Apostasy

by Bill Rudge

Christianity is under a relentless assault from atheism, Islam and the media. Yet much of the Church is so focused on “pleasing people” that she has lost the power of God’s Spirit.

The Church must return to the biblical mandate of evangelism and missions, lest she be overcome by the apostasy (falling away) foretold by the Apostle Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition”) and fade into the pages of history as a compromised, lukewarm church (Revelation 3:16 “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”).

12 thoughts on “Apostasy

  1. In that each Christian is sure that their version is the only right one, how can one tell which of you is telling the truth? We have Christians making claims that the know what this god wants, etc, and citing the bible, and contradicting each other. You claim that your version of Christianity is under “relentless assault” by atheism, Islam, etc, but it seems that you are under far worse assault from each other.

    • Thanks for your comment. People come to believe a particular philosophy or religion based on various factors. I came to my belief by examining the evidence. While there is room for some variation in beliefs some are non-negotiable. I am always open t loistening to someone who has credible evidence for their belief system.

    • You are correct in that there is way too much fighting going on within the Christian church. I believe that the heart of this fighting reflects the shortcomings on our part, not on the pat of what God has revealed to us. Unfortunately, many Christians approach Christianity like a smorgasbord, where they pick and choose what they want to believe and not believe. As a result, we are left with so many different denominations. While this will not change until Jesus comes back, it does not mean we have no ability to grasp the core of the Christian faith. In fact, historically speaking, there are essentials that have defined Christian orthodoxy (i.e. deity of Christ, Second Coming, Trinity, death and resurrection of Jesus). So while we will continue to see debates over the non-essentials, it is the essential that brings unity within the diversity. Please refer to the attached articles that helps to shed light on this issue. Thanks for your comments. Dr. BJ Rudge

      • I can understand believing because you believe you have evidence. However, I don’t see that any sect has any evidence for what they claim. When I was young I got to see a lot of anti-Roman Catholic nonsense, and was raised Presbyterian (I grew up not too far from you in Clarion County). I grew to realize that neither had any base for their claims that the others were wrong and that they were right, especially when no Christians can do what is promised in the bible (FYI, I’ve read it a couple of times as a believer and as not). I’m curious what things you find non-negotiable and what you find to be credible evidence.

        I agree with you Christians do make the religion in their own image. However, this shouldn’t be possible if this god is what is claimed. It seems you may believe in free will when it comes to your belief in your religion. Is this true? And I’m not sure why you would think that it would take JC coming back to get all Christians believing in the same things. Now, I do know that not all Christians believe in what you do, with the trinity not universally accepted, the exact nature of Christ being up for grabs, etc. I also know that Christians vary widely in what parts of the bible they want to enforce and which they do not and what they wish to claim that their god wants when it comes to the laws/morality to be followed. What it comes down to is how do I know your version is right and no one else’s is? You and your father claim a lot about the end times for instance. I grew up with a lot of that, from being taken to see “Late Great Planet Earth” by the church to reading a lot of apologetics for this. What I discovered is that Christians have been making the same claims for thousands of years and they are no closer to being right, and Christians don’t agree on what or how the claims in Revelation should be interpreted. There is no reason to believe any of you and you do not believe each other for largely the same reasons I don’t believe you: no credible evidence.

        I did not see any articles attached.

      • Here is the attachements
        Authentic Unity
        Two recent articles came across my desk. The first one talked about a leading evangelical pastor who was promoting his global plan of bringing together people of all faiths to help fight global disease and poverty. Another article talked about how a prominent non-Christian radio host was invited to speak at one of the largest Christian universities. The focus of his speech was how we all need to work together to help fight secularism and socialism in our culture. As I read these articles, it made me reflect upon what the Bible has to say on the issue of unity. In light of this, please consider the following comments as we will continue to see a move in our world for unity as we face many global problems.
        Unity is an essential attribute to have in sports, especially in a team sport, such as soccer, where you need 11 players on the field to all work together to achieve a common goal. Last fall I used the imagery of a redwood tree to share with my high school soccer team the importance for all of us to be united. I explained how redwood trees can grow to be a few hundred feet tall, but they only have a root system that goes a few feet into the ground. I asked them how such a tall tree, with such a shallow root system, could withstand the daily pounding of the wind from knocking it over. I then shared with them that while the roots of a redwood tree do not go down deep into the ground they do spread out from its trunk and interconnect with other redwood trees. Thus, when the wind blows it does not blow against one tree but against a whole forest. I told them that they needed to be redwood trees where they also were interconnected together.
        Just as this analogy is relevant to sports, it is also relevant to the Christian life. Unity is something that we should strive for in the body of Christ (John 13:35; Romans 15:5; 1 Corinthians 12:20-26; Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:1-4; 1 Peter 3:8, 9). In light of this, I am excited to see the many steps being taken today toward unity in the body of Christ. I know that just as my athletes will be more effective united, so too the body of Christ can be more effective in serving Christ when it functions as one. However, as we make efforts toward being one in Christ, we must make sure we are striving toward an authentic unity and not a false unity (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; 2 John 9-11).
        While I desire to see my players united, I recognized that in the process of bringing them together I could not compromise the core values of our program. I realized that without holding my players accountable to values such as hard work, and respect for each other, all I would end up producing was a unity that was built on a weak foundation. As we see efforts taken in the body of Christ toward unity we must be certain these efforts are built on the correct foundation. We must remember that there are fundamental, non-negotiable truths that as Christians we can never compromise. Truths, such as salvation being found only in the person of Jesus Christ, are the foundation that truly unites us as followers of Jesus Christ. Just as redwood trees share the same root system, Christians also share the same root system, which is grounded in God’s Word and the person of Jesus Christ.
        Let us seek to attain unity in the body of Christ, but as we do this let us desire a true unity, which is based on the truth of God’s Word and an authentic love for Jesus Christ and each other.
        What Does It Mean to Contend for the Faith?
        BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
        As Christians we are called to “contend for the faith that was once for all
        delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Greek word for contend refers to an
        intense effort or struggle like in a wrestling match. Thus, we as Christians
        are to be just like wrestlers in the sense that we are to display an intense
        effort in standing for the truth.
        In light of this, over the next few weeks I will be doing a blog series that will
        help equip you to contend for the faith. The goal of this series is to provide
        you with practical biblical principles that will enable you to discern truth
        from error. While we do this, the following are some key points to
        remember.
        First, our motivation in this process should be love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
        We should never contend for the faith with an attitude of arrogance or with
        the mindset that our ultimate aim is to prove ourselves right. Instead, we
        should approach this ESSENTIAL task with gentleness and respect (1 Peter
        3:15). Yes, we do need to clearly distinguish truth from error, but let us do
        this with Christ-like love:
        “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a
        noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and
        understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to
        remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have,
        and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing”
        (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
        Second, we cannot judge the motives of a person’s heart. So often we try and
        act as judge and jury when it comes to evaluating the inner motives, attitudes
        and thoughts of others. However, while we can judge people’s doctrine
        (teaching) and their lifestyles, the heart of others can only be truly judged by
        God Himself. As Paul reminds the Corinthians,
        “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord
        comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will
        disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his
        commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
        Third, let us strive to be known for what we believe rather than what we are
        against. Christians are often portrayed as being negative and critical of other
        people and their beliefs. We are often seen as formulating our beliefs as a
        reaction to what we don’t believe rather than what we do believe. While in
        any quest for truth there will be the need to expose error, let us not forget
        that the proclamation of truth will always have a greater impact than the
        detection of an error.
        Contending for the faith will bring us face to face with false teaching, and
        the most effective way we can deal with that is by exposing it to the truth of
        the Gospel message. As Jesus reminded the Jews who believed in Him,
        So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word,
        you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set
        you free” (John 8:31, 32).
        In part two, we will discuss the importance of biblical discernment.
        The Importance of Biblical Discernment
        Contending for the Faith, part 2
        A good friend of my family’s, Doug Mastriano, is a colonel in the army.
        Back in 1991 his regiment, the Second Armored Calvary, was sent to Saudi
        Arabia to take the lead in the ground war offensive against Saddam
        Hussein’s most loyal and motivated unit, the Republican Guards. As I talked
        to Doug about the various battles he was involved in during this Operation,
        he told me that the key to his regiment’s success was preparation. He said
        the following about how they prepared, “The training put an incredible
        difficult strain on the soldiers and their families, but it did sharpen us into a
        well-tuned machine. Almost every month there was some sort of live-fire
        exercises, maneuver training, border duty, headquarter exercises, and all
        sorts of battle drills to prepare us for that day, which even included a
        deployment to Turkey. We had trained for years for this day – and we were
        ready for it.” They were certainly ready for it, and because of what they did
        to prepare, and what Doug correctly attributes to the power of prayer, not
        one man was killed in his squadron.
        Like the soldiers of Doug’s regiment, we are also in a war. However, our
        war is not a physical one, but as Paul tells the Ephesians, it is spiritual:
        “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
        against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present
        darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly
        places” (Ephesians 6:12).
        Since we are not in a physical battle, Paul then goes on to describe the
        spiritual weapons (armor of God) that we are to utilize (Ephesians 6:13-18).
        Paul repeats this idea of Christians being in a spiritual war in his letter to the
        Corinthians. He reminds them that in this war they are to confront any
        human philosophy, belief system, ideology that stands in opposition to the
        Gospel of Jesus Christ:
        “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the
        flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine
        power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion
        raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey
        Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
        This task of confronting false teaching with the truth of God’s Word is an
        essential responsibility for every believer, as it helps to rescue those who are
        enslaved to its damning lies.
        In this war, we have a formidable enemy who will take any measure he can
        to deceive us from the truth of God’s Word. The Bible provides the
        following description of our archenemy, Satan. He is first described as
        our ADVERSARY, who like a lion in search of prey, seeks to destroy all
        followers of Jesus Christ. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary
        the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1
        Peter 5:8).
        Second, Satan is described as a DECEIVER of the whole world,
        “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called
        the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
        Third, our enemy Satan is describer as a LIAR and the father of lies,
        “He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the
        truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his
        own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
        Finally, Satan is described as one who MASQUERADES as an angel of
        light, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
        So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of
        righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians
        11:14, 15).
        Like a person who wears a mask to disguise himself, Satan and his followers
        appear to be messengers of truth, when in fact their ultimate aim is to
        deceive and enslave others through false teaching. A key to Satan’s trickery
        is not that he necessarily brings an entirely foreign message, but that he
        twists the truth of God’s Word just enough to deceive his hearers. This is the
        exact tactic he tried to do when he twisted Scripture in his temptation of
        Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).
        When you take into consideration the war that we are in, and the enemy that
        opposes us, it is no wonder that Scripture repeatedly warns us of deception.
        As you read the following verses, may they awaken all of us to the reality
        that we must be watchful/alert and contend for the faith:
        “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but
        inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
        “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your
        thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2
        Corinthians 11:3).
        “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit,
        according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the
        world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, 9).
        “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
        teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even
        denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift
        destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).
        “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you” (1
        John 2:26).
        In part three, we will discuss Satan’s plan of attack in his attempt to try and
        deceive us.
        Satan’s Plan of Attack
        Contending for the Faith, part 3
        What is Satan’s plan of attack in deceiving mankind? We find the answer to
        this question back in the Garden of Eden:
        “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the
        Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You
        shall not eat of any tree in the garden’? And the woman said to the serpent,
        ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall
        not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall
        you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not
        surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
        and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw
        that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that
        the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and
        she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis
        3:1-6).
        In this passage, we find that Satan has a two-step strategy in deceiving
        mankind.
        Through the question “Did God actually say”, Satan set forth the first step,
        which was to attack the very words of God.
        Throughout history, Satan’s attack on the words of God (Bible) has come in
        a variety of ways. One way he has done this is by attacking the
        INERRANCY of the Bible. In other words, Satan wants us to believe that
        the Bible is full of errors and is not trustworthy. The Jesus Seminar is an
        example of a group of scholars that have promoted this idea. With the task of
        re-examining the traditions surrounding the historicity of Jesus, and in
        particular his deeds and sayings, these scholars came to the conclusion that
        the majority of what Jesus said and did was not historically reliable. They
        contend that the Gospel material on Jesus is saturated with mythic elements
        and fanciful imagination on the part of the early church.
        This attack has been fruitful as many seminaries today teach that the Bible is
        a human invention composed of myths. As a result, a whole generation of
        pastors, missionaries, and Christian schoolteachers has been taught to deny
        key aspects of the Christian faith such as the virgin birth and the physical
        bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
        Besides attacking the reliability and divine origin of the Bible, Satan attacks
        the PRIORITY of Scripture. Satan has effectively done this through
        entertainment. Through movies, television, sporting events, etc., Satan finds
        ways to get us to focus our time and energy on personal pleasure, rather than
        upon personal spiritual growth, which comes through prayer and the study of
        God’s Word.
        The sad reality is that many churches have now adapted this strategy in order
        to promote growth. Some proponents of the church growth movement assert
        that the common ground we have with non-believers is not the Bible, but our
        common needs, hurts, and interests as humans. Therefore, we must find
        another starting point besides the Bible to draw them into our churches.
        Thus, through the use of various marketing techniques, church growth
        experts seek out ways to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ palatable to the
        non-believing world. As a result, pastors who use to rely upon the preaching
        of the Word of God as their main source of instruction, now rely upon
        personal stories, jokes, skits, pop psychology, and various media outlets to
        instruct their congregation. Yes, the seed of Satan’s attack on the priority of
        God’s Word has resulted in the creation of spiritual institutions of
        entertainment, where the preaching of God’s Word has been replaced with
        feel good theology: “For the time is coming when people will not endure
        sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves
        teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the
        truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).
        Satan has also attacked the CLARITY of Scripture as he tries to get us to
        believe that we really cannot know with certainty what the Bible teaches.
        Some of the key proponents of the emergent movement endorse this idea
        about the Bible. According to them, an understanding of the Bible has to
        occur through an ongoing conversation. They contend that we should have a
        “generous orthodoxy” where we welcome differing views and perspectives.
        Doubt is something that should be embraced as a virtue as no one can claim
        to fully know the truth. A key spokesperson for this movement claims that
        we should always question what we think we know about the Bible, as he
        contends that the Bible is a slowly evolving human understanding of God.
        Despite his elevation of doubt and the need to question, this man has
        recently asserted with “certainty” that a literal hell does not exist and that
        Jesus is not the only way to the Father.
        While conversation and asking questions is beneficial for ones’ spiritual
        experience, we need to get beyond mere talk to a set of convictions on what
        we believe, and why we believe it (reason for the hope that is in us, 1 Peter
        3:15). Let us not follow the same path of those who are always learning but
        never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).
        A final way Satan attempts to undermine God’s Word is by attacking the
        SUFFICIENCY of Scripture. Through extra-biblical revelations and
        personal experiences, Satan deceives mankind into believing that the Bible is
        not adequate enough in their spiritual journey. This type of attack is what we
        find in cults today, where they claim to possess some form of divine
        revelation, which is equal to or greater than the Bible.
        Besides cults, this idea is prominent in many charismatic circles where it is
        taught that personal encounters with God should not only be expected but
        are on the same authoritative level as Scripture. One key person of this
        persuasion made the claim that as we follow God we have to learn to go
        beyond what we know [Bible]. Through this type of theology, the church has
        been saturated with every sign, wonder, and spiritual experience imaginable.
        While it is true that the Spirit is alive and active in our lives, we must
        remember that it is the sufficiency of Scripture that equips us to live a life
        that is pleasing to God: “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).
        After attacking the Word of God, Satan then moves to his second step in
        deceiving mankind, which is to replace the Bible as the final source of
        authority. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve initially trusted in God and
        looked to Him alone as their final authority source in knowing right from
        wrong. However, after Satan attacked and undermined the words of God, he
        was then able to deceive Adam and Eve into believing that they no longer
        needed God. Instead, they could trust in themselves. With the promise that
        they would be like God, Satan had successfully replaced God as the final
        source of authority in Adam and Eve’s life.
        Since the beginning, Satan has been actively trying to create an authority
        crisis for us. He knows that without the solid foundation of Scripture, we
        will be left vulnerable to his deceptive and crafty ways. Our adversary
        knows that without the Bible we no longer have an absolute standard by
        which to determine and discern truth from error. Without God Word’s, Satan
        knows we are left defenseless in this spiritual battle as we have relinquished
        one of our greatest weapons, the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; see
        also Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, if we want to avoid not being led astray and
        ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), we must look to Scripture
        as our final source of authority.
        In the next part, we will discuss the key principles of biblical discernment.
        Keys to Biblical Discernment
        Contending for the Faith, part 4
        One of the most inspiring athletes that I have ever read about was Charlotte
        Brown. In case you do not know who this is, she won a bronze medal her
        senior year in high school for pole vault in the state of Texas. While winning
        a medal in states is a great accomplishment, this is not what caught my
        attention as I read her story. What caught my attention is that Charlotte ran
        down the 130 foot plus runway, carrying a pole around 10 feet in length,
        vaulting over 11 feet in the air, while being blind.
        While Brown’s story is certainly inspiring, and is an excellent reminder
        about displaying perseverance and determination in the face of challenges
        and obstacles, her story also carries with it another important lesson. In this
        amazing feat by Brown, she had to count her steps and incorporate a beeper
        to tell her when to plant the pole. Without having these safeguards in place
        she would not have known where she was at on the runway, which in turn
        would have prevented her from successfully making her vault. So too in
        our spiritual walk, we need to create safeguards to help provide us with
        guidance and wisdom. In light of this, the following are some biblical
        principles that I have employed to act as my safeguards in helping me
        discern truth from error.
        Principle #1: No Compromise
        A friend recently notified me that he would be attending the conference of a
        prominent Christian pastor. Even though he acknowledge that this pastor
        taught things that were not in line with God’s Word, he still was going to
        attend because, “Some of what he says is true.” Another person I know
        attended a church where it was public knowledge that the pastor had been
        involved in a number of extra-marital relationships. Despite this reality, my
        friend continued to attend the church telling me “Everyone makes mistakes.”
        So often we find ourselves, just like my two friends, easily justifying our
        decision to compromise what we know to be true. Certainly there are aspects
        of the Christian faith that are left up to each individual conscience, (see
        Romans 14) but when it comes to issues of doctrine that are clearly laid out
        in Scripture, compromise at any level is categorically rejected. For example,
        in a culture that valued hospitality, the apostle John warns his readers not to
        invite anyone into their home who brought another teaching: “If anyone
        comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your
        house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his
        wicked works” (2 John 10, 11). The Apostle Paul also warned the believers
        in Ephesus not to be partakers with those who were promoting the idea that
        Christians had the freedom to live as they wanted to: “Let no one deceive
        you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes
        upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with
        them” (Ephesians 5:6, 7).
        The idea of not compromising should be self-evident for Christians,
        especially in light of the fact that we are called to contend for the faith (Jude
        1:3). However, the church is currently wrestling with the idea of
        compromise as it listens to the modern day call for of “unity” and
        “coexistence”. While this call for unity takes on different forms, I have
        primarily seen it infiltrate the church in two specific ways. First, I have seen
        Christians unite with non-Christians for political reasons. With a desire to
        promote conservative values, doctrinal walls are being broken down. For
        example, one key spokesperson for the religious right endorses a worldview
        that teaches that Jesus was a man who became a god and one day we, too,
        can become gods. Despite this heretical teaching, this gentleman has been a
        guest speaker at a number of Christian universities and has even been
        acknowledged as a fellow believer in Jesus Christ by many leading
        evangelical pastors. The goal to “reclaim our culture” has taken precedence
        over doctrinal truth by many in the church.
        Second, I have seen Christians compromise in their cooperation with the
        global call to eradicate the “greatest” dangers facing mankind, such as
        poverty, slavery, and global warming. One evangelical leader has
        specifically made it his mission to eradicate poverty and educate the poor.
        Through his global peace plan he engages in interfaith dialogue with people
        from every religious persuasion. In fact, this gentleman has been a key
        spokesman for Pope Francis’ call for people of every religion to unite to
        defend justice, peace and the environment. While there is definitely a need
        for the church to stand against social injustices, this type of compromise has
        produced churches that no longer make the preaching of the Gospel of
        primary importance. As a result, this compromise has left many churches
        only meeting the physical needs of man, while ignoring his greatest need,
        which is the condition of his heart. Just as it was with the Apostle Paul, we
        must remember that our primary calling is to bring the Gospel message to
        the lost “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and
        from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins
        and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me [Christ]” (Acts
        26:18).
        In our call to contend for the faith and to be equipped to discern truth from
        error, we must recognize that we cannot compromise the Gospel of Jesus
        Christ. We must be like the believers in Ephesus who were commended by
        Jesus Christ because they would not bear with those who are evil, but have
        tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be
        false (Revelation 2:2). The dangers of compromising with those who preach
        another Gospel have eternal consequences and were one of the reasons Jesus
        had to rebuke the church at Pergamum. Listen to His words of rebuke and
        may we “hear what the Spirit says to the churches”:
        “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the
        teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the
        sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice
        sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the
        Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war
        against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:14-16; see also
        Jesus’ rebuke to the church at Thyatira-Revelation 2:18-29).
        In our next post we will examine the second principle of biblical
        discernment, which is to test all things.
        Keys to Biblical Discernment
        Contending for the Faith, part 5
        Principle #2: Test all Things
        The next principle in contending for the faith is we must test all things. As
        Paul tells the Thessalonians, “but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1
        Thessalonians 5:21). In other words, they were to carry out a careful
        examination (test/prove) of what they heard. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
        makes the following comment about this verse:
        “The meaning here is, that they were carefully to examine everything
        proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust; to take
        it on assertion; to believe it because it was urged with vehemence,
        zeal, or plausibility. In the various opinions and doctrines which were
        submitted to them for adoption, they were to apply the appropriate
        tests from reason and the word of God, and what they found to be true
        they were to embrace; what was false they were to reject.”
        The Apostle John also reiterates this injunction to test all things, “Beloved,
        do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from
        God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
        Just as one would use a test to determine the purity and value of a metal, so
        too we are to test the purity and biblical accuracy of all teaching and
        teachers who claim to speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit.
        As we test/prove all things, keep in mind the following four specific areas:
        authority source, predictions, doctrine, lifestyle, and supernatural
        manifestations. These areas are essential in discerning whether a particular
        teaching and/or teacher are in line with the Word of God.
        As it relates to the final source of authority, you will often find in false
        teaching teachers who place themselves above God’s Word. These teachers
        often function as tyrannical rulers who manipulate and control others, as was
        the case in Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:20). Many will even claim to have
        received special revelation from God that only they are privileged to, and as
        a result everyone should listen and trust in them as God’s true messenger.
        Often you will find false teachers claiming that as God’s anointed, they are
        above being corrected or rebuked. One prominent TV evangelist made the
        audacious claim that he has received a special “anointing” from God, which
        entitles him to demand from God, such things as the power to heal and
        perform miracles. We should never submit to the authority of any individual,
        who himself is not submitted to the words of God.
        Any true teacher and teaching from God will always appeal to God’s Word
        as the final source of authority. People, who are truly anointed by God, do
        not walk around with pride and a sense of entitlement. They do not seek to
        lord it over others, nor demand God to act in accordance to their will.
        Instead, those who are favored by God will always exalt Him and His Word,
        “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in
        spirit and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 662b). A true spokesman for God
        will always want you to test them to make sure what he/she teaches lines up
        with God’s revealed Word. This is exactly why the Apostle Paul praised the
        Jews in Berea, for “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the
        Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Let us, too, be
        noble like the Bereans and test everything according to our final source of
        authority, the Word of God.
        Another area we should be testing is the predictions made by teachers. In the
        book of Deuteronomy, God has provided us with a way to identify false
        prophets. Specifically, if what a person predicts does not come to pass then
        we know that the individual has not spoken on behalf of God. “And if you
        say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not
        spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word
        does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not
        spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of
        him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). In other words, a track record of one
        hundred percent accuracy will always accompany a true prophet of God.
        This test is vital especially as we see the rise of end time predictions, and the
        prophetic movement. In regards to end time events, many teachers have
        come forward claiming hidden knowledge and wisdom about when Jesus
        Christ will return. One recent example was Harold Camping of Family
        Radio. Based on his own private calculations he predicted that Jesus would
        return on May 21, 2011, which would then usher in five months of global
        catastrophe, culminating with the final destruction of the world on October
        21, 2011. Despite a previous false prediction for the end of the world
        (September 6, 1994), many people sold all they had and traveled across
        America proclaiming Camping’s end time scenario. While prior to his death
        Camping did repent of his false prediction, his teaching left many people
        spiritually devastated. We need to recognize that, with all the problems
        facing us today (terrorism, economic hardships, diseases, natural disasters,
        etc.), we will continue to face a barrage of prophecy experts who, like
        Harold Camping, will forecast their own personal end time scenarios. While
        I personally believe that we are seeing the signs that Jesus said would occur
        prior to His return (Matthew 24), we must make sure that we do not follow
        teaching that goes beyond what the Bible has revealed (Matthew 24:36).
        Along with end time predictions, there has been a growing belief by many in
        the church today that the offices of prophet and apostle are being restored.
        Thus, just as the Old Testament had prophets like Elijah and Elisha, today
        we also have modern day “prophets” who claim to directly hear from God
        and speak on His behalf. Despite the test that we are given in Deuteronomy
        18, leaders of this prophetic movement contend that mistakes by prophets
        should be expected. In fact, they assert that if we do not give God’s
        “prophets” today the freedom to make mistakes then we inhibit their ability
        to mature in their prophetic gift. The danger of this statement is that many
        people have been spiritually deceived by the mistakes made by so-called
        immature prophets. This is why God told us to test anyone who claims to be
        a prophet so that we could know with certainty whether or not they have
        truly come from Him. Unfortunately, just like it was during the days of
        Jeremiah, many in the church today take pleasure in listening to the
        flattering words of false prophets, “An appalling and horrible thing has
        happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at
        their direction; my people love to have it so…” (Jeremiah 5:30, 31).
        In a time when everyone seems to be receiving personal revelations from
        God through dreams and visions, we must test every claim by the Word of
        God. If we fail in doing this, then as the Apostle Paul warned the church at
        Colosse, we might find ourselves being disqualified, “Let no one disqualify
        you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about
        visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast
        to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together
        through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God”
        (Colossians 2:18, 19).
        In our next post, we will look at the final three areas that we should put to
        the test: doctrine, lifestyle, and supernatural manifestations.
        Keys to Biblical Discernment
        Contending for the Faith, part 6
        Principle #2: Test all Things
        Another area we should be testing is doctrine. In fact, Jesus said that we
        could know a false prophet by their fruit (doctrine). “Beware of false
        prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous
        wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15, 16). The
        Israelites were also to carry out this doctrinal test to avoid being led away by
        false prophets:
        “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you
        a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to
        pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not
        known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of
        that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is
        testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your
        heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God
        and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and
        you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).
        While we should test all doctrine, one specific area of importance is
        Christology. If you study the Apostle Paul’s teaching, you will find that
        Jesus was the central focus, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not
        come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
        For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him
        crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1, 2). As was the case with Paul, the preeminence
        of Christ will always be a defining mark of true biblical teaching. Thus,
        while true biblical teaching exalts Christ, false teaching will often diminish
        Him, which in turn will provide an incorrect understanding of His nature.
        This was exactly the case with the false teachers John had to warn about in
        his first epistle. In fact, it was in the context of these teachers’ denial of the
        incarnation that he called his readers to test the spirits:
        “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they
        are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this
        you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has
        come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is
        not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was
        coming and now is in the world already” (1 John 4:1-3).
        A distorted view of Jesus is a common trait among cults. For instance, one
        group teaches that Jesus was not divine, but merely a created being who,
        before He lived on the earth, was Michael the archangel. In addition, another
        group teaches that Jesus was a man who became a god, and one day we too
        can become gods. Unfortunately, a non-biblical view of Jesus is not only
        relegated to the cults. In the church today, there are those who endorse the
        idea that we are more than human flesh and share in the divine nature of
        Jesus (“little gods theory”). Others in the church teach that Jesus’ death on
        the cross was not to provide our atonement but to identify with the poor.
        Along with these examples, there has been a steady move in the church
        today away from an emphasis upon Jesus and the cross to an emphasis upon
        signs, wonders, and the needs of man. As a result, many churches have
        become breeding grounds of man-centered theology; where man is exalted
        over Jesus Christ.
        As we do our diligence to test all doctrine, let us heed the words the Apostle
        Paul gave to the Galatians, “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”
        (Galatians 1:8, 9).
        Another area we should test is the lifestyles of all teachers. We live in a day
        when people flock to churches for the specific purpose of sitting under the
        teaching of a dynamic speaker. I remember a conversation with a person
        who told me the sole reason she attended a church was because the pastor
        was a powerful communicator. While there is nothing wrong with a teacher
        having charisma and being effective in relating to his audience, this quality
        should not be our final determiner in why we attend a church or follow a
        particular ministry. We need to get beyond the outward appearance and
        evaluate/test the way that a teacher lives and make sure that his/her life lines
        up with God’s Word. While all people are subject to mistakes (1 John 1:8),
        we should seek out teachers who strive for holiness in all areas of their life
        (1 Peter 1:13-16). We should look for men and women whose goal is to
        reflect Jesus Christ in all they do, “whoever says he abides in Him [Jesus]
        ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (1 John 2:6).
        As you carry out this test, you will often find that false teachers are
        motivated out of greed. With catchy clichés and phrases, they seduce and
        manipulate their audience to give them their money. I once heard a
        prominent teacher claim that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing, while
        another teacher asserted that God would respond to the prayers of his
        listeners if they first “sowed a seed” (gave a monetary contribution) to his
        ministry. What a contrast to the Apostle Paul who reminded the Ephesian
        elders that he had never coveted their personal belongings:
        “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able
        to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are
        sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know
        that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
        In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help
        the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It
        is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:32-35).
        Along with greed, sexual immorality is often found among false teachers,
        who often prey upon the emotions of others to fulfill their own personal lusts
        and desires. While it is true that only God can fully know the heart and
        intentions of an individual, we can still test the fruit of a person’s life. This is
        vital in helping us avoid being deceived by the flattering words of a false
        teacher. As Peter warned his readers:
        “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
        teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even
        denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift
        destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the
        way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you
        with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their
        destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
        In our next post, we will look at the final area that we should put to the test:
        supernatural manifestations.
        Keys to Biblical Discernment
        Contending for the Faith, part 7
        Principle #2: Test all Things
        A final area that we should test is supernatural manifestations. This is an
        important test because we are certainly seeing a rise in the church today with
        claims of miraculous signs and wonders. For instance, there have been
        claims of God’s Spirit manifesting Himself during services in the form of
        gold dust and rain that falls down from the ceiling. Others have claimed
        manifestations of uncontrollable laughter, spiritual drunkenness, body
        convulsions, and a burning sensation as signs of the Holy Spirit indwelling
        them. Under God’s anointing, one prominent evangelist knocks people over
        by just blowing on them, while another evangelist claims to have the ability
        to change water into wine just as Jesus did in Cana (John 2:1-11). Spiritual
        practices such as soaking and fire tunnels are all promoted as ways to bring
        us into the presence of God and access His glory. Mystical schools are even
        being promoted to enable people to operate in trances, raptures, signs and
        wonders, revelatory understanding, and spiritual travel. As a result of all of
        this, many have adopted a Christian faith that exalts experience over
        doctrine. Thus, like the crowds that followed Jesus, they are left waiting for
        the next sign and wonder (John 6:30). As one pastor told his congregation
        after they experienced God’s presence in the form of a glory cloud, “We
        may not have an idea or clue what we are doing and certainly [we] don’t
        know what to do next.” Quite a contrast to the early church, who after being
        filled with the Holy Spirit, knew exactly what to do, “And they devoted
        themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of
        bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
        As a kid who grew up in the Assembly of God Church, I was certainly
        blessed to recognize the active role that the Holy Spirit had in my life.
        Through this upbringing, I was also exposed to various manifestations that
        were attributed to the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, as I encountered them I had
        a father who taught me to test all things by the Word of God. As I did this, I
        came to recognize that not all signs and wonders were from God. Some
        were actually human fabrications, while others were demonic in origin, as I
        had witnessed similar phenomena when I was in Haiti (voodoo) and India
        (Hinduism). In light of this reality, the following are two important biblical
        reasons why we should test all supernatural claims. First, we are warned by
        both Jesus and Paul that false christs and false prophets would arise and
        deceive people through signs and wonders:
        “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs
        and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”
        (Matthew 24:24).
        “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all
        power and false signs and wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
        Second, Jesus taught His disciples that not everyone who performed
        miracles and prophesied in His name were truly from Him: “’Lord, Lord, did
        we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in
        Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I
        never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew
        7:22-23). Miracles, signs, and wonders by themselves do not prove one’s
        power is from God. In fact, as we have already seen, Satan masquerades as
        an angel of light as he deceives people through the supernatural. He [Satan]
        draws believers away from Christ to self-professing miracle workers (2
        Corinthians 11:13-15). Through the supernatural (healings and miracles)
        Satan arouses excitement within believers as he leads them to worship the
        creation rather than the Creator.
        While God still intervenes today in miraculous ways (healing, protection,
        etc.), we still need to have discernment and be alert. In addition, our greatest
        desire should not be to experience signs and wonders, which was one of the
        reasons Jesus’ rebuked the crowds who followed Him, “Unless you see signs
        and wonders you will not believe’ (John 4:48). Instead, our greatest desire
        should be to know Jesus Christ:
        “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
        Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of
        knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of
        all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
        and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes
        from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the
        righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him
        and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings,
        becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may
        attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).
        In our next post, which will be the last on in our study on biblical
        discernment, we will look at our final principle: pursue spiritual maturity.
        Keys to Biblical Discernment
        Contending for the Faith, part 8
        Principle #3: Pursue Spiritual Maturity
        I have been coaching high school soccer for the past 20 years. One of things
        I emphasize to my players is that if they want to be a successful and
        competitive player, they must first master the basics. In other words, they
        must learn to effectively pass, dribble, shoot, etc. Players that fail to do this,
        always end up struggling in their development as they are never able to
        move on to more advanced skills. As a result, many of them never getting
        beyond the basics, these players fall short in reaching their potential.
        This, too, is the case in our spiritual lives as we will not grow if we do not
        go beyond the basics of our faith. This was the problem with the Corinthians
        and is why the Apostle Paul could only feed them with milk and not solid
        food, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as
        people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food,
        for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you
        are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are
        you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-
        3; see also Hebrews). Let us heed this warning and get beyond the milk of
        our faith. In fact, if we want to be effective in contending for the faith, we
        must pursue spiritual maturity. It is only by doing this can we be better
        equipped to discern truth from error:
        “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone
        to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You
        need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled
        in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for
        the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by
        constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
        So what are some things that we can do to grow spiritually? As it relates to
        the specific issue of having discernment and contending for the faith, the
        following are a few things that each of us should do. First, we must meditate
        upon God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). In other words, we must study, reflect and
        apply God’s Word on a daily basis. As we do this, we need to employ an
        effective method of Bible study. Tools, such as commentaries, Bible
        dictionaries, etc., can be great ways to help us better understand the passages
        that we are studying.
        Second, we need to have an intentional prayer life (Colossians 4:2). Rather
        than just praying quick prayers with a laundry list of needs, we need to be
        men and women who separate time each day to seek the Lord.
        Third, we need to develop a good theological library. Beyond commentaries
        and Bible dictionaries, we should also acquire good books on theology. Like
        putting the pieces of a puzzle together, these sources help supplement our
        study of God’s Word, by giving us a clearer picture on topics, such as who is
        God.
        Finally, we need to seek out solid teachers. Along with having a pastor who
        can expound upon God’s Word, everyone should create a database of
        teachers and/or ministries that you can go to on a variety of doctrinal issues.
        These ministries, which specialize in researching specific topics from a
        biblical perspective, are great ways to find information in an effective and
        time-consuming manner. As new teachings and ideas continue to come to
        the forefront, it is extremely helpful to have these teachers and ministries at
        your disposal.
        These steps, along with others, are great ways to grow in our faith. It is
        through this growth that we can avoid being led away by error, as we stand
        firm upon the Word of God:
        “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be
        found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the
        patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul
        also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all
        his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some
        things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and
        unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other
        Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care
        that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and
        lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our
        Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to
        the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:14-18).”
        As we conclude our study on biblical discernment, my prayer is for God to
        empower everyone reading this with the wisdom and knowledge to “contend
        for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Until the
        day the Lord returns, we must never grow weary in this task. The
        implications of this battle for truth are eternal, so “keep a close watch on
        yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save
        both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). Pursue righteousness,
        godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the
        faith… guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and
        contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it
        some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you” (1 Timothy 6:11, 12,
        20, 21).

      • Thank you for the documents. I’m always curious on how each Christian defends his version of Christianity.

        Unity is a good thing and the bible doesn’t speak much about being unified with anyone but one tribe/group. It commands repeatedly that the Jews, or in the NT, Christians do not unify with anyone, and it commands that anyone who disagrees deserves death/should be killed at worst and just being abandoned at best.

        Christians often try to claim that they agree in the “essentials” e.g. resurrection, JC being god, believing in god as creator, and that nothing else matters. However, that doesn’t seem to be true when it comes to how one is baptized, how one gets “saved”, and what this god wants in terms of law/morality. Paul cursed anyone who dared disagree with him, and we know that early christianity was fractured from the start.

        In the documents you gave, you have “authentic unity”, which ends up meaning your way and no other, just like every other sect and religion; “I’m authentic/orthodox/etc, and you are not.” You claim that you and only you have the correct non-negotiable “truths”, just like everyone else. You contend for your version of Christianity, just like everyone else. As for “Christ-like love”, Christians don’t agree what this means, and this god doesn’t even match the idea of love from 2 Corinthians. We have universalist Christians who are the accepting humane Jesus, and then we have many evangelicals who are all about the punishment of the end times that they hope will happen to anyone who disagrees with their version, the Jesus that exterminates anyone who doesn’t accept him. Christians judge each other constantly, and constantly claim that they know the motives of everyone, from other Christians to atheists. A great example of this is a document your father wrote about questions to atheists that I found on your website. I took his questions and answered them on my blog.

        You claim that other Christians are guilty of “false teachings” and “damning lies” but that is based on opinion, nothing else, just like their counter-claims about you. In that you seem to be wanting to claim other Christians are in league with Satan, I do want to ask you about a rather odd instance in the bible. Your god works intentionally with Satan, allowing this entity to corrupt faithful Christians who were ruled over for a eon by Jesus and the “saints”. The bible says that this god “must” allow this to happen. Why would a god work with its supposed archenemy?

        You also accuse people of being false prophets. I wonder what you think of Pat Robertson and his failed prophecies: should he be murdered as per the commands of this god?

        The story of Genesis is an odd one. Why would this god wants its children to have no idea what the difference between good and evil is? And why would a god think, that without this knowledge, that they would know it was wrong to disobey him? This god either intentionally allows this snake into the garden, or was unable to keep it out. Why? As for “what did God say being” a trap, this is what Christians constantly say to each other and constantly claim that only their version is what this god actually meant, claiming that any other interpretation is Satanic.

        You want to claim that the bible is inerrant, but there are mistakes and false claims all through it, and an entire industry has been invented to try to explain them away, with apologists coming up with contradictory reasons on why their version is the only right one. The bible claims that the city of Tyre was destroyed by this god and was never to be found again. There are thousands of people still living in Tyre, and we know were it is, even the older parts that extend outside and under the modern city. This bible claims that there was an exodus and there is no evidence of this travel by 600,00 men, plus women and children and draft animals, for forty years around an area half the size of Pennsylvania. Not even one single latrine. Christians can’t even agree on the location of the tomb.

        For your god supposedly being omnipotent, this Satan character is allowed to do what it wants with no effort by this god to do anything against it. You want to claim that this character attacks the clarity of the bible, but then you want to claim that no one can known the truth anyway. This is a common contradiction that Christians find themselves with when they can’t answer questions e.g. “mysterious ways” but they want to claim that they know exactly what their god wants. You also want to pretend that sola scriptura is the only right answer and plenty of sects disagree with you, the ones you judge and call “cults” and who refer to the bible just as much as you do.

        All in all, you compromise your faith because you cherry pick it as every other Christian. You want to ignore that JC said that all of his father’s laws still stand and should be obeyed, though he often puts a slightly different interpretation on them than the other Jews. You also say test all things, but when a atheist questions you, Christians insist that their god can’t be tested. They forget that Thomas had no problem in testing and JC had no problem in answering. And it’s curious that you think you are any better than Harold Camping because you do the same things he does, in your claims of being sure that the end times are what you want them to be.

    • Hello I was reading the comments and I figured I’d open up for conversation. I was an atheist before I became a Christian. I’d love to hear more and engage with your perspective if you don’t mind.

  2. Christianity under attack? That’s a BS statement. You expect full autonomy yet align with a god figure that monitors your every move and thought. Christianity is dying because it should. Centuries of failure and horror while praising god as good with the tip of a sword.

    • You are correct in that there is way too much fighting going on within the Christian church. I believe that the heart of this fighting reflects the shortcomings on our part, not on the pat of what God has revealed to us. Unfortunately, many Christians approach Christianity like a smorgasbord, where they pick and choose what they want to believe and not believe. As a result, we are left with so many different denominations. While this will not change until Jesus comes back, it does not mean we have no ability to grasp the core of the Christian faith. In fact, historically speaking, there are essentials that have defined Christian orthodoxy (i.e. deity of Christ, Second Coming, Trinity, death and resurrection of Jesus). So while we will continue to see debates over the non-essentials, it is the essential that brings unity within the diversity. Please refer to the attached articles that helps to shed light on this issue. Thanks for your comments.
      Authentic Unity
      Two recent articles came across my desk. The first one talked about a leading evangelical pastor who was promoting his global plan of bringing together people of all faiths to help fight global disease and poverty. Another article talked about how a prominent non-Christian radio host was invited to speak at one of the largest Christian universities. The focus of his speech was how we all need to work together to help fight secularism and socialism in our culture. As I read these articles, it made me reflect upon what the Bible has to say on the issue of unity. In light of this, please consider the following comments as we will continue to see a move in our world for unity as we face many global problems.
      Unity is an essential attribute to have in sports, especially in a team sport, such as soccer, where you need 11 players on the field to all work together to achieve a common goal. Last fall I used the imagery of a redwood tree to share with my high school soccer team the importance for all of us to be united. I explained how redwood trees can grow to be a few hundred feet tall, but they only have a root system that goes a few feet into the ground. I asked them how such a tall tree, with such a shallow root system, could withstand the daily pounding of the wind from knocking it over. I then shared with them that while the roots of a redwood tree do not go down deep into the ground they do spread out from its trunk and interconnect with other redwood trees. Thus, when the wind blows it does not blow against one tree but against a whole forest. I told them that they needed to be redwood trees where they also were interconnected together.
      Just as this analogy is relevant to sports, it is also relevant to the Christian life. Unity is something that we should strive for in the body of Christ (John 13:35; Romans 15:5; 1 Corinthians 12:20-26; Ephesians 4:1-3; Philippians 2:1-4; 1 Peter 3:8, 9). In light of this, I am excited to see the many steps being taken today toward unity in the body of Christ. I know that just as my athletes will be more effective united, so too the body of Christ can be more effective in serving Christ when it functions as one. However, as we make efforts toward being one in Christ, we must make sure we are striving toward an authentic unity and not a false unity (2 Corinthians 6:14-17; 2 John 9-11).
      While I desire to see my players united, I recognized that in the process of bringing them together I could not compromise the core values of our program. I realized that without holding my players accountable to values such as hard work, and respect for each other, all I would end up producing was a unity that was built on a weak foundation. As we see efforts taken in the body of Christ toward unity we must be certain these efforts are built on the correct foundation. We must remember that there are fundamental, non-negotiable truths that as Christians we can never compromise. Truths, such as salvation being found only in the person of Jesus Christ, are the foundation that truly unites us as followers of Jesus Christ. Just as redwood trees share the same root system, Christians also share the same root system, which is grounded in God’s Word and the person of Jesus Christ.
      Let us seek to attain unity in the body of Christ, but as we do this let us desire a true unity, which is based on the truth of God’s Word and an authentic love for Jesus Christ and each other.
      What Does It Mean to Contend for the Faith?
      BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
      As Christians we are called to “contend for the faith that was once for all
      delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). The Greek word for contend refers to an
      intense effort or struggle like in a wrestling match. Thus, we as Christians
      are to be just like wrestlers in the sense that we are to display an intense
      effort in standing for the truth.
      In light of this, over the next few weeks I will be doing a blog series that will
      help equip you to contend for the faith. The goal of this series is to provide
      you with practical biblical principles that will enable you to discern truth
      from error. While we do this, the following are some key points to
      remember.
      First, our motivation in this process should be love (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
      We should never contend for the faith with an attitude of arrogance or with
      the mindset that our ultimate aim is to prove ourselves right. Instead, we
      should approach this ESSENTIAL task with gentleness and respect (1 Peter
      3:15). Yes, we do need to clearly distinguish truth from error, but let us do
      this with Christ-like love:
      “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a
      noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and
      understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to
      remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have,
      and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing”
      (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
      Second, we cannot judge the motives of a person’s heart. So often we try and
      act as judge and jury when it comes to evaluating the inner motives, attitudes
      and thoughts of others. However, while we can judge people’s doctrine
      (teaching) and their lifestyles, the heart of others can only be truly judged by
      God Himself. As Paul reminds the Corinthians,
      “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord
      comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will
      disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his
      commendation from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5).
      Third, let us strive to be known for what we believe rather than what we are
      against. Christians are often portrayed as being negative and critical of other
      people and their beliefs. We are often seen as formulating our beliefs as a
      reaction to what we don’t believe rather than what we do believe. While in
      any quest for truth there will be the need to expose error, let us not forget
      that the proclamation of truth will always have a greater impact than the
      detection of an error.
      Contending for the faith will bring us face to face with false teaching, and
      the most effective way we can deal with that is by exposing it to the truth of
      the Gospel message. As Jesus reminded the Jews who believed in Him,
      So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word,
      you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set
      you free” (John 8:31, 32).
      In part two, we will discuss the importance of biblical discernment.
      The Importance of Biblical Discernment
      Contending for the Faith, part 2
      A good friend of my family’s, Doug Mastriano, is a colonel in the army.
      Back in 1991 his regiment, the Second Armored Calvary, was sent to Saudi
      Arabia to take the lead in the ground war offensive against Saddam
      Hussein’s most loyal and motivated unit, the Republican Guards. As I talked
      to Doug about the various battles he was involved in during this Operation,
      he told me that the key to his regiment’s success was preparation. He said
      the following about how they prepared, “The training put an incredible
      difficult strain on the soldiers and their families, but it did sharpen us into a
      well-tuned machine. Almost every month there was some sort of live-fire
      exercises, maneuver training, border duty, headquarter exercises, and all
      sorts of battle drills to prepare us for that day, which even included a
      deployment to Turkey. We had trained for years for this day – and we were
      ready for it.” They were certainly ready for it, and because of what they did
      to prepare, and what Doug correctly attributes to the power of prayer, not
      one man was killed in his squadron.
      Like the soldiers of Doug’s regiment, we are also in a war. However, our
      war is not a physical one, but as Paul tells the Ephesians, it is spiritual:
      “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers,
      against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present
      darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly
      places” (Ephesians 6:12).
      Since we are not in a physical battle, Paul then goes on to describe the
      spiritual weapons (armor of God) that we are to utilize (Ephesians 6:13-18).
      Paul repeats this idea of Christians being in a spiritual war in his letter to the
      Corinthians. He reminds them that in this war they are to confront any
      human philosophy, belief system, ideology that stands in opposition to the
      Gospel of Jesus Christ:
      “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the
      flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine
      power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion
      raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey
      Christ…” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
      This task of confronting false teaching with the truth of God’s Word is an
      essential responsibility for every believer, as it helps to rescue those who are
      enslaved to its damning lies.
      In this war, we have a formidable enemy who will take any measure he can
      to deceive us from the truth of God’s Word. The Bible provides the
      following description of our archenemy, Satan. He is first described as
      our ADVERSARY, who like a lion in search of prey, seeks to destroy all
      followers of Jesus Christ. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary
      the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1
      Peter 5:8).
      Second, Satan is described as a DECEIVER of the whole world,
      “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called
      the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world” (Revelation 12:9).
      Third, our enemy Satan is describer as a LIAR and the father of lies,
      “He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the
      truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his
      own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
      Finally, Satan is described as one who MASQUERADES as an angel of
      light, “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.
      So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of
      righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds” (2 Corinthians
      11:14, 15).
      Like a person who wears a mask to disguise himself, Satan and his followers
      appear to be messengers of truth, when in fact their ultimate aim is to
      deceive and enslave others through false teaching. A key to Satan’s trickery
      is not that he necessarily brings an entirely foreign message, but that he
      twists the truth of God’s Word just enough to deceive his hearers. This is the
      exact tactic he tried to do when he twisted Scripture in his temptation of
      Jesus (Matthew 4:1-11).
      When you take into consideration the war that we are in, and the enemy that
      opposes us, it is no wonder that Scripture repeatedly warns us of deception.
      As you read the following verses, may they awaken all of us to the reality
      that we must be watchful/alert and contend for the faith:
      “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but
      inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
      “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your
      thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2
      Corinthians 11:3).
      “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit,
      according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the
      world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, 9).
      “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
      teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even
      denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift
      destruction” (2 Peter 2:1).
      “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you” (1
      John 2:26).
      In part three, we will discuss Satan’s plan of attack in his attempt to try and
      deceive us.
      Satan’s Plan of Attack
      Contending for the Faith, part 3
      What is Satan’s plan of attack in deceiving mankind? We find the answer to
      this question back in the Garden of Eden:
      “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the
      Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You
      shall not eat of any tree in the garden’? And the woman said to the serpent,
      ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall
      not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall
      you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not
      surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
      and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw
      that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that
      the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and
      she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis
      3:1-6).
      In this passage, we find that Satan has a two-step strategy in deceiving
      mankind.
      Through the question “Did God actually say”, Satan set forth the first step,
      which was to attack the very words of God.
      Throughout history, Satan’s attack on the words of God (Bible) has come in
      a variety of ways. One way he has done this is by attacking the
      INERRANCY of the Bible. In other words, Satan wants us to believe that
      the Bible is full of errors and is not trustworthy. The Jesus Seminar is an
      example of a group of scholars that have promoted this idea. With the task of
      re-examining the traditions surrounding the historicity of Jesus, and in
      particular his deeds and sayings, these scholars came to the conclusion that
      the majority of what Jesus said and did was not historically reliable. They
      contend that the Gospel material on Jesus is saturated with mythic elements
      and fanciful imagination on the part of the early church.
      This attack has been fruitful as many seminaries today teach that the Bible is
      a human invention composed of myths. As a result, a whole generation of
      pastors, missionaries, and Christian schoolteachers has been taught to deny
      key aspects of the Christian faith such as the virgin birth and the physical
      bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      Besides attacking the reliability and divine origin of the Bible, Satan attacks
      the PRIORITY of Scripture. Satan has effectively done this through
      entertainment. Through movies, television, sporting events, etc., Satan finds
      ways to get us to focus our time and energy on personal pleasure, rather than
      upon personal spiritual growth, which comes through prayer and the study of
      God’s Word.
      The sad reality is that many churches have now adapted this strategy in order
      to promote growth. Some proponents of the church growth movement assert
      that the common ground we have with non-believers is not the Bible, but our
      common needs, hurts, and interests as humans. Therefore, we must find
      another starting point besides the Bible to draw them into our churches.
      Thus, through the use of various marketing techniques, church growth
      experts seek out ways to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ palatable to the
      non-believing world. As a result, pastors who use to rely upon the preaching
      of the Word of God as their main source of instruction, now rely upon
      personal stories, jokes, skits, pop psychology, and various media outlets to
      instruct their congregation. Yes, the seed of Satan’s attack on the priority of
      God’s Word has resulted in the creation of spiritual institutions of
      entertainment, where the preaching of God’s Word has been replaced with
      feel good theology: “For the time is coming when people will not endure
      sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves
      teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the
      truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4).
      Satan has also attacked the CLARITY of Scripture as he tries to get us to
      believe that we really cannot know with certainty what the Bible teaches.
      Some of the key proponents of the emergent movement endorse this idea
      about the Bible. According to them, an understanding of the Bible has to
      occur through an ongoing conversation. They contend that we should have a
      “generous orthodoxy” where we welcome differing views and perspectives.
      Doubt is something that should be embraced as a virtue as no one can claim
      to fully know the truth. A key spokesperson for this movement claims that
      we should always question what we think we know about the Bible, as he
      contends that the Bible is a slowly evolving human understanding of God.
      Despite his elevation of doubt and the need to question, this man has
      recently asserted with “certainty” that a literal hell does not exist and that
      Jesus is not the only way to the Father.
      While conversation and asking questions is beneficial for ones’ spiritual
      experience, we need to get beyond mere talk to a set of convictions on what
      we believe, and why we believe it (reason for the hope that is in us, 1 Peter
      3:15). Let us not follow the same path of those who are always learning but
      never able to arrive at the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7).
      A final way Satan attempts to undermine God’s Word is by attacking the
      SUFFICIENCY of Scripture. Through extra-biblical revelations and
      personal experiences, Satan deceives mankind into believing that the Bible is
      not adequate enough in their spiritual journey. This type of attack is what we
      find in cults today, where they claim to possess some form of divine
      revelation, which is equal to or greater than the Bible.
      Besides cults, this idea is prominent in many charismatic circles where it is
      taught that personal encounters with God should not only be expected but
      are on the same authoritative level as Scripture. One key person of this
      persuasion made the claim that as we follow God we have to learn to go
      beyond what we know [Bible]. Through this type of theology, the church has
      been saturated with every sign, wonder, and spiritual experience imaginable.
      While it is true that the Spirit is alive and active in our lives, we must
      remember that it is the sufficiency of Scripture that equips us to live a life
      that is pleasing to God: “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).
      After attacking the Word of God, Satan then moves to his second step in
      deceiving mankind, which is to replace the Bible as the final source of
      authority. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve initially trusted in God and
      looked to Him alone as their final authority source in knowing right from
      wrong. However, after Satan attacked and undermined the words of God, he
      was then able to deceive Adam and Eve into believing that they no longer
      needed God. Instead, they could trust in themselves. With the promise that
      they would be like God, Satan had successfully replaced God as the final
      source of authority in Adam and Eve’s life.
      Since the beginning, Satan has been actively trying to create an authority
      crisis for us. He knows that without the solid foundation of Scripture, we
      will be left vulnerable to his deceptive and crafty ways. Our adversary
      knows that without the Bible we no longer have an absolute standard by
      which to determine and discern truth from error. Without God Word’s, Satan
      knows we are left defenseless in this spiritual battle as we have relinquished
      one of our greatest weapons, the Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17; see
      also Hebrews 4:12). Therefore, if we want to avoid not being led astray and
      ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11), we must look to Scripture
      as our final source of authority.
      In the next part, we will discuss the key principles of biblical discernment.
      Keys to Biblical Discernment
      Contending for the Faith, part 4
      One of the most inspiring athletes that I have ever read about was Charlotte
      Brown. In case you do not know who this is, she won a bronze medal her
      senior year in high school for pole vault in the state of Texas. While winning
      a medal in states is a great accomplishment, this is not what caught my
      attention as I read her story. What caught my attention is that Charlotte ran
      down the 130 foot plus runway, carrying a pole around 10 feet in length,
      vaulting over 11 feet in the air, while being blind.
      While Brown’s story is certainly inspiring, and is an excellent reminder
      about displaying perseverance and determination in the face of challenges
      and obstacles, her story also carries with it another important lesson. In this
      amazing feat by Brown, she had to count her steps and incorporate a beeper
      to tell her when to plant the pole. Without having these safeguards in place
      she would not have known where she was at on the runway, which in turn
      would have prevented her from successfully making her vault. So too in
      our spiritual walk, we need to create safeguards to help provide us with
      guidance and wisdom. In light of this, the following are some biblical
      principles that I have employed to act as my safeguards in helping me
      discern truth from error.
      Principle #1: No Compromise
      A friend recently notified me that he would be attending the conference of a
      prominent Christian pastor. Even though he acknowledge that this pastor
      taught things that were not in line with God’s Word, he still was going to
      attend because, “Some of what he says is true.” Another person I know
      attended a church where it was public knowledge that the pastor had been
      involved in a number of extra-marital relationships. Despite this reality, my
      friend continued to attend the church telling me “Everyone makes mistakes.”
      So often we find ourselves, just like my two friends, easily justifying our
      decision to compromise what we know to be true. Certainly there are aspects
      of the Christian faith that are left up to each individual conscience, (see
      Romans 14) but when it comes to issues of doctrine that are clearly laid out
      in Scripture, compromise at any level is categorically rejected. For example,
      in a culture that valued hospitality, the apostle John warns his readers not to
      invite anyone into their home who brought another teaching: “If anyone
      comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your
      house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his
      wicked works” (2 John 10, 11). The Apostle Paul also warned the believers
      in Ephesus not to be partakers with those who were promoting the idea that
      Christians had the freedom to live as they wanted to: “Let no one deceive
      you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes
      upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with
      them” (Ephesians 5:6, 7).
      The idea of not compromising should be self-evident for Christians,
      especially in light of the fact that we are called to contend for the faith (Jude
      1:3). However, the church is currently wrestling with the idea of
      compromise as it listens to the modern day call for of “unity” and
      “coexistence”. While this call for unity takes on different forms, I have
      primarily seen it infiltrate the church in two specific ways. First, I have seen
      Christians unite with non-Christians for political reasons. With a desire to
      promote conservative values, doctrinal walls are being broken down. For
      example, one key spokesperson for the religious right endorses a worldview
      that teaches that Jesus was a man who became a god and one day we, too,
      can become gods. Despite this heretical teaching, this gentleman has been a
      guest speaker at a number of Christian universities and has even been
      acknowledged as a fellow believer in Jesus Christ by many leading
      evangelical pastors. The goal to “reclaim our culture” has taken precedence
      over doctrinal truth by many in the church.
      Second, I have seen Christians compromise in their cooperation with the
      global call to eradicate the “greatest” dangers facing mankind, such as
      poverty, slavery, and global warming. One evangelical leader has
      specifically made it his mission to eradicate poverty and educate the poor.
      Through his global peace plan he engages in interfaith dialogue with people
      from every religious persuasion. In fact, this gentleman has been a key
      spokesman for Pope Francis’ call for people of every religion to unite to
      defend justice, peace and the environment. While there is definitely a need
      for the church to stand against social injustices, this type of compromise has
      produced churches that no longer make the preaching of the Gospel of
      primary importance. As a result, this compromise has left many churches
      only meeting the physical needs of man, while ignoring his greatest need,
      which is the condition of his heart. Just as it was with the Apostle Paul, we
      must remember that our primary calling is to bring the Gospel message to
      the lost “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and
      from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins
      and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me [Christ]” (Acts
      26:18).
      In our call to contend for the faith and to be equipped to discern truth from
      error, we must recognize that we cannot compromise the Gospel of Jesus
      Christ. We must be like the believers in Ephesus who were commended by
      Jesus Christ because they would not bear with those who are evil, but have
      tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be
      false (Revelation 2:2). The dangers of compromising with those who preach
      another Gospel have eternal consequences and were one of the reasons Jesus
      had to rebuke the church at Pergamum. Listen to His words of rebuke and
      may we “hear what the Spirit says to the churches”:
      “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the
      teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the
      sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice
      sexual immorality. So also you have some who hold the teaching of the
      Nicolaitans. Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war
      against them with the sword of my mouth” (Revelation 2:14-16; see also
      Jesus’ rebuke to the church at Thyatira-Revelation 2:18-29).
      In our next post we will examine the second principle of biblical
      discernment, which is to test all things.
      Keys to Biblical Discernment
      Contending for the Faith, part 5
      Principle #2: Test all Things
      The next principle in contending for the faith is we must test all things. As
      Paul tells the Thessalonians, “but test everything; hold fast what is good” (1
      Thessalonians 5:21). In other words, they were to carry out a careful
      examination (test/prove) of what they heard. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
      makes the following comment about this verse:
      “The meaning here is, that they were carefully to examine everything
      proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust; to take
      it on assertion; to believe it because it was urged with vehemence,
      zeal, or plausibility. In the various opinions and doctrines which were
      submitted to them for adoption, they were to apply the appropriate
      tests from reason and the word of God, and what they found to be true
      they were to embrace; what was false they were to reject.”
      The Apostle John also reiterates this injunction to test all things, “Beloved,
      do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from
      God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
      Just as one would use a test to determine the purity and value of a metal, so
      too we are to test the purity and biblical accuracy of all teaching and
      teachers who claim to speak on behalf of the Holy Spirit.
      As we test/prove all things, keep in mind the following four specific areas:
      authority source, predictions, doctrine, lifestyle, and supernatural
      manifestations. These areas are essential in discerning whether a particular
      teaching and/or teacher are in line with the Word of God.
      As it relates to the final source of authority, you will often find in false
      teaching teachers who place themselves above God’s Word. These teachers
      often function as tyrannical rulers who manipulate and control others, as was
      the case in Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:20). Many will even claim to have
      received special revelation from God that only they are privileged to, and as
      a result everyone should listen and trust in them as God’s true messenger.
      Often you will find false teachers claiming that as God’s anointed, they are
      above being corrected or rebuked. One prominent TV evangelist made the
      audacious claim that he has received a special “anointing” from God, which
      entitles him to demand from God, such things as the power to heal and
      perform miracles. We should never submit to the authority of any individual,
      who himself is not submitted to the words of God.
      Any true teacher and teaching from God will always appeal to God’s Word
      as the final source of authority. People, who are truly anointed by God, do
      not walk around with pride and a sense of entitlement. They do not seek to
      lord it over others, nor demand God to act in accordance to their will.
      Instead, those who are favored by God will always exalt Him and His Word,
      “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in
      spirit and trembles at My word” (Isaiah 662b). A true spokesman for God
      will always want you to test them to make sure what he/she teaches lines up
      with God’s revealed Word. This is exactly why the Apostle Paul praised the
      Jews in Berea, for “they received the word with all eagerness, examining the
      Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Let us, too, be
      noble like the Bereans and test everything according to our final source of
      authority, the Word of God.
      Another area we should be testing is the predictions made by teachers. In the
      book of Deuteronomy, God has provided us with a way to identify false
      prophets. Specifically, if what a person predicts does not come to pass then
      we know that the individual has not spoken on behalf of God. “And if you
      say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not
      spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word
      does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not
      spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of
      him” (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). In other words, a track record of one
      hundred percent accuracy will always accompany a true prophet of God.
      This test is vital especially as we see the rise of end time predictions, and the
      prophetic movement. In regards to end time events, many teachers have
      come forward claiming hidden knowledge and wisdom about when Jesus
      Christ will return. One recent example was Harold Camping of Family
      Radio. Based on his own private calculations he predicted that Jesus would
      return on May 21, 2011, which would then usher in five months of global
      catastrophe, culminating with the final destruction of the world on October
      21, 2011. Despite a previous false prediction for the end of the world
      (September 6, 1994), many people sold all they had and traveled across
      America proclaiming Camping’s end time scenario. While prior to his death
      Camping did repent of his false prediction, his teaching left many people
      spiritually devastated. We need to recognize that, with all the problems
      facing us today (terrorism, economic hardships, diseases, natural disasters,
      etc.), we will continue to face a barrage of prophecy experts who, like
      Harold Camping, will forecast their own personal end time scenarios. While
      I personally believe that we are seeing the signs that Jesus said would occur
      prior to His return (Matthew 24), we must make sure that we do not follow
      teaching that goes beyond what the Bible has revealed (Matthew 24:36).
      Along with end time predictions, there has been a growing belief by many in
      the church today that the offices of prophet and apostle are being restored.
      Thus, just as the Old Testament had prophets like Elijah and Elisha, today
      we also have modern day “prophets” who claim to directly hear from God
      and speak on His behalf. Despite the test that we are given in Deuteronomy
      18, leaders of this prophetic movement contend that mistakes by prophets
      should be expected. In fact, they assert that if we do not give God’s
      “prophets” today the freedom to make mistakes then we inhibit their ability
      to mature in their prophetic gift. The danger of this statement is that many
      people have been spiritually deceived by the mistakes made by so-called
      immature prophets. This is why God told us to test anyone who claims to be
      a prophet so that we could know with certainty whether or not they have
      truly come from Him. Unfortunately, just like it was during the days of
      Jeremiah, many in the church today take pleasure in listening to the
      flattering words of false prophets, “An appalling and horrible thing has
      happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at
      their direction; my people love to have it so…” (Jeremiah 5:30, 31).
      In a time when everyone seems to be receiving personal revelations from
      God through dreams and visions, we must test every claim by the Word of
      God. If we fail in doing this, then as the Apostle Paul warned the church at
      Colosse, we might find ourselves being disqualified, “Let no one disqualify
      you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about
      visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast
      to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together
      through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God”
      (Colossians 2:18, 19).
      In our next post, we will look at the final three areas that we should put to
      the test: doctrine, lifestyle, and supernatural manifestations.
      Keys to Biblical Discernment
      Contending for the Faith, part 6
      Principle #2: Test all Things
      Another area we should be testing is doctrine. In fact, Jesus said that we
      could know a false prophet by their fruit (doctrine). “Beware of false
      prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous
      wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15, 16). The
      Israelites were also to carry out this doctrinal test to avoid being led away by
      false prophets:
      “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you
      a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to
      pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not
      known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of
      that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is
      testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your
      heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God
      and fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and
      you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).
      While we should test all doctrine, one specific area of importance is
      Christology. If you study the Apostle Paul’s teaching, you will find that
      Jesus was the central focus, “And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not
      come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.
      For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him
      crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:1, 2). As was the case with Paul, the preeminence
      of Christ will always be a defining mark of true biblical teaching. Thus,
      while true biblical teaching exalts Christ, false teaching will often diminish
      Him, which in turn will provide an incorrect understanding of His nature.
      This was exactly the case with the false teachers John had to warn about in
      his first epistle. In fact, it was in the context of these teachers’ denial of the
      incarnation that he called his readers to test the spirits:
      “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they
      are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this
      you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has
      come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is
      not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was
      coming and now is in the world already” (1 John 4:1-3).
      A distorted view of Jesus is a common trait among cults. For instance, one
      group teaches that Jesus was not divine, but merely a created being who,
      before He lived on the earth, was Michael the archangel. In addition, another
      group teaches that Jesus was a man who became a god, and one day we too
      can become gods. Unfortunately, a non-biblical view of Jesus is not only
      relegated to the cults. In the church today, there are those who endorse the
      idea that we are more than human flesh and share in the divine nature of
      Jesus (“little gods theory”). Others in the church teach that Jesus’ death on
      the cross was not to provide our atonement but to identify with the poor.
      Along with these examples, there has been a steady move in the church
      today away from an emphasis upon Jesus and the cross to an emphasis upon
      signs, wonders, and the needs of man. As a result, many churches have
      become breeding grounds of man-centered theology; where man is exalted
      over Jesus Christ.
      As we do our diligence to test all doctrine, let us heed the words the Apostle
      Paul gave to the Galatians, “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”
      (Galatians 1:8, 9).
      Another area we should test is the lifestyles of all teachers. We live in a day
      when people flock to churches for the specific purpose of sitting under the
      teaching of a dynamic speaker. I remember a conversation with a person
      who told me the sole reason she attended a church was because the pastor
      was a powerful communicator. While there is nothing wrong with a teacher
      having charisma and being effective in relating to his audience, this quality
      should not be our final determiner in why we attend a church or follow a
      particular ministry. We need to get beyond the outward appearance and
      evaluate/test the way that a teacher lives and make sure that his/her life lines
      up with God’s Word. While all people are subject to mistakes (1 John 1:8),
      we should seek out teachers who strive for holiness in all areas of their life
      (1 Peter 1:13-16). We should look for men and women whose goal is to
      reflect Jesus Christ in all they do, “whoever says he abides in Him [Jesus]
      ought to walk in the same way in which He walked” (1 John 2:6).
      As you carry out this test, you will often find that false teachers are
      motivated out of greed. With catchy clichés and phrases, they seduce and
      manipulate their audience to give them their money. I once heard a
      prominent teacher claim that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing, while
      another teacher asserted that God would respond to the prayers of his
      listeners if they first “sowed a seed” (gave a monetary contribution) to his
      ministry. What a contrast to the Apostle Paul who reminded the Ephesian
      elders that he had never coveted their personal belongings:
      “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able
      to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are
      sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know
      that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me.
      In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help
      the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It
      is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:32-35).
      Along with greed, sexual immorality is often found among false teachers,
      who often prey upon the emotions of others to fulfill their own personal lusts
      and desires. While it is true that only God can fully know the heart and
      intentions of an individual, we can still test the fruit of a person’s life. This is
      vital in helping us avoid being deceived by the flattering words of a false
      teacher. As Peter warned his readers:
      “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false
      teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even
      denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift
      destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the
      way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you
      with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their
      destruction is not asleep” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
      In our next post, we will look at the final area that we should put to the test:
      supernatural manifestations.
      Keys to Biblical Discernment
      Contending for the Faith, part 7
      Principle #2: Test all Things
      A final area that we should test is supernatural manifestations. This is an
      important test because we are certainly seeing a rise in the church today with
      claims of miraculous signs and wonders. For instance, there have been
      claims of God’s Spirit manifesting Himself during services in the form of
      gold dust and rain that falls down from the ceiling. Others have claimed
      manifestations of uncontrollable laughter, spiritual drunkenness, body
      convulsions, and a burning sensation as signs of the Holy Spirit indwelling
      them. Under God’s anointing, one prominent evangelist knocks people over
      by just blowing on them, while another evangelist claims to have the ability
      to change water into wine just as Jesus did in Cana (John 2:1-11). Spiritual
      practices such as soaking and fire tunnels are all promoted as ways to bring
      us into the presence of God and access His glory. Mystical schools are even
      being promoted to enable people to operate in trances, raptures, signs and
      wonders, revelatory understanding, and spiritual travel. As a result of all of
      this, many have adopted a Christian faith that exalts experience over
      doctrine. Thus, like the crowds that followed Jesus, they are left waiting for
      the next sign and wonder (John 6:30). As one pastor told his congregation
      after they experienced God’s presence in the form of a glory cloud, “We
      may not have an idea or clue what we are doing and certainly [we] don’t
      know what to do next.” Quite a contrast to the early church, who after being
      filled with the Holy Spirit, knew exactly what to do, “And they devoted
      themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of
      bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42).
      As a kid who grew up in the Assembly of God Church, I was certainly
      blessed to recognize the active role that the Holy Spirit had in my life.
      Through this upbringing, I was also exposed to various manifestations that
      were attributed to the Holy Spirit. Fortunately, as I encountered them I had
      a father who taught me to test all things by the Word of God. As I did this, I
      came to recognize that not all signs and wonders were from God. Some
      were actually human fabrications, while others were demonic in origin, as I
      had witnessed similar phenomena when I was in Haiti (voodoo) and India
      (Hinduism). In light of this reality, the following are two important biblical
      reasons why we should test all supernatural claims. First, we are warned by
      both Jesus and Paul that false christs and false prophets would arise and
      deceive people through signs and wonders:
      “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs
      and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”
      (Matthew 24:24).
      “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all
      power and false signs and wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:9).
      Second, Jesus taught His disciples that not everyone who performed
      miracles and prophesied in His name were truly from Him: “’Lord, Lord, did
      we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in
      Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I
      never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matthew
      7:22-23). Miracles, signs, and wonders by themselves do not prove one’s
      power is from God. In fact, as we have already seen, Satan masquerades as
      an angel of light as he deceives people through the supernatural. He [Satan]
      draws believers away from Christ to self-professing miracle workers (2
      Corinthians 11:13-15). Through the supernatural (healings and miracles)
      Satan arouses excitement within believers as he leads them to worship the
      creation rather than the Creator.
      While God still intervenes today in miraculous ways (healing, protection,
      etc.), we still need to have discernment and be alert. In addition, our greatest
      desire should not be to experience signs and wonders, which was one of the
      reasons Jesus’ rebuked the crowds who followed Him, “Unless you see signs
      and wonders you will not believe’ (John 4:48). Instead, our greatest desire
      should be to know Jesus Christ:
      “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
      Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of
      knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of
      all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ
      and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes
      from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the
      righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him
      and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings,
      becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may
      attain the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7-11).
      In our next post, which will be the last on in our study on biblical
      discernment, we will look at our final principle: pursue spiritual maturity.
      Keys to Biblical Discernment
      Contending for the Faith, part 8
      Principle #3: Pursue Spiritual Maturity
      I have been coaching high school soccer for the past 20 years. One of things
      I emphasize to my players is that if they want to be a successful and
      competitive player, they must first master the basics. In other words, they
      must learn to effectively pass, dribble, shoot, etc. Players that fail to do this,
      always end up struggling in their development as they are never able to
      move on to more advanced skills. As a result, many of them never getting
      beyond the basics, these players fall short in reaching their potential.
      This, too, is the case in our spiritual lives as we will not grow if we do not
      go beyond the basics of our faith. This was the problem with the Corinthians
      and is why the Apostle Paul could only feed them with milk and not solid
      food, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as
      people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food,
      for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you
      are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are
      you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-
      3; see also Hebrews). Let us heed this warning and get beyond the milk of
      our faith. In fact, if we want to be effective in contending for the faith, we
      must pursue spiritual maturity. It is only by doing this can we be better
      equipped to discern truth from error:
      “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone
      to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You
      need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled
      in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for
      the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by
      constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14).
      So what are some things that we can do to grow spiritually? As it relates to
      the specific issue of having discernment and contending for the faith, the
      following are a few things that each of us should do. First, we must meditate
      upon God’s Word (Joshua 1:8). In other words, we must study, reflect and
      apply God’s Word on a daily basis. As we do this, we need to employ an
      effective method of Bible study. Tools, such as commentaries, Bible
      dictionaries, etc., can be great ways to help us better understand the passages
      that we are studying.
      Second, we need to have an intentional prayer life (Colossians 4:2). Rather
      than just praying quick prayers with a laundry list of needs, we need to be
      men and women who separate time each day to seek the Lord.
      Third, we need to develop a good theological library. Beyond commentaries
      and Bible dictionaries, we should also acquire good books on theology. Like
      putting the pieces of a puzzle together, these sources help supplement our
      study of God’s Word, by giving us a clearer picture on topics, such as who is
      God.
      Finally, we need to seek out solid teachers. Along with having a pastor who
      can expound upon God’s Word, everyone should create a database of
      teachers and/or ministries that you can go to on a variety of doctrinal issues.
      These ministries, which specialize in researching specific topics from a
      biblical perspective, are great ways to find information in an effective and
      time-consuming manner. As new teachings and ideas continue to come to
      the forefront, it is extremely helpful to have these teachers and ministries at
      your disposal.
      These steps, along with others, are great ways to grow in our faith. It is
      through this growth that we can avoid being led away by error, as we stand
      firm upon the Word of God:
      “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be
      found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the
      patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul
      also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all
      his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some
      things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and
      unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other
      Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care
      that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and
      lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our
      Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and to
      the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:14-18).”
      As we conclude our study on biblical discernment, my prayer is for God to
      empower everyone reading this with the wisdom and knowledge to “contend
      for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). Until the
      day the Lord returns, we must never grow weary in this task. The
      implications of this battle for truth are eternal, so “keep a close watch on
      yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save
      both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). Pursue righteousness,
      godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the
      faith… guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and
      contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it
      some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you” (1 Timothy 6:11, 12,
      20, 21).

    • Jim,

      While I appreciate the comments, I am not sure the exact issues you have with the Christian faith. The very essence of the Christian message is a rejection of human autonomy. In fact, Jesus told His followers to deny themselves take up their cross and follow Him. In other words, the Christian faith starts with us yielding our lives to Him. This concept is one of the reasons why people reject Christianity. They despise any concept of giving up their autonomy and freedom.

      Many atheists have made the claim that Christianity will eventually die. Reality shows that it is still thriving. Keep in mind that Christianity transcends America, and places like Africa and the Middle East see genuine followers of Jesus who are giving their lives each day at the hands of their oppresses.

      Regardless of our worldview, we are all faced with answering 4 main questions:

      Who am I
      Why am I here
      How should I live while I am here
      Where am I going

      I have found Jesus to be the best and most satisfactory answer to these questions.

      While I don’t know the core problem(s) that you have with Christianity, I know many who reject it because of the poor examples that are given by those who claim to be Christians. If you can relate to this, just remember that we are not called to put our our faith in people, but into the person of Jesus Christ.

      Thanks,

      BJ Rudge

  3. Pingback: Not So Polite Dinner Conversation – questions posed to an atheist – Club Schadenfreude

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