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Why Every Believer Should Read This Series:
There is a wise old saying that goes something like this: if we were to meet for the first time, and you told me the denomination of the church you attend, you are not sharing with me how close you are to our Lord, but rather, where you stopped growing in Him! This book is to draw attention to, or awaken, the sleeping bride of Christ, so that she may begin recognizing the dangerous deception immobilizing the twenty-first century church in America.
Since our thoughts, knowledge, understanding and reasoning skills inform our spiritual choices, let’s begin by discussing a critical decision we all make, either consciously or subconsciously. This particular choice establishes the “true north” on our spiritual compass, which provides both direction and boundaries for the doctrines we embrace to establish our personal belief system. While there are exceptions to every rule, within the Christian community, it has been my observation that most believers fall into one of three categories:
The first type of believers, place great confidence in their traditional beliefs that have been handed down to them by their parents, pastors, priests and teachers—and typically speaking, they do not like their beliefs to be challenged. They are loyal to their traditional beliefs--even if it is revealed to them that one of their traditional beliefs may not align with the Bible.
As noted, I am speaking in a general sense and there are exceptions, but I have noticed that most believers who fall into this category are not typically well trained in the Scriptures, therefore, they are often ill-equipped to defend their traditional beliefs, and to properly evaluate any potential change to their beliefs, so their natural response is a defensive default strategy to stay with their herd. In fear of making a wrong decision, they simply trust their eternal souls to the teachings of their Pastor (typically trusting in denominational church doctrines). During the first century, most Jews (those embracing Judaism) fell into this category. Today, some denominations, like the Catholics, tend to fall into this category and will persist in clinging to the church’s traditional doctrines (i.e. purgatory and the worship of Mary), even though the Bible never teaches these denominational doctrines based on man-made presuppositions.
A second classification of believers anchor their trust in our American system of “higher” Spiritual Education, more specifically, our seminary graduates. Being products of our twenty-first century, and the benefactors of the huge advances in science, mathematics and other disciplines, a majority of believers fall into this category. We humans are taught to trust other people who are better trained in specialized disciplines. I too, grew up and spent much of my life as a proud, card carrying member of this group. Because I loved and respected my Pastor so much, without realizing it, I had slowly, but surely, entrusted my eternal soul to my Pastor’s faith, instilled in me through his passionate sermons and dynamic teachings. It wasn’t until many years later that it occurred to me that I had not yet developed my own faith through prayer and discipleship in God’s Word; I had simply adopted my Pastor’s faith as my own…only to discover, years later, he had been sincerely mistaken on a few critically important doctrines that have eternal consequences.
I later discovered that my experience is not uncommon, and our generation is not the first to have teachers mislead the flock. In fact, misguided teachers have been perhaps the most significant ongoing problem for the church throughout biblical history. If you recall, we have an ongoing history of the Lord’s frustration toward the teachers of His flock throughout the Bible all the way back to Aaron, the priest, who first misled Israel to worship a golden calf in the wilderness.
Later, in 700 B.C. the Lord was warning His remnant to be careful of placing too much trust in their teachers, because their teachers were misguided.
Is. 9:16: For those who guide this people are leading them astray; and those who are guided by them are brought to confusion.
Over a century later, Jeremiah, Zechariah and Ezekiel repeat the same warnings (most of which we will discuss later).
Jeremiah 16:19: …Surely our fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things.
Jeremiah 17:5: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength.
Then seven hundred years later still, in the first century A.D., Jesus Himself repeatedly warns the ‘highly educated’ spiritual leaders—the “teachers of Israel,” that they themselves have misunderstood His Word.
Matt. 15:2-9: He answered and said to them (the Pharisees), "Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? … and in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
John 3:9-11: Nicodemus answered and said to Him, "How can these things be?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?”
Sadly, man has not learned well from our biblical history, so we are doomed to repeat some of the same mistakes. We have a very similar problem in the spiritual education system of America today; another perversion of God’s Word via man-made denominational doctrines from the “highly educated” men of our generation; a deception that transcends almost everyone’s perception--including most of our pastors and teachers.
A third category of believers value a much deeper personal faith and relationship with Jesus developed through prayer and discipleship in the Scriptures--they trust in God’s Words alone. This group is immortalized by the Bereans in Acts 17 who the Apostle Paul praised for scrubbing his apostolic teachings against the Holy Scriptures before accepting them. The Bereans were personally committed to mining the objective truth out of God’s Word. This passage should enlighten us to realize the importance of evaluating all teachings even those from our Pastors and teachers today!
If you feel you are a member of this third category, you are likely a believer who places a high premium on the truth found within God’s Word, and you will almost certainly enjoy this series as we analyze the source, as well as, the biblical support and continuity of some of today’s most popular, twenty-first century beliefs, and put them to the TRUTH test!
If it is suspected that one of the doctrines or beliefs we have been previous taught does not fully align with the entire Bible, then the questionable belief will be re-evaluated and if that suspicion is validated, the false doctrine should be quickly abandoned.
As sincere believers, we all need to become more aware of the foundation upon which our faith is being built, and begin to wrestle honestly with these questions: Where are my loyalties found, and upon what foundation am I trusting: “Tradition” of our fathers, the “education” of our pastor, or the “Holy Spirit Inspired truth of God’s Word?” I submit for your consideration that we men and women can only be confident that our loyalties are holy--when they align with God’s Word! Are your loyalties holy?
What if you discovered that a doctrine you have always been taught as biblical truth actually originated in the mind of a man, and when closely examined, it does not fully align with the entire Bible? Would you really want to know? What would you do with that information?
The purpose of this series is to challenge pastors, elders and mature believers with a biblically fresh perspective; challenging some of today’s most popular and accepted man-made, denominational doctrines--those same traditional beliefs that divide the body of Christ into separate denominations. These are false, man-originated beliefs handed down to us by our parents, pastors and teachers. It is time for them to be challenged and defeated!
King Solomon, a man of great wisdom once wrote:
Eccl. 1:18: For in much wisdom is much grief, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
While I would never dare to compare the small measure of my wisdom to that of Solomon's, I can now, at least, relate to the burden he is describing. The inspiration for this series was birthed from a similar spiritual burden the Lord has given me—as I unintentionally discovered that most of us who attend, or have attended, doctrinally based churches, myself included, have been unwittingly indoctrinated with denominational “doctrines of men” that were taught to us as if they were biblical doctrines.
Satan is using the infamous “divide and conquer” strategy against the church. Once the church is splintered into denominational factions, biblical accountability upon each doctrinal seminary is largely avoided, thus becoming a breeding ground for mutual tolerance for each other’s doctrines, and of course, confusion and doubt for the average believer as to which one is more correct. Each individual denomination then dilutes from God’s truth their own unique and inconsistent collection of man-made doctrines, which can be traced back to the thinking of one, single, solitary man! The following should serve as confirmation of this statement—and be a warning to any believer seeking truth!
Here are just a few examples of the impact over time: The Catholics placed their trust in their church traditions and the dictates of other men—the Popes.
The Pentecostals, and the Assemblies of God, separated themselves to follow the beliefs of yet another man: a faith healer named Charles Parham who taught an unbalanced, non-biblical authority and emphasis upon speaking in tongues. This man-made doctrine incorrectly teaches that tongues are THE primary evidence of the Holy Spirit.
Another group of folks, called the Methodist, chose to cling to the beliefs of yet another man named John Wesley--but as we have witnessed recently, many of their churches are becoming more and more culturally tolerant and moving toward an increasingly liberal, culturally progressive worldview—even to the point of endorsing homosexual priests.
The Lutherans choose to follow the beliefs and philosophy of a man named Martin Luther, and they separated themselves and began their own splintered church.
The Word of Faith movement originally began as the followers of another man: Kenneth Hagin Sr. This splintered group has more recently embraced the unbalanced teachings of other faith teachers like the faith healer Oral Roberts, his student Kenneth Copeland and the TBN television network. These teachers place an over-emphasis on physical, ‘earthly’ health and financial prosperity by misplacing their faith in their own faith, rather than rightly placing their faith solely in Christ by trusting that He allows seasons of disaster, illness, financial hardship and even death into believers lives to mature us--for His own Kingdom purposes:
Isaiah 45:6-7: I am the Lord, and there is no other; I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.'
1 Tim. 6:3-10: If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. NIV
We certainly can’t forget the Baptist churches; this splinter of the church trusts in the writings and doctrines of a man named John Calvin, and also in the Jewish influenced Dispensational fables of John Nelson Darby. Or how about the Presbyterians, who also trust in Calvin’s writings.
We could continue by describing those cultic splinter groups who have been deceived to even greater extremes by other satanic man-made doctrines like the Seventh-day Adventist who were misled by the prophetess Ellen G. White, and the Mormons who were deceived by Joseph Smith Jr., and the Jehovah’s Witnesses that were deceived by Charles Taze Russell, and on and on it goes…but in every instance, the doctrines that separate the churches from other churches can be traced back to the thinking of one man—each of these founders claimed inspiration and deceived many, but neither the Lord, nor the Bible authorized them to be Apostles or to write and establish church doctrines. THIS SHOULD ALARM US!
Sadly, it does not alarm most of us because we were born into this divisiveness--and it feels normal. The New Covenant church has become like the proverbial frog in the boiling water. Remember the tale? If you drop a live frog in boiling water, he will instantly jump out, but if you put him in luke-warm water and slowly turn up the heat, he becomes accustomed to the rising heat so gradually, he will never realize the danger until it is too late.
Denominationalism (including non-denominational churches) separates and divides the body of Christ into subsets--much like the segregation that results from racism and forces believers in Christ to divide themselves from the rest of the body of Christ based upon false, man-made doctrines (like speaking in tongues or word of faith), as opposed to true apostolic doctrines that unite the body of Christ together through our shared faith in Jesus Christ and our shared ministry of expanding His Kingdom.
Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves…Where in the Holy Scriptures are denominations given the Lord’s authority to separate themselves and create their own pet doctrines that immerse the body of Christ into confusion?
Answer: The Bible never grants this authority! The leadership of most denominations today, at least those that embrace the belief systems of men, such as: Saint Augustine, Calvin, Catholicism, Hagin, Luther, Wesley, Parham, etc. are choosing to interpret God’s Word through the lenses of a man (or men), and in so doing, they are misleading tens of millions of people in some of the most important decisions of their lives. Many of these decisions have eternal consequences!
Please allow me to be crystal clear; biblically speaking, individual denominations (including non-denominational churches) are NOT authorized by the Lord to create their own doctrines and beliefs. In other words, the Calvinist seminaries are not biblically authorized to impart the teachings of Saint Augustine and John Calvin into their student Pastors—who then indoctrinate their congregations with the lie that that each individual’s salvation was predestined before creation and is independently secured no matter what they do (or do not do), while at the same time, the Armenian Church Pastors teach their congregations that they can lose their salvation at the drop of a hat. Both of these extreme denominational doctrines are very wrong on perhaps the most important topic in life—our salvation! Tolerance for denominationalism infuses confusion within the body of Christ!
I often pray for these well-intended, but very mistaken Christian leaders to one day fully understand, and turn away from, what may possibly become a great accountability and consequence, in their liability to Christ, for the teaching of these false doctrines of men.
How can we individual Christians confess that we truly believe in the unifying truth found in God's Word that unites all Christians together and then, at the same time, cling to, and trust in, the denominational doctrines that separate and divide the body of Christ?
Answer: It is not possible to do so with full knowledge, wisdom and understanding of God’s Word.
I heard one seminary graduate try to justify his support of denominationalism by pointing to the fact that the Old Covenant church was divided by tribes. Yes, it is true there were twelve tribes in Israel, BUT those tribes were not allowed to establish their own independent interpretation of the laws given to Moses (false doctrines that birth and promote division), instead, they were all required to worship YHWH the same way--together, and to obey the same laws, the same way.
There is a familiar passage in God's Word that summarizes many of the important principles we will be discussing within this series. Please read it with me:
Eph. 4:1-16: As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says:
"When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men."
9 (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 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.
14 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. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. NIV
As you read the passage above, from Ephesians 4, did you notice how often the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, is communicating to us the immense importance He places upon UNITY within the body of Christ? He tells us there is but ONE body of Christ, ONE Spirit, ONE hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE Baptism and ONE God and Father! Yet, if we are observant and honest, when we look around, today's church is anything but unified.
Join me on a journey of discovery into some eye opening facts about our twenty first century church that most of us never realize--and some inspiring biblical solutions to these challenges!