by Mike Ratliff
Little children, keep yourselves from idols. (1 John 5:21 ESV)
My bags are packed. We have finished the first leg of our trip and tomorrow we fly to Washington, DC. This morning I received an email from a friend imploring me to go to his site and follow a link he had setup to a discernment site that had information on a very well known Christian “leader” who most believe is the numero uno “exegete” in the Church. I have many of this man’s books and use some of them in my research for these articles even though I disagree with him on some very important issues. As I read what he had written, my first reaction was to dismiss it as an attack by the enemy to divide the elect. However, I did pray and ask God to show me what to do. I followed the link and was very surprised by what I found.
The “data” about this person came in two parts. The first was an actual interview with the man so it contained his very own words saying things that really surprised me. The second part was an interview with another man who had done extensive research into this man’s ministry showing that despite what he preached, his actual ministry was very wrapped up in the Purpose Driven Church model and the leaders in it used Total Quality Management techniques in their structure, utilizing dialectical methods in their small groups. I went from surprise to amazement to disgust to repentance. I found that I had, in part of my own reverence for this man, elevated him to a level that is not right for any of us to hold. This is a form of idolatry my brethren. Of this, I repent.
All through the couple of hours I spent in listening to these interviews this morning, I kept asking myself why someone who looked so right and who was such a good teacher of the word would compromise like that. What could have happened to cause this? Then the answers came. We are fallible creatures my brethren and when we become elevated in people’s eyes we become very vulnerable to the temptation to compromise. The owner of the website hosting these interviews and his own commentary on them stated that he did not believe the man was really a Christian based upon what he said in the first interview. Is it possible for a non-believer to be so well educated in Greek and Hebrew and have the right personality to look so right while our Lord does not even know Him?
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)
Now, let me say right here that I have heard this man preach on this very passage when referring to men such as Rob Bell or other emergents, et cetera. What irony if he is also in that group! We have studied this passage quite a bit this year so I won’t break it down for you again. However, in the context of the Sermon on the Mount from which I took it, our Lord contrasts true prophets of the Church and false prophets by their fruit. Also, the true prophets are shepherds of the sheep who obey their Lord in all things by preaching the Word. On the other hand, the false prophets fruit is seen in the contrast of what they preach with the actual results of their ministry. Even if they are 90% right on what they preach, that 10% that is of the devil nullifies it all because this is the unsound doctrines that cause the sheep to come under the domination of the world and the flesh.
Tabletalk magazine for the month of October had many fine articles on hypocrisy. What is it? It is being two-faced. There is the image everyone sees and then there is reality, which is quite different. I find it truly amazing that anyone who would profess to be such a lover of God’s Word would also condone putting the sheep in his church under the bondage of ‘communitarianism.’ Spurgeon spent the last several years of his ministry fighting the Great Downgrade of the Church in England. This is the dummying-down of the Church through watering down the Gospel with an emphasis on ecumenicalism. Communitarians are all about reinventing the Church into a social network to effect temporal change in the here and now to make the world a better place. Sounds nice, but at what cost? Instead of ensuring the spiritual health of their flocks by making sure each knows the Lord and is being properly discipled according to the Word of God, they create social networking groups that receive only bare-minimum Biblical teaching if any.
My brethren, we are told in God’s Word to imitate only the Apostles in our service of God. We err badly when we elevate our leaders to that level. I prefer to read and follow the teaching of those long gone saints who were not contaminated by the sickness so prevalent today in which mere men are elevated to levels of superstar status. This is idolatry my brethren.
Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Corinthians 13:5 ESV)
Are you following mere men or are you following the Lord Jesus Christ? When I was a young Christian in the late 1980’s I had a job that allowed me to spend a lot of time driving around our city. During that time I had my radio on a Christian Talk Radio station. There were three very well known Bible teachers that I listened to religiously as I did that. I elevated them on pedestals that should have reserved for my Lord alone. That was idolatry. Interestingly, one of them was forced out of his church for a moral failure. Another has revealed over the last several years his ecumenical and compromising tendencies. Now the last of the three has been revealed to be the hypocrite of hypocrites. This has caused me to examine myself and ask God to reveal all of the idolatry that I am holding to. I have asked this so I can smash the altars in my heart in which I have committed this grave sin in my idolatry. This is painful, but necessary.
Examine yourselves my brethren…
Soli Deo Gloria!