommunicate heretics, we fund them. Christian business sell their books, churches play their music, we host them on TV networks, and even promote their reading plans on popular bible apps. We are the unfaithful adulterous people.
This is mostly a reflection on the grieving of my own heart when examining the state of theology, the state of modern Christianity, and the state of advocacy of the truth. I fall short daily, and need grace daily, and within that reality I in no way seek to be high and mighty, but rather, I so desire the zeal of the church to rise, being rooted in truth, leading to faithfulness towards Christ. My heart aches and my pleas are as follows:
1) Leaders in the church – rise up – and take a stand collectively: In the early church, councils would meet and draw up the diving lines. Clearly establishing the truth from the error and making it known that the true message of scripture is what they stood on. We did this with the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy (1978), and recently with the Statement on Social Justice (2018), but perhaps we need to be bolder and do so with the true gospel in relation to prominent heresy, not just cultural movements. It is no secret, especially in light of Amerian Gospel’s efforts, that the prosperity gospel or word of faith movement is rampant. It is no secret that the NAR has a lot of dangerous pagan practices and alterations of the gospel. And it is no secret that such movements have moved into otherwise conservative churches through music and acceptance of the prosperity message.
My question is this; in the midst of such obvious heresy, in the midst of the alteration of the most important message, the gospel, why haven’t we taken a united stand against it? Perhaps I am ignorant and something like this has already occurred, but where is the formal statement calling out these false gospels and teachers and making that necessary division? The issue of Social Justice is significant; however, this issue has been around for a long time. It has been morphing, twisting, and infiltrating for years. To say the least, such a declaration would inform people that there is something going on that needs to be addressed and while many people will dislike what comes from such a statement, who are we serving? Men or God? While many ministries have pointed out such errors in various settings and with much effort, I think there comes a time for a united, loud, effort that makes it abundantly clear; we do not let false gospels reign. Such an official statement on the biblical gospel would rightly divide the truth from error in terms of the cults and these new age movements.
2) Pastors – don’t let your people play with the wolves. As a shepherd who cares for his flock it goes without saying that we shouldn’t let the wolves come in the fold to play. This means with music, bible studies, or any other type of medium these groups are using. Using the materials these groups put out is exactly what they want for financial reasons and expansion. We are effectively funding and feeding the wolves, which is heartbreaking. Does the content seem appealing to the senses, sure, but a wolf looks handsome before he devours his prey. It is no secret that the music and studies produced by these groups are shallow enough to not be blatantly wrong in most instances, but why on earth would we settle for shallow theology to begin with? When the writer to the Hebrews spoke to his people in Hebrews 5:12 it surely wasn’t a command to stay on a purely milk filled diet, it was a rebuke, and what we have done is allowed for bottle feeding to continue in congregations. Let us move into the deeper messages, and let us mediate on the deeper things of Christ.
3) Worship teams – Stand up for truth and find solid music. There are many groups that are solid in the essentials of the faith, with deep lyrics, so why settle? We have moved into the contemporary music scene, that is a fact, and I have no interest in the “worship wars” in terms of musical style. My concern is, again, the propagation of shallow music produced by groups who worship a different God. Not only do you fund these groups by selecting their songs, but you leave congregations wanting with shallow, redundant, lyrics. Is the music appealing? Sure and that is how they hook you, but also, what good is solid sounding music if the lyrics cannot penetrate the depth of our hearts? What good is a repeated cliché? I ask that we hold our music to higher standards, quality in both lyrics and music. Just as well, may we seek God, not your performance, be invisible on the stage, not drawing attention to yourselves. If you have to force an experience on the congregation than they’re experiencing your performance not the work of the Holy Spirit. Those who lead worship, be theologians, so that we can actually worship in spirit and in truth.
4) Brothers and Sisters – stand up in truth and know your bible. Let us stop seeing theology as this distant scholarly concept and let us seek the deeper things of God. Let us stop being biblically illiterate and start diving deeper. Speak up when the studies are shallow, speak up when you want to go deeper. Speak up when someone has fallen into the lap of a false teacher and be bold in your proclamation of truth. Let us stop seeing Christianity as something we put off and put on when it is fitting to us, but let it be the forefront of our lives. Let us look different, informed in truth, and not ashamed of the gospel. Stop listening to and supporting false teachers. Let your love for Christ grow and turn you away from misrepresentations of him.
Let us all be bold in the truth and stand against the current of modern Christianity. Let us stand firm on the gospel and stand firm against the movements that have, for so long, been the face of Christianity in America. Let it be clear that we care more for Jesus Christ and what he deposited to us than how false teachers will respond. Let us do it for the sake of the Gospel just as our brothers and sisters did it before. We all have a responsibility and role to make the truth known and to point people back to the scriptures. To have any spiritual enterprise with false teachers is to take part in an attack on Christ himself. To support a false teacher, is to fund a war against God.