by Mike Ratliff
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. (1 Timothy 1:18-20 ESV)
We have been looking at examples in the last several posts of a confused mess within the visible church. There are most definitely those who remain faithful in their orthodoxy while there are those who most definitely are “out there” in their apostasy. The confusion comes into play when we witness those with a very positive witness theologically making very unwise decisions with whom they fellowship or endorse. We also have some who have the right theology, but also embrace elements of the Emergent Christianity, which is heretical on many levels because of its unbiblical nature and its ecumenical inclusion of elements from other religions. This intermixing of things is where the confusion comes to bear. I attended a “mega-church” this last Sunday that has a fine pastor. He is theologically very sound. The church has many fine, biblically sound practices. However, it is amazing how conformed it also is on many levels to the very same new age nonsense that I have to put up with at the Catholic Healthcare System that employs me to manage their databases. They have banners hanging in their lobby that are nearly identical to the ones that appear on our newsletters at work as we are being called to “come together” more as a team, to engage, et cetera.
Before going on, please read the passage I placed at the top of this post, 1 Timothy 1:18-20. From this we learn that we are all called to hold faith and those who reject that make a shipwreck of their faith. Please remember that.
We had our quarterly staff meeting at work today and one of the speakers mentioned within a span of less than two minutes that our company’s main emphasis was to be there as an instrument of the healing ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ and then began praising one of our employee encounter groups for their efforts in being so spiritual and coming together as one with a motto that was actually a Buddhist prayer. She even gave the name of the Buddhist monk who authored it. They showed a picture of the group planting sunflowers as a group activity in one of their meetings on the overhead. I knew almost all of them and that they were all Emergent in their religion using terms like “centering prayer” instead of “reflection” to begin our meetings.
What does this say? It says that the undiscerning that claims to be Christian are that way because they lack something vital that the discerning Christian does have. What do you suppose that would be? It is an active, believing, living faith. The faithful are not so just because they try harder. We saw that in yesterday’s post that the faithful are so because the Lord works through them for without Him, we can do nothing (John 15: 5). This includes discernment. Therefore, when we see professing Christians including other religions within their “faith” then we know that they are counterfeit. Jesus is not in that. Faithfulness is a determinant of Christian authenticity. To say mysticism is just as valid as Christianity in getting to God is a marker of unfaithfulness and Christian disingenuousness.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (2 Timothy 2:1-3 ESV)
Here we see what has derailed so many or broken the string of faithfulness in our time. The baton of faithfulness has not been passed to faithful men, which will be able to teach others also. How often do we see a great man of God die or retire, then a young man replaces him, and everything changes? The old guard is run off. The church goes new age or emergent and there you go. However, this disaster has averted the need to suffer as a good soldier of Christ Jesus though because now these fellows are friends of the world… Well, you get the idea. However, if we stand against these “ministries” or “leaders” by showing from God’s Word what is wrong, we are suddenly the bad guys. We are the bullies. We are the ones not being Christlike. I suggest that those with that mindset go read some of our Lord’s rebukes in John 6 with his “hard preaching” against those who wanted to follow him, but all they really wanted was the good stuff without the repentance.
Now the no-fun stuff; I have prayed for wisdom in this. I am not God. I am finite. I do not know who the elect are. God does though. He knows who are His. I am convinced that as I read His Word that He does allow His people to err. We sin. We are not perfect. Therefore, it is possible for a theologian to make theological errors or errors of fellowship, et cetera. However, I am just as convinced by studying God’s Word that anyone who commits High-Handed sin is not regenerate. Christians will sin, but they will walk in repentance. They will not walk in rebellion as a way of life. Therefore, when we see professing Christians getting worse and worse in their apostasy, we must conclude that they are to be excluded from fellowship and exposed as wolves in sheep’s clothing if they are confronted and they do not repent. On the other hand, if we do confront these men about their sin and they do repent then we must accept that and include them in fellowship as long as they remain in that repentance.
Marks of apostasy would include the inclusion of religious rites or practices from other religions including mysticism in all its forms. This puts Emergent Christianity in the hot seat right away doesn’t it? Well, we must be discerning here and I see a lot of my friends doing a fine job of that. What about the Church Growth movement stuff? The main issues with it are its inclusion of the world in the Church. It has tried to make each local church a church for the unchurched. This is lunacy and unbiblical. They use a gospel message that is powerless and has created a large body of professing Christians who are totally Biblically illiterate. All they know is their religion they have at their PDC church that is based totally on works righteousness.
What about New Calvinism and the Acts 29 Network? Where New Calvinism intersects and includes Emergence Christianity there is the problem. It is a merging of good theology with a man-based focus, which is called being “Missional.” It is a merging of Calvinism with works righteousness in an attempt to accomplish some sort of world “reformation.” This is Dominionism. I personally think this is the most dangerous one of these, but time will tell.
Do you see a commonality in these things? Yes, it is here. Where is our focus supposed to be and where is it in these things?
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 ESV)
These movements, or whatever they are, are all based on a man-focused agenda. The Christian’s focus should be where? We are to seek the things that are above where Christ is. We are to be focused on Christ, to be doing His will, not ours or any man’s will. Stop being conformed to man’s religion and start being conformed to Christ and His mission. That means that we set our minds on Christ and obeying Him in all things regardless of what people say or do. This means that we are to share our faith with everyone who will listen. We are to grow as Christians by living in the Word of God and obeying Him in all things. We are to suffer by His grace and, when the time is right, we will join Him. I personally think that is the best part of the whole deal.
Soli Deo Gloria!