Wednesday, November 16, 2016

a challenge

Starting this week, I am going through 25 days of readings focused on the advent season, a season which celebrates the coming of the Messiah. The first readings have taken me back to the Old Testament, where, from the very beginning, it is clear that Jesus has eternally existed as God's plan of redemption for mankind. The basics of the Gospel - that God created man in His image, yet man is engulfed in sorrow and hopelessness because of sin (Isaiah 59:2), and sin carries with it necessary judgement (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22), that because of His great love for His creation, God provides a way of atonement for sin and access to God through His Son, Jesus, who is the perfect and final sin sacrifice (Isaiah 53:7, John 1:29), and even beyond all that, God holds His people close to him, fulfilling His promises, and causing "all things to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20) - are present from Genesis onward.

This is the gospel. This is THE GOSPEL. 

I have never been one to "follow" popular Christian writers/bloggers/speakers. I think I was just born at the right time; back before social media and online blogs and huge Christian conferences were televised and streaming live (and yes, I appreciate the irony of my writing this in a blog post). Combine that with the fact that since He saved me, God embedded in me a love for His Word and allowed me to be raised among believers who were committed to "accurately handling the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15) and it makes sense that over time, I have found my interest in these other writers' opinions waning. My limited time to read and study goes to simple study of the Bible itself, rather than reading "books about the Book" as my Idaho pastor would say. I know there are many who will immediately feel the need to defend these other books, because they have been encouraged or uplifted by what these writers have said. While I am sure there are nuggets of truth in any writing based even loosely on the Bible, no other writing holds the authority that true Scripture does. In Colossians, Paul warns believers not to be led astray by "philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8). Those believers were being inundated with the teachings of Judaizers and philosophies of the Gnostics, losing hold of their grasp of the supremacy of Jesus Christ and His message. They needed the warning and challenge from Paul to lay aside what they were hearing from these people who sounded so convincing and focus instead on the One who saved them. We need the same warning and challenge. 

When Christian leaders start teaching a gospel contrary to the Word of God, it is time to let go. It is not time to excuse the behavior, to try to justify their intentions or find the few nuggets of truth that may still be lurking behind the lies. It is time to separate ourselves from the falsehood and cling to the Truth. This is the challenge I am putting to all of us today - let go of these teachers and bloggers and writers who deny THE GOSPEL and turn again to the Word alone. It is absolutely enough. 

As he was preparing to die, the apostle Paul wrote one final letter. The fact that these words are the ones he chose to be his last strikes me with profound conviction, sadness and urgency for the state of modern Christians:

"I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths. But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you." (2 Timothy 4:1-5, NLT). 

We don't have Judaizers and Gnostics knocking at our door; we have a multitude of bloggers and authors and speakers all trying to convince us that their version of the truth is correct. Some may be wonderful, but the only way we will be able to separate the good teachers from the wolves in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15) is to truly know the Word of God ourselves, to know the Gospel as taught in Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, and to be committed to it, so that we can present ourselves approved to God, unashamed workmen who accurately handle the word of truth. 

Beware, my fellow believers. Do not be led astray; cling to the only Truth you can always trust.