Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Real Test

Part of the test of whether a prophet was speaking the words of the Lord is whether or not what was prophesied actually comes to pass with 100% accuracy. There was no such thing as a genuine prophecy being 50% accurate or even 99% accurate; pinpoint accuracy was demanded otherwise the prophecy was considered false and to be disregarded.

“18'I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
19'It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.
20'But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'
21"You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?'
22"When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-22, NASB)

But if we go back a few chapters in Deuteronomy to chapter 13, we find yet another test. In fact, one that is most important of all.

“1"If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,
2and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,'
3you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4"You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him.” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4, NASB)

Even if the sign or wonder comes true, if the prophet teaches anything contrary to God’s revealed truth, it is to be regarded as falsehood and dismissed. In fact, in the Old Testament, the prophet was to be put to death (v. 5) in order to “purge the evil from among you.”

If we would only take heed and use the same discernment today. We should follow the example of the first century Bereans in Acts 17:11 daily examining the Scriptures. We are too enamored with signs and wonders, taking our focus off the Word of God. Everything must pass a theological test.

We have numerous “prophets” today who are proclaiming that God has given them a message, whether it is some word of prophecy or claiming a new way of doing church that God has revealed to them for this generation.
Yet upon closer examination with Scripture, their philosophy simply does not line up. But large numbers of people flock to conferences and churches promoting these philosophies.

Unfortunately, the teaching of these so-called prophets resonates well with the current generation. Just like the disobedient children of Israel, who wanted the prophets to speak to them words that would sooth their ears, there are those today who have the same itching ears and recruit teachers to tell them what they want to hear. People willingly flock to their seminars, churches and spend money for their materials, seemingly unable to get enough of it. The more they buy and participate in, the more the false teachers are encouraged to give them more.

“9For this is a rebellious people, false sons, Sons who refuse to listen
To the instruction of the LORD;
10Who say to the seers, "You must not see visions";
And to the prophets, "You must not prophesy to us what is right,
Speak to us pleasant words,
Prophesy illusions.” (Isaiah 30:10, NASB)

“3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,
4and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
(2 Timothy 4:3-4, NASB)

Much of the philosophy of those promoting these new ways of “doing” church often produces visible results, attracting people in droves. The attitude by many seems to be, "hey, it works!" But we must examine the “fruit” that is yielded from these methods. Do people gain a genuine sense of awe and reverence for God? Do they genuinely seek the things of the Lord, or are they simply seeking some self-help teaching intermingled with a few verses of Scripture (often taken out of context). Are they developing a love for God’s truth and more importantly, are they desiring to apply it to their lives? Is there true conviction over sin producing true repentance?

Teaching which appeals more to people’s flesh can offer no transforming power to truly change people’s lives. It just feeds the ego of the people and they desire more of it. It offers nothing more than a self-seeking spirituality on man’s terms, not God’s.

“ 30An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
31The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it?” (Jeremiah 5:30-31, NASB)

Sadly, false leadership leads people away from God rather than leading them on a path that draws them closer to Him. It is unfortunate that there are now multitudes of false shepherds occupying the pulpits of churches all across our land, which are not truly tending God’s flock and providing genuine spiritual direction, allowing the people to walk in spiritual confusion, wandering in various directions.

What we need are shepherds who will trust in the transforming power of God’s Word, trusting in its power to accomplish God’s purposes. (Isaiah 55:11)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

A Warning Concerning False Teachers from J. C. Ryle

Warning #4 to the Church
Pharisees and Sadducees
by J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." (Matthew 16:6)

Every word spoken by the Lord Jesus is full of deep instruction for Christians. It is the voice of the Chief Shepherd. It is the Great Head of the Church speaking to all its members--King of kings speaking to His subjects--the Master of the house speaking to His servants--the Captain of our salvation speaking to His soldiers. Above all, it is the voice of Him who said, "I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it" (John 12:49.) The heart of every believer in the Lord Jesus ought to burn within him when he hears his Master's words: he ought to say, "Listen! My lover!" (Song of Solomon 2:8).

And every word spoken by the Lord Jesus is of the greatest value. Precious as gold are all His words of doctrine and teaching; precious are all His parables and prophecies; precious are all His words of comfort and of consolation; precious, the not least of which, are all His words of caution and of warning. We are not merely to hear Him when He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened;" we are to also hear Him when He says, "Be careful and be on your guard."

I am going to direct attention to one of the most solemn and emphatic warnings which the Lord Jesus ever delivered: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." On this text I wish to erect a beacon for all who desire to be saved, and to preserve some souls, if possible, from making their lives a shipwreck. The times call loudly for such beacons: the spiritual shipwrecks of the last twenty-five years have been deplorably numerous. The watchmen of the Church ought to speak out plainly now, or forever hold their peace.

I. First of all, I ask my readers to observe "who they were to whom the warning of the text was addressed."

Our Lord Jesus Christ was not speaking to men who were worldly, ungodly, and unsanctified, but to His own disciples, companions, and friends. He addressed men who, with the exception of the apostate Judas Iscariot, were right-hearted in the sight of God. He spoke to the twelve Apostles, the first founders of the Church of Christ, and the first ministers of the Word of salvation. And yet even to them He addressed the solemn caution of our text: "Be careful and be on your guard."

There is something very remarkable in this fact. We might have thought that these Apostles needed little warning of this kind. Had they not given up all for Christ's sake? They had. Had they not endured hardship for Christ's sake? They had. Had they not believed Jesus, followed Jesus, loved Jesus, when almost all the world was unbelieving? All these things are true; and yet to them the caution was addressed: "Be careful and be on your guard." We might have imagined that at any rate the disciples had little to fear from the "yeast of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." They were poor and unlearned men, most of them fishermen or tax collectors; they had no desire to follow the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees; they were more likely to be prejudiced against them than to feel any drawing towards them. All this is perfectly true; yet even to them there comes the solemn warning: "Be careful and be on your guard."

There is useful counsel here for all who profess to love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. It tells us loudly that the most eminent servants of Christ are not beyond the need of warnings, and ought to be always on their guard. It shows us plainly that the holiest of believers ought to walk humbly with his God, and to watch and pray so that he won't fall into temptation, and be overtaken with sin. None is so holy, that he can't fall--not ultimately, not hopelessly, but to his own discomfort, to the scandal of the Church, and to the triumph of the world: none is so strong that he cannot for a time be overcome. Chosen as believers are by God the Father, justified as they are by the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, sanctified as they are by the Holy Spirit--believers are still only men: they are still in the body, and still in the world. They are ever near temptation: they are ever liable to misjudge, both in doctrine and in practice. Their hearts, though renewed, are very feeble; their understanding, though enlightened, is still very dim. They ought to live like those who dwell in an enemy's land, and every day to put on the armor of God. The devil is very busy: he never slumbers or sleeps. Let us remember the falls of Noah, and Abraham, and Lot, and Moses, and David, and Peter; and remembering them, be humble, and be careful so that we don't fall.

I may be allowed to say that none need warnings so much as the ministers of Christ's Gospel. Our office and our ordination are no security against errors and mistakes. It is true, that the greatest heresies have crept into the Church of Christ by means of ordained men. Ordination does not confers any immunity from error and false doctrine. Our very familiarity with the Gospel often creates in us a hardened state of mind. We are apt to read the Scriptures, and preach the Word, and conduct public worship, and carry on the service of God, in a dry, hard, formal, callous spirit. Our very familiarity with sacred things, unless we watch our hearts, is likely to lead us astray. "Nowhere," says an old writer, "is a man's soul in more danger than in a minister's study." The history of the Church of Christ contains many dismal proofs that the most distinguished ministers may for a time fall away. Who has not heard of Cranmer recanting and going back from those opinions he had defended so stoutly, though, by God's mercy, raised again to witness a glorious confession at last? Who has not heard of Jewell signing documents that he most thoroughly disapproved, and of which signature he afterwards bitterly repented? Who does not know that many others might be named, who at one time or another, have been overtaken by faults, have fallen into errors, and been led astray? And who does not know the mournful fact that many of them never came back to the truth, but died in hardness of heart, and held their errors to the end?

These things ought to make us humble and cautious. They tell us to distrust our own hearts and to pray to be kept from falling. In these days, when we are especially called upon to cleave firmly to the doctrines of the Protestant Reformation, let us be careful that our zeal for Protestantism does not puff us up, and make us proud. Let us never say in our self-conceit, "I shall never fall into the errors Roman Catholicism or any New Theology: those views will never suit me." Let us remember that many have begun well and run well for a season, and yet afterwards turned aside out of the right way. Let us be careful that we are spiritual men as well as Protestants, and real friends of Christ as well as enemies of antichrist. Let us pray that we may be kept from error, and never forget that the twelve Apostles themselves were the men to whom the Great Head of the Church addressed these words: "Be careful and be on your guard."
[This article can be read in its entirety at Bible Bulleting Board]
All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted (C)1998 by Tony Capoccia.All rights reserved.

Friday, June 09, 2006

A Good Summary

Doug over at Godward Thoughts wrote a great post a couple of weeks ago summarizing the postmodern view of truth as expressed by many in the emerging church. Doug did a great job on this.

I have several things that I wanted to post about this week and next, but right now I am lacking time to be able to post anything of any real depth. I am at the end of a class and have a final project paper due this next week and the final exam the following week, so my posting may be very lean over the next week and a half. I may only have time to write some very brief posts.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Brian Flynn on Contemplative Spirituality

If you want a good resource from someone who has been part of the New Age Movement and Contemplative Spirituality, you may want to check out Brian Flynn. He was skilled in transcendental meditation and relied on spirit guides for direction. Brian was wonderfully saved out of this darkness and is now a devout follower of Jesus Christ. Brian is seeing how many of the New Age and Eastern spirituality practices are now being introduced into the church, and he is warning believers of the dangers of this influence. With the promotion of many of these practices by many in the church especially the emerging church movement, it is crucial to understand what is going on and to warn others. Check out his website, “One Truth Ministries”. He has a section on his site on Contemplative Prayer, and he wrote a brief article, “Christians Should Dump Contemplative Prayer”, that was published in the “Minnesota Christian Chronicle”.