2 Timothy 4:1-5: 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. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Dear Christian&ldots; THE TIME HAS SURELY COME! There are wolves in the pulpits and the sheep are asleep. Never in the history of Christs Church has there been a greater imperative for discernment, faithfulness and courage on the part of His disciples. Heed the times, dear Christian, heed the times!
It is absolutely frightening the length to which some "leaders" within Christendom will go to color, circumvent, undermine and even outright oppose the sacred truths of Scripture and the Living Christ Himself. Without question, friends, we are witnessing firsthand, the erosion and even surrender of basic biblical integrity within many, if not most (God only knows), of the denominational and independent churches in this country (it is far beyond that in both Great Britain and Canada, where the doctrinal downturn has been widespread and dramatic).
Preachers are preaching all right, but how many are truly preaching Christ and the Word of God? How many are trusting in the power of the gospel of a triumphant Savior to save (Romans 1:16)? How many sincerely believe, deep down at the very core of their being, that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?" How many teachers today are "rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) and committing their entire lives and ministry to the Living Truth? And how many more are privately, if not publicly ashamed and even unfaithful to the historic claims of the gospel, to our Lord Himself? Ultimately - and perhaps this is the one true question - how many of these men and women have genuinely been saved?
Hard questions indeed, but ones that nonetheless must be asked at a time when heresy and humanism is creeping in through every window and floorboard of our churches; when so much watered down teaching circulates today throughout much of what is popular Christianity; when so many who hold the name of Christ are embracing an easier, emotionally appealing gospel, a syncretized, small "c" Christianity that would be barely recognizable to the ancients of old. No wonder so many are abandoning the traditional church model and gathering unto themselves in informal groups and settings.
You know it is positively astounding to me, and even the angels must groan at the fact that so many pastors, teachers, church leaders, board members and the like can rise to such influence in our churches without ever actually coming into personal and soul-shaking contact with the Head of the Church. Perhaps this reveals more about the churches that allow this than it does the individuals themselves.
There are wolves and devils in the pulpits, my brethren, and perhaps far more alarming is the reality that many of the sheep are asleep, lacking even the most basic of scriptural knowledge to discern the danger in their midst. Yet if the Living Word has actually penetrated down deep into a man, how can he ever be deceived into following another? With so many wandering headlong and blindly into every Christ-replacing error, one most wonder if they have actually ever glimpsed the heavenly things, or stood behind the veil in the Masters presence.
Preferring silky anecdotes that tickle their ears and appeal to human experience over the hard and timeless truths that equip and empower the soul to righteousness, these undiscerning, barely warm converts are tickled but not moved and aroused but not changed when they depart from their churches each Sunday. And they should know better, for before them is the Word of God, the revelation of our Savior and our God, the source and standard for all truth He has chosen to reveal to us at this time. If you are one of these "unstable souls," the Bible assures you that you will be beguiled (2 Peter 2:14) by those who practice deception in the pulpit. If you love anything, and I do mean anything, more than the Bright and Morning Star, then you will never have Him. Period!
Oh, but so many are quick to rebuke the man that dares stand up in loving concern and present the hard questions, that dares to probe deeper into the sentimentalized sermon or the easy-believism of modern evangelism. "Now, now dear brother" they say, "love and peace, peace and unity, lets be careful not to stir the waters." Rather, I suppose, that the faith of so many babes in Christ would be shipwrecked by the teaching of the man at the front with the silk suit and happy message. Oh how sad it is to behold, my brethren, that so many, so very many, are being unnecessarily deceived because they desire either more or less than what our Lord offers in Himself and His Holy Word.
Surely, we all have "itching ears" at times in our walk, but we must humbly repent of anything springing up from the old man that motivates or excites us more than the Life of Jesus and His revealed Truth. Human experience is and can be a profound teacher, but only when it can be reconciled with the timeless and objective truth of Scripture.
I recently visited a local mega church where the young preacher waved the Word of God around for 30 minutes without ever actually opening it once. Not once! And the people roared, as he poured out his anecdotal, psychology-laced, humanistic sugar water! It snapped and fizzed alright, but there was no true life in it. How the Spirit within me groaned. How tragic!
What we hold in common means absolutely nothing unless we hold it in common with Jesus Christ and His revelation to us recorded in the pages of His Word. I cannot emphasize this enough, for this is the message the Lord of Love has impressed on my spirit. Freedom has always been wrought at a price, and that price has been truth, pure, undiluted, living, straight from the heart of God &ldots;TRUTH. And truth is so much more than a concept or ideal&ldots;it is in fact a living, breathing, person my friends. And He promises to dwell within us to keep us safe from all of this counterfeit religion that undermines the mystery of godliness set out in the Divine Plan.
Dear brother or sister in Him, please take to heart and mind the words of the Apostle Peter that reach across the centuries to us today. His motivation is not spite or bitterness, but love and passion for those who might be seduced by such false teachers. He aims here to reveal what compels the blasphemer of truth, so that we might be wise and discerning, that our eyes might be open wide to see the loose hanging stitch in the sheeps clothing. Remember, brethren that Peter was the disciple who thought he was loyal to the Master, yet discovered quite painfully, the hard path of faithfulness.
2 Peter 2:1-22&ldots;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&ldots;(please read this passage in entirety)
My motivation here too is not unnecessary conflict or division. We strive in love, not to spare the wolves or even the institution in order that we might, by our Shepherds gracious hand, save even one of His precious sheep (perhaps you reading this now).
Dear Christian, the moment is at hand to hold fast to the Living Word of Truth and to hang on with all the strength He gives you. It is only by His Spiritual Light that we can examine all things written, spoken, sung or experienced. He is the measuring rod by which you can determine the legitimacy of all plans, purposes, means or methods. He is truer than your pastor or priest, and He never changes to accommodate your desires, ticklish ears, religious fancies or theological predilections. He stands alone, and only in Him can we stand steadfast, pleasing to the Father.
Never fear to ask questions of those who would be your teachers, if for integritys sake, you fail to see the harmony of their teaching with the Word of God and Christ. If the focus in the life, community and teaching of the church has shifted in any degree from Jesus Christ to shadows and created things, then your church is no longer a New Testament church, and it will die. Approach those in leadership in a spirit of love, humility and gentleness (2 Timothy 2:23-26), respecting their person and office. Pray beforehand that truth would prevail, not you or your intellectual pride. But dear brother, if after all this, they will not hear you, or they would continue to hold fast to their error (you will know for the Spirit of Truth within you will be sorely grieved), separate yourself from them and return to the Lord and His Word. This is the mandate of Scripture and the express will of God for His children. Believe me when I say that it is hard, extremely hard.
Twice in my Christian walk I have felt spiritually compelled to raise my voice in question, and twice I have obeyed the biblical mandate to separate myself from error in the pulpit. Rest assured, it will be the loneliest day of your entire life, but should your stand be taken in truth and sincerity, you can take comfort in the fact that you will be alone with the Lord.
Error unchecked contaminates and spreads like leaven (see 2 Timothy 2:17 and Galatians 5:7-9). Both Wisdom (for He is our wisdom now) and the Word of God compel us to remove ourselves from its destructive influence. Most of the error that is infecting the Church today is subtle - a mixture of light and darkness, truth and lies, the worlds concepts and ideas in biblical language, and the replacement of what is "most glorious" with that which is merely "glorious". It is a syncretism of the true with the false, the old with the new, the poison with the medicine, a blending of psychology with scripture, law-keeping with liberty, works with grace, etc, etc. In the end, my friends, if it undermines or negates to any degree the centrality of Jesus Christ in the atonement, justification, sanctification, and ultimate restoration of man with the Heavenly Father, then it is inherently false and lifeless. All true doctrine points to Him, and all false doctrine points away from Him in some manner or another. By this you will know, for the Holy Spirit exists in us to exalt Him alone.
We must also understand that error and falseness is seldom the cause of our alienation from the Truth that is in Christ and His Word, but the symptom. We are led away from the True Shepherd when we follow hard after the things in the world that we desire and love more than Him. The love of quick and easy results in ministry, for example, can readily compel one to start chipping away at the foundational truths and power of the gospel, or the exclusivity of Christ in the salvation and sanctification of souls. Once one starts down this path and the gates of hell have been opened, all manner of darkness will enter. And when increasing numbers of leaders and teachers have essentially become false prophets in the midst of God's people, then it becomes decision time for those who love the Lord.
Consider again the words of the Apostle John &ldots;
John 2:18: Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone into the world.
John 10-11: If anyone comes to you, and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
John 9-10: I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
Here we are assured that many, not just a scattered few, will come; that we are not to receive such a one; and that such individuals are to be exposed for what they are. Just as our Lord Jesus Christ exposed the darkness by the Glorious Light of His True Reality, so must we who walk in Him continue to allow His Light to expose all that is false and dark and foul. In the case of Diotrephes, rather then the faithful sheep throwing him out of the church, he is actually putting them out. Truly Amazing! And this is happening every where today my friends. Many of you have experienced it first hand.
Friends - I personally believe that the hour has come wherein all who love the Lord and truth must take back the testimony of His Bride and come out these lifeless institutions, seeking Him alone faithfully in the purity and simplicity that His Grace and Love requires. For generations now the prophetic voice has come and gone, speaking boldly the Lords rebuke, yet nothing has changed. Those who were our shepherds have more often than not failed us when the time came to take a stand for Christ and His Truth. The heresy that they were charged with protecting us from has only grown deeper and wider and more perverse. The testimony of Christ has been all but obscured. The church on the corner has, by and large, chosen the world as its habitation, and the seal has been set.
Dear Father grant that we might have the courage to follow your Son alone in this hour, when increasingly the wolves are howling and devouring so many in our midst. We pray for those in positions of example and leadership, that they would hold back the darkness by His light and Power, and look to Him alone and not to men or the world. Grant, dear Father that in all things He would have the pre-eminence, in our lives and doctrine, and most importantly, in our testimony whatever this means. Help us to put Him above all those who would be our friends, and mentors and family. And as we are separated from so much that we hold dear, I pray that you would restore these many times over in Jesus Christ.
In Jesus Name. Amen.
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