Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Falling Away Because of Bad Doctrines – 1 Tim 4:1-5

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. (ESV)
The Elect Don’t Fall Away
What does it mean when Paul says that some will depart from the faith in the end times? Does this mean they lose their salvation? I’ll have to go back to some things that Jesus said about the last times to understand it. Matt 24:24 For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect — if that were possible. (NIV) While Jesus may have been talking about a time that is even closer to the end than Paul, the principle is applicable. These great signs and miracle will attempt to deceive the ones that God has chosen, but the wording is clear that it is impossible. The NIV and KJV both insert the words “that were” between “if” and “possible” to make sure that we understand that it isn’t possible. English is an interesting language; using the plural “were” instead of the singular “was” is a technique that writers use to convey that it is not true or possible. As an example, I could make as statement like this, “if I were a lion, I would not eat zebras, only antelope.” The reader automatically understands that I am not a lion and can’t be a lion. That is an extreme example but it points out that the translators understand that the elect can’t be deceived.

Applying Jesus’ principle to Paul’s statement, I can say that the elect can’t or won’t be deceived to the point of departing from the faith. So those who do depart are not those who are elected or chosen by Jesus. They may have rubbed elbows with true Christians when they went to church with them. They may have sung along with the rest of the congregation, they may have danced and raised their hands as well. When they departed, they showed that they were not true believers. See also 1 John 2:19.
The book of Daniel has much to say about the end times and how people will be drawn away from the faith. Dan 11:32-35 "And by smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action. And those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder, for many days. Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. "And some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge, and make them pure, until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.” (NASB)

The chief of deceitful spirits will use smooth talk to lure people away from God. The angel tells Daniel that the ones who are deceived are people who are not acting in agreement with the covenant. This would describe people who claim to be Christians but violate the New Covenant by their actions. In other words, their walk doesn’t match their talk. They say they believe in Jesus but their lives are just like people who don’t. Jesus hasn’t made a difference in their lives. When faithful Christians, those who know God, take action to expose these lies and false teaching, they will be physically opposed and persecuted. Some of the pretenders will also join with them until they see Christians being killed for their faith. As unbelievers distant themselves to avoid persecution, the Church will refined.
Bad Doctrines

People eventually depart from the faith for various reasons, however the ones in this passage end up giving themselves over to teaching that they think is correct because they can follow them and thereby earn their way to heaven. Paul probably had some specific cults in mind when he wrote this. They believed that by not marrying, they could avoid sexual sins and be super spiritual. In addition, by maintaining strict diets, whether it was rigid adherence to the Jewish dietary law, becoming vegetarians, or adhering to some other diet, they believed that they would become pure enough to get into heaven.
Any doctrines that contain these kinds of restrictions are from demons. I’ve heard them called the “Jesus plus doctrines.” They want to sound Christian in order to deceive people so they say that you need Jesus for salvation then add on something else. They tell us that in order to get to heaven, we need to believe in Jesus AND obey their dietary laws or some other thing or person. When these people come knocking on your door, ask them exactly what you must do to be saved. If they add joining their church, believing in their prophet, making pilgrimages to a certain place, giving money, or anything else other than faith in and obedience to Jesus, beware.

One of the biggest demonic lies and one that most of the world believes is that we can do something to earn our salvation. Satan told Eve that if she ate of the fruit she would become like God. Her action would enable her to be on the same level as God. Now, the demons tell us that if you refrain from certain food you will be able to obtain this same position.
Paul makes it clear that food isn’t the issue. Neither is the health aspect of the food. He isn’t advocating that we should eat anything we want when he said that nothing is to be rejected. Otherwise, we would be able to eat poisonous foods and have no ill effects. He is talking about the spiritual effects of food. Any healthy food, whether pork, which would be a sin for a Jew to eat, or any other forbidden food in the Jewish dietary laws are now available for us to each without any sin.

Peter had a big problem getting this through his head until God spoke directly to him. Acts 10:15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." (NKJV ) This was why God showed him all sorts of animals including things that the Law of Moses declared unclean or sinful to eat. He told Peter to kill them and eat but Peter was stuck in his Jewish tradition and wouldn’t do it.  He should have already known this since Jesus declared all food spiritually clean (holy) in Mark 7:19. When we pray and receive the food with thanksgiving we confirm that what God has provided is good and can eat it with a clear conscience.
God gave the dietary laws of Moses to help distinguish Israel from the other nations who slaughtered and sacrificed many of the specific animals in their pagan rituals. Some claim it was only for health reason but that doesn’t stand up otherwise God would not have told Peter that everything was now OK to eat. It would also not stand up to the fact that God had declared all animals fit for consumption before the Law of Moses. Gen 9:3-4 I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables. But you must never eat any meat that still has the lifeblood in it. (NLT) God’s only restriction was not to eat the meat with blood in it. This restriction is still in effect as it was confirmed by the Jerusalem council in the letter they sent to the Gentiles (Acts Acts 15:29).

These liars who try to distract and turn people from the faith always have at the heart of their lies the goal of discrediting God. God gave marriage as the foundation of the family and these tried to distort that by forbidding marriage. Today they try to distort marriage and God’s Word by advocating living together without marriage or same sex marriage. Both of these are abundantly condemned in God’s Word. Only liars can read His Word and come up with anything different.
Whether it is food, marriage, or any other doctrine of demons, knowing God’s Word will always steer you in the right direction as long as you are willing to be submissive to God.

Monday, July 18, 2011

God’s Household – 1 Tim 3:14-16

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (NIV)

Indoor Voice
Paul’s reason for writing (so that I will know how to conduct myself in God’s household) reminds me of times I’ve heard people tell children to use their indoor voice. There is conduct that is acceptable outdoors and a different set of rules for indoors. Likewise, there is conduct that is appropriate for Christians and different behavior that the rest of mankind believes is appropriate. While there are times that I need to protest against some of that behavior, I must also recognize that it will never change.

Rev 22:10-13 And he said to me, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book, for the time is near. Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy."
"Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.” (ESV)

An angel told John that the evils of this world will continue right up to the end time. Then Jesus made it clear that He will judge my behavior, along with everyone else’s. The evildoers will find that His recompense will deal harshly with their behavior, but I, along with all Christians, will find forgiveness and mercy at the judgment seat of Christ.
However, if I’m emulating the world and using my “outdoor voice” (doing evil and being filthy) instead of my “indoor Christian voice,” (being righteous and holy) I will suffer loss of rewards. 1 Cor 3:14-15 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (NIV) All the instructions that Paul has given and the ones yet to come have the same goal. My behavior should result in bringing glory to God when I receive my rewards instead of losing them.

Paul already listed qualifications for elders and deacons and this confirms to me that these qualities are for every Christian.
Household of God

There are many references to the family of God in the Bible. As I review them, I’m quite awestruck that I’m included in that family. The book of Ephesians is a great place to study and understand the family of God. It starts in Eph 1:5 when I’m told that I’m an adopted son of God. Ladies, don’t be concerned that this is a male image. In Paul’s day, you would be much better off adopted as a son than a daughter. As a son, I have an inheritance waiting for me (Eph 1:11, 14). Jesus is the head the household, the church (Eph 1:22) and that we are the body (Eph 1:22, 23).
Before I was adopted, I was a child of wrath (Eph 2:3). That means I belonged t a different family, the family of Satan. I don’t have to imagine that family and how dysfunctional it is; I was a part of it. I thought right was wrong and wrong was right. I was headed down a slippery road and didn’t even realize it. It was a spiral that slowly pulled me deeper into sin. However, by grace I was saved and rescued from that family and brought into God’s family. I was a dirty, ragged, poor waif totally undeserving God’s mercy. Instead of being treated as I deserved, He raised me up and seated me with Jesus (Eph 2:6). I’m now clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and rich in every way.

The household of God comes from every imaginable group of people in the world. Originally, the Jewish nation had a special relationship with God. They were the ones who received His laws and ordnances. They knew how to have a relationship with Him that the rest of us didn’t know. That changed with Jesus. We Gentiles now have access to God the Father through the Holy Spirit. We are now called citizens of heaven as well as being part of the family of God. This eliminated all racial barriers so that the Gospel has been freely preached to all people. In the past, some people considered others as sub-human and therefore not capable of being part of God’s family (Eph 2:15-3:6). That is not how the family of God should behave.
As God’s family we have been called His Body and we are also called His temple. The Holy Spirit lives in every believer and joins us all together. All temples need a firm foundation and that is what the prophets and the apostles’ teaching provided. I’ll cover the foundation and pillar in more detail shortly.

As an adopted member of God’s family, I now bear His family name, Christian. Every person who has been born again carries this name because Jesus lives in our hearts by faith. Not everyone understands this. Not everyone lets the Holy Spirit empower them to love as Christ loved us, but that is what families should do, love one another. We don’t always put off our old dysfunctional nature and live by the power of the Holy Spirit. I need to have my mind renewed if I’m going to live and act as one of God’s children (people who imitate God) and be called by His name.
I may be adopted as God’s son, but my future is to be Jesus’ bride. Guys have a hard time imagining what this really means just as some women have a problem thinking of themselves as sons. In Eph 5:21-33 Paul tried to put it into words that we would understand. I think the biggest issues are subjection, holiness, purity, and relationship.

As a member of God’s family, I willingly submit myself to Jesus’ leadership. This is the first and primary response to the good news of the Gospel. Without this, the family structure breaks down. If I’m not submissive, I may very well be proving that I’m not really an adopted son but a pretender.
A bride used to be pure, or at least they were supposed to be. This is not the way it is in the current world but it is the image that God has given us when Paul described the bride without a wrinkle or blemish, indicating holiness and purity. If I have no desire to holy and pure, then I am again proving to be pretender. As an imitator of God (all children imitate their parents) I will want to live a life of holiness loving my brothers and sister.

As a bride and a groom have a relationship with each other, so I must have a relationship with Jesus. That relationship is marked by sacrificial love. Jesus already showed His love by sacrificing Himself to take away our sins and make us holy. My responding love must be leaving the world and joining myself with Him in the Church. That means forsaking the pleasures of this world to become one who seeks to bring pleasure to Him.
Purpose of the Church

In thinking about the family of God, the Church came up many times. The Church, the Body of Christ, and the Family of God are all different ways of explaining our relationship with our Lord.
Some people want to make sure they get all these images correct otherwise they feel they aren’t being accurate in their Christian faith. As an example, I came across this name of a church on the internet, “The First Glorious Church of God in Christ of the Apostolic Faith House of Prayer for All People.” I can’t confirm that there is really a church named this way but it illustrates what some congregations do.

It isn’t what we name our church that makes it a body of believers who please God. It is what the body of believers does and what the elders, deacons, and pastors teach. Paul described a purpose of the Church in this way, Eph 3:10 that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (RSV) As he stated above the Church is to be a pillar of truth. That truth is first of all proclaimed in the spiritual realm. It serves to notify the powers of darkness that they are defeated and on the way out. The angels who have remained faithful to the Lord are notified that mankind is redeemed and at the end of the ages we will be victorious.
This pillar of truth plays a very important part in today’s world where people have their own individual versions of truth. The Church stands as the one place on earth where I can rest assured that truth isn’t relative but is based on God who does not change. It is one of the reasons that Christians are vilified. Because we are unwavering in our belief of the truths of the true Church, we stand directly in the path of those who want to believe the things that lead them away from God, holiness, and righteousness. In this sense, the Church judges the world and that makes them very, very uncomfortable and even angry.

Mystery of Godliness
Some of the foundations of truth are summarized in this mystery of godliness, which is all about Jesus. Jesus is God incarnate, God in a human body. The world doesn’t like this truth because it means they have to believe what Jesus said. He said there is only one way to get to heaven and that is through Him and that just doesn’t make sense to those who have no faith in Jesus.

He was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit as proof that Jesus wasn’t a liar or a fraud. The world has tried to deny and disprove His resurrection ever since the first Easter Sunday. His resurrection also proves that our sins are forgiven and that He has taken them all on Himself. The world considers His resurrection foolishness because it isn’t scientific. But the power of the Holy Spirit who raised Him gives us the ability to life a holy life.
The angels testified to His resurrection the very first day. Angels are very popular in the world as long as they don’t talk about or point the way to Jesus. When they point to Jesus, they encourage holy living.

Read the book of Acts and you will find Jesus preached to the nations.
·         God’s plan was Jesus’ crucifixion
·         Sinful man put Him to death (and we are include in putting Him to death by our sins)
·         God raised Him from the dead
·         He is Lord and Christ
·         We need to repent of sins and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins

These points are also a mystery to those who don’t believe. They refuse to believe any of these points, especially the need to repent. However many believed then and still do today. The world doesn’t understand how people can change and live godly lives after they believe in Jesus.
Jesus was taken up in glory. Since He ascended, He will also return just as He promised. When He comes back again, He will take His Church up in glory. The Church is the godly followers of Jesus. There are many who claim to follow Jesus but are not living godly lives. Will they be taken up in glory also? It’s a mystery but I don’t think so.

Today is the day to respond to Jesus and seek Him before He comes back and it’s too late.