In follow-up to George’s post: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/11/28/rick-warrens-roman-catholic-affinity/
In follow-up to George’s post: http://defendingcontending.com/2014/11/28/rick-warrens-roman-catholic-affinity/
This video reveals the long standing intent and affinity of Rick Warren with Roman Catholics. This is nothing new since Rick Warren has been trying to unite Islam, Roman Catholicism, and Protestants for several years now. However, this video candidly reveals his judgment on major, doctrinal matters. At one point Rick Warren states, “…if you love Jesus, we are on the same team.” This, of course, is meant that if you profess to love Jesus we are on the same team, not if you are genuinely born again by the Spirit of God through faith alone. This kind of mixing of poisoned waters is dangerous! I love Roman Catholics. I love them so much I will tell them the truth of justification by faith alone through Christ’s finished work on the cross. According to Warren, though, we are on the same team. However, in order to be on the same team, we must all play by the same playbook. Roman Catholics clearly do not, and neither does Rick Warren.
Pray for his followers and pray for Rick Warren’s soul.
One of our contributors, Fourpointer, posted this for Thanksgiving Day in 2008. I thought it would be appropriate to hear from the pen of a man who was truly a leader and commander-in-chief to this great country, unlike, sadly, what we have currently in office.
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.
A recent article by the Huffington Post is doing its part to undermine the truth of Scripture. Entitled, “The Gender You Associate to God May Indicate How You Feel About Gay Marriage.”
The truth is that we have no right to assign a gender to God. He is God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was equally God and equally man. If one wrongly assumes that God may be a woman to pacify the liberal and LGBT communities, then we have to wonder how long it will be before somebody rewrites the Bible to show that Jesus was actually a woman. You can take every page of Scripture and rewrite it to satisfy the lusts of the world, but it will never become truth. EVER!
Read the differences between what leaders within major world religions have to say versus what God says.
Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop Emeritus of South Africa – “I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”
Francis, Pope of the Roman Catholic Church – “Who am I to judge a gay person of goodwill who seeks the Lord? You can’t marginalize these people.”
Laura Geller, Jewish Rabbi – “Now I can invoke the power vested in me by the State of California and declare them married in accordance with the laws of the State of California and our Jewish faith. Now we are so much closer to the truth of their experience: a gay or lesbian Jewish wedding, like a Jewish heterosexual wedding, is a Jewish wedding pure and simple, the inheritance of every loving Jewish couple.”
Dalai Lama – Head Monk of Tibetan Buddhism – “If someone comes to me and asks whether it is okay or not, I will first ask if you have some religious vows to uphold. Then my next question is, What is your companion’s opinion? If you both agree, then I think I would say, if two males or two females voluntarily agree to have mutual satisfaction without further implication of harming others, then it is okay.”
Rev. Jesse Jackson – Religion of Civil Rights – Supports gay marriage and would perform a marriage of gay couples “if I was asked to.”
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Church – “I mean I know plenty of gay couples whose relationships are an example to plenty of other people and that’s something that’s very important, I’m not saying that gay relationships are in some way, you know that the love that there is less than the love there is between straight couples, that would be a completely absurd thing to say.”
Well, that should be enough to show the apostasy and the lack of Biblical truth within every one of these religions. Now, what does God say about LGBT issues. Here are a few thoughts from GotQuestions.org.
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
“In summary, Romans 1:18-31 deals with the fact that God has innately made Himself known to humanity, but He has been rejected and replaced by other objects of worship. Because of this, God has delivered two judgments: one of homosexual behavior and another of an immoral mind, each of which demonstrates His ‘abandonment’ wrath toward humanity’s rebellion.”
The truth is that ALL those who willfully remain in their sin stand condemned before God. It does not matter what kind of sin – homosexuality, lying, murder, lesbianism, cheating, pedophilia, hating, idolatry, bestiality. What matters is how far each person is from a holy, righteous God. When God saves the sinner, He CHANGES them and makes them a brand new creation in Christ. If you are a true believer, you will NOT go back with pleasure to your sin. To say God saved you to continue in your sin is to grossly misunderstand the Scriptures.
Final Score = God Wins, Religion Fails.
A review by Stuart Brogden
R. Larry Overstreet has subtitled this book, A Biblical and Practical Guide to the Effective Use of Persuasion, and in his prologue (page 4) makes the case that in order for preaching to be persuasive it must include a public invitation. We will see, in chapter 12, that Overstreet is not a disciple of Charles Finney – he warns about the abuse that has followed after Finney’s “new methods”, comparing persuasion with manipulation. What, then, does our author mean by the term “persuasive preaching?” He defines it at the end of chapter 1, page 14:
“(a) the process of preparing biblical, expository message using a persuasive pattern, and
(b) presenting them through verbal and nonverbal communication means
(c) to autonomous individuals who can be convicted and/or taught by God’s Holy Spirit,
(d) in order to alter or strengthen
(e) their attitudes and beliefs towards God, His Word, and other individuals,
(f) resulting in their lives being transformed into the image of Christ.”
While I would combine (c) with (b) and (e) with (d), the overall point he is making is one I think any pastor could embrace. What pastor would not want his people to be transformed by the renewing of their minds as a result of the Spirit working through his preaching?
The bulk of this book, chapters 3 – 11, is an extensive, technical argument in favor of persuasive speech, from the Bible and pagan perspectives – heavily footnoted. I found this part of the book ponderous and laborious; perhaps because I am already convinced that the Lord has shown us we are to be persuasive in our presentation of His Word, while not trusting in our ability to persuade men as an effective means of building His people up.
I think chapter 13, “The Holy Spirit in Preaching”, is the most important part of the book. Overstreet rightly points out that He is the originator of God’s Word (page 172), the revealer of God’s Word (page 172), the communicator (page 175), and the propagator of God’s Word (page 177). We are reminded that the Holy Spirit equips the preacher (180) and the listeners (181). These are excellent reminders and much needed in these days, as so many people have apparently latched on to the notion that preachers are the ones who do these things! Our author instructs us to not grieve or quench the Spirit, but walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit, and in prayer to the Spirit (pages 184 – 191). If the book had ended here, it would have been fine. But Overstreet told us in the prologue that persuasive preaching must include an invitation – so the last chapter, 14, is on that topic.
Much of this last chapter presents the reader with the notion that chapter 13 was not for real – as men are presented as the change agents for “receiving Christ” and “committing themselves to full-time Christian service” (page 194). Overstreet acknowledges (195) that decisions are sometimes known only to God but tries to make the case for public invitations in order make them known to men. He quotes Faris D. Whitesell, who comes across as a Finney disciple: “Anything that helps us to carry out the principles and teaching of the Scriptures in a more effective and practical way is scriptural.” I cannot help but think of Eli’s children and wonder of Whitesell and Overstreet recall their doom.
As he pulls together his arguments in favor of public invitations within the local church, he draws on myriad passages of Scripture that show public invitations and exhortations being made without the local church. The invitations in the Bible are consistently “repent and believe!”, called out all men everywhere. Within the church, we see an intense struggle to stay faithful to the Word to equip the saints. Only once that I am aware of do we see unbelievers in the church – and they are not invited to the front. The focus from Paul is to be clear in the presentation of the Word of God, that the unbeliever might be convicted of truth (1 Cor 14:22 – 25).
While I am not in agreement with Overstreet’s premise – persuasive preaching does not have to end with a public invitation – I am encouraged by his counsel on the use and construction of the invitation:
Be Sensitive to Length
Be Clear in Appeal
Be Exact in Action
Be Loving in Presentation
Be Consistent with Message
Be Positive in Expectation
Be Earnest in Delivery
And he is wise in his warnings the problems one might face with the use of public invitations:
The Liability of Confusion
The Liability of Narrowness
The Liability of Weariness
The Liability of a “Canned” Invitation
The Liability of Unethical Behavior
The focus of this book is good – preachers ought to be persuasive in their preaching! Preachers ought to call men to repent and believe, to cast aside sin and press on with our eyes fixed on the Lord. But we find no biblical warrant for having a public invitation at the end of our sermons. I am thankful for men who understand the dangers of abusing the invitation system – though that abuse tends to be the model followed by most who use it. My prayer is that those who think it important would find in this book a sound argument for being sober and restrained in its practice, lest men think it’s the preacher upon whom all things depend.
As we prepare for times of worship through the weekend, may our focus be solely on our King of Kings, He who alone is our Majesty. If you are attending somewhere that Christ and Him crucified is not where the attention of each person is directed, then you are in the wrong place.
There is no attribute of God more comforting to His children than the doctrine of Divine Sovereignty.
Under the most adverse circumstances, in the most severe troubles, they believe that Sovereignty has ordained their afflictions, that Sovereignty overrules them, and that Sovereignty will sanctify them all.
There is nothing for which the children of God should more earnestly contend than the dominion of their Master over all creation—the kingship of God over all the works of His own hands—the throne of God, and His right to sit upon that throne. On the other hand, there is no doctrine more hated by worldlings, no truth of which they kick around the most, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah.
Men will allow God to be everywhere except on His throne.
They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and to make stars. They will allow Him to be in His position as Giver to dispense His gifts and bestow His blessings. They will allow Him to sustain the earth and uphold its pillars, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean.
But when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth. And when we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter—that is when men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love. They love him anywhere better than they do when He sits with His sceptre in His hand and His crown upon His head.
But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach. It is God upon His throne whom we trust.
11th of November is a special day around many parts of the world.
Veterans Day – This is celebrated in the United States and is a national holiday designated to honor all military veterans who have served or who are currently serving. Wikipedia notes, “Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.”
Remembrance Day – Wikipedia notes that this “is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty.”
What is not commonly known is that this is a special year of remembrance. The ode at the bottom of this post was written 100 years ago on the cliffs of Cornwall in the southwest corner of England. This poem was written as a tribute to those who had already fallen in the Great War of 1914-1918. It was the first national consideration of remembrance for those who fell in battle.
World War I, or The Great War, was the war that was to end all wars, but much of it ended up being a stalemate in the muddy trenches of Belgium, France, Holland, and Germany. Many of the war dead fell to disease and it is considered one of the bloodiest periods of human warfare. It would not be until World War II that the number of dead would exceed the number who died in World War I. On a global scale, the world had not seen such carnage and bloodshed since the Mongol Invasion in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Many are not aware that tens of thousands of boys no older than 14 were allowed to go to war and fight in the trenches. While America joined the war in late 1917 and ultimately lost approximately 117,000 to battle and disease, what is often forgotten that this was not even 1% of the total death casualty of between 17-22 million. There is a reason why this Remembrance Day is special to many countries.
America has been blessed beyond measure and does not know the shame and disgrace in modern history of having troops march, rape, and pillage their way across this land. Europe has known this and the scars of these wars can still be found on lonely hillsides and in cemeteries. Many fell and were never recovered – known only to God.
Sadly, in this modern 21st century, we are but 100 years from the carnage that ravaged predominantly Europe in World War I. In those years, many have forgotten the true price of freedom. Young people know little to nothing about why this war even took place, and certainly are not taught why we should remember. History always repeats itself, and the one aspect that will eventually doom us is that we never learn from history. The Great War was not an insignificant dot on the landscape, but one that broke nations and would eventually lead to the Second World War in which an estimated 2.5% of the world’s population died, or between 60-85 million.
Thankfully, there are still some who do not forget those who died so long ago. We will remember those “for our tomorrow, gave their today.” And for all who served, whether fallen in battle or living veterans, we salute and honor you. You have stood in the gap where many refused to go so that we can enjoy the freedom of today. Many will never know and cannot know the sacrifice that still haunts the dreams of many, but they know.
To forget their sacrifice will be the greatest disrespect we can give to all veterans, past and present.
“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.” — Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen, Ode of Remembrance
Today in my birth country of the United Kingdom and throughout the British Commonwealth, Remembrance Sunday is being observed. In a nutshell, we remember that at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, an armistice was signed. The armistice concluded World War I, also known as The Great War. It was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Every year, this is remembered on the Sunday closest to the 11th of November.
At 11:00 AM, a two minute silence is observed to remember the Armistice and for those soldiers who fell and died in battle.
A poem that has found great popularity is entitled, “In Flanders Field.” It was written by Lt. Col. John McCrae of the Canadian Armed Forces, who served and died during World War I.
In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high,
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ Fields.
Feminism and egalitarianism has done major damage to the American culture. Primarily, it has skewed the image of how men are supposed to behave and their roles within a society. Although not every single tenant of feminism and egalitarianism should be viewed with overt hostility, we should, however, be cautious in allowing ourselves to submit to any system’s premise that is unbiblical. For the most part, almost all proponents of modern feminism and egalitarianism seeks to undermine the authority of men, feminize the male persona, elevate the homosexual agenda, and bring the law in subjection to sexual immorality and unattainable equality for all. Nevertheless, even with all that said (now that I have some head nods from males and perhaps some females), men need to be cautious and just as aware in defaulting to the knee jerk reaction against feministic attitudes – machoism.
Also called machismo, machoism may vary its form depending on the culture, generation, business, religion, peer relationship, and home. Generally speaking, machoism presents itself in a way that that is dominating, assertive, or aggressive simply because the person is a man, or feels that they have the right to be so because they are a man. This can be done sexually, physically, or socially. The definition may change depending on who is talking and the research or experience they have had, and the standard of identifying any instance of machoism is pretty subjective, but, nevertheless, machoism is a real problem and a sinful response to any perceived usurping of the authority of the male figure.
The kind of machoism that I have seen within Christendom can sometimes be borderline Islamic. Anywhere from a man stating in front of his wife’s friends, “Submit woman!” to irritability that manifests itself in harsh tones or overbearing gestures, some men treat their wives in such a way that is enough to cause heads to turn. Thankfully I have never witnessed any physical threats, but machoism can also lead to forms of spousal abuse or rape. However it may manifest itself, this kind of thinking is usually rooted in the idea that a women “has her place” and that any form of perceived disrespect is grounds for disciplinary measures (whatever that may be).
Pastor Jon Gleason does an excellent job in this post addressing the issue of church problems being based on doctrine. This is his second article and should be read by all discerning believers. I have chosen to highlight a few parts and added a couple of pictures.
My last post said that church problems are always doctrinal. It is never accurate to say that a church which is straying in some way is doctrinally sound. Every church problem is based on an error in applied doctrine.
In this article, it may sound like I’m contradicting that article. If every church problem is doctrinal, won’t attacks on the church always be doctrinal in nature? Perhaps — but they rarely start with a doctrinal focus.
Paul and John, in their epistles to the churches, warned of false teachers, sometimes naming them. Down through the centuries, whether Christianity was persecuted or state-sanctioned, there has always been heresy, there have always been those who tried to come into the church to spread their false doctrine. Just as there has always been false teachers, there have always been those who would stand against the heresies — and always those who have fallen prey to the wolves.
Today, false teaching is gaining traction in many churches. One can walk into any number of “evangelical” churches and hear a false Gospel preached. In recent high profile cases, some famous mega-church pastors endorsed a man who spreads false teaching on the Triune nature of our God, and a well-known British evangelical rejected the Biblical teaching on the atonement (and now, he rejects Biblical teaching in other areas as well). Almost every area of Biblical doctrine is under attack in churches where the Bible was once faithfully taught, often where the stated doctrinal position of the church is still sound.
False teaching seems to be on the rise — but the attack on a church rarely begins with false teaching. Sound pastors or teachers do not usually wake up one morning and say, “I think I’ll change the doctrine I teach going forward,” and begin to promote error. Faithful church members do not usually say, “I think I’ll stop checking the Scriptures to see if what I’ve been taught is true.” No one in a true Biblical church suddenly decides, “I think what our church needs is more false teaching.”
The first attack is usually spiritual, not doctrinal. We have been told not to love the world, but we have accepted the world’s value system, its philosophies, its politics, its entertainment, and its loves. Too many churches are full of people who love what the world loves and think the way the world thinks.
People don’t say, “Let’s let error come in,” whether it be error that is taught directly or (as I mentioned in yesterday’s article) error that is taught by practice. But when churches are full of spiritual weaklings who have been drugged and poisoned by the world and the things the world loves, they don’t even see what is happening.
When we spend more time on entertainment and Internet discussion (which is often really just another form of entertainment, even if it is on Christian topics) than we do our Bibles, we become spiritually stunted. Our minds are not being transformed and renewed, and we don’t even recognise the error when it comes.
The Scriptures warn repeatedly that false teachers will come, and keep coming, and we need to be ready. The solution is not writing better doctrinal statements or owning more theology books. That has already been done. Those who had good doctrinal statements and owned (and even wrote) good theology books have gone into error.
They loved the world, or the praise of man, or their own intellectual or preaching prowess, or pleasure, or another person, or some other thing. Their hearts grew distant from God as sins of pride or lust or ingratitude or anger took hold — and doctrinal error found fertile soil to produce its bitter harvest.
If our senses are tuned to truth, we’ll recognise when someone tries to give us something besides the truth, even if we don’t know exactly what it is. If you love a cup of tea, you’ll know when someone gives you one containing a foreign substance. There will be a taste there, a taste you don’t recognise. You’ll say, “Hey, something is wrong here!”
But if you stop making yourself a cup of tea, you just don’t take the time to do it anymore, you’ll forget the exact taste. If someone gives you a cup that seems a little off, well, you probably just forgot what it really tastes like, right? You’ve gotten away from tea drinking these days. I’m sure it’s fine.
But not only do our hearts grow distant from God, we take from the world and learn to love its loves. Too easily, we spend Monday through Saturday drinking the spiritual equivalent of anti-freeze. Our spiritual taste buds become a mess. A false teacher could put anything in your spiritual cup of tea on Sunday morning, and you’ll never know the difference. You’ve forgotten what truth tastes like, and learned to like poison.
Church problems may always be doctrinal — but the attacks on churches almost always start on a spiritual level (not a doctrinal one) in turning our love, ever so slightly, away from the Lord to other things. It starts slowly, deceptively, insidiously growing, until we either don’t care or don’t notice when error shows up. We’ve been drugged by false loves, the love of the world, and the enemy can do with us what he wishes — as long as he keeps supplying the drug.
When we get to that state, the adversary could easily get us to leave the church, but he’s in no hurry to do that. He can use us to destroy from within. We won’t recognise error any longer, or care about it. There are things we want, now, things we love, and we’ll be in favour of anyone who provides them. If we can get those things we want and love in the church, all the better — we’ll be able to drift along feeling good about ourselves spiritually as we pursue the loves we got from the world. If anyone says anything, tries to warn us, we might even get angry — “It tastes good to me, and I like it!”
In fact, if the church only had teachers who said the things we love are ok, are Christian, are actually what the church SHOULD be doing, that would be best of all! Give me my loves in a Christian flavour, please!
We’ll be ready allies for the false teachers when they show up. One should be along any day now.
1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
We occasionally repost articles by permission from other writers. Pastor Jon Gleason does an excellent job in this post addressing the issue of church problems being based on doctrine. I have chosen to highlight a few parts and added a picture.
Most pastors have heard it many times, especially if they are active on the Internet — it hits their email inbox all the time. “Something has gone wrong in my church.” Sometimes it is from another pastor, sometimes a member of the congregation, often from someone he doesn’t even know, who gets in touch online.
There’s an additional statement that often comes with it: “It’s not doctrinal. The church still teaches sound doctrine.” That addendum is wrong. It is always doctrinal. Problems always are.
The most common errors are probably in Bibliology, the doctrine of what the Scriptures are, their inspiration, authority, and sufficiency. Close behind, if not even more common, are errors in ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church of Jesus Christ, what it is, its purpose, and its leadership. But perhaps underlying almost every problem is a failure to truly carry out what it means when we say God is great, holy, loving, and true. If we didn’t diminish who God is, it would probably be impossible to have problems in the church.
Is the problem that the church has a pastor who won’t lead, or one that is dictatorial? Those are doctrinal problems. Whatever may be said from the pulpit or in Bible studies, the practice of the church in teaching the role of church leadership is not according to sound doctrine. The ecclesiology is in disarray. If the pastor is dictatorial, the Bibliology of the church is also likely in trouble — instead of the Bible being the authority, the pastor begins to become the authority in the church. If the pastor is the authority, then we diminish God.
Is the church adopting new and questionable practices in an attempt to bring more people into the church? Whatever the words of the doctrinal statement may say, the practice of the church is based on a flawed doctrine of salvation. The pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, including His work in regenerating lost souls) has also probably gone astray, as that is effectively set aside for the view that the new practices are the key to evangelism. We’ve replaced the work of the Spirit with our own ideas — and diminished God by saying our ideas can do what the Spirit does.
Has the church become emotionalistic, giving the emotions of an individual or the entire group a central focus? This is doctrinal error on many levels, skewing the ecclesiological doctrine of the church’s worship so that it becomes more about human emotions than about honouring God — we reduce God to a reason for me to get excited or emotional. It is flawed Bibliology, for the Scripture emphasises truth — the facts of what God has done (not “how I feel”). It is often errant anthropology (the doctrine of what Bible says man is) by exalting human feelings to the most important part of who we are.
Is the church unfriendly and cold? The church’s doctrinal practice, whatever is taught in words, denies the doctrines of regeneration and sanctification which teach us to love. It denies the ecclesiological truth that the church is a family of brothers and sisters, a body united together.
Is the time of teaching the Word decreasing? If you decide that your church needs more time on other things and less on Scripture, you effectively deny the inspiration and sufficiency of the Scriptures. Is a pastor’s preaching changing, so that he spends less time simply explaining the Scriptures, and more time telling stories? Does he give the impression he is more concerned with a powerful or entertaining performance than with simply communicating truth? It is the same problem — the pastor’s presentation has been exalted to the detriment of the sufficiency of Scripture.
Is someone grumbling and complaining? That is a denial of the doctrine of last things (eschatology), our future hope. It is also a denial of the doctrinal truths about sin — if we really believe our sin is as bad as God sees it, then we know that we deserve nothing but judgment, and we have nothing of which to complain. If we complain because we think we deserve better, we deny the doctrinal truths of God’s grace. In fact, grumbling is a denial of almost every doctrine in the Bible.
Is there gossip in the church? That is a doctrinal error on the doctrine of sanctification (as Christians, part of the holy life we are to live is to speak the truth) and the doctrine of the church (we are to be one body, united, loving one another).
If your church has a problem (and which church doesn’t?), it can always be traced back to doctrine, either what is taught in word or what is taught in practice, or both. Almost always, if doctrinal errors are practiced long enough, they begin to make their way into the verbal teaching of the church as well.
Note: Of course, the problem just might be you. You might be the one who is grumbling or gossiping. The church’s problems may not be anywhere near as bad as you are making them out to be. You may be the one who is in doctrinal error (in your practice, whatever you say you believe).
How can you tell? And (the vital question) if the church is in trouble, how can you help?
A good place to start is to identify the doctrinal questions involved. If there is a real problem, there is a doctrinal error. Cut through the surface considerations to identify just exactly which doctrine is at stake. There may be more than one, for many wrong behaviours violate more than one doctrine.
Once we’ve done this, we begin to see the problem Biblically. When we see problems Biblically, then we not only understand them better, we are well on our way to finding Biblical solutions.
Furthermore, when we can identify the Scriptures and doctrines which are at stake, we are much better equipped to discuss the problems with others, if necessary. This does not guarantee that any such discussions will go well, but using the Scriptures gives an authority which we could never have on our own. Most importantly, we’re using God’s way of addressing problems. The Scriptures are sufficient for the problems in our churches, if we will only use them.
Not every difference between people in a church is doctrinal, but if it isn’t doctrinal, then it isn’t a real problem. If it is real, there certainly is doctrine at stake somewhere — someone (or the church as a whole) is denying true doctrine, in words, actions, or both, whether they recognise it or not. If you sort out the doctrine (both stated and applied), you sort out the church.
Teddy Roosevelt, US President:
“Speak softly, and carry a big stick.”
Jesus of Nazareth
spoke softly, and carried a cross.
1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.