Christianity Today 18

March 13, 2020

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

Romans 3:10 THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; 12 ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE.” 13 “THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE, WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,” “THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS”; 14 “WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS”; 15 “THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD, 16 DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS, 17 AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.” 18 “THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.”

When the doctrines regarding man’s depravity and the sovereignty of God are diluted, in a manner of speaking, God is viewed as lacking something and man is viewed as essentially being sovereign over himself. What happens is that man is thought to be able to change himself and God is thought to be unable to change man. This is not just a minor difference, but instead it is virtually a complete overthrow of the doctrine of God and of man. Instead of man seeking God to change him, it becomes God seeking man to change himself. This is backwards.

If we truly took Romans 3:10-18 (quoted above) to heart, this could be seen quite clearly. The Bible teaches that there is not one who is righteous, which we should see that not one person has even a little righteousness. The Bible teaches that not one person understands, which teaches us that not one unregenerate person has any spiritual understanding at all. The unregenerate person has zero spiritual understanding. Yet, in our modern way of evangelism and “Christian” sanctification this is not recognized at all. Man is completely dependent upon God spiritual understanding and He gives it by grace alone. It is His sovereign act and not the act of man.

Man is completely unable to seek after God until he is regenerated by God. Now this is not the same think as the older way of evangelism which taught that man is to seek God. The older way of evangelism taught that man should do all that is in his natural power to seek after God, but it recognized that an unregenerate person could not truly seek God out of love. Man was to seek God in the sense that man would try to understand his sinful nature as best he could while asking God to show him more. Man was to seek God by sitting under true preaching and reading the Bible while asking God to open his eyes and grant him a new heart. But man was never thought to be truly seeking God Himself out of love.

The unregenerate man would seek God for something, but what man sought from God came from a heart full of self and self-love. When a person seeks something from God based on self-love, that person is not seeking God Himself but is instead seeking self out of self-love. This is a vital distinction between the old ways and the modern ways. The modern day has people seeking self out of self-love and yet they are taught that this is seeking God because His name is attached. A person can be extremely religious and extremely given to the rites of religion and external morality and yet without true love for God all that they do is truly idolatry since it is motivated by love of self and done for selfish goals. But again, when we dilute the teachings on depravity and the sovereignty of God we have moved from biblical Christianity to a religion of self. The old way had man seeking God to change man and now we have men seeking God to change God. The teachings of the modern day are truly dangerous at best.

Christianity Today 17

March 1, 2020

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

The heart of all true Christian doctrine is God. We must always keep this in mind because when the heart of our doctrine becomes man, then our doctrine is built on idolatry. When men turn from the biblical teaching of man’s depravity, then man has enough good (according to that teaching) to do good of himself and perhaps even to contribute something to his salvation. It seems as if the flood of error has swept into the Church in times past to drastically and fatally change the teaching about man. The Bible teaches us things that are not pleasant to hear, yet if they are true we must not change that teaching.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

In Ephesians 2 we see what man is by nature. In Romans 3 (dealt with later) we see the view that God has of man. Man is born dead in trespasses and sins. It is not just that man sins on occasion, but man is born that way. It is not just that sin is something grievous and obvious to all, but man sins by simply following the course of the world doing what seems normal to the world. Man is by nature a child of wrath. It is not just that man becomes evil by doing evil things, but man is a child of wrath by his or her very nature. This is cutting to the pride of those who think that they are good people and righteous people. Man is left entirely helpless as he is spiritually dead. Man cannot change his own nature and give himself a spiritual heart, but instead man is left to the mercy and grace of God. However, man hates that and wants all things in his own hands.

But what we can easily see is that if we change the condition of man and what he is by nature, then the Gospel of Christ that saves man will change as well. If the problem is that of man’s nature, then the nature must change in order for man to be saved. If the problem is simply that man makes wrong choices, then all man has to do is to make a good choice or a right choice. But again, if the problem is the nature of man, then man cannot change his own nature and man must have his heart changed by the act and choice of God. This is entirely different from the way that the professing Church functions and operates today. We may accept a sick man we need to tell some good news to, but we will not have the biblical teaching of man being dead in sins and trespasses. We may accept a sick man who is weak to teach, but we do not want men who are utterly helpless and without any strength at all.

Surely it is obvious that how we teach depravity is very important in terms of evangelism, the growth of believers, and of the life of the church. As our minds strive for consistency, if we do not hold to the biblical teaching on depravity, we will change the teachings regarding the sovereignty of God and of what is needed to save human souls. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born from above to see and enter the kingdom. He also told Nicodemus that it was the Spirit who must do that work. He never told Nicodemus to pray a prayer or make a choice for Jesus. People who are dead in sins and trespasses need to be made alive. Those who are by nature children of wrath need a new nature. Only God can make people alive and only God can change a person’s nature. Thus it is easy to see that if we change the teaching on depravity we will change our teaching on the character of God and the Gospel of God. This is what Finney did and it is still rampant today.

Christianity Today 16

February 25, 2020

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them…24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

What does it mean to abandon sound doctrine and the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology? While it can mean for people to simply leave it all behind, it can also mean leaving the doctrinal creeds in place and yet abandon them by leaving them in a way that appears to be a slight move away from them. It can also mean having a practice that is not in accordance with the truth.

It appears to be easier for people to give up an intellectual belief than it is to give up a practice, though the two are related. Giving up an intellectual belief may be as easy as simply changing the mind, but to give up a practice may be giving up multiple intellectual beliefs, something the heart is set on, not to mention the pride that the practice may have brought. Giving up a practice may also require giving up self-righteousness. For example, if a person has spent many years practicing evangelism a person may have a lot of spiritual pride and righteousness built up over the years. That person may think of him or herself as a soul winner. That person may have built confidence in salvation because of the apparent success of that evangelism. A person may defend that evangelistic practice to the death because of all the self-interest in it. However, that person may not realize that in order to practice that form of evangelism sound doctrine of the heart may have been left behind.

Forsaking the Lord is a terrible sin. Despite what our eyes see, God judges sin by turning people over to hardened hearts and therefore more sin. This is one reason that evil comes flooding in when people turn from sound doctrine. The real problem of leaving sound doctrine is that at the heart of the leaving of sound doctrine is a turning from the Lord or an exchanging the truth of God for a lie. Since the whole of theology is really a doctrine of God in the essence of it all bad theology is a turning from the Lord to some degree. For example, people may not realize just how much theology is underneath the practice of evangelism. We can reject God by humanistic evangelism though we think our evangelism is a good thing. We can commit idolatry by being more concerned with getting “converts” than we are with the glory of God. We can commit idolatry by loving ourselves or other sinners in evangelism rather than God.

It is also true that when we become more man-centered in evangelism we water down the truth of the Gospel because the Gospel is always the Gospel of God and the Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ. When our evangelism reflects a theology that is a turning from God, we are opening the door and allowing for floods of error to come into our own hearts and the local church as well. If a person wrote a book on evangelism and it would be based on humanism and is idolatry in practice, that error would spread. When Charles Finney took up his false form of evangelism, it was based on theological error and as he went out spreading his error, floods of error swept into the churches where he held his campaigns. He wrote books and that error spread even further. That great error has dominated professing Christianity to this day. We must beware of stepping away from sound doctrine.

Christianity Today 15

February 18, 2020

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them…24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

As God turns absolute pagans over to sinful hearts when they suppress the truth in unrighteousness, so He will turn the hearts of professing churches and very religious men over to sinful hearts when they suppress the truth in unrighteousness. There is no way to suppress the truth in righteousness, so all suppression of the truth is in unrighteousness. Both the religious and the irreligious exchange the truth of God for a lie and so end up worshipping and serving the creature (usually self) rather than God. But this can happen in the name of God as well. This can happen when the professing churches have orthodox creeds and pastors who speak well.

The first sentence in the quote at the top of the page is devastating and should strike terror to hearts that are not hardened. “When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left.” How much deviation from sound doctrine does it take to abandon sound doctrine? We may not know just how much it takes, but what we can know is that a slight deviation may lead to God hardening our hearts and that will lead to more deviation. The first step may be slight, but it is a step away from sound doctrine and God may turn us over to our sinful hearts and the first step may be onto a slippery slope down. But we should also note with increasing nervousness that deviation from sound doctrine is not just a deviation and nothing else happens. That is also opening the door to the floods of error which will come in and destroy what is left. There is no middle ground where we can have less truth without more error coming in to fill up what was left.

When a professing church takes a step away from sound doctrine, the error begins to flow in and it appears that unless God decides to soften hearts rather than harden them the error will eventually consume that professing church. The true and living God is sovereign and whether man bows to that or not God is still sovereign. In fact, He is sovereign over whether men will bow to Him or not. It is part of the sound doctrine that men step away from that when they teach that they are not that depraved and God is not that sovereign. True repentance is not within the power of man to carry out, but instead it must be granted by God. But it may be that some still hold that teaching in their own creeds and perhaps to some degree they have that in their hearts, but they still do not see these as essential doctrines.

Over and over in the Old Testament God gave His people over to their enemies because they did not have hearts to seek Him. They had the outward ceremonies and they had the rites that they followed, but they did not love God. When they went after other gods, they demonstrated that they did not have knowledge of the true God. In America and across the world we still have people who will do the externals and the rites, but their hearts do not love God. They love a false god, but they do not love the true God. When that happens, we can see that God still hands people over to sinful hearts. In other words, they step back from the truth and error rushes in.

Christianity Today 14

February 17, 2020

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

While the point of the above comment has to do with what happens when orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, there are other things in the church that are effected by this as well. It is not just that we can stop teaching a little doctrine here and here, but a change in doctrine at certain points can have an enormous influence on all aspects of the local church. In the present day people do not seem to think that doctrine is important, but the reality of the matter is that people don’t mind certain doctrines while they hate others. The list of doctrines from the quote above is really essential doctrines and when those are minimized the practice of the church will be different.

When God’s sovereignty is minimized, though it may be given lip service, evangelism will be for different. God will no longer be the focus man becomes the focus. When the depravity of man is minimized, man is thought to have the power to do things he cannot do. Man is not mostly dead with few abilities and little strength, but man is totally dead and has no spiritual ability and no spiritual strength at all. This means that once again God is no longer the center and is replaced by man. Instead of man crying out to God for a new heart and spiritual life, man looks to himself for some ability to come up with faith so that God will save him.

We can also easily see how this influences the practice and content of worship. When theology is minimized or on the way down from the truth of God, then the words of the music become centered upon man. Even if the words speak of God, the real focus is on man and how man feels. The music is used to play on the feelings of human beings rather than be a way that man can seek God and the presence of God. Despite how strange it sounds, church services become a way of suppressing the truth of God rather than a way of manifesting the truth of God. It takes the truth of who God is and how God rules in and on the earth in order to have the preaching of the Gospel of God and for there to be the true worship of God.

We can also notice a couple of important points at the end of the opening quote. “Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having.” One, people were reticent to question Finney regarding his methods because of the apparent success. Two, a person’s methods are built on a person’s theology (taken from the wider point of the quote). Three, the success was only apparent. The same thing is true today. It has been in Christian news that large pastors have told those with smaller churches that success (in numbers and dollars) trumps the criticisms that are received. Numerical and financial successes are confused with spiritual blessings.

When God is removed from the core and center of the church, any apparent success is really a curse of blindness. The church can keep an orthodox creed and yet the practice of the church and ministers are focused on success rather than God. A professing church that is growing in numbers may be a professing church that is moving farther and farther from the truth of God. When success becomes a god, the true and controlling theology of the professing church is no longer God-centered and the focus is now on the little gods of human beings. The ministers may say that they want success in order to honor God, but true and spiritual fruit must come from Him in order to be for Him. In that sense, professing churches need to repent of their apparent successes which are really idols.

Christianity Today 13

November 28, 2019

 

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

The quotes above come from a book that is an effort to show that modern Evangelicalism is far removed from the theology and practice from the history of the Church. Even more, it shows that modern Evangelicalism is far removed from the teachings of the Bible. It is important to trace error back as far as one can, though it is also true that the source of all error is the evil one who is out to deceive. The great error in the modern professing Church, regarding human instruments, can be traced to a time just after the first Great Awakening. That great error, which is rampant in the modern professing Church, is stated by William Weeks in his Pilgrim’s Progress Through the Wastelands and quoted by William Nichols Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism.

The Arminian doctrine I take to be, that God desires, all things considered, to save all men, and does all he can to save them; but that the nature of moral agency is such, that God cannot change the heart by an act of power, but can only use persuasion; and all the persuasion he can use may be resisted. This scheme makes it depend upon man’s sovereign will, and not upon God’s sovereign will, whether the sinner shall be saved or not. This scheme is adapted to multiply false converts in two ways. It exhibits God as of such a character as the sinner loves by nature, and thus makes him think he is converted, when no change has taken place. And it deceives the sinner, by leading him to depend on his restoration to change his course, as if that were true conversion.

The doctrine that is called Arminian by Weeks is really the doctrine of the Pharisees and certainly the doctrine of Charles Finney, though some might think of that as Pelagianism. Either way, it has constantly been introduced by the Great Deceiver in all ages of the Church. The modern doctrines of the vast majority of the Professing Church are not new, but instead these are the same old doctrines that Satan has used for thousands of years to deceive. Doctrine is not just something that one must intellectually grasp, but they are truths of the character of God, the character of man, and the teachings on the Gospel. These are truths that guide how we are to live as well.

Today, it seems as if one knows the word “Jesus” and that person has been led in a prayer of any kind, that person is considered as converted. That is really the heart of what Weeks thought of as Arminian. It is constantly looking to what man can do and trying to get man to do what was in his own power. Instead, the Bible says that God looks upon the humble, contrite, and those who tremble at His word (Isa 66:2). If the Bible is correct which teaches us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, then men cannot do anything to help God to save them by grace alone when it comes from a proud and unregenerate heart. The work of God is not limited to persuasion, but instead it is His mighty creative power that must raise sinners from the dead in regeneration.

The Pelagian and semi-Pelagian (Arminian) teaching that has swamped the professing Church is opposed to biblical Christianity rather than being part of it. Yes, there are degrees of those teachings. But we must begin to wake up and see that the professing Christianity of today does not have a Gospel that delivers man from his self-centered and proud heart and life, but instead assures him of salvation while leaving him in the bondage of his sin. It does indeed add a drop of religiosity to him, but it is not a Christ who rules over him and in him with power and love.

Christianity Today 12

November 25, 2019

William Nichols, in his excellent book Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, sets out the truth and reality of the modern version of Evangelicalism, which is not the same thing as it used to be. The book is a collection of introductions to various sermons of Jonathan Edwards in one book. It is a devastating critique of Christianity Today (so-called) as it compares it to the Christianity of a time when God was working in power. We will be looking at some of the writings from that book, primarily drawn from last chapter or the Final Conclusion.

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having.

As has been pointed out in many ways and in many different fields of study, nature abhors a vacuum. When the truth has been exchanged for error, much error will take the place of truth. When the truth of God is rejected, then the lies and error of false gods and idols will take the place of the truth of who God is. Using a different analogy, when one army retreats and leaves a particular piece of ground, the enemy will rush in and claim that territory. The reality that the analogies point to is that error replaced truth in theory by Nathaniel Taylor and then Charles Finney put that error into practice. As Finney went around with his new way of evangelism, he was propagating serious and deadly error in the churches. His had apparent success and so many adopted his New Measures. In doing so, however, much error was brought into the churches.

Our day has reaped the results from the errors of Taylor and Finney. It is not that things have gotten better since then, but instead things have gotten worse. Instead of voices speaking out in alarm against Finney as they were back then, we have basically swallowed the errors whole. Things are far worse in our day as the errors are far more wide spread and more deeply ingrained. The errors are now thought to be orthodoxy in many circles and where those errors are not thought to be serious error they are looked at as minor deviations. The historical statements on doctrine can still be held to some degree, but when the core truths have been altered the words can be held to but the substance is no longer held in truth.

The doctrine of total depravity is vital to understanding the character of God and of the Gospel. When the teachings concerning the Sovereignty of God are changed, though it may appear that the change is not major, the whole character of Christianity and the Gospel has been altered. When the atoning work of Christ is adjusted to allow for New Measures, the Gospel is no longer what was declared by sound theologians and pastors in history. When we make what appear to be simple changes in regeneration, the changes reverberate to the very core of the character of God and the Gospel as well. In other words, those doctrines were the very things that Finney went after and allowed him to evangelize with man at the heart of his evangelism rather than God.

The foundational doctrines of Christianity Today are not the same as they were during the time of the Reformation and for a time after. Today we have God seeking men in order to convince them and persuade them to make a decision for Him, but in times past men were taught to seek the Lord that He would regenerate their hearts. Today men are taught they can believe and that God would save them, but in days past men were taught to seek to have God break and humble their hearts and regenerate them that they may believe. If these things are true, and they are, professing Christianity has been turned on its head. What we have now is a man-centered version of Christianity where God is bound to the desires and choices of men. In the past, as well as in the Bible, true Christianity is God-centered and men are bound to the desires and choices of God. The differences and changes are enormous.

Christianity Today 11

November 16, 2019

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Jeremiah 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ 14:14 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. 23:26 “How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart,

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Mat 15:6 And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'” 10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”

If we think about the Church in centuries past, it seems as if the professing Church has been attacked by great error from the times of the Apostles. Before that the nation of Israel seemed to have been afflicted with false prophets on all sides throughout the history of the nation. Since the time of the Apostles error and false teachers have been plentiful as well. It should not shock us that in our modern day there is a lot of noise and activity in the professing Church, but all of that helps hide the fact that the Gospel is hidden beneath ritualism and activity. God does not look upon the activity as such, but instead He looks to the heart. Not only does He look at the heart, He is sovereign over each and every heart. There cannot possibly be one good work that does not come from Him first, so all the activities and rituals which men do in the practice of their religions that come from self are idolatry.

The passage from Matthew 15 (listed above) is a devastating passage. The Pharisees were very orthodox regarding many things and they had the history as well. But, as with all people in all times, it is so easy to slide off into trusting in our traditions rather than Scripture. It is not that they could not have presented biblical evidence for their positions, but their interpretations and their rules and laws that they thought were biblical became nothing more than tradition. Some people don’t think that they are following tradition rather than Scripture, while others seem to be overcome by it over time. Anything we practice that is not fueled by a love of God in seeking God becomes a tradition. For example, we can have times of prayer that we do because of tradition and because we know we should pray rather than actually praying from the heart. We can offer a form of prayer with right words, but our hearts may not be in them.

When the focus is on the external actions, whether things we do that we call worship or perhaps what we think of as moral, we are more like the Pharisees than we are like Christ. There are major disagreements over which songs to sing and whether one should use instruments or not, but the real issue is and always has been the heart. When Jesus spoke about true worship, He said it was to be in spirit and in truth. He did not set out long guidelines and specifics, but worship must be from the inward man and it must be in accordance with truth. It is easy to focus on the truth and forget about the inward man. It is easy to say that worship must be lively and with flowing feelings and forget about the truth. The professing Church of the modern day seems to ignore the words of Jesus and fall to one side or the other. It is not that this is a minor issue, however, but to fall off one side or the other means that the practice is not biblical and true worship.

Christianity Today 10

November 14, 2019

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Jeremiah 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ 14:14 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. 23:26 “How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart,

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Mat 15:6 And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'” 10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”

The words of the Scriptures above should awaken people to the possibility that they may not be converted. If salvation is indeed a rare thing, then people should begin to take notice of their own cold hearts and be awakened to their own dire need. People are taken captive by many things in the way of religion. We can be taken captive by systems of doctrine that are really nothing more than a religious philosophy. We can be taken captive by things that are nothing more than the deception of the devil though they are very religious. We can be taken captive by a religion that is really nothing more than the traditions of men. Our religion can also be built on nothing but the elementary principles of the world. We can also be quite deceived by our religion when it seems to be built on Christ, but instead is built on a false Christ.

We must always keep it in our minds and hearts that true Christianity has many counterfeits. There are many religions and idols that have been accepted into the professing churches and many are deceived by them. There are many human traditions that have been accepted and the Scriptures are set aside in order to follow those human traditions. Human traditions can pass into the professing church by the use of the Scriptures, though quite apart from the true meaning of the Scriptures. The passage above from Colossians shows us that the traditions of men are not according to Christ. But again, they can use the name of Christ and they can have many teachings and traditions about Christ, but that is quite another issue than having teaching that is according to the true Christ.

There are many sermons and Bible lessons that appear to be centered upon Christ because the teacher says a lot about a Christ, but Christ Himself and who He really is must be the true center of sermons and lessons. There are many sermons and Bible lessons that do not show the helplessness and inability of men, so in fact they are not centered upon Christ. Until man is emptied of himself there will be no true Christ-centeredness. A sermon or a lesson can be according to a creed or a confession but still be empty of a true Christ-centeredness. We can believe true things about Christ because we are supposed to believe them, but that is not the same thing as having those things taught to us by Christ Himself and our belief in them is because He has taught these things to the heart.

It is not enough to simply believe that things are true, but we must believe them from a heart that is taught by Christ and believe them from a heart that loves Christ and sees that truth in Christ. The great truths of Christianity are not simply propositions we think are true in our brains, because that is another way we would believe in a way that is not according to Christ. A true belief that is according to Christ is a belief of the whole person in a truth about Christ that comes from Christ in a Christ-centered way. It is one thing to believe a true statement because of reasons that do not come from Christ and are not centered in Christ, but it is quite another to have Christ Himself teach us in the heart because He is the life of that soul. A truth taught by Christ is not just a belief of the head, but it is the belief that flows from a heart that is conformed to that truth as it is in Christ. The professing church seems to be satisfied with teaching people things that an unregenerate but religious heart can believe.

Christianity Today 9

November 5, 2019

Matthew 7:13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. 15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.

Jeremiah 7:4 “Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD.’ 14:14 Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. 23:26 “How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsehood, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart,

Colossians 2:8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.

Mat 15:6 And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: 8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'” 10 After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. 11 “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” 12 Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”

It is quite sobering to read the verses above and then realize in a way deeper than the surface that there are many false prophets who speak according to “the deception of their own minds” and “of the deception of their own hearts.” These false prophets may use the Scriptures and be those who think that they are expositors of the Scriptures. It is not enough to read the Scriptures and use them in some way, but the Scriptures themselves are used by the false prophets to teach the deception of their own hearts and minds. True preaching is setting forth the truth of Christ and to expound the mind of Christ. When a preacher sets forth his own mind and heart, he is opposing the true God and the true Gospel. The preacher that is setting forth the deceptions of his own mind and heart is using the things of God and God Himself for the selfish and proud designs of the self. This is not preaching out of love for God, it is preaching out of love for self. This is not using self as an instrument of His glory, but instead it is using God as an instrument for the glory of self.

The Gospel is the Gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ. Regardless of whether a person is using orthodox language or not, to preach the true Gospel one must preach the glory of God in the Gospel. When a preacher is setting forth the glory of the preacher, whether in words or intent that is a false gospel and is an act of idolatry. Preachers can be proud of their orthodoxy and of their confession or creed and teach those things, but unless the glory of God is the focus and the intent of the teaching those men are preaching and teaching idolatry.

It appears that this is rampant in the modern professing “church.” It does not take a man who is obviously evil and obviously wants to mislead people to be a wolf, but instead a wolf can be a very orthodox man. A wolf can be a very nice man and even one who is concerned for the people. A wolf is a wolf because he is not preaching the glory of God as the very heart of the message. A wolf can have all the right words, but the heart is not truly there for the glory of God. The only difference between one who is preaching the glory of the Gospel of God and the one who is preaching the deception of his own heart and mind is the chief love of that person and what the heart desires. The selfish man will use orthodoxy, the Gospel, and God Himself as a way to exalt himself.

The modern day has seen a rise in entertainment and self-centeredness, but it has not seen a rise (discernible) in preachers with broken hearts who are setting out the glories of God in the face of Christ. God has been relegated to the task of helping men and fulfilling their desires. As a result of preaching that does not focus on God and His glory, men are focused on their own glory and as such they do not preach the hard things. In order to be saved men must be broken from their pride and self. Salvation is in the hands of God, not men. It is hard to preach and teach in a way where people begin to see that the Gospel saves them from themselves rather than provides a way for self to flourish. When men focus on self, it is not longer true Christianity that is flowing forth.