Monthly Archives: December 2014

Sharing the unknown…part 4

Much of what has been written previously in this series has been foundational.  Meaning, how can we share what we believe with others if we aren’t sure of what we believe ourselves. We have discussed the Bible, one Book, two testaments, three confessions, the four councils, and five centuries of Christianity.  Basically, Orthodox Christianity. It is here in part four I will conclude with some non essentials, and identifying some cults. Because if we don’t know, we are sharing the unknown…

Let’s quickly touch on some of the more popular non essentials.  Age of the earth.  Prior to attending seminary I had never even heard anything other than the Genesis 1 account taken literally, six twenty-four hour days. Now it seems many debate this as much as they do the problem of evil. It is an important topic, but non-essential to salvation. Others include a harmonious local body such as church government, sign gifts, and the return of Christ. There are many other debates and discussion concerning the church. And sadly, many become upset and leave, or even worse, completely turn their back on God. Here in lies the most important reason we need to know truth. Truth causes much division. Some see apologetics in the same way. However, the point of the last portion of this particular blog is not only Biblical, but may be one of the most divisive topics of all; cults.

The reason it is so vital that we know and understand what and why we believe is to refute error and forewarn other Christians. It is here that apologetics get a bad name, well part of the reason anyway. We must let people know there are both true and false versions of Christianity. Thus the previous three parts of establishing a foundation to build on. Let’s start with the Biblical basis, what a concept, of this sometimes touchy subject. 2 Cor. 11:14 speaks of satan disguising himself as an angel of light, to appeal to people. Falsehood is always more appealing. Matthew 7:15-23 speaks of false prophets, those that appear to look Christian, producing false disciples, and the verse many seem to skip concerning people calling Him Lord, and Him telling them to depart from Him. Acts 20:26-31, Paul tells us false teachers will arise, and more importantly we are charged to warn them.  Here is where most become angry. Strangely, people like what they believe whether it is true or not. Finally, 2 Cor. 11:3,4. An entirely different Jesus was being spread along with a different gospel and spirit. Many other pieces of scripture speak of the same things, Gal. 1:6-9, 2 Tim. 4:1-8, 2 Peter 2:1-3 all give a warning.  There are many today dong the same thing. So how or what do we do? Name names! 2 Tim. 2:16, 17, Paul mentions names and even mentions the teaching itself.  Something like calling out prosperity teachers, what they teach, and who they are.  Yet people become extremely angry because of the unknown. The Bible!

The criteria for identifying a cult is pretty simple and to the point. They claim a doctrinal truth, have a leader, claim Christianity, but deny one or more essential doctrines! Typical characteristics include: emphasis on miracles and experiences over doctrine, and reducing Biblical authority. This is why I attempted to emphasize the importance of the Trinity. There are many false views on tis particular essential, TD Jakes being one example. Other examples of cults include Mormonism, Jehovah Witness, and Kenneth Copeland, (he thinks his teachings come from direct knowledge from God telling him what the Bible means). “All groups that deny Christianity are false. All cults are false religions. Not all false religions are cults.” Kevin Lewis

*Some of the material contained in the blog were obtained from “notes” at Biola University, Responding to Cults by Kevin Lewis

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Sharing the Unknown… part 3

So I need to first apologize to those who actually read this blog.  My daughter blessed my wife and me with a grandchild last week and needless to say we have been a little busy.  Prayerfully, I am back on schedule now.  With that being written, let’s “cut to the chase” of sharing the unknown!

     I left you last time with the four councils.  Briefly, the councils were the final authority of the Books contained in the Bible we have today, Jesus, and His deity, and the Trinity.  After two parts thus far I would like to move on and get to the essentials of the Christian faith, why it is important to know and understand what the essentials are, and finally, the main point, sharing the unknown.  My prayer for this is for the understanding, that just because many use Christian terms, are popular, and sadly many follow false doctrine and teachers, they are not Christian!  I humbly ask that you know what you are being taught, what your church believes, and can grasp the importance of knowing not only what you believe, but why you believe it.

     The essentials!  The Deity of Christ, Salvation by Grace, The Resurrection of Christ, The Gospel, Monotheism, Salvation by Christ alone, and The Holy Trinity.  Sounds simple enough, but let’s take a look at each one individually.  The Deity of Christ, meaning that Jesus is God in the flesh, (John 10:30, John 20:28), plus many others.  Many think of Jesus as a good man, a prophet, and many other names other than God in the flesh.  This is one of the most important, though I would say each are equally important, of all the essentials.  It is also why we much know and understand “which” Jesus we are following, or believe in.  Salvation by Grace is exactly what it states.  We are saved by the free gift of grace.  Nothing else.  No prayers, water, works, nothing!  Grace alone, (Ephesians 2:8-9).  The Resurrection of Christ separates the Christian faith from ALL others.  Every other religions leader has all died, and remains dead.  The Christian faith is built on Jesus, His death, and resurrection, (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).  The Gospel is the foundation of the Christian faith.  The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus dying for our sins, as simple as it may sound, are the “bottom line” of a follower of Christ.  Here again, we must be careful in what we are being taught.  Many use similar terms concerning the gospel, however, the Bible spells it out clearly, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Monotheism, a fancy word for some, but vital to the Christian foundation.  Simply put, there is only one God.  Period.  We are not, and do not, become little gods, neither are there other gods according to the beliefs in Christianity.  Some teach otherwise.  Meaning, there are many gods, that we indeed can become a god, or other such things concerning God.  These are wrong, and we must not be afraid to say so. Here also, we must conclude there is no other way but through Christ, being God, for salvation, and to profess Christianity.  If so, it is another God, and belief system you are following, (Exodus 20:3-6).  Which leads us to Salvation by Christ alone, there is no other way.  All religions are not the same, and all do not lead to salvation.  One way to answer this particular objection, or thought if ask, in reality yes, all roads lead to God, but, and that is a huge but, only one leads to salvation.  ALL others lead to eternal punishment, better known as hell, (John 14:6).  And finally, the one where many divide, and in fact, the one many do not know or understand they are following something other than the Holy Trinity.  The Trinity, though not actually mentioned in the Bible, and hard to understand, is by all means essential to the Christian faith.  If one is to read the belief statements of many well known “religions”, pastors, or how ever you would like to refer to them, this is where you will find possibly the biggest differences in those professing Christianity, or in fact something entirely different, including a different God, and Jesus all together!  By definition the Trinity is one infinite, personal, independent Spirit who is self existent, good, holy, and just (Is. 44:24).  Three personal instances of this one undivided essence exist at the same time (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).  They are not separate, God is not greater than Jesus or the Holy Spirit, Jesus did not become separate, etc.  One will see many variations of this definition.  Here in lies a major problem with essential Christian doctrine.  One essence, co-equal.  If you believe otherwise, your church teaches differently, then you do not follow the Jesus of Christianity.  Be aware of this major difference in wording, praying, and baptizing, along with other different traditions involving the Trinity.  There are not three gods, one godhead playing three roles, or otherwise.  I am not sure I can emphasize enough, or make it any clearer the importance of this distinction.

     Orthodox Christianity.  The belief that many feel they probably believe, but is unsure of what they actually believe.  Once again I have written more than expected.  So…please stay tuned for part four.  There is much more in defining, or distinguishing the differences of so-called Christians.  Next time I will point out how to distinguish the others, and touch on the points of defining who we are, who they may be, cults, and false teachers.

Sharing the unknown… part 2

Many would ask why it is important to know and understand what Jesus they believe, or the history of Christianity.  In my last writing I mentioned other worldviews concerning Jesus leaving you with a basic definition of Orthodox Christianity and a quote from Dr. Norman Geisler; ” One Bible, two testaments, three confessions, four councils, and five centuries.” The sad thing is, many have never heard of Orthodox Christianity, confessions, or councils. This leads to the importance of knowing not only which Jesus, but the fact of what one actually believes.  As I have written previously, many feel that as long as you believe and confess, in accordance with the Bible, then all is good and we are heaven.  Well, in some sense I would agree that it very well may be that simple.  But in reality, what exactly we are believing and confessing is the question.  If we are not aware of which Jesus, or the history of Christianity, we very well may be confessing to something we do not agree with, or truly believe.  In fact, in my opinion, this is why so many are led astray and feel like they are serving God, when in reality they are following a cult and or a false teacher.  All too often popularity of a person is the reason so many follow.  Many of these people are false teachers, and unfortunately, most do not know, or maybe simply do not care.  Here in lies the point, if one professes to be a Christian, then one must agree with the essentials of Christianity.  If not, then you are following something other than the Jesus of the Bible.  Which begs the question of what are you sharing, if you are sharing, Christianity, or the unknown?

Let’s start with the Bible.  Where did it come from?  Why do you believe it?  Who decided the sixty six books of the Bible?  Did you know someone actually made that decision and there are many books that were not included?  Does that bother you?  So many questions of the very first requirement.  And no it doe not state the King James version only.  Sorry, just had to clarify.  The Bible, period.  This eliminates the Mormons, Muslims, and others.  But as we will see the false teachers carry a Bible.  They twist the scripture, but they do carry one.

Two testaments.  Have we ever considered why two?  Do we follow the Old Testament?  If not why is it included?  Who wrote the Old Testament?  Yes, I know it is easy to say, well Moses wrote these books, and Isaiah wrote his, and, well, the names on the books are who wrote them.  Are you sure?  I am not trying to be condescending, I am simply trying to lay the foundation of the Jesus one believes, and the Christianity one follows.  These first two are basic information a follower of Jesus should at least know something about.  I mean, if you are going to profess to be a Christian and believe the Book on which your beliefs are based, does it seem to much to assume one would know at least something of why?  So, one Bible, two testaments, and three confessions?  What do I mean three confessions?  Again, there is only one Truth, and if you believe outside of it, then you are following something that is obviously false.  Many teach there is one way, and their way is correct.  But common sense and logic would show we all cannot be correct.  And, I will go as far as to say if you feel you are correct, please correct me.  Not with what you believe, many believe things that are not true.  But with facts, evidence and reason.  This is the point of writing blogs, or this particular blog, to begin with.  Too many people are being mislead, and have no idea they are.  Mainly by false teachers of Christianity, as most of us accept other religions as being false.  Yet, everyone that calls themselves Christian cannot all be Christian.  Oh, and it is our job to call out false teachers, and to hold each other accountable.  Here is where the division begins…

Three confessions.  The Apostles Creed, The Nicene Creed, and The Creed of Chalcedon.  I know the next thought that comes to your mind, and no, I am not a prophet.  “Creeds?  I only believe the Bible!” Which of course goes back to number one above.  Due to space, I am only going to give an overview of the Creeds and Councils to follow.  The Apostles Creed, is one of the first attempts at a formal Christian creed, basically what we believe.  It has seen changes of the centuries with final final one occurring in AD 750. You can read it here: http://carm.org/apostles-creed.  The Nicene Creed, defined the deity of Christ.  Here is one that stands out concerning false teachers.  It states in summary, the coequal status of and one substance of Christ with the Father. AD 325 and can be read here:http://carm.org/nicene-creed.   Many do not realize the person they are following, (preacher, used loosely), do not believe or follow this belief.  It is essential to know what you, and the church/pastor, believe and if it is true Christianity and the true Jesus!  Anyway, the final creed, The Creed of Chalcedon, AD 451, includes the previous creeds and adds to the essentials.  It can be read here: http://carm.org/christianity/creeds-and-confessions/chalcedonian-creed-451-ad.  As I stated in the beginning, this is a broad overview, but the only way of defining cults from true Christianity.

It would appear there very well may be a need for a part three to this post.  I again will attempt to at least give you an overview of the councils and decide at that point.  So, the four councils, The Council of Nicea AD 325, determines deity of Christ, Costantinople AD 381, discusses the person of Christ, Ephesus AD 431, person of Christ, and Chalcedon AD 451, person of Christ.

And you thought it was simply believe and confess!  There is so much more, and I will continue tomorrow.  We have not actually touched on the main point.  That being: sharing the unknown…

Sharing the unknown…

All too often it seems the belief in Jesus is all we need to know to be a Christian.  I guess to an extent that may be true.  Except for that small detail of which Jesus?  I mean, the Mormons believe in Jesus, as do the Muslims, Jehovah Witness folks, false teachers, and of course Satan himself.  So why would something that appears to be so simple, in reality, be just a little more complicated that many would like to think?  The short answer would be most professing followers of Christianity have never been taught.  It is not their fault, well maybe not completely their fault.  But, how can we share the gospel if we do not know what we actually believe?  Or which Jesus we believe to have existed?  It would seem to be like sharing the unknown…

I have been told many times, and with the supposed support of scripture, that what does it matter as long as we are reaching people.  Typically this has applied to false teachers.  And the scritpture used is concerning Jesus telling the disciples what does it matter, if they are not against us, they are for us.  Obvious paraphrase to write the least.  To me, that type of logic, would apply to any of the above mentioned worldviews. The Mormons, Muslims, JW folks, and false teachers all preach Jesus.  They are all reaching more people than most evangelicals, so why not just leave them alone.  Let me guess, I am being extreme again.  No, this is Bible 101.  Everyone can not be right.  We cannot share Jesus if we do not know which Jesus we actually believe to be true.  Yes, I do understand that most will say, “I believe the Jesus of the Bible”.  Where exactly do you think any of the others get Jesus from?  So why does it matter?  Let me sum it up and explain further.  Many professing followers will tell you the Mormons, Muslims and JW’s are wrong, they may not know why, but they are confident they are wrong.  Oh, and Satan also.  Notice I left out possibly the fastest growing, if not one of the largest groups, mentioned.  False teachers!

You see, many of the false teachers are some of the most popular “Christians”.  But are they really Christian?  How do we know?  And before you even get started with the “judge not” nonsense, which is part of the larger problem, let me explain.  Believe it or not Christianity is based on certain criteria.  Should I say, Orthodox Christianity, which is what most would profess to believe is based on essential doctrines.  Here is where many divide, and that is okay, well not really, but here is where the need to know becomes vital.  If you don’t know, then you very well may be following a cult, false teacher, or something completely different than what your church, friends, pastor, or favorite false teacher believes.  Sadly, many feel, or think everyone, or those professing Christianity, all believe the same thing.  So let me leave you with the definition of the Christianity I believe and defend.  Then you can think about what you believe until next time, when we dive deeper into Sharing the unknown…

Orthodox Christianity – the traditional, historical faith that was established during the first 500 years of the church, and codified in the ecumenical councils held during that time period. This is the Christianity that every major Christian group points back to in one way or another. As my seminary professor Norman Geisler once wrote, “Unity among all major sections of Christendom is found in the statement: One Bible, two testaments, three confessions, four councils, and five centuries.”