June 1, 2014.
Tonight I experienced my first gospel meeting in a foreign country. I guess it wasn’t too different than the ones we do in America, except the singing was longer (which I enjoyed) and it seemed like people were more genuinely happy to be there. Not that I don’t see that in America, because I do, but I think I saw a higher percentage tonight. We sung in English and Spanish, alternating songs and I thought everything went very well.
We had a bible study today with a lady who lived near the church. Sometimes people wonder why you would have a bible study with someone who says they are a Christian. I believe there are different reasons that a bible study amongst Christians would be beneficial, but I don’t want to sugar coat the truth. The truth is that there is a lot of false doctrines in the world. Doctrines that sound good at the surface level but fall apart once you look critically at them. Paul admonishes Timothy, his child in the faith and example/leader for the churches that he wasn’t able to stay at, to fight against false doctrine.
“As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.”
(1 Timothy 1:3-7)
Paul knew he could trust and rely on Timothy to teach the word in its pure form. I would imagine it was much harder for Timothy that it is for us today because all Timothy had was the instruction of Paul and his upbringing. Today we have the word of God laid out for us in the Bible. Sometimes I think how much easier we have it in this area, at leas in the US. Access to the word of God is simple for us. We don’t have to wait for a letter from Paul and trust that people believe us until then. But even when that was the case, Paul expected the church to be of one mind and faith, without departing into a different teaching. Listen to what he tells the church in Galatia:
“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Paul cut straight to the chase, telling the church that some had distorted the gospel of Christ. Notice that the word “distort” does not mean completely change and preach that Jesus is not the son of God. Distort, by definition, means “to give a false, perverted, or disproportionate meaning to; misrepresent: to distort the facts.” (according to dictionary.com). They weren’t completely changing the facts, they were just changing a part of the truth. But changing just one part of the truth makes it no longer the truth. Have you ever taken a true or false test? What are the qualifications for a statement to be false? The whole statement could be true except for one little thing that isn’t correct. The whole statement then becomes false. We understand this on a test, why not apply it to life?
In the days of Jeremiah, The Lord had a problem with his people. They thought they were alright with God, but they were continuing in sin. They were still coming to the temple and trusting in God, yet they had left him. Listen to part of his sermon.
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you men of Judah who enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ […] “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your eyes? Behold, I myself have seen it, declares the Lord.”
(Jeremiah 7:1-4, 8-11)
This was the case for many of the prophets in the Old Testament. The Jews didn’t always completely abandon God (though at times they did), but sometimes they just twisted his word to justify their actions. This carried on from generation to generation to a point where the people were just following what their parents had told them. I think this still happens today. Many Christians practice the way they do simply because thats what their parents or preacher told them to do. We need to have our own faith, convinced of the truth through the word of God, not a script from a preacher or parent. These are hard words to digest. Listen to what Peter says about being prepared:
“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”
(1 Peter 3:15-16)
We need to be prepared to give a defense. We need to be prepared to teach. We need to be prepared to answer why we believe and practice the way we do, and that needs to come from the bible. Remember what Paul wrote to Timothy:
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
(2 Timothy 3:16-17)
There are so many more biblical points and examples that could be discussed about false doctrines and falling away from the one faith, but I will leave you with this thought. When Paul urges the Corinthians “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10), what did he mean? Is that possible? I believe it is on things that are essential. It is my prayer that one day we can all come again to the unity of the Spirit through the teaching of the Scriptures.
Suggested Daily Reading: Acts 18, I Timothy 1, II Timothy 3, I Peter 3.
The Lord grant you wisdom and truth.