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The Dutch Reformed Church’s [Accelerated] Downward Spiral into Apostasy

Posted by Tom Lessing on May 17, 2009

Someone recently asked me “How is it possible that anyone who once proclaimed a steadfast faith in Jesus Christ can apostatize from the truth and begin to follow another Jesus, and yet still believe that they are following the real Jesus?” In hindsight I knew my answer was rather flimsy at the time and I felt like kicking my own rear-end for not having provided a better reason for our postmodern malady of chronic apostasy. I must admit I felt much better when I realized that when Paul grappled with the phenomenon of apostasy he could only express his astonishment at the serious and very dangerous defection from sound biblical doctrine in the church at Galatia without giving any sound reasons. The most amazing thing about their apostasy was that it happened so quickly. It accelerated at an alarming rate since Paul’s last missionary journey to Galatia and very soon after the false teachers began to infiltrate the church with their menacing heresies. It indicates that when doctrinal error is allowed to continue unabated and is not immediately nipped in the bud it will quickly spread like a cancerous tumour, spreading rapidly from body cell to body cell until the entire body is infected and eventually killed (2 Timothy 2:13-19). Incidentally, rev. Attie Nel of the DR Church Bergsig delivered a sermon on this passage but instead of warning his congregants against the manifold false teachers of our time, he singled out the “whistle-blowers” as the whipping-boys and cancer carriers and advised his congregants to rather surf the site http://bible.org if they needed solid biblical mentors or teachers to guide them on their spiritual journey. He said:

N.T. Wright “Today there are three persons who’ve had a very significant influence on my life: N.T. Wright, SCOT McKNIGHT and Eugene Peterson. In South Africa: Stephan Joubert and Jan van der Watt, and even Adrio König. Everyone of us should have a teacher or two in our lives, preferably more than one [and] say: ‘I am eager to learn from you.’ However, people learn in different ways. Some learn through reading; others though listening; yet others learn though talking, discussion. I do not like to talk because I am a slow thinker, but I’m an avid reader and listener. Now, I’m going to give you a website’s name where all three of these things occur. There’s a lot of reading-matter, very good reading-matter and conservative theologians; they publish daily on that site and there is also sermons you may listen to, and there’s a place where you can chat with others. The address is very simple, www.bible.org. Pop in there; you can also make those persons your teachers.”

Toward the end of his sermon rev. Nel says:

“Make God the first love, the only love in your life. Having said that, one wonders, ‘but how do I live it?’ And one of the persons I heard speaking about this, this week, he said ‘Just love Jesus.’ That’s all. Only love the Lord. If you love the Lord and if you love Him more than anything else everything falls into place. Its so easy. Its so easy. Its not an emotion. I do not choose to feel something. I choose to be something. How does it feel to love your wife? I don’t know . . . All I know is that I would do nothing to hurt her. How does it feel to love your wife? I don’t know . . . I do not know what it feels like. All I know is that when I keep my children in safety, that is what my wife wants of me . . . ‘Just love Jesus’”

These are indeed precious words but unfortunately precious words do not always paint the full picture. Jesus Christ also wants rev. Attie Nel and all the other pastors in the Dutch Reformed Church family to keep God’s children safely, just as his wife wants him to keep their kids in safety. Didn’t  Jesus say that our love for Him will be mirrored in the way we feed and keep his sheep and lambs? (John 21: 15-17). To love Jesus is therefore much more than a mere pious wish to “just love Jesus.” In fact, Scripture never says that we should “just love Jesus.” Love for God finds its highest expression in the way you handle and practice His Word (doctrines) (John 14:21, 21; 2 John 9) and also in the way you feed and keep his children. In the first place, to keep God’s children safely means to preserve and feed them within the constrains and parameters of His Word so that they may grow spiritually and to protect them against the unscrupulous attacks of false teachers. Are our pastors doing that? No, say I, because they are delivering up the sheep and the lambs to teachers who are saying and doing things contrary to our Great Teacher, Jesus Christ. They are leading the sheep and especially the lambs along ways that seem right but the ends thereof are the ways of death (Proverbs 14:12).

N.T. Wright, one of rev. Attie Nel’s influential teachers, is a bishop in The Church of England who are confusing Christians with his book “What Saint Paul Really Said.” He is also one of the co-writers of a book that is causing an uproar in the church, called “Stricken By God, Nonviolent Identification & the Victory of Christ edited by Brad Jersak en Michael Hardin. Several distinguished leaders in the Emergent Church, amongst them Brian McLaren, have endorsed it with gusto. Bishop Wright is an highly esteemed person in the Emergent Church. On page 119 of his book “What Saint Paul Really Said” he wrote the following on the doctrine of justification.

"’Justification’ in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God.  It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people."

With this concoction readers are expected to rethink the concept of justification. According to Wright “justification” cannot be interpreted in terms of God’s imputed righteousness of His Son to save sinners, but merely as an expression or locution (metaphor) of God’s covenant faithfulness in vindicating Israel in the face of the nations. No wonder Paul lamented:

Galatians 1:6-7 I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different [even an opposition] gospel. Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel], but there are [obviously] some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel] and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ (the Messiah) [into something which it absolutely is not].

The apostle John was equally astonished when he was shown the apocalyptic MYSTERY BABYLON, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH and the woman who was drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus (Revelation 17:6). In fact, the very same word “thaumazo { thou-mad’-zo}” is used in both these passages. Unfortunately astonishment (amazement, bewilderment and shock) have been replaced by admiration and appreciation, even to the extent that the once disallowed and disavowed doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are being assimilated in Protestant circles with accelerated zeal and wonderment. Those who fail to notice the globally orchestrated and unrelenting efforts of some of the most revered spiritual leaders in both the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches to reverse the Reformation need to surf the internet for only a few hours to see how far they have progressed to eradicate the divide between the two. During my research on the internet I happened to stumble on a site entitled PBS that seems to be on the forefront of providing international news and views via their television stations and internet content. They claim to reach more than 65 million people every week and invite their viewers and listeners to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. I was particularly interested in their page called RELIGION AND ETHICS and its cover story “Protestant Mary” which appeared on December 17, 2004. Kim Lawton, Managing Editor/Correspondent and award winning reporter, producer, writer and editor who has worked in broadcast media and print for nearly 20 years covering religion, ethics, and culture, interviewed several well-known clergy and academics. She introduced Prof. Timothy George, Southern Baptist and dean of the evangelical Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, as one of a growing number of theologians and writers urging evangelicals and other Protestants to stop ignoring Mary. She also interviewed Professor BEVERLY ROBERTS GAVENTA (Princeton Theological Seminary) who is calling for a new Protestant examination of Mary.

So even in order to understand fully what those Gospels are about, which is so much what Protestants prize, we have to pay more attention to her. We can’t just bring her out for Christmas Eve and put her back away on the 26th.

Mother Mary Why do we need to pay more attention to Mary when she hardly or ever contributed to the advancement or illumination of the Gospel? That task was given to the twelve apostles of whom Jesus once said: “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” We dare not show any partiality when Christ himself singled out every person who does the will of His Father in heaven to be his brother and sister and mother. Mary who presented herself to God so that He may accomplish His will in regard to the incarnation of God the Son, was indeed blessed but so are the poor in spirit, they that mourn over their sins, the meek, the hungry who thirst after the righteousness of God, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. No one can deny that Mary was a blessed chosen vessel of God, for had He not done so our blessed Lord and Saviour could never have partaken of flesh and blood so that our sins and transgressions could be judged in His torn and bloodied body on the cross. The virgin vessel was blessed but no more than every man, woman and child who do the will of His Father in heaven. As soon as we place Mary on a pedestal to single her out for special attention above all the others whom Jesus Christ referred to as his brothers and sisters and mothers, we are dangerously close to the Mariology of Roman Catholicism. Mariology in the Roman Catholic tradition is not just about bringing Mary out of Christmas Eve and examining her position for a better and fuller understanding of the Gospels. The ultimate goal of Mariology is to proclaim Mary Co-redemptrix with Jesus Christ. The following definition of the word “Co-redemptrix” appears on Wikipedia.

Co-Redemptrix in Roman Catholic Mariology refers to the role of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the redemption process. It is a separate concept from Mediatrix. The concept of Co-redemptrix refers to an indirect or unequal but important participation by the Blessed Virgin Mary in redemption. She gave free consent to give life to the redeemer, to share his life, to suffer with him under the cross and to sacrifice him for the sake of the redemption of humankind. Co-Redemptrix has not been formally defined as a dogma, although petitions for declaring it (along with Mediatrix) a dogma have been submitted to the pope by various Cardinals and bishops. It would become a fifth Marian dogma if approved by the Holy See.

Millions of Roman Catholics have signed and submitted a petition to the Pope, pleading with him to declare Mary Co-redemptrix, Mediatix and Advocate for all Christians. On April 9, 1997 the late Pope John Paul II referred to the role of Mary in the crucifixion during an audience as follows:

Mary … co-operated during the event itself and in the role of mother; thus her co-operation embraces the whole of Christ’s saving work. She alone was associated in this way with the redemptive sacrifice that merited the salvation of all mankind. In union with Christ and in submission to him, she collaborated in obtaining the grace of salvation for all humanity…In God’s plan, Mary is the ‘woman’ (cf. John 2:4; John 19:26), the New Eve, united to the New Adam in restoring humanity to its original dignity. Her cooperation with her Son continues for all time in the universal motherhood which she enjoys in the order of grace. Trusting in this maternal cooperation, let us turn to Mary, imploring her help in all our needs. (Emphasis added)

The ominous reality about the growing world-wide appeal to proclaim Mary the Co-redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate for all Christians is that it has taken on an increasingly supernatural dimension with the many Marian apparitions throughout the world. In many of these Marian apparitions she claims to be the Mediatrix, Advocate, Saviour (Ark of peace) and ever-present, titles which belong to Christ alone. Her most alarming claim is that she is the Co-Redemptrix or Co-redeemer of the world. The following quotes are directly from the lips of the “Mary” many people have seen in her apparitions throughout the world.

I stand here as the Co-redemptix and Advocate. Everything should be concentrated on that. Repeat after me: The new dogma will be the dogma of the Co-Redemptrix. Until I’m acknowledged, there with the most holy Trinity, has willed me to be, I will not be able to exercise my power fully in the eternal work of co-redemption and in the universal mediation of graces.”

She claims to have suffered with Christ for the sins of the world.

I love you even if you are far away from me and my son. I ask you not to allow my heart to shed tears of blood because of the souls who are being lost through sin.

For a long time I have suffered for you. If I don’t want my son to abandon you, I am forced to pray to him myself without ceasing. You pay no heed. However much you would do, you can never recompense the pain I have taken for you.

I boldly assert that his suffering became my suffering because his heart was mine. And just as Adam and Eve sold the world for an apple, so in a certain sense my son and I redeemed the world with one heart.

I am she who is related to the divine Trinity. I am the virgin of Revelation.

My children, I am the Door of heaven and a help on earth.

She encourages her children to venerate her statues.

As mother I want to tell you that I am here with you represented by the statues you have here. Each of my statues is a sign of a presence of mine and reminds you of your heavenly mother. Therefore, it must be honored and put in places of greater veneration. You should look with love at every image of your heavenly mother.

She also encourages her followers to build shrines and temples to her honour

I ardently desire a temple built for me here where I can show and offer all my love, compassion, help and protection, for I am your merciful mother.

In 1999 in Amsterdam she was not only hailed as the Co-Redemptrix but also for the first time as The Lady of all Nations. In one of her apparitions she said the following-

When the dogma, the last dogma in Mary’s history has been proclaimed, the Lady of Nations will give peace, true peace to the world. The nations, however, must say my prayer in union with the church. They must know that the Lady of all nations has come as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix and Advocate.

The Marian apparition now claims that she is not only Mary the mother of God but also Lady of all the Nations and as soon as the Pope declares her to be the Co-Redeemer with Christ she will usher in a new era of peace.

Speak about the mother of the Eucharist because the mother of the Eucharist closes history. All the messages come from God and everywhere that I am appearing I am speaking about the same things. Because of the triumph of the Eucharist, the mother wants all the churches to be reunited so that there will be only one church for all the people (Emphasis added).

You may have begun to wonder why I am telling you these things and how they tie in with the Dutch Reformed Church’s downward spiral into apostasy. Not only has the emerging mystical spirituality (contemplative prayer, centering prayer, lectio divina, lectio continua, enneagrams, labyrinths, solitude, the silence, meditation, breath prayers, the Jesus prayer, contemplative retreats, twelve cross stations, Jesus candles, icons, Ignatian contemplation, the Desert fathers etc.) taken the church by storm, it is beginning to show its true colours and purpose which is to bring Protestants back into the Roman Catholic fold.

Prof Beverly Gaventa The Faculty of Theology at the University of Stellenbosch and Communitas will be hosting a three-day conference on the theme “What can we learn from the book of Acts about being a Missional Church?” from 18-20 May 2009. The conference will launch research groups that will work on seven themes in the Book of Acts over a period of three years. The project aims at bringing together two major discussions within the context of theology and church practice. Proff. BEVERLY GAVENTA (Princeton Theological Seminary) who I have already briefly introduced to you as a promulgator for a new Protestant examination of Mary and SCOT McKNIGHT (North Park University, Chicago) will be the main speakers at the conference. Like Prof. Gaventa, McKnight urges Protestant churches to honour Mary. The following excerpt appeared in one of the site Lighthouse Trials Research’s newsletters:

In emerging church leader, Scot McKnight’s book, The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus, McKnight says thatScot McKnight Protestant Christians are the only Christians who do not honor Mary. He recommends that Protestant churches all practice an "Honor Mary Day" (p. 144), saying she "leads us to a Jesus who brings redemption … To listen to Mary is to hear the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection as a mega-event whereby God established a new kind of power, a new kind of family, and a new kind of kingdom" (p. 145). McKnight describes this great event as a time when the world will come together and worship Mary (Emphasis added).

McKnight who is already having a great impact on the emerging church is also passionately promoting the Eucharistic Jesus in Protestant circles. He says that "the Eucharist profoundly enables the grace of God to be received with all its glories and blessings."(Scot McKnight, Turning to Jesus, (Louisville, KY: Westminister John Knox Press, 2002 edition, p. 7).

It is evident that the Dutch Reformed Church’s three-day conference on the theme “What can we learn from the Book of Acts about being a Missional Church” is nothing but a well-disguised effort to promote the Roman Catholic Church’s New Evangelization programme. Many young Dutch Reformed Church clergy are progressively opting for a missionary strategy to establish the Kingdom of God on earth and are urging people to become followers of Jesus. The Jesus they are following is slowly but surely morphing into the Eucharist Jesus who is repeatedly sacrificed on the altars of Roman Catholic cathedrals throughout the world. For more information on this subject read here.

Jeremiah 44:15-25 Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods, and all the women who stood by – a great assembly – even all the people who dwelt in Pathros in the land of Egypt, answered Jeremiah: As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not listen to or obey you. But we will certainly perform every word of the vows we have made: to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her as we have done – we and our fathers, our kings and our princes – in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and prosperous and saw no evil. But since we stopped burning incense to the queen of heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have been consumed by the sword and by famine. [And the wives said] When we burned incense to the queen of heaven and poured out drink offerings to her, did we make cakes [in the shape of a star] to represent and honor her and pour out drink offerings to her without [the knowledge and approval of] our husbands? Then Jeremiah said to all the people – to the men and to the women and to all the people who had given him that answer – The incense that you burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem – you and your fathers, your kings and your princes, and the people of the land – did not the Lord [earnestly] remember [your idolatrous wickedness] and did it not come into His mind? The Lord could no longer endure the evil of your doings and the abominations which you have committed; because of them therefore has your land become a desolation and an [astonishing] waste and a curse, without inhabitants, as it is this day. Because you have burned incense [to idols] and because you have sinned against the Lord and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord or walked in His law and in His statutes and in His testimonies, therefore this evil has fallen upon you, as it is this day. Moreover, Jeremiah said to all the people, including all the women, Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who are in the land of Egypt, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You and your wives have both declared with your mouths and fulfilled it with your hands, saying, We will surely perform our vows that we have vowed to burn incense to the queen of heaven and to pour out drink offerings to her. [Surely] then confirm your vows and [surely] perform your vows! [If you will defy all My warnings to you, then, by all means, go ahead!] (Emphasis added).

When a church, their leaders, their countrymen and their country refuse to listen to and heed God’s warnings in His Word, He leaves them to their own devices and allows them to fall even deeper into their self-inflicted, apostatized and idolatrous lifestyles. Like Israel of old they too have their pious reasons for their disobedience. Our country has been in the grip of crime and violence for a very long time and despite the many warnings from various corners throughout the country, church leaders, and especially our younger generation church clergy, have unremittingly and obstinately followed their own “new-hearty” and “labyrinthy” ways to bring peace to our land. They too say “we and our fathers, our kings and our princes – in all the cities of South Africa – will bring peace, prosperity and happiness through our own efforts and methods. We have tried the old ways but it didn’t work. Let us therefore rethink the Gospel; let us listen to the followers of other religious persuasions and work in union and in harmony with them to save our beloved country.” God  says to them “Surely, then confirm your new vows to usher in My Kingdom on earth with your abominable ways; honour the queen of heaven as my people have done in olden times. If you will defy all My warnings to you, then, by all means, go ahead! But!  remember what I have said through my apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 10:9-12 We should not tempt the Lord [try His patience, become a trial to Him, critically appraise Him, and exploit His goodness] as some of them did – and were killed by poisonous serpents; Nor discontentedly complain as some of them did – and were put out of the way entirely by the destroyer (death). Now these things befell them by way of a figure [as an example and warning to us]; they were written to admonish and fit us for right action by good instruction, we in whose days the ages have reached their climax (their consummation and concluding period).

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The Prize-winning Oxymoron of the Week

Posted by Tom Lessing on April 24, 2009

Can you spot the oxymoron in the paragraph below which was taken from Rev. Cobus Wyngaard’s blog here? The oxymoron, in this particular case, may be defined as follows: “Fundamentalism is to know nearly nothing of the Bible” which suggests that “non-fundamentalism is to know nearly everything of the Bible.”

I haven’t really blogged on Easter this year, as I usually do (2007, 2008), but I’ll be preaching on the Easter events again this Sunday, since I know that most of the kids sitting in that service wouldn’t have been to church over Easter weekend. But my preparation is a struggle! I know the kids in this service: They know nearly nothing of the Bible. Many haven’t been to church for a number of years now. And they are very prone to fundamentalism. Their fundamentalism worries me. But broader than the fact that I need to preach to these kids, I also need to find a way of talking about the cross; for myself. This has obviously not started today, but I’ve been theologizing about the cross probably for at least 9 years now, since the first time I led a small group of 13 year olds at a camp. (Emphasis added)

I truly and humbly believe that the anti-fundamentalist non-fundamentalist fraternity do not have a clue what the meaning of fundamentalism is. Is that a good enough reason to exonerate them from their non-fundamentalist ignorance? I really don’t think so because Wikipedia and other excellent sources of information are at their disposal. Now, let’s see what Wikipedia has to say about Christian fundamentalism here.

The term “fundamentalism” has its roots in the Niagara Bible Conference (1878–1897) which defined those things that were fundamental to belief. The term was also used to describe “The Fundamentals”, a collection of twelve books on five subjects published in 1910 and funded by Milton and Lyman Stewart. This series of essays came to be representative of the “Fundamentalist-Modernist Controversy” which appeared late in the 19th century within the Protestant churches of the United States, and continued in earnest through the 1920s. The first formulation of American fundamentalist beliefs can be traced to the Niagara Bible Conference and, in 1910, to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church which distilled these into what became known as the “five fundamentals”:

  • The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
  • The virgin birth of Christ.
  • The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin.
  • The bodily resurrection of Christ.
  • The historical reality of Christ’s miracles.

By the late 1910s, theological conservatives rallying around the Five Fundamentals came to be known as “fundamentalists.”

Since then, the focus of the movement, the meaning of the term Fundamentalism, and the ranks of those who willingly use it to identify themselves, have gone through several phases of re-definition, though maintaining the central commitment to its orthodoxy.

Though some of our distinguished non-fundamentalist friends may find it very difficult to associate the above five fundamentals with the Bible, I have it on very good authority that they are indeed biblical fundamentals. The very little remaining grey matter I have in my head tells me that anyone who upholds these five fundamentals must at least know something of the Bible. In fact, the feared fundamentalist kids in Rev. Wyngaard’s church whom he claims know nearly nothing of the Bible seem to know more of it than what he does. Not to worry, this is evidently ample proof of the veracity of Jesus’ words in Matthew 21: 16: “and [they] said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus *said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?”

Fundamentalism, according to Rev. Cobus van Wyngaard, also seems to be the outcome of “not having been to church for a number of years.” I’m not too sure whether he sees this as a positive or a negative thing. Nevertheless, I personally believe that the kids’ propensity for biblical fundamentalism would have been dealt a death-blow if they had loyally attended his church. Any pastor of a flock who claims to be “the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” (John 3:10) will obviously say things such as “I also need to find a way of talking about the cross; for myself. This has obviously not started today, but I’ve been theologizing about the cross probably for at least 9 years now, since the first time I led a small group of 13 year olds at a camp.” Why does he need to find a way to to talk about the cross and why does he need nine years to theologize about it when the fundamentals about the cross are given to him on a platter in the Bible? Could it be that he needs more time to theologize about the cross because he has rejected the fundamental biblical facts about the cross? Once Paul of Tarsus understood and believed the power and wisdom of the cross of Jesus Christ, he immediately preached it without having to wait another nine years before he was assured that he had at last found a way to articulate the meaning of the cross. In fact, he was so certain about the meaning of the cross that he was “determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2).

Rev. Cobus van Wyngaard is obviously searching for a new take on the cross, “a reading of the Bible which calls for something else. I try and find the answer to the question “Why was Jesus crucified?” That’s an excellent question and I sincerely hope that he finds the correct answer before he meets his Maker. Perhaps the following question will make it much easier for him in his quest for the real meaning of the cross: “Why was Jesus crucified before the foundation of the world?” (1 Peter 1:20)

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How do you know whether you’re following the real Jesus and not a counterfeit?

Posted by Tom Lessing on March 23, 2009

The Emergent Church’s main priority is to be followers of Jesus Christ. A young man with whom I have become acquainted via the internet and in particular his blog (http://www.thinktoomuch.net) once insistently asked me not to refer to him as a Christian but as a follower of Jesus. At first glance this may seem to be worthy of imitation. However, we really need to ask “Jesus who?”

I was shocked to the bone when I recently read an article in which several world-renowned figureheads in Christianity were featured as champions of the faith. I immediately thought of Paul’s words of warning in 2 Corinthians 11, proclaiming that there were false apostles who claimed to have worked on the same terms as he did. What a villainous, wicked, dishonest and deceitful thing to do! I can just imagine them saying, “Brother Paul endorses our work wholeheartedly because we are working on the same terms as he” This was not only a very subtle attack on Paul’s missionary work but a very fraudulent way of promoting their heresies. No wonder Paul felt compelled to use such a frank and outspoken approach to quash this very dangerous situation in the Corinthian Church:

2 Cor 11:4 You seem quite happy and pleased to endure it when a man comes and preaches another Jesus than the One we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the [Spirit] you [once] received, or a different Gospel from the one you [then] received and welcomed. You tolerate [all that] well enough.

How do we determine when a different Gospel is preached that leads to the reception of another Jesus and another spirit? The most obvious answer most Christians would afford is “erroneous doctrine” which is clearly correct. But what incites wrong doctrine? The driving force behind wrong doctrine is the obsessive desire to please man and to receive rousing accolades for doing so. Paul’s succinct description in 1 Timothy 4:2-4 fits the situation in the churches of our day like a glove,

1 Tim 4:2-4 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.

Willow Creek Community Church in Northwest suburban Chicago is one of the largest mega-churches in America of which Bill Hybels is the senior pastor out of a total of approximately 48 staff pastors. It claims to have a membership of 12,000 plus souls. Pastor Hybels did a thorough survey of the un-churched Harrys and Marys in their community to determine why they didn’t attend church. The answers they came up with formed the basis for a more upbeat and palatable gospel. The survey indicated that they “didn’t like to be bugged for money,” “found church boring, predictable and to much of a routine,” “didn’t think that church was relevant to their lives,” and “always left church feeling guilty (the Christian message was too negative with ‘sin’” etc. The result was a manmade mega-church with all the glitz and entertainment of an Oscar winning Hollywood film.

In order to accommodate the battle of the sexes (chauvinism and feminism) Hybels adopted two different gospels — one for men and one for women. The gospel for men is to rid them of their “mindless misrepresentations of masculine identity,” while the one for women offers them the freedom from ”being a people pleaser” and thereby allowing herself to satisfy her “need for inner security.” I was wondering whether Hybels’ male and female gospels had any influence on Angus Buchan’s Mighty Men conferences. The most alarming thing about Willow Creek is that thousands upon thousands flock to their staff to learn the techniques for church growth. More or less 15,000 people attend the Saturday evening and Sunday’s seeker services accompanied by contemporary music, multimedia displays, dramatic sketches and watered-down messages geared to reach the itching ears of the “investigative Christians.”

Sadly they are not building on the foundation that has already been lain. They are laying a completely new foundation, not of solid rock but shifting sands that cannot withstand the consuming fire of a Holy God. It is different gospel, with another Jesus and another spirit at the helm of things. I chose Willow Creek as an example amongst many others who follow the same pattern.

Jesus never mollycoddled or catered to the whimsical fancies of people so that they may “feel welcome, unthreatened and entertained” as Hybels would say. No! Jesus struck at the core of man’s problem, his sin which he expresses in his self-will, self-centeredness, self-worth, self-esteem, self-importance, etc. These are the very things that keep us from following Christ.

I would like to draw your attention to the word “finish” in Luke 14:25-33. The fact that it appears three times should make us attentive and to take special note of it. God’s purpose for our lives is to finish our course with joy (Acts 20:24). Repentance and the new birth is only the beginning of the course. Unfortunately preachers are often guilty of keeping their congregations ensnared in the beginning stages of their new life in Christ. They do not encourage them to press on, to such a degree that their church members become complacent and passive (satisfied with the status quo or the present state of their spiritual lives). Or, as some would say, “we don’t want to rock the boat,” especially when they need to warn their congregations against false doctrine.

Multitudes of people followed Jesus, most of them, however, for all the wrong purposes and reasons. The majority of the people followed Him because He had given them bread to eat. Others seem to have been more interested in the miracles He performed. Sheer curiosity motivated many people to follow Him. Jesus did not play along with their whimsical desires. He stopped, turned around and facing them He explained exactly what was required of them to follow Him. The great majority of people were usually offended by what He said and turned their backs on Him. It is evident from Jesus’ words that discipleship does not merely mean to follow Him. It involves a great deal more than that. One can only imagine what the huge crowd’s response could have been if Jesus had said, “Anyone who would like to accept Me as their Saviour, come forward and I will pray for you”, or “those of you who want to give their hearts to Me, put up your hands, bow your heads and close your eyes while I pray for you.” This may seem somewhat of an exaggeration. Nonetheless, this is happening in many churches throughout the world today. Although we should have a burning desire in our hearts to bring as many sinners as possible to repentance, we should always guard against over-eagerness.

Unrestrained zeal often fails to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). When the whole counsel (will) of God is declared fearlessly, it compels any would-be follower of Christ to first sit down and count the cost. This is exactly what Jesus was saying to the huge crowds that followed Him. Sit down, (give yourself the time to ponder this very important matter with prudence) and count the cost (make very sure that you are prepared to pay the price for discipleship and finish the course). Pay the price? Isn’t salvation a free gift from God? (Ephesians 2:8, 9) Yes! Indeed it is and we need to thank God for His wonderful grace every day. However, Jesus clearly says that discipleship does not go without cost. What does this price or cost entail? To find a proper answer we need to review the world’s magnetic allurement on the human heart. Man’s natural inclination is to find security, solace, happiness, pleasure and acceptance in the world. As a matter of fact, every child is born into a family where the principles and standards of the world is impressed on his susceptible mind from early childhood. Very soon he becomes entangled in the things of the world “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16).

According to 2 Peter 2:20, the world pollutes or defiles. It contaminates the one who associates himself with the things of the world. Everyone who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God (James 4:4). Could there be anything more devastating and dangerous than this — to be an enemy of God? It stands to reason that one needs to come out of the world before the enmity can be removed. A radical translocation is the only means to eradicate the animosity between a friend of the world and God. In Colossians 1:13 we are told that God’s children have been removed from one place to another, i.e. from the dominion of darkness and evil into the kingdom of His dear Son in whom we have redemption through His blood and the forgiveness of our sins. There is, however, always the danger of being drawn into the world again and saints are warned to beware lest any man spoil you (carry you off as a captive) “through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). The rudiments of the world is so strongly imbedded in fallen man that God Himself had to die on the cross to free us from its venomous tentacles. Through Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection we have been cut off (severed) from the world. We are no longer of the world although we are in the world. In His High Priestly prayer in John 17 Jesus twice says, “they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Listen very carefully what Jesus is saying here, “we are not of the world as He Himself is not of the world.”

To live as an alien (foreigner) in this world naturally makes us enemies of the world. To be hated by the world, to be dejected, humiliated, and to be the target of scoffers and mockers is the price disciples of Jesus have to pay. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 4: 11, “Up to this time, we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.” Our flesh (the old Adam nature) is not capable of enduring this kind of treatment. Self-pity usually engulfs the soul like a dark cloud when persecution, tribulation and hardship befall God’s saints and many begin to compromise their position with the world. There is only one sure antidote against the slippery road into worldliness—self-denial and mortification. Listen to what Jesus says, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself (forget himself, lose sight of himself and his own interests), and take up his cross (die to the world and its dainties) daily, and follow Me.” Napoleon, the great French conqueror in the previous century said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must sustain me.” The conquest of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross has made us what we are and it is only conquest that will sustain us.

Every true child of God is acutely aware of the Holy Spirit’s godly jealousy in his innermost being. He is particularly sensitive to the Spirit’s jealous supplications to “Come out of her, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues,” and “come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” The prerequisite for God to be your Father and for you to be called His sons and His daughters is separation. We have no right to call Him Father while we frivolously compromise our divine calling to be separated from the world and the things in the world (James 4:4). The natural tendency of the human soul is to freely indulge in all the pleasures of the world without a twinge of conscience. Children of God who do not separate themselves from the world are no better than the unbelievers who naturally partake of the things in the world. In fact they are worse and are called “adulterers and adulteresses” or unfaithful wives who are having illicit affairs with the world. What are the traits or characteristics of those who compromise there calling to be separated from the world? They become friends of the world. It means that the world accepts you as its friend because there is very little left in your make-up to indicate that you are not of this world (John 17:16). The distinct demarcation or differences between you and the world has faded away to such a degree that the world begins to accept you as its own. The world no longer hates you the way it hated Jesus but rather develops a very congenial and friendly attitude toward you. We should be very concerned when the world starts to love us and cuddle up to us as its friend. If we truly desire to follow the real Jesus and not a counterfeit we should constantly remind ourselves where He is to be found.

Heb 13;12-14 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Emphasis added).

In stark contrast with the above, the Emergent followers of Jesus demand to have the Kingdom of God to come here and now. What they fail to see, is that they are playing into the hand of Antichrist whose wish it is to set up his own kingdom of darkness and destruction.

Dan 8:23-25 And in the latter time of their kingdom, when the transgressors are come to the full, a king of fierce countenance, and understanding dark sentences, shall stand up. And his power shall be mighty, but not by his own power: and he shall destroy wonderfully, and shall prosper, and practise, and shall destroy the mighty and the holy people. And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand.

Who are you following — the real Jesus or a counterfeit?

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