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Friday, March 09, 2007

Avoiding Pitfalls

by Sharon

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.
-Romans 16:17-18-

Some years ago a non-denominational church invited a popular "Christian" group of musicians to make a guest appearance and lead worship. But there was a problem. Unbeknownst to the church leadership, this particular group of musicians held to a faith that did not affirm the essential Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Rather than being "Christian," they fell into the category of "heretic"; therefore, according to the church's codified principles, these musicians could not occupy the pulpit or platform of the church.

The musicians, when questioned about their beliefs, dealt deceitfully with the church's leadership. They deftly sidestepped direct questions and answered others with carefully crafted sentences that employed liberal use of double entendre.

The church investigated the charges of heresy brought against the musicians over a period of several weeks, examining strong, documented evidence that clearly supported the allegations. Eventually, church leadership reached the conclusion that the charges were false. Ignoring the documented evidence they had seen, they reasoned thus: The musicians were nice folks, they sang of Christ, and they insisted they'd been falsely (and maliciously) accused; nice people who sing of Christ don't lie. Therefore, since these nice musicians were telling the truth -- that they were orthodox in their beliefs -- they were welcomed to lead worship at the church.

I was reminded of this experience today as I viewed a five-minute portion of a sermon by John Piper. Preaching on the Bible passage above, Dr. Piper explained that people who depart from true doctrine do not appear to us as monsters, mean and brash and pushy. Rather, the words Paul used in his description indicates false teachers win followers by appearing to bring a blessing. Their speech is pleasant, plausible and kind -- totally winsome. They are nice, gentlemanly, fair-minded and humble.

In the scenario I wrote about above, it was these sorts of attributes that won the day for the non-Trinitarian musicians. Unwelcome evidence was set aside in favor of enjoyable fellowship. One church leader explained, "I don't think they deny the Trinity. I've had dinner with them, and they are really nice people."

Sometimes what we want to believe has such a strong hold on us that we turn a blind eye to what is truly evident. Someone is nice, so we trust him. Someone is a pleasure to listen to, so we automatically accept what he says. Someone is fun to be with, so along we go; wherever he goes, we follow.

"Watch out for them," writes Paul. "Avoid them." Because they don't serve the Lord Christ; instead, they deceive the hearts of the naive (i.e., those who are undiscerning; those who ignore the evidence). It's a warning to be heeded for, as Jesus taught, "if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14).

I appeal to you, friends: Watch out.

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  • At March 09, 2007 5:15 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    Their was a guy not long ago, many viewed him as a normal loving kind all american white guy. He went to collage, held degree's from collage to the point he even knew law.

    I could go on about this guy, but we cannot judge a book by his cover, he told you exactly what you wanted to hear in order to get you to follow him. Any guesses as to who this guy was?

    His name is TED BUNDY, Some figure he killed close to 300 people, well never know the exact amount of women he killed, he toyed with police, even told them he killed women in the 3 figure range.

    But even if he killed only 1 women, a death is a death. So lets not simply look at how nice these people are, or simply believe every word they say, lets look at all the facts, lest they be serial killers trying to take us out. And when it comes to where we will spend eternity this could mean heaven or hell for ever. Rick b

  • At March 10, 2007 11:40 AM, Blogger Andrew said…

    I have to disagree with the over arching view of the author's point.

    Paul's main rivalries in the faith were those Christian's who wanted to maintain the law and thereby make of the gentiles a second class citizen in the faith (or better yet, not a citizen at all). He was encouraging the Romans to avoid those who would say "my Christianity is better than yours and you need to be like me". The ones he was telling them to avoid were, in effect, trying to place a monopoly on the Grace of God, so that others would have to come to them in order to be judged qualified. Paul encouraged the new converts to avoid them because, like the Pharisees, they were right and everyone else was wrong, and it is impossible to hold a conversation with someone caught up in that kind of thinking.

    I am sure there was some arrogance driving the Pharisees and later the Christians who wanted to be on the top tier, but mostly I see it as fear. They say most bullies do what they do out of a need for control. The Pharisees ran around pointing out where everyone else was wrong. Like bullies, it gave them a sense of security to put others beneath them. Paul later dealt with the Christian version of the Pharisees (they never really go away).

    The thing is, the Pharisees were not wrong. In a technical sense, they were not wrong to say many of the things they said (even against Jesus). However, they had a horrible attitude about people. I am sure they would have said, "Hey, we are just showing we love them by telling them the truth!" Jesus didn't buy that line then, and I think we should reject it now.

    Jesus probably would be judged a heretic by many of today's Christian churches. He would probably fail at many points of orthodoxy, and he would enjoy the company of people who annoy most Christians.

    We would be like the Pharisees and Zealots of his time. We would want him to fight against the immoral structures, speak out against an ungodly society, help us separate wheat from the chaff. Join us in the battle of us vs. them. Stand for truth!

    He would look at us with loving bewilderment. "Umm... I was just gonna head down to the park to spend the day talking to the homeless, but I would love to have you join me".

    We would shake our heads as he walked away. Slowly, we would convince ourselves that it was not him but a false Christ that was trying to deceive us. Having ferreted out another false Christ, we would walk away a little deeper in our pride than we had been formerly.

    I don't think Paul was telling us to avoid people who did not believe rightly about doctrinal points such as the trinity. Remember Paul's core point was "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.” The people Paul was telling them to avoid were those Christians who thought they were better than everyone else (they did not see themselves as foremost among sinners... they were sure they had it together). He wanted us to avoid those who felt we had to measure up to their standard in order to be acceptable to Christ.

    Jesus dealt with these people, Paul dealt with these people, and we are still dealing with them today.

  • At March 24, 2007 2:46 PM, Blogger BearBoi said…

    "The church investigated the charges of heresy brought against the musicians over a period of several weeks,"

    What a small, pathetic little world these people must live in where THIS is the most they have to fill their days with? How sad. People came to sing in the Church and instead they were subjected to a Witch Hunt. I'm just shocked the preformers even bothered to stay - I'd have left in a heart beat and taken my Harp with me. My voice and songs are a gift from God, and if the pettinesses of mortal men who mistake their Egos for god disagree, they can go back to Idol Worshiping themselves. They have my pity, but that’s all folks!

  • At April 03, 2007 7:53 PM, Blogger Arthur Sido said…

    Just curious Andrew. You said...

    "Jesus probably would be judged a heretic by many of today's Christian churches. He would probably fail at many points of orthodoxy, and he would enjoy the company of people who annoy most Christians."

    At what points of orthodoxy does Jesus fail? That is a bold claim and a serious indictment. It demands some proof.


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