Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Next Up: The Contention Of Discernment, Brought To You By The Intolerant Jesus And His Bigoted Apostles

.. be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, .. grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
Ephesians 4:14-15
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying ..
Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? .. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
Matthew 23:3, 24-25

Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?
Acts 13:9-11

Western civilization's descent into postmodern amorality continues largely unabated. It's now possible to label anyone's criticism of anyone or anything else as hate speech inspired by intolerant bigotry in an effort to deflect or nullify its plain thrust. Such a strategy is employed when attempts are made by the discerning to understand the immoral and/or unethical influences that cults and extremist philosophies exert over the lives of millions of people. This kind of approach increasingly finds cultural traction in the West as it becomes more and more sensitized to the civil liberties of the individual apart from the prevailing social order that it may come into conflict with.

To support this controversial perspective, civil libertarians and social engineers who adhere to it have developed a new generation of social custom that have been popularly called political correctness. A lot of bandwidth over the years has been spent about what this term means, but there's no question that to be politically correct is to be, simply put, profoundly sensitized to avoiding any sort of offense to anyone's personal persuasions. The slowly prevailing trend in Western culture, which is advocated as the highest mark of social convention, is for complete conformity to the prized secular value of inoffensiveness. So things like teaching Biblical absolutes, Judeo Christian values and personal lifestyle choices and expressions of thought based upon them are pretty much fair game in a politically correct culture that views anything smacking of absolutism as bad manners at best and a hate crime at worst.

This is well illustrated in one of my favorite science fiction novels, the classic Dune by Frank Herbert, by the decisions made by the fictional Commission of Ecumenical Translators who are given sway over the known Dune galaxy to advance the rejection of any opposing arguments or critical views between religious faiths claiming "the one and only revelation". The universe's peace and stability, they believed, rested upon suppression and elimination of any belief that there could be just one definitive truth, revelation or faith .. it welcomed all spiritual claims equally as valid, to be fitted into an ultimate cultural mosaic that would advance peace and prosperity on the basis of a harmony that brooked no opposition to alternative perspectives.

This view of political correctness in Herbert's 1960's novelization is a great example of how all encompassing this value-free approach to life wants to make human society. Such an ideal has preoccupied Western society and it is this prevailing wind of cultural thought that sweeps over all expression of personal thought and conscience today in America and beyond, profoundly coloring and affecting human interaction. While I certainly advocate personal freedom of conscience, respect of diversity among people and individual choices of lifestyle they might make, I roundly reject any kind of cultural brinkmanship that demands my compliance to not offend anyone with anything like an opposing view based upon my own convictions. Any intellectually responsible individual should recognize such a perspective as incomparably more inclusive and defensible to those who insist that there are no absolutes at all (a bizarre belief that self-destructs by actually stating an absolute when insisting that there are none).

But it is this kind of warped cultural zeitgeist that Christian discernment in the last days will find itself battling with as well. For when the heat is finally on and the light is brightest in the eyes of false teachers and cultic leaders who don't like it, they resort to knee jerk reactions to valid questions that use this political correctness as their shield against them. When presented with Biblical reasoning and personal testimony that exposes the spiritual emptiness and error of their ways, cults and false teachers find a convienient dodge in the marketplaces of public discourse where their false teaching is confronted by calling criticism "intolerance" and discernment "religious bigotry." It serves to twitch the antennae of the politically correct and summons philosophical unity and support from a variety of parties that wouldn't agree any other way, thus furthering the advance of error, heresy and religious abuse that stems from it.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the very incarnation of God Himself as the Bible says so clearly again and again (John 14:9 and Hebrews 1:3 are just two places you can see this). Jesus is not just loving - He is love itself (1 John 4:8, John 15:9) If you want to see what love looks like, you'll see it in the person, character and attitude of Christ Himself as He strode throughout our sinful world of pain to fulfill the Triune God's steadfast determination to show mercy and love to an evil, gainsaying world that didn't deserve it as John 3:16-17 and 1 John 3:16 beautifully express it. The only reason this world hasn't been plunged into judgment sooner than it has deserved it is because of that unfailing, eternal love that God regards fallen humanity with, through the person of Jesus and manifest in this veil of tears by His Spirit. Thanks be to God for such grace!

The apostles of Jesus gave us the greatest examples of walking out a Christian lifestyle that embodied that same grace of godly charity. They intended on being examples of what they beheld in the Master and lived lives of struggle through which their triumph over adversity by their faith in Christ (1 John 5:4) helped establish the faith of the newborn Church itself. They suffered and endured endless rounds of persecution, deprivation and spiritual assault with delight, cheer, joy and godly love in settings completely unimaginable to most Western believers (1 Corinthians 4:9-16, 2 Corinthians 11:23-30, 1 Peter 4:11-15, Hebrews 6:11-12, 1 Thessalonians 1:5-7, ). Their utter willingness to spend and be spent for others (2 Corinthians 12:15) to advance the Kingdom of God in a world that hates Him and His truth is a sure sign of their apostolic authority and grace.

And these very same divinely inspired examples were also - as Scripture shows - as defiantly confrontational as needed when the message of the Gospel and the truths of God's Word were opposed and distorted by false teachers. The example of Jesus and His apostles was not marked just by their love, endurance and patience but by their resolute willingness to call out the sinful, the deceptive and the injustice that they encountered as they preached the Gospel and called the world to repentance. They fearlessly lifted up their voices to expose, refute and identify those sources of spiritual deception and religious abuse where ever they found it as well as the social institutions that gave it the authority it usurped. This is a dimension of their example that few people know about or admit to, but it is there, nonetheless. "Contending for the faith" isn't just some motivational aphorism, according to their example, but is a Biblical mandate to intentionally engage in a very real, very literal contention for the sake of Christian truth.

The verses I cited in the opening lines of this post show that the same loving Jesus who took children into his arms to bless them and laid his hands on dying lepers also did not hesitate to take up a whip to beat covetous merchants who defiled the temple with their crooked dealings and lambast the Pharisees as "snakes" worthy of the fires of hell. The same apostle Paul who wept over the souls of the congregations he cared for also unsparingly gazed upon an occultic magician who opposed his preaching and called him a "child of the devil." They asserted an authority by the power of the Word and Spirit of God that unblinkingly faced down by both word and deed those satanically inspired deceivers who sought to overthrow truth. The stakes are high - the spiritual destinies of those who are audiences to these contests. There are none higher.

Such decisive action effectively flies in the face of the cultural idolatry done in the name of political correctness, but that's never been the concern of Christ or the apostles: read these verses from Scripture and see just how seriously they took this:

Watch the example of Jesus:

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him. And he saith unto the man which had the withered hand, Stand forth. And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace. And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other. Mark 3:1-5

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mark 7:5-7

The same day there came certain of the Pharisees, saying unto him, Get thee out, and depart hence: for Herod will kill thee. And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected. Luke 13:31-32

Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him. In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. Luke 12:52-54, 13:1-3

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Acts 8:19-23

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. Romans 16:17-18

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure. 1 Timothy 5:20-22

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some. 2 Timothy 2:15-18

Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 2 Timothy 4:14-17

A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself. Titus 3:10-11

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. 1 John 4:1-3

I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. 3 John 9-11

If they were physically among us now, in this gainsaying fallen culture of today, it's easy to see how quickly how these mandates and examples of Jesus and the apostles would be quickly labelled as intolerant religious bigotry. They'd be tried immediately by self-anointed cultural elites in their media-driven star chambers and be summarily found guilty of hate crimes and violence.

It remains to those who claim to be disciples of Christ to decide which side of this cultural divide they will choose to identify with - whether contending for the Faith, once delivered to the saints (Jude 3) is something they'll obey or opt out from. The Biblical prophecies about the last days we've been reviewing here in this blog show, sadly, that far more professed Christians will inexplicably embrace darkness as light and jettison confrontational discernment as antisocial and meanspirited traditional thinking that truly enlightened people will reject.

In the meantime, for those whom the discerning contentions of Jesus and the apostles is enough of an example to follow as an act of worship and love of God's truth, the daily prayer of "Uncle Bud" Robinson, a Nazarene preacher from White County, Tennessee (just north of where we live), will resonate like a trumpet call from on high .. may it be as much yours as it is mine ..

"Oh Lord, give me a backbone as big as a sawlog, ribs like the sleepers under the church floor, put iron shoes on me and galvanized breeches, give me a rhinoceros hide for a skin, and hang a wagonload of determination up in the gable-end of my soul, and help me to sign the contract to fight the devil as long as I've got a fist and bite him as long as I have a tooth, then gum him till I die. All this I ask for Christ's sake. Amen."