Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Doctrine Divides

Again from Bible Gateway.

Doctrine Divides

Jeremiah 6:1–15 “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (v. 14).

Throughout history men have appeared who would become famous for seeking peace at any price. Perhaps the greatest twentieth-century example of such a figure is the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who in 1938 proclaimed that he had achieved “peace in our time” with Adolf Hitler even as he was preparing to unleash his blitzkrieg on Europe. Chamberlain’s aversion to hostility was so great that Hitler played him for a fool.

Conflict is something that most people, when given the opportunity, try to avoid. Peace is so desirable that significant differences between individuals and groups are often ignored, and unity is sought under the lowest common denominator. When peace is sought under these auspices, it can be easy to ignore the importance of truth altogether. The modern heirs of nineteenth-century Christian liberalism reveal such tendencies. In the drive to live peaceably with other professing believers and even other non-Christian religions, liberalism has tended to redefine Christianity as “the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of man,” or some other innocuous definition. Ironically, liberals tend to tolerate any kind of belief system unless it happens to represent orthodox, biblical faith.

We cannot, however, judge mainline Protestantism without recognizing that these problems are increasingly evident within evangelicalism. Even though many different denominations were born out of the Protestant Reformation, evangelicals have traditionally confessed the inerrancy of Scripture and the doctrine of justification by faith alone whether they were Lutherans, Baptists, Anglicans, Presbyterians, and so on. Today, unfortunately, the desire for unity means that such essential doctrines are often diminished so that Protestants, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox can all get along. Professing evangelicals no longer necessarily believe that justification by faith alone is an essential doctrine — even though without it there is no Gospel (Gal. 1:6–9; 2:15–16).

If Christian unity is to mean anything, it must be a unity of faith grounded in the truth. To sacrifice conviction for “peace” is to have no conviction at all.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Christians have often divided over matters not essential to Christian orthodoxy and lobbed charges of heresy at one another. Such actions have created a distaste for theology in the minds of many people, and there is now a tendency to downplay any essential differences within the visible church because of all the vitriol shown over the less important points of doctrine. Let us be passionate for the truth, but let us not divide unless Christian orthodoxy is at stake.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Twisting the Truth

A great follow up on unity from Bible Gateway.

Twisting the Truth

Acts 20:7–35 “Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (vv. 29–30).

Historically speaking, divergent viewpoints have existed within the church since the days of the apostles. Christians have always had to live in community with other believers who do not agree with them on every single point, and they have had to do so in a way that keeps “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). As an example of this, Paul in Romans 14 clearly intends to bring civility to Christians who are arguing over matters of diet and calendar.

No matter the particular issue, all disagreements occur only because one or more parties in the disagreement are at least partially in error. Both you and I can be wrong when we differ over something, but we cannot both be totally right. Not every error is a legitimate cause for division, and differences must be tolerated whenever they do not undermine Christian faith. Paul in Romans 14 makes this point, telling certain Christians not to judge other Christians who abstain from meat (mostly Jews still concerned with purity laws) even though no food is unclean in itself (v. 14). As long as the consciences of “the weak” did not bind the consciences of “the strong,” their view of food was tolerable.

Other errors deny those very beliefs that set Christians apart from all other people, that is, they deny those truths without which the Christian faith is impossible. Denials of the Trinity, the virgin birth, and other such matters are errors that we refer to as heresies. To preserve the purity of its testimony to the one, true God, the church has historically stood against heresy, calling councils and writing creeds to define the boundaries of orthodoxy.

Traditionally, heretics have been unwilling to admit that they do not affirm Christianity as it has been handed down throughout the ages. This problem was compounded beginning in the nineteenth century when heretics were increasingly able to stay in their churches without being disciplined for their aberrant views. Many unbelievers today are leaders in some Protestant denominations, which have suffered a mass exodus of members. The complicity of many church bodies in looking the other way when soul-damning lies are taught has forced many to flee these churches lest they be devoured by the wolves.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Paul in Romans 14 urged the toleration of those who in error felt it was wrong to eat what they thought was unclean. If this is so, should we not also tolerate those who disagree with us over issues such as the method of baptism or the millennial reign of Christ, especially when it is impossible to determine with absolute certainty which views are less faithful to Scripture than others? Are nonessential truths something over which you break fellowship?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Prayer Requests

Some prayer requests from VOM which I wanted to share.

"Prayer is the pulse of life; by it the doctor can tell what is the condition of the heart. The sin of prayerlessness is a proof for the ordinary Christian or minister that the life of God in the soul is in deadly sickness and weakness." - Andrew Murray

"praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints" - Ephesians 6:18

VOM-USA Prayer Update for August 2, 2013 On Thu. Aug 01 2013 at 03:11 PM Moderator wrote: India--New Amendment Could Increase Consequences for Christian Evangelism Source: VOM Sources

2 Corinthians 2:14-17

A proposed amendment to the "Freedom of Religion" law in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh poses a threat to potential converts to Christianity. The amendment stipulates a mandatory one-month advance notice to the district magistrate by both a prospective convert and the minister who wishes preside over a conversion ceremony. It also provides more stringent punishment (a three- to four-year prison term) and heftier fines for non-compliance. The district magistrate and any investigating police officer are charged with ensuring that no conversion happens by force or allurement, mandates that would allow them to impede true conversions. Christians are concerned this amendment grants too much power to local authorities, who are likely to intimidate those of a minority religion and hinder genuine conversions. It will also encourage the harassment of Christian pastors and anyone seeking to convert.[/quote]

Vietnam--Recent Convert Tortured and Imprisoned Source: VOM Sources

2 Corinthians 4:8-11

A new Christian, "Bao," is being pressured by village authorities to recant his faith, a VOM worker reports. After Bao and his family converted to Christianity four months ago, authorities told Bao he could not live in the village and that he could not use or purchase any products like food, clothing or candles from the village as long as he continued in his beliefs. They repeated their threat three times. After Bao was baptized, on July 16, his brother beat him and had him arrested. Bao was jailed for two days and was beaten and shocked in his eye with electric wires. Police fined Bao $250, which had to be paid before he could be released. His wife was unable to go and find someone to loan them the money because she is blind. Instead, Bao was released on the condition that he return in two days with the full payment. VOM is providing Bao with money to pay the fine. Please pray for the provision and protection of Bao and his family.[/quote]

Iran--Guards Harass Christian Prisoners Sources: VOM Sources, Mohabat News

2 Timothy 1:11-12

Prison guards raided the cells of Christian prisoners in Iran recently, damaging facilities and stealing personal belongings. On July 18, 150 prison guards raided a ward in Evin prison in Tehran, pulled prisoners from their cells and began searching. During the search, guards broke and stole prisoners' belongings. They also damaged facilities in the cells, including cooling systems and electrical wiring. Some of the Christian prisoners in the ward are serving sentences of eight years for their religious activity. Shortly afterward, guards raided the cell of Christian prisoner Behnam Irani, who is being held in Karaj, Iran, and treated him similarly. He has been in prison since March 2010.[/quote]

Bangladesh--VOM Project

Pray for those involved in a project teaching discipleship and vocational training in the trade of tailoring to persecuted Christians so that they can be self-supporting.[/quote]

The Church is One

Got this from Bible Gateway and wanted to share. Think it shows the way the movement in Anglicanism for orthodoxy is not only needed but justified.

The Church Is One

John 17 “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (v. 11b).

Our study of Matthew 18 now complete, we have seen how the church is to exhibit pastoral concern, guard the church’s holiness, and readmit to communion all those who, though they have broken fellowship, turn from their sins and seek restoration. Before returning to Matthew’s gospel, however, we need to look at the nature of the church in order to understand why discipline and forgiveness are needed to preserve the purity of the church. Dr. R.C. Sproul will guide our study through this subject with his teaching series The Bride of Christ.

John 17, which records the longest prayer in the New Testament, provides some of the most important teaching on the church. As we can see in this chapter, Jesus is concerned with the unity of His people, praying for His disciples and all those who come after them to be one in purpose and mission even as He and His Father are one (vv. 11b, 22–23). It is therefore regrettable that the church of Jesus Christ in our day evidences little visible unity. In the United States alone, there are hundreds of different Protestant denominations, including dozens of varieties each of Presbyterians, Baptists, Lutherans, and so on.

Faced with this scandalous reality, there has been a tendency in the twentieth century and now, in the twenty-first century, to try and correct this problem. As a result of the ecumenical movement, many new denominations have formed through the mergers of old ones, and there has been a push for believers to affirm what unites them over and against what divides them. This is laudable when those professing unity agree on the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith, but such is not often the case. Many times those seeking “unity” are those who are most eager to jettison any real adherence to the confessional standards of the church. Such unity is merely visible, and cracks begin to show when Bible-believers in the church begin to rightly protest the excesses of the liberal wings of their denominations.

If unity is to mean anything, Jesus also affirms in John 17, it must be a unity grounded in the truth (vv. 17–19). Unity is meaningless when church members do not confess the same Lord and Savior.

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

Consider today the importance of true Christian unity, one that is a unity of faith and not only an organizational unity. What type of unity is your particular church concerned to promote? What type of unity is your passion? Take time today to pray for your particular church and denomination that they would seek to be one with other Christians, but not at the expense of the faith once given to the saints. Do what you can to promote such unity with other believers.