This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part IX

The following message was preached on July 24, 1994, at the Wauchula Revival Center Foursquare Gospel Church in Wauchula, FL. That week, I was filling in for a classmate of mine, Randy Leonard, who pastored the congregation then. I remember that well, as a preached to a grand total of 4 people, Barb included!

The Wauchula Revival Center was originally part of an independent fellowship of churches that was based in Lakeland founded by the late Rev. Charles Myers and his wife Novella. In 1993, Novella Myers, who pastored the Lakeland Revival Center church that was the "mother church" of these congregations, decided to bring her entire group into the Foursquare denomination, and this particular congregation was one of those churches. At the time I preached here, I was still in college, and was more or less preaching as part of my supplemental income that summer. Although we attended Cornerstone Christian Center Foursquare Church in Auburndale, FL, at this point, I itinerated all over the area as a part of my own ministry.

How To Be Grounded In Discernment
(II Timothy 2:15, 4:3-4)


Often, we as Christians tend to hear a lot about many things, and often it can confuse us.   Some have become so confused that they either turn their backs totally on the Church, or have sought unsuccessfully to find the truth in false cults.   With all the speculations and doctrines floating around, what are we to do?  How are we to know what is Scriptural and what's not?  It is a delicate issue to dissect, and must be dealt with the skill of a brain surgeon.

My purpose here is not to blast or polemicize doctrinal distinctions, but rather to see where we all fit, as individual Christians, into the corporate Body of Christ.  Therefore, please do not interpret this as a license to castigate our Catholic and other Christian brethren, for though they may differ with us on some distinctions, they as we are happen to be part of the greater Body of Christ.   Therefore, let us, as the following epithet says, practice this:

In  Essentials, Unity
In non-essentials, Liberty
in all things, Charity

In a nutshell, this message has a two-fold purpose:

  1. To warn against some excesses in our own Charismatic circles.
  2. To show that though there may be distinctives in opinion, we must be one in Christ.
I.   Warnings Against Excesses (II Timothy 4:3-4)

Often, in our own Charismatic/Pentecostal circles, we have a few eccentrics who, while well-meaning, take a solid Biblical truth to unscriptural excesses.   We must be careful not to necessarily label these individuals as "heretics" but instead realize the fact that they have a noticeable lack of structure in the system that leads them to such extremes.

We often tend to accuse such individuals as being false teachers without really examining them in the love of Christ.  Often, we tend to do the opposite - that is, we throw out a strong Biblical principle and reject it because of a little bit of extremism.  We often don't realize that some of the things we reject on that premise are usually things God wants to do in His Church.  In other words, to use the old cliche, we tend to "throw out the baby with the bathwater."  We need to be a bit more discerning and understanding with these well-intentioned but over-zealous people, and learn to rightly divide the word of truth (II Timothy 2:15).   I personally feel that if the Church would learn this important principle, maybe we could perhaps re-define our definitions of "heresy."   Let us now examine II Timothy 4:3-4.

A.  They Will Not Endure Sound Doctrine.

In our modern American society, we have a tendency to be "cafeteria Christians," picking up a little of this and a little of that from this teacher and that teacher.  In and of itself, there is no harm done.  The problem is that in some cases we pick up the wrong things from the wrong teachers.

At times Biblical truth is presented in such a manner that it can get to us, and when it does, we like to find ways around it.   In other words, we cannot endure sound doctrine, and tend to seek something more pacifying.   This is characteristic of human nature.   And, God's ways can conflict with our human nature.
The direct result of this is that we tend to "water the Word" a little so that it might be a little more palatable to digest in our wonderful American "quick-fix" mindset.  To use the American colloquialism, what the Apostle Paul is trying to tell us is that we are after a "cop-out."  The result is that with less Word, we get less blessing.

Let us consider a delicious bowl of South Indian curry.  It is best, as most of you who have eaten it will agree, when it cooks down to a hot spicy stock.   That is what gives it the character of its flavor.   Of course, to the unaccustomed American palate, it can be a little pungent, and therefore we make it more bearable by watering it down.  Yes, it may still have a reasonably good flavor, but it has lost its distinctiveness and is now little more than a watery soup.  Yuck!

Like good curry, the Gospel in its original undiluted form is the best.  However, to the untrained palate, it can sting in its purity, and therefore some tend to water it down to make it more "digestible."  However, a diluted Gospel loses its original power and therefore is unable to do what it was intended to do.  Look at our passage and you will see why.

The alternative to all this is simple:  why don't we, instead of watering the Gospel down, break it into smaller chunks?  This would be so much more effective, for the person is getting a pure Gospel this way but in digestible bites.   Try it pastors - it does work!

B.  According To Their Own Desires.

This part of the passage is telling us that some seek a "feel-good" message because they can't intellectually comprehend a "full Gospel" message.   That's too much - so they seek something easier.

However, our desires are not always healthy for us.   God wants us to desire what He desires for us:   that is, to be whole in Him through the principles of the whole Word of God, and not just the parts that make us feel good.   Sometimes, even the little digestible parts of God's Word are like cough syrup - very distasteful to our tongues, but therapeutic to our spirits.

The truth in God's Word is that it requires an action on our behalf, and possibly even some more sacrifice.   Unless we willingly take that action or make that sacrifice, we cannot receive the full spiritual blessings of His Word.  However, if we do them, we have liberty in Him.

C.  They Have Itching Ears.

Some Charismatics don't just want a "feel-good" Gospel, but they also want it to sound good.  The Word of God is both good and good for us, but it won't always appeal to our auditory faculties.  This is a fact we must accept sooner or later.

Please understand that our God is not just a God of "quick fixes," but is a PERMANENT FIX in our lives!  However, we must put some commitment behind this if we desire him to abide in us permanently.   Unfortunately, our human nature doesn't want to hear about commitment, but rather we desire to have our ears tickled because they are itching to hear about where and how to obtain the quick fix.   Many ministers need to realize that they have a three-fold task in this regard - to convict souls, edify the spirit, and ultimately to change lives.

D.   Heap Up For Themselves Teachers.

Almost every Christian ministry has good teaching to some degree or another , but a lot of Christians seem to indulge in setting up "fan clubs" and personality cults around certain teachers and evangelists.   The underlying problem here lies not with the minister in most cases but with the individual believer, and here is why.

Televangelism is a good thing, and many people's lives have been reached through it.   However, I tend to be disturbed by some of the brethren who won't touch a Bible but will sit in front of a television set and soak up everything they hear on it.   Some even think they can substitute the "electronic church" for the local church, and inevitably end up spiritually undernourished.

I will make it understod that I wholeheartedly support TVevangelism, for it has great potential as a ministry tool.   However, it should never replace the local church as a source of spiritual nourishment.   Also, it should never take the place of one's devotional life.   This doesn't mean it is wrong to watch TBN or whatever, but it does mean that we must be spiritually balanced.

E.  They Will Turn Their Ears Away From The Truth.

As we mentioned earlier, the truth of God's Word on occasion can be a hard pill to swallow.   Therefore, we tend to seek something more accomodating to the flesh.   As a result, we can turn away from the guidance of the Holy Scripture and the truth it teaches.

When one is exposed to subtropical climate like we have here in Florida, he would naturally desire cooler temperatures if he is a newcomer to the area.  So it is when we are faced with a new Scriptural truth that tends to make us uncomfortable.   Our human nature hates change, yet God's Word requires change for the better, which sometimes isn't easy.   As a result, we sometimes turn away to avoid the new experience.

As God has commanded us to perservere, however, we need to do our best to hang on.   The assurance that God won't put anything on us we are not able to handle should help us, and as a result, we can better face change.  The bottom line is that we need to trust God to give us the abiltity to accept change, and if we turn away, we're not looking to him for our help.   Then, we tend to end up in worried messes that we sometimes can't get out of.  So, isn't it easier in the long run to accept change?

F.  And Be Turned Aside To Fables

When we only hear what sounds good, water down the truth, or turn away our face from God to something more desireable, we are turning from the truth and heeding fables.  If you'll notice, those who turn from God have a tendency to give heed to some type of delusion, be it alcohol, sex sin, or following after some false prophet who is endowed with some "new revelation."  All of these fables have just one source - the devil himself.  He's a good storyteller; he convinces our flesh that something is what it is not.  We can be deluded into thinking that we can find true happiness by believing it, only later to realize that it will destroy us instead.
It's the same old trick in new wrapping.   Eve was its first sucker, and multitudes have followed her since, sometimes more than once.  However, we are told in James 4:7 to RESIST the devil and he will flee from us.  Perhaps we need to start doing this by resisting and rejecting the fables he snares us with.

God's Word, on the other hand, is eternal.   It is also realistic and won't deceive us with easy roads out.  God wants us to be free of bondage, and the Father has sent his Holy Spirit to help us obtain that freedom.  All it requires of us is obedience to His Word.  Though the water may be choppy, God is piloting the boat, and we don't need to rely on stupid fables to guide us when we have a real God on our side - we don't need them.

II. Conclusion

Now, we can summarize our premise.

First, Satan creates fables to divert our attention from the liberating truth of God's word so that he can put us in bondage to his tactics.  He makes these fables look appealing to our carnal nature, and as a result they can hook us.  Some people Satan uses are anointed men of God, who may actually be teaching the full truth of the Bible.  However, one little word can be twisted by the listener, or it can dilute its effectiveness, to where it becomes a snare to those who are caught off-guard.   The result is always disastrous, be it long-term or short-term.

Secondly, as a result we tend to "pass the buck," usually on the TV preacher, when the light of God's Word hits that thing in our lives.   As a result, we turn from God and follow a delusion, based usually on the way we misconstrue the right words into the wrong meaning. 

However, there are ways to either avoid the extreme in the first place, or even to overcome it after it happens.  Here it is.

  1. Be Grounded in God's Word - We should be studying it daily anyway.
  2. Unite Yourself With a Local Body of Believers - This is so we might draw strength from one another.
  3. BE DISCERNING!! - It is important to check out everything you hear out with the Scriptures, and not with what some popular minister who writes a book or has a TV program says.
Also, don't blame some TV preacher for your own lack of discernment.  You had the choice to turn him off if you didn't agree with him.   Therefore, you need to use your own God-given discernment.

Here's the bottom line:  God equips us for our own good, and it is up to you to put this to use.   If you are not sure how to go about using this gift, then all you have to do is seek an answer from God, for He will always be faithful to show you.  God has also ordained pastors to equip you for His coming kingdom, and they are supposed to be there for you as God's servants.   Overall however, it is imperative for each of us to be grounded in God's Word, and it is the prevailing standard against Satan's fables.  Therefore, we should be challenged to ground ourselves in it continually.   If we do this, we cannot fail.  Amen.