You’re not helping… (part 1)
I’ve been increasingly burdened with the outlandish and even comical things happening in churches today passing itself off as Christianity. My small effort to express my intolerance is usually met with some kind of disapproval, especially from Christian leaders. So, I thought I’d address what I believe to be a really unhelpful attitude from many mature and seasoned believers regarding biblical discernment. I’ll do it in a few blog entries called: “You’re not helping”. So here’s the first one:
You’re not helping when you fail to realize the biblical imperative for every believer to be discerning. The Bible doesn’t merely hint that believers must be watchful for possible erroneous teachings and misrepresentations of God’s Word, but directly commands us to be deliberate and intentional in guarding against such things. Throughout the Bible there is a constant call for discernment and a clear message from God to be watchful for error, guard ourselves against error, and confront error. Tim Challies carefully defines discernment:
God Himself, addresses this as earlier as the events in Deuteronomy where He commands that His people be diligent to guard against those who claim to speak in His name presumptuously (Deut. 18:15-22). God in fact hands down a severe warning and judgment to those who would claim to speak a message in His name, which He has not commanded them to speak- “…the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die”-(Deut. 18:22).
If anything this should make every person who claims to speak for God become very careful and cause them to make an effort to examine whether what they’re thinking is coming from God, is really coming from Him. There is nothing noble, spiritual or loving in being undiscerning, careless in handing God’s Word and failing to examine and test whether what is being said truly is God’s Word (Acts 17;11; 1 Cor., 14:26-33)
God clearly demonstrates His intolerance for those false prophets who preach a message the people want to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4), instead of a message He has given, irrespective if the people want to hear it. God calls out false prophets and charges them with performing a tremendous disservice to His people and dishonoring His name, by telling them what they want to hear. In doing this they are said to merely, heal the people superficially (Jer. 6:14, 8:11).
In the New Testament. Jesus warns of the presence and persistent of false teachers and false prophets (Mat 7:22; 24:5, 11, 23-28), and the Apostle Paul says it isn’t going to get better, but worse (1 Tim. 4:1-5). However as believers we are not to merely stand by and watch everything unfold without doing or saying anything. Rather as John Calvin said “if a dog sees his master attacked, he barks, shall we not say something when God’s truth is attacked?” And Scripture calls on believers to have, as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit, a discerning, watchful, and even confrontational attitude. Now this is unacceptable today, as MacArthur describes:
“Most Christians nowadays simply don’t care about the prevalence of false doctrine, nor do they take seriously their duty to fight against apostasy. Instead, they want a friendly atmosphere of open acceptance for everyone, tolerance of opposing ideas, and charitable dialogue with the apostates.” ~John MacArthur
- A clear command is stated for believers to test, examine and discern truth from error:
1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NASB95)
21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
- God honors those who set their minds and hearts on discerning truth from error:
Acts 17:11 (NASB95)
11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.
- One of the high priorities of a Pastor’s work is to confront false teachers and teachings
1Timothy 1:3 (NASB95)
3 As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
- Out of care and love John calls on the “Beloved” to take guard against errors and false teaching:
1 John 4:1–4 (NASB95)
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
- A battle cry is set out to believers to contend earnestly for the faith:
Jude 3 (NASB95)
3 Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.
Today a kind of a knee-jerk reaction comes when you encourage some Christian leaders to contend earnestly for the faith, and their response is usually- “I wasn’t called to do that”.-I think Jude would disagree!
Now many are quick to protect the moral purity of the church and rightfully so! We must be holy, mortify sin and pursue Christ-likeness. However we must also be pure doctrinally, in fact an argument could be made that without doctrinal purity there can be no true morally purity. Therefore to contend for the purity of God’s Word over against the many theological aberrations and doctrinal corruptions becomes even more urgent as the moral purity of the church is at stake!
Another tendency we have today among Christian leaders is to pit love against discernment- but this is a ridiculous thing to do! In fact love compels us to warn of danger! Love does not say ‘peace, peace” when there is no peace! We are commanded to “speak the truth in love”- Eph. 4:15. Though the attitude is love, the act (main point) is still speaking the truth! The two are not mutually exclusive and; “you are not helping when you treat discernment and love as mutually exclusive and you are not helping when you fail to see the biblical call to embrace and to encourage discernment!