Friday, April 8, 2016

Part 2: Preaching the True Gospel. Avoiding Heresy

Characteristics of Heresies
In 1972 I was on staff at a church in Southern California that had sprung up during the Jesus Movement. The spiritual hunger of those days produced a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit causing churches overflow with young people and hippies who had surrendered to Jesus Christ. There was also a rise in false religions, new age, and occult practices. One of the heresies of the day was the Moonies. A few of them visited our fellowship one evening and tried to convince me that their group’s beliefs were based on the Bible. I quoted the Bible pointing out a number of their teachings that contradicted scripture. They seemed a little stunned and had no real answer, except that they would discuss these issues with their leader. The next week they returned. But this time their argument was that “the Bible is just another book and full of errors,” and they had revelation higher than the scripture.

This is the pattern of deception. The leaders tell the unstable, unlearned, and gullible that their teaching is biblical and based on scripture. But the further the person goes into it, he is subtly, and often imperceptibly, lured away from the Bible. Those Moonies' leader initially told their converts they stood on scripture. But when confronted with my Biblical objections, the leaders then told their followers to ignore the Bible.  

Here are four characteristics of heresies:
1.    Their beliefs deny or twist some aspect of the person and work of Jesus Christ.
2.    They deny or twist the scripture or major portions of it. They often present themselves as Biblical, but then lure their followers away from scripture.
3.    They avoid the Apostle Paul and His writings.
4.    They claim their group is the only ones saved and going to heaven, or they believe that everyone is saved and going to heaven regardless of beliefs or lifestyle.

 The apostle John tells us to “believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they be of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 1 John 4:1.

The Apostle Paul warns us not to accept any gospel message other than what was preached by him and the early apostles. We are not to change or deny what was received by the first Christians as recorded in the New Testament and demonstrated in the book of Acts. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1: 8-9.  
His word is a warning against anyone changing the message and is also a command to all Christians of all ages to be faithful to the message preached by the apostles and received by the first Christians.

The Traditions We Follow Must Be Biblical.
2 Thessalonians 3: 6
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks not…after the tradition which he received from us.” 
Paul is referring to the Gospel as he and the other apostles preached it, and to the practices of the early church as demonstrated in the New Testament and in the Book of Acts. Jesus warned that human tradition, created by man and passed down as sacred, has the potential to blind us to scripture or cause us to deny or make void God’s word.
Mark 7:8-9, 13
“Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the traditions of men….Full well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your own tradition.
Making the word of God of no effect through your tradition, which you have delivered…”

Man-made “traditions” can be new or ancient. As stated above, our traditions must be Biblical in doctrine and practice. Cults and heresies often quote “ancient tradition” as if the term “ancient” gives it credibility. At one point in their history many of the Jews were worshipping Baal. And so a Jewish person could quote the doctrine of Baal as an ancient tradition. But that would not make it any less an idolatry. The true church must believe the entire Bible, Old and New Testament, and seek to follow the message and practice given to us in scripture. The book of Acts and the Gospels are our model, pattern, and example.



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