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BIBLE PROPHECY
A Beginning of Global Governance - #1 in a series
Prophetic Signs that we are in the End Times
The Earth Charter's Spiritual Agenda - #2 in a Series
The New Age Influence at the United Nations - #3 in a Series
Jesus is the Messiah Prophesied in the Old Testament
Like a Thief in the Night - The Rapture of the Church
The Coming War of Gog and Magog, an Islamic Invasion?
Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Prophecy Comparison
The Millennial Kingdom
There will be False Christs
Is the E.U. the Revived Roman Empire?
Should We Study End-Time Prophecy?
Apostasy and the Laodicean Dilemma
Christian Tracts
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Contender Ministries highly recommends Dr. Gary Frazier's new book "It Could Happen Tomorrow - Future Events That will Shake the World".  This is a must read for every Christian, and will be an invaluable guide to the end-times for anyone interested in Bible prophecy.

 

This book will not only inform you, it will inspire you and challenge you to increased evangelistic consciousness, greater missionary concern, and a desire to live a holy life in an unholy age.
    - Tim Lahaye, co-author of the New York Times Bestselling Series Left Behind

Let No One Deceive Us


  By Ben Rast

 Contender Ministries

 Posted June 15, 2005


 “For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” – Matthew 24:24

You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.” – Titus 2:1

My wife is the most intelligent person I know.  She’s musically talented, artistic, and educated in programming and chemistry.  I know a little chemistry, but Jen has taken more college chemistry classes than most people could tolerate.  Whether she’s trying to explain an obscure concept of organic chemistry, an advanced calculus equation, or the advantages of “server side includes” for the website, I invariably get a deer-in-the-headlights look on my face.  These concepts are clear to her, but are completely foreign to me.  As a result, I defer to her knowledge and judgment in these areas.  I know I can do so, as I trust her completely.  But what if her knowledge was incorrect, and what if the issues were spiritual and theological, rather than chemical, digital, or mathematical?  No doubt there would be more at stake – even the fate of my soul.  Alas, I see too many people whose Christian faith is shaken because of the eloquent arguments of Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics, or even atheists.  These eloquent arguments are also spurious, and the result is that one of the “elect” has been deceived (Matthew 24:24). 

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Throughout the history of Christianity, false teachers have created a following through deceptive heresies supported by eloquent arguments.  Arius taught that Jesus was a created being, subordinate to God.  He was excommunicated, but his eloquent teachings garnered quite a following.  Eventually, to preserve orthodox teachings regarding the deity of Jesus, the Nicene Creed was adopted – primarily to rebut Arius and his followers.  Other eloquent heretics followed – from Montanus to Joseph Smith, from Mani to Charles T. Russell.  Heresy and deception are not new to the scene.  The eloquence and passionate defense of these heresies however, are at least as influential as in the past, if not more so.  Yet we still find Christians who fall for these arguments.  We can debate the strength and validity of their faith, but we cannot escape one very uncomfortable truth – the Christian Church failed them.  They were not adequately prepared to deal with the arguments in support of heresy.  Often ignorant of Scripture and history, these people are susceptible to the passionate arguments of the lost. 

God’s Word has a great deal to say about being prepared to face arguments against our faith.  The Apostle Peter directed, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander” (1 Peter 3:15-16).  The Apostle Paul said that we must, “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God…” (1 Corinthians 10:5).  In Colossians 2:8 Paul cautions us, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  While there are many similar exhortations, let’s conclude with the passage from which Contender Ministries derives its name, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 1:3).  In these passages are two clear directives.  First, we must be prepared to stand strong in the faith against “hollow and deceptive philosophies” and “fine-sounding arguments” (Colossians 2:4).  We cannot allow ourselves or our brothers and sisters to be deceived by heresy and worldly lies (a defensive purpose).  The second directive is to be strong and knowledgeable in the faith so we can evangelize and counter these arguments (an offensive purpose).  We must “be prepared to give an answer,” “demolish arguments,” and “contend for the faith.”   The majority of opinion polls on the subject indicate that over 90% of Americans claim to believe in God.  Those who are born-again Christians according to Barna Group polling are much fewer, about 40%.  Those who have a biblical worldview are fewer still.  This means that most people we encounter will have some pre-conceived unbiblical view of God.  Are you prepared to answer their arguments in a witnessing encounter?  Are you ready to defend biblical Christianity when they level their attacks?  For many Christians, perhaps even most, the answer is “no.” 

I submit that the fault for this can be shared, both by the individual as well as by the Church.  Sadly, too many churches have forsaken the necessary teaching aspect of ministry.  We should expect our churches to equip us at least as much as they uplift and exhort us.  Many churches (including those with popular television broadcasts) grow tremendously large through inspirational and motivational preaching.  They are a good resource for Christians who want to be reminded that they are destined for success as well as salvation.  The “feel good” theology succeeds in filling the pews and collection plates, but leaves the parishioners decidedly unprepared to contend for the faith in the absence of good teaching.  I’ve been to many such churches, including one in which we never opened our Bibles throughout the entire service.  I was not challenged in that service and I learned nothing.  Needless to say, I did not return to that particular church. 

Paul obviously envisioned a much different Church.  Allow me to emphasize some lines in the following passage from Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians: 

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” – Ephesians 4:11-15

Paul obviously felt that the local church should serve a greater purpose than making the congregants happy and content.  Usually, such contentment cannot weather a challenge.  Instead, Paul directs that part of the body of Christ consists of teachers.  It is their job to “prepare God’s people.”  We should expect our churches to equip us.  This can happen both in large churches and small.  Allow me to give kudos to two examples of equipping churches.  Highlands Community Church in Renton, Washington has multiple services each weekend to accommodate its thousands of members and weekly guests.  They firmly believe in teaching and equipping the saints.  Yet a church doesn’t need thousands of members.  In tiny Hagerman, Idaho, Pastor Isaac Tellez teaches classes on Christian doctrine to equip the worshipers at Hagerman Christian Center for the mission field in which they all live and work.  He encourages active involvement by everybody, and the outreach program there is strong.  These are just two examples of churches that take seriously their responsibility to teach and equip the saints to serve the Lord and contend for the faith.

 

While many churches are failing in this area, individuals are not without blame.  Too many are content to let our witness be a fish on the back of the car, or a cross pendant around our neck.  We do not commit ourselves to study.  Yet we do not need to wait to be led by a pastor or elder in this regard.  The early Christians felt it an obligation to learn as much as they could.  Today, we have an advantage that most didn’t have then – the opportunity for a full and complete Bible of our very own.  Study of the Bible should not be restricted to passages that make us feel good, but also passages that challenge us; even those that are difficult to understand.  Peter made a couple of interesting points when he said, “and regard the patience of our Lord {as} salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all {his} letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as {they do} also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16, NASB).  First, Peter acknowledged that some teachings in Paul’s epistles may be difficult to understand.  As a result, Peter claims, the “untaught” and “unstable” distort these teachings “to their own destruction.”  This is an excellent example of why we should eradicate the ranks of the untaught by teaching them.  Additionally, we as Christians should not avoid the difficult passages.  Rather, tackle them with the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit so we can defend these teachings.  Finally, it’s important to note that in this sentence, Peter gives a first century advocacy of the Scriptural canonicity of Paul’s epistles. 

 

I believe there are two areas in which Christians must learn, and churches must teach – Scriptural doctrine and church history.  Paul told Timothy that, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” – 2 Timothy 3:16.  This means our first avenue of education is the Bible.  Uplifting but vague daily devotions do not cut it.  Inspiring but unchallenging sermons do not cut it.  Instead, we must commit ourselves to a study of the Scriptures.  We cannot do so by lifting verses here and there out of context.  That is a practice non-Christians use to support their beliefs.  Rather, we must learn to practice good eisegesis – getting out of the text what the author intended.  We must read Scripture in context.  This means reading it in the immediate context of surrounding verses, as well as in a greater context.  The greater context requires us to consider the overall theme of the book, the author’s intent, the target audience, and the purpose for its writing.  When we study Scripture in context, prayerfully considering the content under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we will be better prepared to give an answer and contend for the faith.  Each Christian should make it his or her personal responsibility to learn what Jesus and His apostles taught.  Stop avoiding Scriptures that seem difficult.  Be a diligent student of the Word. 

 

A comfortable knowledge of history is also important.  A Catholic wrote to us recently and said that he’s encountered many former “born-again” Christians who converted to Catholicism, recognizing it as the one true Church.  I find this easy to believe.  Many Christians do not know a great deal about Christian history, and are prone to fall for the revised history as taught by Roman Catholics and other groups.  Was Peter the first pope?  How did the papacy originate?  How was the canon of the Bible decided, and who decided it?  Did Catholics give us the Bible, and did Martin Luther remove books that were appropriately canonized?  Does Roman Catholicism’s intercessory priesthood trace its roots to the apostles?  Did the doctrine of the trinity not exist until the Council at Nicea?  These are questions that most Christians will face at some point in our lives.  Do you know the answers?  Are you prepared to give an answer?  Many a Christian has been wooed by a false and deceptive version of history.  The fact that you are reading this article indicates that you are someone interested in learning more about attacks on the gospel of Jesus Christ.  You have probably searched the internet for information on some heresy, heterodoxy, or head-scratcher in hopes of getting more information.  I commend you for that.  Yet many of our brothers and sisters in Christ are not so diligent.  There are many books out there on the history of Christianity, but one that I highly recommend for the “layperson” or minister alike is Church History in Plain Language, Second Edition, by Bruce L. Shelley.  Dr. Shelley does a commendable job of presenting an objective view of the history of Christianity from the time of Christ to modern times in a manner that’s easy to read. 

 

The problem is very real.  Satan has deceived many, and prepared them with fine-sounding arguments that continue to pull Christians into heresy.  The solution requires the cooperation of our churches to teach, and each person to learn.  We can no longer afford to let others study in our stead.  We must not be content to warm a pew and learn how to be purpose-driven or success-oriented.  We all have to be truth-driven – prepared to give an answer, ready to demolish heretical arguments, standing firm and contending for the faith.

 

 

 


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