Monday, December 5, 2011

New and Improved Christianity


This weekend my wife and I watched some messages on television from Chuck Smith and Gayle Erwin.  It was really neat to get into some real solid Bible teaching.  In the message from Chuck Smith, he brought up the point of people always going after the latest greatest thing.  His metaphor was the constant stream of "new and improved" products as a selling point and posing the question as to how bad the product must have been originally.  Of course, as is usually the case, the product is really not improved at all, just tweaked enough to call it that in order to launch a new marketing campaign.  It is a great point to how we often see church.  We seem to need new and improved Bible versions, preaching styles, interpretations, gifts of the spirit, and worship style and what often gets left behind is the substance of what was before.  This is a symptom of something prophesied a very long time ago.
I charge [you] therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season [and] out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:1-4 NKJV
Of course this phenomena did not wait very long at all.  When you read Jesus's letters to the churches in Revelation you already see churches being rebuked for attaching themselves to heretical doctrine.  In fact, many of Paul's letters correct bad doctrine already creeping its way into the church.  True they did not have the benefit of New Testament scripture at that time, but they were following their own flesh and not the Holy Spirit. 

Fast forward to today, and we can see that the problem has only gotten worse.  Now we have New Testament scripture, yet we ignore it whenever we think we are led by the Spirit, even when the Spirit contradicts the word.  In reality what we are following is the flesh and that is proven by oft-used defense of unscriptural actions.  That defense, of course, being that whatever wrong idea or practice it may be, it gives you "peace" and therefore it must be right.  The feeling of peace can not be our judge on whether or not something is appropriate for our faith.  If that were the case, then what about those who find "peace" though eastern mystical practices such as yoga or transcendental meditation?  Both of these practices are forms of pagan worship and designed to contact pagan god or gods.  Then we have the Mormons who came to house telling me that they are right because when they prayed they felt peace.  Let us not also forget the many Muslims who speak of a some spiritual experience in their religion.  The fact is that if we go by experience, we will be led astray. 

Of course those are more extreme examples, but just as dangerous ideas have invaded the church.  We live in a culture that wants things catered to them.  We have this inborn desire to rebel against the "old" way of doing things and that there always has to be something newer and better.  Personally, I think that the constant advances of technology and the constant promotions to get the latest technology have affected other areas of our lives.  That is not supposed to be, though.  While Apple may come out with a new iPhone with regularity, the Word of God stands as it was and as it always will be forever and ever.  We also have this idea where we feel we need to be first.  This has been around since the beginning of Christianity and the Gnostic movements, but still pervades today.  We rebel against the old and proven things for every wind of theology that comes our way. We have ignored a warning given in Scripture and we follow every new wind of bad doctrine that comes our way.
And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.  Ephesians 4:11-16 NKJV
This passage not only gives the warning, but also gives the root cause. People are not grounded in the Word of God and so they go off chasing whatever new and shiny thing that comes their way.  That is why we have the Health and Wealth movement, the Signs and Wonders movement, the Emergent Church, The Purpose Driven church, the Church Growth Movement, the Seeker Sensitive movement, and others.  All of these movements are experience-based and feature bright and shiny theology that promises the world to those who believe it.  The problem is that none of them are true.  This has also led to the rise of such apostate teachers as Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, Joyce Myers, Bill Johnson, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, and many many more.  All of these teachers are cunning and crafty and twist what little Scripture they use into meaning any number of new theologies. 

This is not only limited to bad doctrine and apostate teachers, but has also led to the plethora of Bible translations we have today.  I am not saying that one should adopt a King James only practice, or even a New King James only practice.  I am just saying that we need to ask first whether or not a translation is accurate before we ask if it is easier to read.  Some teachers (like Rick Warren) even quote such terrible paraphrases as The Message as actual scripture, when even the author says that it is not.  We have lost any discernment of content and focus only on how well it justifies our pet theologies or how easy it is to read. 

And, finally, it also expresses itself in our music.  I am not saying we should be singing all Psalms and hymns in church, but I am saying we need to evaluate what we consider as Christian music.  We need to evaluate it not only as to whether or not it is appropriate in church but even outside of church.  There are many songs that if you ever considered the lyrics, you would find them to be completely unscriptural.  Yet we listen to the music feeling safe that someone calls it Christian yet all the while we are poisoning our minds.  Even worse, we let our children listen to them thinking they are safe but never taking the time to evaluate the lyrics to make sure they are even true.  We can not just take a song and judge it by how it makes us feel.  Music can be very deceiving where even the most inspiration music can have the most wicked vile of meanings (Wagner for example).  Certain rhythms, keys, chord progressions, and beats all have very real physiological and emotional effects that are largely subconscious.  We need to evaluate the words we sing and not just the music behind them.  We must also judge a church by the content of their theology and not just how good their worship sounds.  Most of those apostate teachers I mentioned have rock concert worship with all the production and stage tricks you would expect from a major musical act and many are drawn by the weekly concert of inspirational music.  Do not be deceived, always evaluate the doctrine of that church.

In the end, we need to be grounded in the only age-old truth that will remain truth forevermore.  That truth is the Word of God.  If you are grounded in God's word, those winds of new and wicked doctrine will not sway you from that truth.  If you are grounded in Scripture, you will be nourished by the pure Word of God and not go chasing after shiny lures only meant to ensnare you in error.  Watch out for the trickery practiced by the many cunning teachers looking to lure you away from the truth.  They are out there and they deceive many because they all tickle the flesh and justify it by some twisting of Scripture.  Be grounded and be fed in truth.  There is no such thing as a New and Improved Christianity.  Christianity is a faith built upon the Word of God and faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ.  What can possible make that any better? 
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, [and] bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV

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