Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Overview of Jehovah's Witnesses

We come now to the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Confused for Christianity as well, and well-known for knocking on the door of any home on any given day.

In fact, Jehovah’s Witnesses are estimated to have over 6 million members who make home visits each year.  Followed in at least 235 countries, with 1 million members in the United States it is reported that in 2010 the Jehovah’s Witnesses spent 1.3 billion hours spreading their message of law and deception.  Why do they do this?  Where do they come from?  Is their version of the Gospel the same as ours?

I.) History

Well, by their own definition, they are “servants of Jehovah, the Almighty God, and active witnesses of his sovereign supremacy”.  They reject being associated with Christianity as we define it, but rather they insist that their gospel is the true one, they are they true Christians.

They were founded in 1872, at age 20, by a man named Charles Taze Russell.  For 2 years or so prior Charles had been having a very hard time believing the doctrine of eternal hell fire and eternal punishment.  Unable to reconcile them, he left his church.

At age 18 he started a Bible study class in Pittsburgh, PA which served as his way to spread his errant views and accumulate followers.  By 1879 he had co-published “The Herald of the Morning” magazine with its founder NH Barbour.  The magazine was really the spring board platform for Russell to teach his heretical views on the Bible.

In 1884 Russell had taken control of the magazine and renamed it to be “The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom”.  At the same time he founded the “Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society”.  Today it is known as the “Watchtower Bible and Tract Society”.

The 1st edition of the Watchtower magazine only produced 6,000 copies per month.  Today they publish out of Brooklyn, NY and they produce 100,000 books and 800,000 copies of its 2 magazines respectively, DAILY.

Russell believed that God had opened his eyes to the truth and that the Bible could only truly be understood according to HIS interpretations.  Initially, those who followed Russell were simply known as “Russellites”, but after his death in October of 1916 his successor, a Missouri lawyer named Joseph Franklin Rutherford, took control and quickly changed the name of the Russell’s organization known the “International Bible Students Association” to simply, “Jehovah’s Witnesses”.

He did so based on Isaiah 43:10 which reads,”You are my witnesses, saith Jehovah, and my servant whom I have chosen.”  Even to now they retain the belief that the only true Bible interpretation is theirs.

Their false doctrine is easily refuted from Scripture and so in 1961 they published their own version of the Bible known as the “New World Translation”.  It just blatantly alters verses that Russell denied, so that they fit their own views.

They have 2 sources primarily that they use for their teachings…

1.) Their translation of the Bible (NWT)
2.) The Watchtower Magazine

Their Bible must be read through the lens of the Magazine’s interpretation, which ironically is open to change depending on the “revelation received”.

“The Bible is an organizational book and belongs to Christian congregations and organizations, not to the individuals regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible.  For this reason, the Bible cannot be properly understood without Jehovah’s visible organization in mind.” – The Watchtower,10-1-67 p.587

II.) Beliefs

What do they believe?  Well, Russell denied the doctrine of hell.  He believed that when man dies, he simply ceases to exist.  He further denied the Trinity and the fact that Jesus was God in the flesh to just scratch the surface!

They believe that God’s Sovereignty was impugned when Adam and Eve rebelled.  So the main purpose of what God is doing in not redeeming sinners as such as it is vindicating himself from what Adam and Eve did to Him.  Vindicating Himself, they say, is more important than salvation or anything else.

They deny that God is a Trinitarian God.  “There is One God in One Person” – Make Sure of All Things p.188

They believe that since God created man in His image and “no one has ever seen a three headed human creature (Let God Be True, 2nd ed, p101-102).  They say it would be “difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three headed God” (ibid)

Although they do believe God to be eternal and omnipotent, they deny that He is omnipresent.  They most commonly and almost exclusively refer to God as Jehovah.

A.) Who is Jehovah?  He is not a Triune God, that they say is false doctrine, (Make Sure of All Things p.188).  They teach Him to be one person whose principle attributes are love, wisdom, justice, and power.  Incidentally, Scriptures teaches that God’s principle attribute is His Holiness and everything else that He is is informed by that.

Jehovah was alone in universal space, but never lonely, which is why He created the word and man…  so that He wouldn’t be alone?

B.) Who is Jesus?

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jehovah is Christ’s God, Christ is inferior to Jehovah God.  Jesus, they teach, is not God incarnate, He is a created being.  He is called God’s “only begotten Son” because He was the 1st and only being created directly by God.  As firstborn, Jesus was used to create all things.

Before Jesus came to the earth He existed in Heaven as Michael the Archangel.  In the virgin birth He was re-created on earth as the perfect man.

He wasn’t the Messiah from all eternity as Scripture teaches, He rather became the Messiah at His baptism and at that time He was anointed to become the King of the coming Kingdom.

Further, they deny that Christ was bodily resurrected.  They believe Jesus was buried, God disposed of His physical body, Jesus was raised as a “spirit creature” and temporarily materialized in different physical bodies in order to appear to His disciples. (Awake, 7-22-73, p. 4)

He is now back in Heaven as Michael the Archangel.  Since there was no physical resurrection, they say, there will be no 2nd Coming either.

C.) Heaven and Hell


They deny the existence of Hell, period.  “The doctrine of a burning hell where the wicked are tortured eternally after death cannot be true mainly for four reasons:  1.) It is wholly unscriptural; 2.) it is unreasonable; 3.) it is contrary to God’s love and 4.) it is repugnant to justice” (Let God Be True, p. 9, 59-60, 67)

They believe as the 7th Day Adventists do that the soul sleeps.  Humans don’t have immortal souls, so when the body dies there is no longer any conscious existence.  Hell, is simply the common grace of mankind.  From there, those who are righteous will be resurrected, those who are condemned by God will be annihilated and cease to exist.  The reason for this is because of what, they teach, a soul is.  Man consists of a “body together with the life principle or life force activating it.” (Make Sure of All Things p. 349)

Immortality (Heaven) is given as a reward for faithfulness.  Smelling works righteousness there yet?  You should be, it’s thick.  Do this… get this… all cults have this in place.  All cults believe that man isn’t so sinful that he can’t same himself through acts of his own goodness.

Their view of Heaven is that Heaven is only actually reserved for the 144,000 spoken of in the Book of Revelation.  Only these special few will get in.  Everyone else who was righteous will get eternal life for their soul, but it will be on earth.  Their soul will roam the earth for all eternity.

D.) Sin and Salvation

In the fall, man was not made spiritually dead by sin… rather we inherited “imperfection”.  Being only imperfect we can merit salvation for ourselves so there is no need for a Savior.  Jesus didn’t die to pay for your sin and merit salvation for you, He just died to make it possible for you to merit salvation.

III.) How do you obtain salvation as a Jehovah’s Witness?

It is a complicated system of belief and good works.  “Belief involves taking in accurate knowledge of God’s purposes and His way of salvation.  Then faith has to be exercised in Jesus Christ as the Chief Agent of salvation… this places the Christian in a saved condition, but he must now persevere in doing God’s will and continue to adhere to all of God’s requirements for the rest of his life.  Only then will he be saved to eternal life.” (Watchtower, 12-15-89, p.30)

In addition to faith in Jesus’ sacrifice you must also be baptized, repent, have association with the Watchtower Society, have righteous conduct, and absolute loyalty to Jehovah.  Even then there is no assurance of salvation, only hope for a resurrection.  Those who fail to meet the requirements are shunned from the fellowship of the Watchtower Society and have no hope for salvation.

The reason they knock on so many doors is because they are trying to earn salvation.  They are expected to spend 5-hours a week going door to door to conduct a monthly “Bible Study” in the homes of their converts.  Each week they are to report their status to the Watchtower Society and their performance will be evaluated and affect their status in the local “Kingdom Hall”.

IV.) Odd and/or legalistic things

I call this section, odd and legalistic things… They teach Christ was executed on a stake, not a cross, so you’ll never find a cross on them or in their churches.  You are not allowed to smoke, give blood transfusions, box, or purchase a raffle ticket.  You also cannot salute the flag, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, stand for the National Anthem, vote, or serve in the military.

Further, you can’t celebrate your birthday, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and any other holiday they deem as pagan.  Lastly, you aren’t allowed to associate with any non-Jehovah’s Witness.  Even if they are in your own family.  The only exception is in that family member lives in your household.

V.) How do we reach them with the Gospel?

Well, first things first, we need to be very very careful.  They use nearly all the same terms that we do but they do not mean the same things.  They must see chiefly that man is not just spiritually imperfect, we are by nature, spiritually dead.

Works are insufficient to save… BUT while Jehovah’s Witness offers them no hope for salvation, hope exists.  His Name is Jesus Christ!  He IS God, He DID come as God in the flesh, God incarnate, He died a real physical death, then 3 days later He did have a real physical resurrection.  He now sits in His glorified body in Heaven at the right Hand of the Father.  If they will repent of their sin He will forgive them and grant eternal life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

12 Things To Consider Before Boycotting A Business...

Update: 12/8/16: This discussion seems to come around every year against one secular business or another... so I updated point 11 and added point 12.  Consider, discuss, hope you are helped and exhorted to joy in Christ!

Update 11/8/15: I decided to re-post this given the outcry against Starbucks that is taking place.  I would just add that "pranking" Starbucks as Joshua Feuerstein recommends is no less foolish and unhelpful than a boycott.  Neither advances the Gospel.  Joshua has loads of problems with his theology but that is for another post I suppose.  I am however perplexed at how a man who calls himself a pastor thinks it does advance the Gospel to "prank" Starbucks... then again I'm not too surprised, he also feels that converting his sanctuary into a rodeo ring and having a rodeo as church is advancing the Gospel as well... this man needs to be avoided at all costs.  He is immature and has no business leading the flock.

 ----------------------------------------

Last year I posted this and thought that with Christmas rapidly approaching I would post it again to keep Christians focused on the bigger issue at hand.  There is a more important thing going on than whether or not someone says 'Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays".

The issue being discussed is whether or not we should say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.  Or in some cases whether equal signage should be displayed for Christmas and Winter Solstice on government/public property.

But I digress, as I said, I posted an article about the whole thing and since I've heard much discussion in general over "boycotting" said businesses that refuse to display or say "Merry Christmas" but instead opt for "Happy Holidays".  I thought it might be helpful to think through this once more.  Should we boycott businesses for not saying "Merry Christmas"?  My position, is no.  No we shouldn't.  Here is my 11 point pondering as to why we shouldn't.

1.) Let's say that your efforts to boycott does in fact encourage a business to begin using Merry Christmas as opposed to Happy Holidays... Have you considered that you have then pressured obvious unregenerate people to blaspheme the name of Christ by using it in a false way?  Namely, by using it when they do not believe in it. (Exodus 20:7)  I am grieved when I hear someone blaspheme.  Be it through an overt blaspheming of the Lord's Name or when someone says "God Bless America" who, by their fruit, demonstrates they have no reverence for God. (Psalm 74:10)

2.) We, as Christians, are to discern and judge between true and false teachings within the church and within those claiming to be Christian.  We are not to go about making unrighteous, and in this case unnecessary, judgments on the unbelievers short of warning them of the wrath of God to come to them due their sin through our sharing the Gospel with them. Wise as serpents, innocent as doves. (Romans 16:17-20)

3.) Have you gone about cleaning up the doctrine and shoring up the theology in every aspect of your own ministries at your church or even what you hold to personally?  What about the local "Family Friendly" Christian Radio Stations such as KLTY that consider it acceptable to play secular Christmas songs and commercials for the WB and the like.  Granted, those commercial spots are paid for by those outside companies, but those radio stations have the duty to discern between what should and shouldn't be aired on their station and the are considered within the body.  Have you considered confronting them in an Ephesians 4:15 way?  Speaking truth in love to them first.

4.) What about these business we are proposing to boycott... has anyone personally contacted any of them and arranged a time to sit down with them and share the true meaning behind Christmas (Matthew 1:21) which would easily lead into sharing the Gospel (Mark 1:15) with them and perhaps lead them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?
"Saying in a corrective tone "Merry Christmas" in response to a store clerk's mandated "Happy Holidays" greeting is not a form of evangelism." - Burk Parsons
5.) It doesn't seem doing this has been thought through too wisely.  Granted we ought to feel something when God's Name is omitted like that or blasphemed, but our reaction ought to be to proclaim the Gospel all the more!  Not condemn the world.  All things are permissible... but not all things are profitable. (1 Corinthians 10:23)  This seems to be a profitless and fruitless endeavor.

6.) Do I use Merry Christmas personally?  Absolutely.  Should businesses?  It would be nice, but I don't expect much from the "darkness" of this world.  They hate God by default and so I'm not shocked when they display behavior in keeping with that, such were all of us before Christ saved us.  (Ephesians 2:1-10)... Are we really surprised that the world doesn't understand? (1 Corinthians 2:14)

7.) How does this accomplish ANYTHING for the Gospel or the glory of God?  Even if they begin using the "proper" phrases... did you really accomplish anything? (Luke 11:39)

8.) The end result of this is that those business who give to your bullying and change their signage (if any do) you've not changed their hearts, you've soothed your conscience so that you can continue indulging in worldly items and coveting everything you see... (as we all do from time to time because we are all sinful)  (1 John 1:8-9)

9.) Shouldn't we be consistent? If you are going to call out businesses using Happy Holidays vs Merry Christmas then let's also go and call out businesses that support abortion, that promote promiscuity or drunkenness, or that put out sinful media products (movies and music and such).  Are you sure that the businesses that DO wish you a Merry Christmas aren't selling products of companies who don't? Have fun figuring that one out!  Where does it end?  The commission of the church is not to chiefly attack the peripheral issues of this sin broken world, but rather to attack the heart of all issues with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That though they are sinners bound for God's wrath, their is forgiveness and pardon in Jesus Christ alone!  (John 3:16; Mark 1:15; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:16-20)

10.) Preach the WORD in and out of season... PREACH THE WORD. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)  Just because you are willing to give these businesses a pat on the back for saying Merry Christmas does not equal success or wisdom.

11.) Have you considered the issue of hypocrisy in your own heart with this? Is the issue of saying "Merry Christmas" the only time you open your mouth for any cause pertaining to Christianity?  And if so, might not you look like a hypocrite because you are claiming to prize and hold the name of Christ and the celebration of His birth so very very closely and yet never share the Gospel any other time in the year? Or even still, do you insist on being told Merry Christmas while you are purchasing DVDs that contain objectionable material?  Do you watch movies or TV shows that blaspheme?  "You'd better say Merry Christmas to me while I pay you for this R rated DVD!" seems to send a mixed message.  Just a thought.

12.) The wisdom of the world is foolishness (Romans 1).  There are many who believe they are ignoring Christ by saying Happy Holidays as opposed to Merry Christmas... that somehow "Happy Holidays" secularizes the season.  The reality?  The word 'holiday' comes from the Old English phrase "Holy Days."  So in reality both the word Christmas and Holiday give me, as a Christian, a GREAT lead in to sharing the Gospel.

It might go something like this:

"Say, do you know what Christmas is all about?  What have you been told about Christ?"

OR

"Interesting that you say Happy Holidays.  Did you know the word 'holiday' comes from the old English 'holy day?'  What do you think it means to be 'holy?'

All that said, it IS called Christmas for a REASON and I will NOT be prevented from saying "Merry Christmas" or displaying a manger, or speaking of Christ or any other thing!  Then again, I am going to speak about my Savior and proclaim His Gospel year round whether the government, the public, or anyone else tells me I can or not.






Your comments and thoughts on this are appreciated and could be helpful in thinking through this more fully, please feel free to post them! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Serpents and Doves

As Paul is closing out his letter to the Romans he injects a sharp warning.  It really gives us the sense of the intense amount of love and concern that the Apostle had for the church.  He loved them enough to warn them of dangers that face not only that church but all churches.  He loved them enough to tell them how to protect the church from false doctrine.  He is very well acquainted with the challenges that churches face with regards to Satan’s schemes of false doctrine combined with man’s weakness of the flesh pertaining to sin, so he offers up a stern warning.
Romans 16:17-20 - I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. 19 For your obedience is known to all, so that I rejoice over you, but I want you to be wise as to what is good and innocent as to what is evil. 20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
- Romans 16:17 -

There is a real danger that Satan poses to the purity of a church and it comes when he recruits and deceives someone into acting as a spy and dissident among the believers.  Someone who has given their mind over to or is flirting with false doctrines… the intention of Satan there is vicious.

It is to get that person to spread the heresy and false doctrine so that people are deceived further and either begin believing false things about God or Christ or the Holy Spirit… or Salvation… all things that are crucial to Christianity.

Paul is not concerned with secondary issues, he’s dealt with how we handle those already (See Romans 14).  Here he is dealing with how we deal with heresy and apostasy.  It is a very loving thing for him to warn about and it is a very loving thing for a church to practice.  Godly love is what Paul is showing and Godly love doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, it confronts it out of love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-6; Ephesians 4:15)

His warning is two fold:  Watch out for those who 1.) Cause divisions & 2.) Create obstacles contrary to the doctrine you’ve been taught.

You see, this happens all too often I’m afraid.  And the longer error is permitted to exist and be taught in a church, the more unhealthy that church becomes…As I said, this isn’t dealing with secondary matters or matters of opinion and preference… This is dealing with things that are blatantly offensive to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s warning is warranted because the danger posed to the church by someone holding to or teaching a false doctrine is not some rare occurrence.  It is a danger every day.  Satan is always after the minds of those within the church because he wants to destroy what he can.  That’s why the Apostle already exhorted them to be renewed daily by God’s Word. (Romans 12:1-2)

With the introduction of a false doctrine you also get divisions amongst the church because inevitably that deceiver will be able to find someone to follow them.  What are those false doctrines?  Paul identifies them as “obstacles” that are contrary to the sound doctrine that they’ve been taught. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)  Hold fast to sound doctrine.  Hold fast to the pure Gospel! 

Now, the push back from the liberal mind is that this mentality is narrow-minded.  They say ‘We need to have more of an open-mind and let people interpret the Bible in whatever manner suits them.’

But what that really invites is not unity but chaos!  You can’t make the statement that there is no standard of truth without invalidating your own statement.  If we can’t know absolute truth, and truth becomes subjective to my interpretation, then even the statement that “truth is subjective” is an absolute statement… and so you can’t make it… That is, IF truth is subjective.

But Jesus Christ declared Himself to be THE truth (John 14:6).  And with that claim and many others like it He eliminates the myth that truth is subjective or relative... rather its absolute, sure, & found in Christ alone.

Hold fast to sound doctrine!  To not heed this word, Paul equates with being ashamed of the gospel.  Truly that’s what it is.  Those who have been ‘taught sound doctrine’ who then teach false doctrine or believe false doctrine are not only woefully misguided and deceived, they are ashamed of the true Gospel.

They must be ashamed of Jesus because why else would they feel the need to altar His word?  Look earlier in 2 Timothy 1.
2 Timothy 1:8-12 - Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12 which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.
Preaching false doctrine and a false gospel is cowardice of the worst form.  We are not to tolerate those who teach false doctrine.  No, Paul says here in our text this morning that we are to mark out those who cause division and create obstacles.  To name them and avoid them for the benefit of the church of Jesus Christ.
Matthew 7:15-20 - “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Jesus taught, beware of the wolves.  The wolves will come looking like sheep.  Looking like born again children of God.  We recognize them by their fruit.  Bad fruit like wicked doctrine and wicked works.  They create obstacles for people by adding works to salvation as the Gnostics did in the Apostle John’s day.  Or they reduce the Gospel to a simple prayer and never mention sin or the need for repentance.

- Romans 16:18 -

Those individuals are looking to please themselves… to fulfill and serve their own appetites and not Christ… if they refuse to repent of their error, then they are not born again Christians… They hate the Gospel… they are enemies of God.

Philippians 3:19 says that their end is destruction, not eternal life in Heaven with the Savior.  They have set their minds on earthly things. (Jude 12-13)  Many false teachers will know a great deal of Scripture.  They may have devoted their life to the study of theology… however, because they are not truly born again they do not apply scripture to their life… they bend it to fit themselves rather than being transformed by it.  Because they claim to know God and they know some about God they seem legitimate… but because they deny truth the Scriptures say it would be better for them to have never been born.

Now, the true picture of false teachers is a frightful one to us.  We see their heresies as ugly and disastrous things and rightly so, for so they are.  And we would think that picking out this type of person would be easy… That maybe they’d have a deformity or a hunch back of some sort!

However, Paul says that in their deceiving they use smooth talk and flattery and they aim to deceive those who are not well grounded in the faith… to those who are naïve, as our text says. They are beautiful to the ears with their lies.  It sounds good to some.  They are very good at doing what they do because they are following and serving Satan who is the great deceiver… the father of lies.

So it is something we must carefully consider.  As the Bereans did (Acts 17:11), we are to test everything we hear against the Scriptures to be sure it is truth.  These false teachers deceive the “naïve”.  The spiritually immature… Now, that’s a humbling thought isn’t it?  Many often over estimate their lever of maturity thinking that they will easily be able to pick out falsehoods… but it is at those times when we let our guards down that we open ourselves up to deception.  (2 Timothy 4:3-5)

We must be discerning.  We must discern between true and false teachers and true and false teachings.  We must!  We must because the time is coming, and I would submit that time is here already, when people will not endure sound teaching!  They won’t!  They will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.  They will turn away from listening to the truth and the result will be that they give their minds over to myths.

Thinking themselves wise, they become fools…  It is for this reason that Peter exhorted the Christians in 1 Peter 5:
1 Peter 5:6-11 - Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Now, Paul goes on to commend them for already having this discerning practice in place, but also then he explains how we go about detecting error and shunning it and also how we find the truths that we embrace.

Now, this is crucial because all too often we stop short at just the command to be discerning and we go out on witch hunts exploring the errors so that we can stop them.  And while we must stop them, as we’ve established, God has a prescribed way about which we do it so that error is marked and the body of Christ is edified at the same time.

 - Romans 16:19 -

What is the best and really only way to be able to mark out those false doctrines?  Those false teachers?  Paul makes it very clear with two imperatives.  1.) Be wise as to what is good  2.) Be innocent as to what is evil.

Is he suggesting that we shouldn’t be knowledgeable of the false doctrine that exists out there?  Absolutely not!  On the contrary, he is encouraging us to be so knowledgeable about truth and good that evil and false things stand out clearly to be avoided!

If we don’t study well and seek to be, as Paul says, “wise” in that which is good, we will have a very hard time distinguishing truth from error on this and many other issues.

So how do we know true Doctrine about God from false?  By studying the truth about God even more!  It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian, you should never stop studying the Bible… never stop sharpening your discerning skills.  To not do so would be like expecting a knife to maintain its sharp blade without sharpening it ever… The relationship that our studying Scripture has to discernment is that we can best know error by knowing truth.

By dwelling on what is true… by dwelling on the beauty of the Gospel… we will learn discernment.  Not because it will teach us to go on mean spirited witch hunts, but because the truth will be ever so more and more clear that when error surfaces it can be quickly done away with.  Further we will love the truth more and will decry error quickly to preserve truth!

It is shocking to see how easily deception enters into our midst undetected these days.  If you go to your local Christian bookstore you will find such a mix of books teaching sound doctrine and false doctrine.  You cannot make the error of assuming that simply because it is sold at a Christian retailer that it is Christian! 

Don’t let someone else be discerning for you, it is your duty.  How does it happen that people are deceived?  They stop searching out the Scriptures for themselves and give themselves over to whatever sounds good to their ear.  Tim Challies – “A discerning person will know that he must focus his heart upon what is true and pure and lovely, having confidence that in doing this God will bless him with the ability to expose darkness.”

We find that these words from Tim are not a new thought from him, but rather a clear understanding of the call placed on all Christians. (1 Corinthians 14:20)  Jesus warned Christians of the importance of being alert to the false teachings that will be spouted from the wolves…
Matthew 10:16 - Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Wise like a serpent.  Not the deceptive image of the serpent that we commonly associate with Satan, but wise like a serpent knowing when to run away from danger or when to attack the thing posing that danger… but as innocent as a dove.  In other words, Jesus calls for Christians to be ever-growing disciples… Disciples who are maturing and becoming more and more proficient in their study of God’s Word.

That’s how we are to be when it comes to what is good… to what is true!  However, when it comes to evil we are to be innocent as doves.  Have nothing to do with evil and falsehoods.  Don’t “try” falsehoods out to see if you like them.  Don’t tolerate falsehood just because you like the way it makes you feel.

Some people say, 'Well it sounds good to me and is encouraging and positive so I’m going to experiment with it.  It can't hurt.'  Emphatically we must say,  NO!  We must be innocent… blameless in those things!  Having nothing to do with them.

We are not to make even a beginning of evil!  Our discerning efforts shouldn’t be found in truing out the false, rather, they should be found in knowing truth more clearly and deeply so that by contrast we don’t fall for the smooth talking deceiver instead we see them for the vile, dangerous thing that it is!

However, the duty of discernment and the duty of defending the truth of the Gospel is not with out a price!  The more love you have for the Savior, the more you will be hated by this world. (John 15:18-20)  Be prepared brethren, should you decide to take up this mantle and begin marking out the false teachings and their teachers… be prepared, you will quickly make enemies.  Know that it is not ultimately YOU they hate, but rather the truth and the One whom you serve.  They hated first Christ, they will also hate you.  If the world loves you, it is probably because you love the darkness of evil and false and not the truth of Jesus Christ. (Matthew 5:11-12)

In being persecuted for Christ’s sake, rejoice!  You are among great company!  In defending the purity of the truth of Jesus Christ you are glorifying God and storing up for yourselves treasures in Heaven!  Paul goes on in verse 20 to encourage Christians to pursue that which he has just laid out in the preceding verses.

- Romans 16:20 -

He reassures them that though the world does in fact hate them for their love of truth and marking out of evil… even though it will make existence in this life more difficult… take heart!  Be encouraged, because God will soon crush Satan under your feet!

Those who are despising you, those who are creating divisions and obstacles… they are believing the deceptions of Satan, but you take heart and continue to be wise in what is good even though that is unpopular.  Gazing upon the Savior all the more.  Why?  Because HE is your peace!  He is what we hope in! (1 Peter 1:3-7)

Jesus Christ is your focus!  God will soon bring to justice all those who blaspheme His Name and persecute His children.  Because He will crush Satan!  Christian, one day… one day our struggle will be over!  Spiritual warfare against Satan and his deceptions will end one day for we will stand in Heaven, before our God… where no evil will be permitted to enter!  So we continue persevering in Christ!  (1 Timothy 6:12-19)

God has ensured the ultimate victory over Satan!  So our toil in Him is not ever in vain!  Then this verse ends by reminding them that they will be able to do these things… to stand up under trial and persevere, because the sufficient grace of the Lord Jesus Christ will be with them! (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)  We need the grace of Christ to strengthen us, we need it to give us wisdom, we need it daily to sustain and guide us!

Christian brethren, are you doing the work of the Bereans?  Are you studying to show yourself approved; a worker who is not ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth? (2 Timothy 2:15-19)  Are you making it your duty to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil?

If so, take heart!  For it is Christ’s grace working in you to do these things!  Continue holding fast to the truth of Jesus Christ!  That which is good and pure and right!

If not, repent!  Gaze intently on the beauty of the Savior who has been crucified and risen to save you from your sin… even the sin of being ashamed of His Name.  Let the awe filled wonder of what He did for your sake on that cross humble you and lead you to cry out to Him for forgiveness and strength to obey His call.  Are you following a known and marked false teacher because it makes you feel good?  Repent!  False doctrine, no matter how sweet the taste, is vile poison!
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