Distasteful Doctrines: Intolerance & Exclusivity – Part 8

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)

We live in a time of competition for church members; a time where success is measured primarily by numbers and income. There is no end of teachers, writers or churches who will present what feels good and tickles the ear. There is no shortage of churches that provide programs, support groups and myriads of resources that will “meet your need”.

This wouldn’t be so alarming were it not for the fact that many uncomfortable or unpopular issues are avoided because they aren’t “good marketing” and don’t put behinds into pews. The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being sorely neglected today and that’s a shame because they are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly – or you have studied them personally.

  • Hell
    Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
  • Sin
    It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Quick, somebody tell Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
  • Liberty
    You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
  • Suffering
    Suffering is seen as something today that either is caused by a lack of faith, or is something to avoid and alleviate immediately as all costs. Does God have a use for suffering? Does He allow it? How are Christians supposed to think about suffering? We’ll examine the Bible to see if God agrees with today’s opinion about suffering..
  • Christian Discipline
    In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
  • Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
    We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
  • Intolerance & Exclusivity
    There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.

Intolerance & Exclusivity

By nature and necessity, Christianity is intolerant. It claims only one way and one person through which salvation possibe. It is by default, exclusive. If there is only one way to be saved, then you are excluding all other ways.

There is NOTHING more unpopular, or hated, in today’s religious and spiritual climate than those who are intolerant and exclusive towards other people’s “beliefs”. We live under this insane idea that anyone and everyone can believe anything they want, and all beliefs are equally valid. That is absurd on so many levels, it would be hard to know where to start refuting it. Only in “religion” can that nonsense exist. Can you imagine scientists or doctors or lawyers or accountants or airline pilots having the same mentality? Just believe and practice whatever you want. Everyone has the right to fly an airplane however they want. It would be chaos. That’s exactly what we have today: spiritual chaos.

It has become very fashionable to be “spiritual”. All the popular and pretty people are doing it. It’s okay to talk about “God” or your “higher power”. Just a few years ago, it was only the “nut” who talked publicly about such things, but today it is very “cool” to be spiritual.

As I have watched this trend, the subtlies of the Enemy have been interesting to observe. First, it was hip to be “spiritual” but you never were very specific about what that meant. It was kind of “you do your thing, and I’ll do mine”. Then it became acceptable to talk about “God” specifically, and to thank him, or acknowledge “the main upstairs”. This only caused a stir when someone actually defined their “God” to be the Creator God of the Bible which would draw quaint little condescending remarks. Until recently, you almost never heard the name “Jesus Christ” because once you mention Jesus, now you are specifically talking about Christianity, and it is the ultimate politically incorrect statement to imply that Jesus is the way to salvation.

This trend has been around for many years and sadly the entire spectrum of every indecent, immoral and worldly celebrity or athlete wears a cross around their neck, thanks “God”, or professes some sort of “spirituality” regardless of how they live their life. I will never forget seeing a hip-hop female music group, barely dressed, perform a raunchy dance number then get up to receive an award and thank the “father in heaven” for blessing them with all they had achieved. It was truly sad and sickening to witness.

A recent celebrity trend, at least in American culture, has been to “thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. Just the other night, I saw a very provocatively half-dressed female singer perform a song, then in the interview afterwards thanked “her Lord and Savior” and just wanted “whatever God’s will is for my life”. That’s all the right evangelical Christian words. The sad part is, I don’t think she was being insincere at all – which demonstrates how worldly the average church has become. I got every impression that she was truly sincere about her Christianity but so poorly discipled that she didn’t realize the contradiction between her faith and her very immodest dress and sexually explicit song.

What was most interesting to me though, was that her comments about her “Lord and Savior” and “God’s will” did not even phase the audience or the interviewer. Just a few years ago, you would have been able to feel obvious discomfort at such statements, or sense the ridicule towards someone who spoke publicly about Jesus. I believe it is an ingenius tactic of Satan’s to allow these phrases to become common place and virtually meaningless in our society. It’s okay to say it, it’s okay for YOU to believe such things, as long as you don’t ever imply that someone else should believe them. Can you imagine what would happen if a celebrity were to say, “I would just like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and just want to follow God’s will for my life. And by the way, everyone listening to my voice or watching this on TV…. if you don’t repent of your sins and turn to Jesus as the only way to salvation, you will spend an eternity in hell separated from God”. Career over.

Just yesterday, I was listening to a very popular national talk show host rant and rave about how it is “wonderful” if people want to privately live their religion, and that he respects everyone who diligently practices what they believe. He even proclaimed his own belief in “God”. He finished though with a tirade about how you are “stepping over the line” when you imply that someone else must believe the same way as you to be saved. He insulted, degraded, and lambasted every person who thinks that their “religion” is the only “truth”. He thoroughly tongue-lashed every person who believes there is only one truth and one way to be saved.

Of course we all know who that group is in America: fundamentalist, right-wing, intolerant, homophobic, bigotted evangelical Christians. With each passing day, the line is drawn clearer, and the division between “religion” and Christianity grows wider. Religion is popular now; spirituality is cool. Even “christianity” and “Jesus” are “okay” to talk about in public. However, should you declare that there is only ONE way to be saved and ONE Person through whom salvation comes, then you will be immediately scorned, insulted, dismissed and roundly ridiculed.

We are quickly coming to the point where “exclusivity”
will divide true Christianity from the rest of the world.

I read a transcript of a radio interview the other day that included a true Christian, an athiest and four other representatives from world religions talking about “what happens when you die?” The four “religions” spoke of love and light, and how you went on to all the good things you wished you always had. All four of them spoke plainly and directly about how “good works” determined your fate after death and while you may get some “punishment”, ultimately, we all end up in heaven. Two of these four claimed the Bible as their “holy book”. Overall, their answers were very vague, very flexible, indirect and inoffensive to ANYONE who may have been listening.

The Christian and athiest both spoke in definitive terms declaring ONE truth, albeit it opposites. They were quickly separated out as the “extremists” and you could almost hear the other four panelists snickering and patronizing their “obviously ridiculous” beliefs. The athiest declared that once you’re dead, that’s all there is. That is not a popular sentiment in an increasingly hopeless world. The Christian stated that salvation was found in no other religion or person other than Jesus Christ as declared in the Holy Bible, God’s Word. You can imagine the response that drew with four other world religion representatives sitting at the same table.

Here’s my point: it is a very ingenius trick of Satan to bring the world to the point where it’s okay to be religious, it’s okay to talk about God or Jesus or spirituality… as long as you don’t imply that there is only ONE truth.

Acts 4:10-12 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (NKJV)

The courage to draw the line and declare the exclusive, intolerant truth found in God’s Word is fast becoming what divides true Christians from the world. It will not be long before it will be considered a “hate crime” to declare only one way to salvation, and quickly following that will come persecution for it. The storms clouds of persecution are building on the horizon my friends. Will you be ready for that day? Are you ready to declare in the face of physical consequences: “There is only ONE way!”?

Lord, Help us to be bold in proclaiming Your Son as the only way to be saved. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:36)


Distasteful Doctrines: Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment – Part 7

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)

We live in a time of competition for church members; a time where success is measured primarily by numbers and income. There is no end of teachers, writers or churches who will present what feels good and tickles the ear. There is no shortage of churches that provide programs, support groups and myriads of resources that will “meet your need”.

This wouldn’t be so alarming were it not for the fact that many uncomfortable or unpopular issues are avoided because they aren’t “good marketing” and don’t put behinds into pews. The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being sorely neglected today and that’s a shame because they are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly – or you have studied them personally.

  • Hell
    Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
  • Sin
    It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Quick, somebody tell Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
  • Liberty
    You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
  • Suffering
    Suffering is seen as something today that either is caused by a lack of faith, or is something to avoid and alleviate immediately as all costs. Does God have a use for suffering? Does He allow it? How are Christians supposed to think about suffering? We’ll examine the Bible to see if God agrees with today’s opinion about suffering..
  • Christian Discipline
    In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
  • Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
    We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
  • Intolerance & Exclusivity
    There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.

Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment

We hear much about God’s love, and well we should. God loved sinful humanity so much, that He sent His Only Son to suffer and die to pay OUR penalty for sin. God is the source of love. Love is not simply a characteristic of God; love originates with God and love exists because it starts with God and flows out from Him. Love does not exist without God; love cannot be defined without God. That would be like trying to define the taste, smell, texture, shape and color of “orange” if the orange fruit didn’t actually exist. You couldn’t have “orange-flavored” or “orange-scented” without the existence of oranges. It’s where orange comes from. Same thing about love. You can’t have love without God; it’s where love comes from.

We don’t have a very hard time understanding or embracing God’s love. It’s perfect; it’s wonderful; it feels good. Everything about God is perfect. That’s true about His love, right? The Bible also says that God is a God of jealousy, wrath and judgment. Are those “character flaws”? Are those aspects of God perfect, good and right just like “love” is?

If there is something “bad” about God’s wrath, then we serve a God who is not perfectly perfect. If there is something “wrong” with God’s wrath, then how can we trust Him about everything else? If there is something “unloving” about God’s judgment, then Christianity as a whole has got big problems.

On the other hand, if God’s jealousy, wrath and judgment are perfect, just and right – like His love – how come we rarely hear these aspects taught? Did God mess up somewhere along the way? Is God somehow “negative” for revealing these parts of His character to us? Shouldn’t we just focus on love and blessing and abundance and mercy and forgiveness – avoiding such unpleasantness as jealousy, wrath and judgment?

Let’s think about that for moment. God’s jealousy is every bit as revealed in Scripture as His love is. Are we to determine which parts of God’s character are more palpable, enjoyable or effective than others? God’s wrath is just as clearly revealed as His mercy; is it our job to decide that “wrath” is not the right approach to teaching people about God? God’s judgment is just as prevalent in the Bible as His forgiveness is. Are we to avoid the subject of judgment because it is both politically and religiously unpopular to declare God’s judgment on people?

The answers are all obvious, but reality doesn’t line up. Stated in the safe context of a Bible Devotional, we will all safely agree that God’s jealousy, wrath and judgment are part of the Bible and part of God. But when it comes to witnessing, discipling, evangelism or preaching, these aspects of God become quite uncomfortable and for the most part avoided. Those who present a balanced view of God and speak of His jealousy are labeled as “harsh”; those who teach of His wrath are “unloving”; those who teach of His judgment are “intolerant”. I believe this is the result of two things: 1) a misunderstanding of these characteristics; and 2) giving in to the world’s pressure about how God should be presented.

First, to think in any way that there is something “wrong” or “negative” or “bad” about God’s jealousy, wrath or judgment is simply to misunderstand them in the first place. Think about what it means to have the opinion that something about God is “less” than something else about Him. In other words, do you think that God’s wrath is somehow inferior to, less needed, or less important than God’s love? To have this opinion is to unconsciously believe that God is not perfect in all ways.

God is not perfect IN SPITE of His
jealousy, wrath and judgment;
God is perfect IN LIGHT of these attributes.

If God is jealous, it is perfect, pure, righteous and necessary jealousy. If God displays wrath (anger), then it is perfect, pure, just and righteous anger. If God judges, it is perfect, necessary and just judgment.

If that is true, then we are wrong for avoiding the subjects; we are spiritually less mature than we should be if we are not aware of and educated about ALL the attributes of God; and we insult God by deciding that one thing about God should be used to reach the lost (love and forgiveness) and avoid the distasteful parts that will “scare people” away (jealousy, wrath and judgment).

Of course, we as humans will have a different response or feeling to wrath, than we will to mercy. Our reaction of Godly fear and trembling are naturally appropriate in response to hearing about God’s judgment. We don’t embrace God’s jealousy the same way we embrace His love. Just because our reactions are uncomfortable and sometimes painful, it does not justify avoiding the subjects for the sake of presenting a “user friendly” Christianity. God has revealed to us all He wants us to know about Himself. It is not our place to pick and choose which parts of God we will declare. We are to teach and preach the truth in the same balance that God has revealed it to us in His Written Word. With that said, let’s take a look at what the Bible says….

A Jealous God

The jealousy of God means that God can not, and will not, give up His rightful place or glory to any one, or any thing. There is only one true God and the things that are true about Him are true about Him alone. God will not – nor is it possible – for Him to share His rightful dominion and honor with anyone or anything else. In a VERY imperfect sense, we can begin to understand this when we experience jealousy. If another man attempts to charm my wife away from me, I am jealous because she is rightfully mine and someone else is trying to take away what belongs only to me, as her husband.

This is a very shallow glance at God’s jealousy; however, while we are motivated more by feeling and insecurity, God is not “motivated” to jealousy… God is jealous because it is the natural and perfect response to anything or anyone that attempts to deny God His rightful place in the world, His rightful dominion in our life or His rightful supremacy in all creation. God is jealous because He knows full well the consequences that occur when we turn our attention to something or someone other than Him. God’s jealousy originates from a pure and perfect reality of who God is, and what God is.

  • Exodus 34:14 (for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), (NKJV)
  • Deuteronomy 4:24 For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. (NKJV)Nahum 1:2 God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; The Lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, And He reserves wrath for His enemies; (NKJV)
  • Joshua 24:19-20 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.” (NKJV)

God will not give up His rightful place. He will not share time with other gods no matter what form they take – idols, religion, money, recreation, etc. God is a jealous God and that jealousy is perfect, just and holy. We do well to learn about it, and understand it, rather than avoid it.

God’s Wrath

God is angry about sin. Look what it has done to His creation. Look what is cost His Son. Look what it does to our lives. God’s anger is not the kind of frustrated irritation or annoyance that humans have. God’s anger is motivated from perfect righteousness and love. God’s anger is 100% justified and right. God’s anger is not “negative” or some character flaw God is still working on. God’s anger is pure and holy; justly deserved and properly administered. In a nutshell, God’s anger is His response to the presence of sin.

  • Romans 1:18-19 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. (NKJV)
  • Romans 2:5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, (NKJV)
  • Revelation 19:15-16 Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (NKJV)

Make no mistake, God is angry about sin. There is coming a day when God’s wrath in all its fury will be poured out on those who have rejected Him and insulted Christ’s sacrifice. Rather than avoid this reality, we would do well to warn those who stand to suffer God’s wrath.

The Judgment of God

If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “the Bible says don’t judge”, I could buy a small country. Quick, somebody inform God because He has promised to judge the entire world. For the record, what the Bible teaches is “don’t judge in a manner that will bring judgment on yourself” (Matt 7.1). In other words, don’t be a hypocrite. But that’s another lesson.

God has proclaimed many judgments throughout time. He judged Adam and Eve in the garden (Gen 3); God judged the entire world before the flood (Gen 6); He judged the Israelites (2Kings 17; 2Kings 24); a judgment occurred at Calvary (Matt. 27:33–37; Isa. 53:1–10; Ps. 22:1; Heb. 2:9; 1 Pet. 2:21–25; 3:18); the Jews were judged via the Romans (Matt 24; Luke 19) and the Lord judged the local churches (Rev 2-3).

God is a God of judgment (Heb. 9:27; Acts 17:31). He will judge every person on how they responded to His call of repentance; and He will judge the works of His children. Our actions will be judged on the last day (Matt. 25; Rom. 14:10, 11; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7–10). Jesus will judge all things (Acts 17:31; John 5:22, 27; Rev. 1:7). Every single person will be judged (Matt. 25:31–46; 1 Cor. 15:51, 52; Rev. 20:11–15) and the fallen angels will be judged (2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 1:6).

God’s judgment will be final (Ecc 11.9), universal (2Cor 5.10), righteous (Rom 2.5), decisive (1Cor 15.52) and eternal (Heb 6.2). No one will be able to argue the just nature of God’s judgment because all the secrets of the heart will be revealed (1 Cor. 4:5; Luke 8:17; 12:2,3).

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

God’s jealousy reminds us that we need to be careful about letting anyone or anything take the place of what only belongs to God. God’s wrath gives us a proper perspective on His attitude and opinion concerning sin. God’s judgment helps us to remember that everything we do is important and has eternal and temporal consequences.

Lord, Help us to learn everything we can about You, even the uncomfortable things. Give us wisdom to understand Your jealousy, wrath and judgment. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Do you think God’s jealousy, wrath and judgment are as important as His love? Have you ever considered that God is jealous?

Application:God’s jealousy reminds us that we need to be cafeful about letting anyone or anything take the place of what only belongs to God. God wrath gives us a proper perspective on His attituded and opinion concerning sin. God’s judgment helps us to remember that everything we do is important and has eternal and temporal consequences.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:36)


Distasteful Doctrines: Church Discipline – Part 6

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)

We live in a time of competition for church members; a time where success is measured primarily by numbers and income. There is no end of teachers, writers or churches who will present what feels good and tickles the ear. There is no shortage of churches that provide programs, support groups and myriads of resources that will “meet your need”.

This wouldn’t be so alarming were it not for the fact that many uncomfortable or unpopular issues are avoided because they aren’t “good marketing” and don’t put behinds into pews. The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being sorely neglected today and that’s a shame because they are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly – or you have studied them personally.

  • Hell
    Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
  • Sin
    It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Quick, somebody tell Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
  • Liberty
    You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
  • Suffering
    Suffering is seen as something today that either is caused by a lack of faith, or is something to avoid and alleviate immediately as all costs. Does God have a use for suffering? Does He allow it? How are Christians supposed to think about suffering? We’ll examine the Bible to see if God agrees with today’s opinion about suffering..
  • Christian Discipline
    In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
  • Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
    We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
  • Intolerance & Exclusivity
    There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.

Church Discipline

I don’t know whether to chuckle or cry when I hear the nonsense about how spanking (when properly administered by loving parents) teaches kids to be “violent”; or, it teaches them that “the powerful bully the weak”. When I got my behind busted for disobeying my parents, I felt like being anything but violent, and I certainly didn’t sit around pondering my plight as the “weak and oppressed” who was being taken advantage of by the “strong”.

No, when I got disciplined (translated: a whuppin’) I was all of a sudden acutely aware of the consequences of my choices. At that point, I had two choices: 1) continue to disobey and face even worse consequences, or 2) see the error of my ways, repent of my wrongdoing, conform to what I knew was right, and have the loving, peaceful relationship restored with my parents.

In a nutshell, church discipline is meant to do that exact same thing but on an adult level. Like parental discipline however (and school discipline, and societal discipline, and personal discipline), church discipline has virtually disappeared, and when it does make an appearance, is often misapplied and misunderstood. The application of church discipline is all but considered an archaic Puritan process which has suffered from poor Bible teaching, weak moral foundations and fear of lawsuits.

When is the last time you studied or heard preaching on the subject? How many of your church leaders (who are the ones that should be shepherding the process of church discipline) could adequately describe the steps and reasons for church discipline? How many of your fellow Christians do you know that 1) understand church discipline, or 2) would have the courage to pursue it?

Another big setback for church discipline is the overall worldliness found in Churches today. It’s a little hard to enact church discipline in all but the most extreme cases because sin, immorality and worldliness are so prevalent in most lives, including the church leaders. As the overall level of holiness declines within the Body of Christ, the moral courage and foundation required to apply church discipline fades away.

Fear of lawsuits by disgruntled or embarrassed church members is the culmination of these factors. Someone gets disfellowshipped (the final step of church discipline) and put out of a church, and the next thing you know, your church is on the news being sued for multiple millions of dollars for harrassment, slander and “pain and suffering”. The entire community then comes down on you for your intolerance, judgmentalism and “unloving” ways. I don’t make light of this, it’s a very intense pressure on the church and frankly, it’s just easier to avoid than risk for the most part.

So what’s the solution? I have no idea. I know that PART of the solution is to accurately teach the process and purpose of church discipline, so let’s start there.

The Steps of Church Discipline

  • Matthew 18:15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. (NKJV)

    It’s not rocket science. When someone has openly sinned, they are first to be approached privately and confronted. Tell them their sin. Show them in God’s Word where what they have done is wrong. Make every attempt to allow them to confess and repent privately. If they do, the matter is over, the sinner is restored.

  • Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ (NKJV)

    If the sinning brother refuses to listen, then we are to take one or more witnesses with us so that there will be no question that erring person was properly confronted. Having other Christians there to witness the process not only assures fairness and accountability, but also signals to the unrepentent sinner that “this is getting serious”. It’s not private anymore. His sin has been found out. This adds a loving peer pressure and dramatically increases the consequences of ignoring the correction.

  • Matthew 18:17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. (NKJV)

    If the brother still refuses to repent, then it must be brought before the church. All of the believers of the local assembly must be made aware of the situation and the sinning brother is to know that the whole church now knows of his stubborness and unrepentant attitude. This increases the level of consequences and pressure even more dramatically. No longer is this matter private, nor is it just between a few people. The transgressor now stands to lose fellowship and reputation with his entire church family.

    If that is not enough to cause him to repent then the result is simple, but harsh: he is to be put out of the church and treated like a “heathen and tax collector”. In Biblical times the meaning of this was very clear. The disfellowshipped brother was not to be associated with, tolerated or allowed any participation in the lives of his fellow Christians. If this sounds incredibly harsh, it’s because it is. This final step was meant to force the unrepentent brother to face the full consequences of his choices and perhaps come to realize that his sin was not worth the results.

  • Matthew 18:18-20 “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” (NKJV)

    Notice the context of these verses: CHURCH DISCIPLINE. They have nothing to do with Christians binding Satan, or Christians “agreeing” that God will bless them or answer a prayer for them. This verse is smack dab in the middle of church discipline and relates directly to it. It is VERY common today to use this verse to support the ideas of positive confession and prosperity. Whatever your opinion may be of positive confession and prosperity, these verses can NOT be accurately used to support the idea. They are specifically speaking of church discipline.

    It was the authority of the Jewish Rabbis to “bind and loose” which means they could make an oath binding, or they could loose someone from it. They had the power to enforce an oath or contract, but under circumstances deemed worthy, they could free someone from the same. So in the context of church discipline, when we follow the steps properly, God is granting us the authority to restore the erring brother if they repent, or to turn him out of the church and over to Satan if he does not. This is the meaning of “bind and loose” in these verses, and it is also the meaning of “if any two agree”. If Christians follow the proper steps of church discipline, they have the authority to agree to put a person out of the church and God will honor that agreement; or, more importantly, to restore them to fellowship, and God will honor that decision.

    To pull these verses out of context and make them speak of “binding Satan” or support the teachings of “health, wealth and prosperity” are to simply RIP them from context, regardless of whether you agree with those doctrines or not. HEAR ME…. I’m not commenting on the correctness of those teachings; I am commenting on how verses are torn from context to support it. Understand the difference.

What Church Discipline Is, and Is Not

Let’s start with what it is not. Church discipline is not a witch hunt, a way to get even, the rumor police or a gossip factory. It is not a way to show how pious we are by pointing out the sins of others. It is not a dictatorial power play meant to show someone who has the real authority. It is not meant to embarrass or humiliate the recipient any more than what is necessary to help restore him.

Church discipline, like loving parental discipline, is meant to open the eyes of the sinner. It is meant to cause the transgressor to realize the consequences of willful, unrepented sin. It is meant to teach a person that you cannot shame the name of Christ with impunity and go on as if nothing happened. Church discipline, again like loving parenting, is meant to inflict just enough “pain” to make the person think long and hard about what they are doing and for them to see that they are destroying the fellowship they have with their Christian family.

The purpose of church discpline is to win back your Brother (Matt 18.15); restore the sinner to fellowship (Gal 6.1); lead the erring person to repentance (2Tim 2.25) and perhaps save the person from God’s severe intervention (1Jo 5.16). Church discipline is to be implemented without hypocrisy (Matt 7.1-5), in love, patience and with fairness. The purpose of church discipline is also to guard the purity of the Body (Titus 3.10-11), protect the doctrinal purity of the church (Gal 1.8) and deal with unnecessary arguing or dissension over sound doctrine (Titus 1.9).

In summary, church discipline is the process of restoring an erring Christian and protecting the purity of the Church. The teaching and implementation of church discipline has all but disappeared today and perhaps that is an indication of why the modern Western church suffers from ineffectiveness. To return to a proper balance, we must first have individual holiness which gives us a moral foundation upon which to act. Then we must teach and implement church discipline according to Scripture for all the reasons given in Scripture.

Easier said than done.

Lord, Help us learn, understand, teach and apply church discipline in the manner, and for the purpose You have declared. Help us to do it love, with patience and for the right reasons. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Have you ever even heard of church discpline? Have you ever seen it implemented? Why do you think God instructed us to use church discipline? What would your attitude be if church discpline had to be applied to you, or someone in your family?

Application: Church discipline is God’s method for keeping the church pure, and restoring a wayward Christian. It is to be done with love and patience, devoid of hypocrisy and motivated by a burden to restore those who have strayed into sin. Church discipline is hard to act on today because a holy foundation is missing, and because of simple ignorance of the process and purpose of church discipline.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:36)


Distasteful Doctrines: Suffering – Part 5

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)

We live in a time of competition for church members; a time where success is measured primarily by numbers and income. There is no end of teachers, writers or churches who will present what feels good and tickles the ear. There is no shortage of churches that provide programs, support groups and myriads of resources that will “meet your need”.

This wouldn’t be so alarming were it not for the fact that many uncomfortable or unpopular issues are avoided because they aren’t “good marketing” and don’t put behinds into pews. The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being sorely neglected today and that’s a shame because they are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly – or you have studied them personally.

  • Hell
    Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
  • Sin
    It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Quick, somebody tell Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
  • Liberty
    You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
  • Suffering
    Suffering is seen as something today that either is caused by a lack of faith, or is something to avoid and alleviate immediately as all costs. Does God have a use for suffering? Does He allow it? How are Christians supposed to think about suffering? We’ll examine the Bible to see if God agrees with today’s opinion about suffering..
  • Christian Discipline
    In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
  • Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
    We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
  • Intolerance & Exclusivity
    There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.

Suffering

The affluence of western society has made suffering a poorly understood subject. This aversion to, and misunderstanding of suffering has also led large segments of professing Christians to embrace ideas about suffering and poverty that are simply and unmistakably unscriptural.

“You are suffering because you’re stupid!” (Frederick K. C. Price, quoted in Crenshaw, Man as God, 156). Then we hear that suffering is only a lack of faith because God has put man in charge and we simply need to take authority, by faith: “If God is running everything, He does have things in a mess.” (Kenneth Hagin, The Interceding Christian (Tulsa: Kenneth E. Hagin Ministries, 1978, 14); the implication being that God is NOT running everything, we are. We have the power (faith) to clean up our “mess”. What is amazing is that the average Christian cannot discern for themselves the utter blashpemy of saying, “IF God is running everything….”

This aberrant teaching from well known Christian personalities is only part of the problem. The other difficulty comes from the sheer level of comfort, ease and wealth that most of us in Western society enjoy. You’re first reaction might be, “I AM NOT RICH!”

If you have clothes on your back, a roof over your head,
and do not have to worry about
where your next meal is coming from….
you are rich compared to most of the world.

We are taught both by society, and by an increasing number of Christian leaders, that suffering is not only to be avoided and alleviated, but that suffering represents a deficiency in your spiritual life and Biblical understanding. Hmmm….. I wonder if someone forgot to tell Jesus, the Apostles, the early Christians, the Apostle Paul and all those dear saints who suffer on behalf of the Gospel even today. If Fred Price is to be believed, then Jesus must have been the most stupid person on the planet.

Contrary to the modern belief that suffering is a lack of faith, that suffering is to be avoided at all costs and that suffering should be immediately alleviated under all circumstances – the Bible paints a much different picture of the purpose and blessing of suffering:

  • To produce the fruit of patience Rom. 5:3; James 1:3-4; Heb. 10:36
    • Through adversity Christians learn the blessing of long-suffering and delayed gratification.
  • To produce the fruit of joy Ps. 30:5; 126:5-6
    • It is easy to be joyful when times are good but you have authentic rejoicing when you experience it through suffering.
  • To produce the fruit of maturity Eccles. 7:3; 1 Pet. 5:10
    • Through affliction we discover the true reality of living in a sin cursed world. When we endure suffering with the attitude of Jesus Christ we are perfected, established and strengthened.
  • To produce the fruit of righteousness Heb. 12:11
    • Adversity, when responded to according to God’s word, will train us to be righteous and holy.
  • To silence the devil Job 1:9, 10, 20-22
    • God permits suffering and when we respond to it in a Christlike manner the accusations of Satan against us will be in vain.
  • To teach us Ps. 119:67, 71
    • The more we suffer the more God’s word becomes real to us and the less we will stray from obeying the Lord. It then becomes a good thing that we have suffered because it has resulted in increased Godliness.
  • To purify our lives Job 23:10; Ps. 66:10-12; Isa. 1:25; 48:10; Prov. 17:3; 1 Pet. 1:7
    • God tests, strengthens and purifies us through affliction. Our faith is much more precious than anything the world can offer and like pure gold it is refined in the fires of suffering.
  • To make us like Christ Heb. 12:9, 10; 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Phil. 3:10; 2 Cor. 4:7-10
    • As we suffer, we come to understand and better relate to the suffering that Jesus endured on our behalf. Through persecution and affliction we are conformed into the image of Christ manifesting through our bodies a living example of Christ’s sacrifice for us.
  • To glorify God Ps. 50:15; John 9:1-3; 11:1-4; 21:18-19; Phil. 1:19-20
    • Every time we respond to suffering with a Godly attitude, we bring glory to God in such an unselfish manner that it directs attention solely to God, and not to us.
  • To prevent us from sinning 2 Cor. 12:7, 9-10
    • God may permit us to suffer in order to keep us humble and to keep us from the sin of self-exaltation.
  • To make us confess when we do sin Judg. 10:6-7, 15-16; Ps. 32:3-5; Hos. 5:15; 6:1; 2 Chron. 15:3-4
    • There will be times when God uses suffering to force us to confront our sin and confess it. Enduring the effects of a sin cursed world heightens our awareness of sin and deepens our understanding of just how truly awful sin really is.
  • To chasten us for our sin 1 Pet. 4:17
    • Suffering may often times be a direct result of our own personal sin and God may be chastising us for it. Adversity motivates us to carefully examine our lives for holiness and devotion.
  • To prove our sonship Heb. 12:5-6
    • Adversity is like an identification badge for the Christian. Scripture clearly says, “that whom the Lord loves He chastens”. So any time that you suffer you can be sure of two things: that you belong to the Lord, and that He loves you.
  • To reveal ourselves to ourselves Job 42:6; Luke 15:18
    • When the pressure is on you can be sure that what is deep down inside of a person will come boiling to the top. When you squeeze a lemon, you get lemon juice. There is no way to fake what you are truly all about when you are under great stress or enduring significant adversity. You can be sure that what you are genuinely made of will surface not only for you to see but also for everyone around you to see.
  • To help our prayer life Isa. 26:16
    • There is no doubt that affliction helps our prayer life. For most people greater suffering equals greater prayer.
  • To become an example to others 2 Cor. 6:4-5; 1 Thess. 1:6-7
    • When we respond to adversity in a Godly manner it provides a living example for all those who observe us.
  • To qualify us as counselors Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; 2 Cor. 1:3-5
    • There is nothing like real-life experience to qualify you as a teacher. It is an academic exercise at best to proclaim truths that you have not lived and experienced.
  • To further the gospel witness Acts 8:1-5; 16:25-34; Phil. 1:12-13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-17
    • By enduring suffering with a Godly attitude we participate in validating the power of the Gospel. When another person sees you rejoicing in the midst of affliction they can’t help but wonder where you derive the power for such a response.
  • To make us more than conquerors 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:35, 37
    • As God proves faithful to see us through adversity we become more and more confident about the things of God. We become increasingly victorious over sin and “more than conquerors”.
  • To give us insight into God’s nature Job 42:5; Rom. 8:14-15, 18
    • Through suffering we know more about God and His purposes. We better understand His attributes, His nature and His sovereignty.
  • To drive us closer to God 1 Pet. 4:14; 2 Cor. 12:10
    • Whether we have actively strayed from God or are just in the sanctifying process of growing closer to him, suffering is an important means to push us and turn us towards God.
  • To prepare us for a greater ministry 1 Kings 17-18; John 12:24
    • Like the potter’s clay that is worked and reworked, or the lump of dough that is kneaded until soft and blended, affliction breaks us down, makes us soft and prepares us to be used by the Lord.
  • To provide for us a reward Matt. 5:10-12; 19:27-29; Rom. 8:16-17; 2 Cor. 4:17
    • It is a wondrous truth that God permits us to suffer for His glory and yet it turns out to be an incredible blessing for us, not only in this lifetime, but also through the eternal reward we will receive in Heaven.
  • To prepare us for the kingdom 2 Thess. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:12
    • Suffering prepares us for our eternal life with God. It conditions us, trains us and equips us to reign with Christ forever and ever.
  • To show God’s sovereignty Rom. 8:28; 1 Cor. 10:13; Ps. 66:10-12; Gen. 45:5-8; 50:20
    • The suffering Christian is a tangible demonstration of God’s sovereignty, who in His infinite wisdom can take all things (good and bad) and work them together for His ultimate glory and eternal purpose.

So you see the Bible paints quite a different picture about suffering. Does this mean we are to run out looking for suffering? No. There is plenty to go around – just wait, it will find you. When it does, don’t lament that you “lack faith” because of it. Rejoice that God has honored you and blessed you with a circumstance that will allow you to grow closer to Him, depend on Him more and see His glorious hand at work as He sustains you.

  • Hebrews 13:5-6 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (NKJV)

  • Psalm 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. (NKJV)

  • Philippians 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, (NKJV)

We live in a sin-cursed world. Suffering reminds us that the current creation has been corrupted and is not what God wants for us in the long run. Suffering keeps us from getting to attached to or enamored with this world which is soon to pass away forever. Suffering keeps our mind off striving for what the world offers and keeps us dependent on God. Suffering reminds us that we should be thinking eternally because this life will come and go in the blink of an eye.

Suffering is God’s way of saying, “hey, look up here; get your eyes off the world and your circumstances. I AM your hope and reason for living. Don’t get comfortable, you’ll be coming home soon.”

Lord, Help us to understand suffering from Your viewpoint. Teach us to discern the wrong teaching that is so prevalent today and embrace what Your Word says about suffering. When suffering does come, we pray that You will honor your promise to walk through it with us, never forsake us and be our ever present help in times of trouble. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: Have you ever thought about God’s purpose when it comes to suffering? Did you know that God has a purpose in suffering or did you just think it was “punishment” for something lacking in your life? Is suffering just a random fate that unlucky people have to endure? Have you ever suffered in any way that caused you to grow closer to God?

Application: God doesn’t cause suffering, and eventually He will relieve all suffering. But for now, He is taking what is bad and has turned it out for good (Rom 8.28). The Christian is to expect suffering and see God’s hand in it. We need to learn what the Bible has to say about suffering so that when it comes our way, we benefit from it, rather than lament it. For a more in depth study on suffering, see my series, “The Blessing of Tough Times” (http://www.seriousfaith.com/series_details.asp?seriesid=25)

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:36)


Distasteful Doctrines: Liberty – Part 4

(Click here to search for all the posts in this series…)

2 Timothy 4:4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. (NKJV)

(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)

We live in a time of competition for church members; a time where success is measured primarily by numbers and income. There is no end of teachers, writers or churches who will present what feels good and tickles the ear. There is no shortage of churches that provide programs, support groups and myriads of resources that will “meet your need”.

This wouldn’t be so alarming were it not for the fact that many uncomfortable or unpopular issues are avoided because they aren’t “good marketing” and don’t put behinds into pews. The Bible has many unpleasant topics. I call them “distasteful doctrines”. These are being sorely neglected today and that’s a shame because they are a vital part of Christianity. Over the next few days we will take a look at Christian doctrines that you may have never studied, rarely studied or only lightly studied unless you are in a good, uncompromising Bible-teaching assembly – or you have studied them personally.

  • Hell
    Jesus had much more to say about hell than heaven. Hell is a grim reality that is virtually ignored by Christians today as being too harsh, unloving or uncomfortable. We don’t want to scare people away with talk of hell, so we simply ignore it, or give it a quick passing mention before moving on to more friendly subjects. That’s a shame because our friendly intentions won’t count for much to those who find themselves in eternal torment. We’ll take a look at the facts about hell straight from the Bible.
  • Sin
    It has been said by a very prominent “Christian” preacher that teaching about sin is one of the worst things we can do because it destroys self esteem. Quick, somebody tell Jesus and Paul. Regardless of whether we want to hear it or not, the Bible is very clear about the sinfulness of man. As Christians, we typically believe in the “idea” or doctrine of sin as it applies to humanity as a whole, but very rarely do we get honest about sin when it comes to ME. We’ll take a look from Scripture at the real nature of sin in our lives.
  • Liberty
    You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us on some issue or doctrine. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life.
  • Suffering
    Suffering is seen as something today that either is caused by a lack of faith, or is something to avoid and alleviate immediately as all costs. Does God have a use for suffering? Does He allow it? How are Christian supposed to think about suffering? We’ll examine the Bible to see if God agrees with today’s opinion about suffering..
  • Christian Discipline
    In this age of political correctness, competition for church members and fear of lawsuits, Church discipline has all but disappeared. That’s a shame because a leading factor in the ineffectiveness of the Church today is its hesitation to apply Church discipline. We’ll look at Scripture to find out what it is, how it works and what it accomplishes.
  • Jealousy, Wrath & Judgment
    We hear much about God’s love, mercy and forgiveness – and rightly so. But how much is our concept of those things distorted when we hear little about God’s jealousy, wrath and Judgment? The lack of teaching on these subjects certainly contributes to the lukewarmness of the average Christian. “Yeah, but you’re not supposed to SCARE people about God!” Oh, really? Who says? There are lots of scary and fearful things about God that we would do well to know and understand. We’ll take a look at the “unpleasant” side of God and how it affects our daily walk with Him.
  • Intolerance & Exclusivity
    There is only ONE way to avoid being eternally damned in hell, and spend an eternity with God in Heaven. There couldn’t be a more unpopular message today than that. All the political correctness, ecumenism, tolerance, diversity and inclusivism in the world doesn’t change that fact. We’ll look at the Bible to see how it teaches very plainly this “one way”.

Liberty

On the surface, Christianity liberty appears to be a strange companion in our list of distasteful doctrines. The other doctrines in the list are distasteful to the world and lukewarm Christianity. Unfortunately, “Christian liberty” seems to be a distasteful doctrine within the Church itself. Why? In a nutshell, because we are afraid someone will actually embrace it.

The lack of allowing, and accepting, Christian liberty is a major cause for great amounts of contention, division, unrest and power struggles in churches, and between churches. Virtually every issue has become an issue that determines at a minimum, whether or not fellowship occurs, and to the extreme, whether or not salvation denied. Consider these common issues that divide modern Christians, many of which are grounds to be called a heretic, false teacher, apostate, secular or compromising:

  • The name on the church building
  • Whether or not you have a church building
  • What is in your church building (kitchen, gym, even Sunday School classrooms)
  • Frequency of communion
  • Logistics of communion (broken bread, or whole bread you break a piece off of; one cup or many cups)
  • Which Bible version you use
  • What clothes you wear, hair styles, tattoos, piercing
  • Do you home school or public shool your kids
  • What type of music do you worship with
  • What type of instruments are used
  • Are instruments used at all
  • Are you a member of a particular group
  • Are you on a church membership roll
  • Are you Calvinist; are you an Arminian; do you have no clue about either
  • What do you believe about the end times

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with having, and following, a conviction about these issues – but I can sorely imagine that the Lord is pleased over the fact that fellowship, and even salvation, is being withheld between Christians who disagree on such NON-CROSS-CENTRIC issues. Which brings me to an illustration that I often teach to demonstrate where liberty is appropriate in our beliefs.

Picture in your mind, the cross. Now draw a circle around the cross. Draw another circle around that circle allowing a little room between them. Keep drawing circles around your circles working your way out, and away from the center. You should have the image of what looks like a target, with a cross in the “bulls-eye”. Keep this image in your mind.

The closer an issue is to the cross,
the more dogmatic we must be about it.
The farther away from the cross an issue falls,
the more generous we must be in granting Christian liberty.

Think of the resurrection. If you were to plot a point on your “target” image, the resurrection falls directly on the bullseye (cross). So would issues such as the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the atonement, etc. Is there any room for compromise about the resurrection? Biblically, no. Does your belief in the resurrection effect whether or not you will be saved? Yes. So it is an essential where “liberty” does not apply. There is only ONE way to believe, Biblically, about the resurrection. It happened. No room for wiggle.

What about communion, baptism or sancitification (living a holy life)? Those topics fall pretty close to the cross, but are secondary developments to Christ’s birth, death and resurrection. They are very closely related to and associated with salvation, but they are one step removed from the events that cause them to be important. They are not “bullseye” issues like the resurrection or atonement but they are very close to the cross. We have a little wiggle room in the interpretation of timing, frequency and other particulars – for the most part these topics are within close proximity of the Cross and we must strive to be somewhat dogmatic about them, but allowing liberty where Scripture allows it.

What about music, schooling, clothes (which type, not whether they are modest) and issues of that nature? They are much farther out on our circles away from the cross. These things do not determine our salvation, and so generous liberty should be granted among Christians. This is the “distasteful” part of the doctrine of liberty.

To grant liberty, is to lose control over others. To grant liberty is to trust that God is capable of determining who is saved and who isn’t – and we don’t have to. To grant liberty means to give up the power of being able to determine who is a “good Christian” and who isn’t. To grant Christian liberty means we would have spend more time sharing the Gospel and less time proclaiming why we are right and everyone else is wrong.

Liberty is scary. It means that everyone doesn’t
have to believe exactly what I believe,
and serve God exactly the way I serve Him.

Let me emphasize that I am not talking about being wishy-washy. Let each person be CONVINCED and CONVICTED in their own mind about what God would have them to do, studying God’s Word with a pure heart and clear conscience. When it comes to the core essentials of salvation, those issues that are “cross-centric”, we should be dogmatic and unwavering – unashamedly teaching and binding them on all who proclaim Christianity. However, when it comes to those things that do not determine one’s salvation, we should give great latitude and generous liberty while sharing the truth in love – teaching, exhorting and persuading others about our convictions…. BUT NOT DENYING THEM SALVATION OR FELLOWSHIP BECAUSE THEY DISAGREE.

How do you know if something is “cross-centric” – an esential-to-salvation doctrine? Well, think about it. When it gets down to where the rubber meets the road, what is the only thing that really matters? Answer: are you saved or not saved? Is God going to welcome you into heaven or cast you into hell? That’s the only real thing that matters because it determines your eternal destiny.

So when I think of what is essential, and what is not, I imagine myself being presented to God upon my death, and hearing Him ask, “Why should I welcome you into heaven and not cast you into hell?” The only ESSENTIALS now, are what will be the essentials then. Help me choose the essentials:

“God, you should welcome me into heaven because…”

  • We only had a piano in our church and not drums
  • We didn’t have any instruments in our church
  • Our women didn’t wear pants
  • We had Communion every single Sunday
  • We took Communion from one cup instead of those little plastic ones
  • We didn’t have a kitchen or gym in our church
  • We homeschooled all our kids
  • We didn’t have one guy with long hair, earrings or a tattoo
  • We had a “Biblical” name on our church building
  • We used only the KJV1611 Bible version
  • We were Calvinists
  • We were Arminians
  • We belonged to the one true church with the right name and everything all figured out

  • I am a sinner and I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who bled, died and rose again to pay the penalty that is justly due to me
  • I repented of my sins, turned in faith and obedience to You, O God, and I put my full trust and hope in salvation in Christ alone
  • The righteousness of Christ has been imparted to me because my sin was laid on Him
  • Jesus, who is sitting at your right hand, has already paid my debt in full and purchased my salvation and makes intercession for me

Which one(s) of those would you stake your eternity on?

If an issue does not effect salvation, why are we so quick to bind it on others, even to the point of denying them fellowship and questioning their salvation? I can only speculate but surely it has its roots in control, power, pride, insecurity, ignorance, etc. We are comfortable with our own beliefs if we make sure everyone around us validates them by believing the exact same way.

Christian liberty is a “distasteful doctrine” among Christians because we are afraid that someone might actually USE their liberty. That’s a shame because the generous application of liberty would free us to go out and reach more of the lost world if so much of our time wasn’t tied up in legalistic bickering over non-salvific issues. Other than that, I don’t really have an opinion.

In closing, what is Christian liberty? It’s freedom from the “law”, both the written laws of the Old Covenant, and the religious regulations instituted by men. It’s freedom from the legalistic requirements and constraints that men decide are “proper religion”. It’s the freedom to enjoy a personal relationship with God and worship Him in spirit and truth in the way that the Spirit leads you. It’s the freedom (that Christ secured for us) to rest in the fact that people can have different opinions and convictions and it is not a commentary or rebuke against us. Here are some Scriptures for you to study:

  • Christian liberty is:
  • What are the constraints and guidelines of Christian liberty?
    • Ga 5:13; 1Pe 2:16; liberty is not for indulging our personal desires, but for service
    • 1Co 8:9; 10:29,32; do not allow your liberty to offend others, or be a stumblingblock
    • Rom 14.21; your liberty is not more important than setting a good example for a weaker Christian

As with any liberty, Christian liberty is a two-sided coin. On the one side are the blessings and freedom of liberty. On the other side are the responsibilities of freedom. Our liberty is never to be an excuse for evil. Our freedom should never allow us to bully or ignore a weaker Christian. Our freedom should never be a source of contention or pride. Our freedom should never be flaunted.

Properly taught, and generously applied, Christian liberty is one of the most blessed benefits of salvation. It’s a shame we’re scared to grant it, or teach it, for fear that someone might actually use it.

Conviction and courage in the essentials; liberty and freedom in all else.

Lord, Help us to embrace the liberty that Jesus purchased on the Cross. Help us to allow others to enjoy their freedom. Help us to understand the responsibility that comes with liberty. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Contemplation: What has been your perception of Christian liberty up to this point? Can liberty be abused? Should liberty be withheld, or cautiously guarded for fear of it being abuse? Does liberty mean “wishy-washy”? Does liberty mean liberal?

Application: You would think that Christian liberty would be a very pleasant doctrine, but to teach it threatens our stranglehold on “truth” as we define it. I’m not talking about the core essentials of salvation, but all the other peripheral issues that have divided Christians into almost 3000 different “flavors”. We don’t hear much about Christian liberty because we’re afraid people might actually take hold of it and not do things OUR way. Christ died to bring us liberty, and we constantly want to rob other sincere Christians of it simply because they disagree with us. We’ll take a look at liberty, where it applies, where it doesn’t apply and what it means to the Christian life. Properly taught, and generously applied, Christian liberty is one of the most blessed benefits of salvation.

James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)

  1. What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
  2. What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
  3. What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?

(seriesid:36)