I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. Romans 16:17-18
This is junk. Pure junk. After all, it came from a junk email. You’ll agree, I’m sure … well, I HOPE you’ll agree.
Yet the existence of this nonsense is itself evidence that there are “Christians” who go beyond merely the doctrinal naivete in Paul’s words above. There are “Christians” who are stupid.
You’ll understand the intentional use of the quotation marks around the word “Christians,” because it seems illogical that what is probably a self-applied label might represent authentically regenerated believers. Oh, I hope not … and I equally hope they’ll hear the Gospel, the authentic one – not the one that they likely hear by attending a church that might predispose them to ever considering this junk.
It begins with the words …
“Ancient scroll buried in the Egyptian desert for nearly 2,000 years reveals …”
Oooh, ahhh, ohhh, mmmm, intrigue, awe, suspense, curiosity …
“Jesus’ Lost Words. You won’t find it in the Bible, but the words of the Son of God reveal an ‘ancient medicine’ that has the power to physically change the brain and even restore long-term memory in just FOUR days.”
I cannot confirm whether there is a corresponding infomercial on TBN with voice-overs by somebody like Morgan Freeman for this. Neither can I assert with certainty that it is not advertised on the regularly doctrine-free, though often amusing, Charisma News website. It does not appear to be satirical fodder, either, from the Babylon Bee.
However, I can confirm that it did not come from LifeWay … though in their furious frenzy to disregard discernment and doctrinal legitimacy in pursuit of what can only be considered ill-gotten gain, that wouldn’t have been a surprise.
Now, let me issue a disclaimer. I don’t go to a church that predisposes me to be inclined to such nonsense. I go to a church where the pastor actually exegetes Scripture, preaches expositionally through it, and – believe it or don’t – proclaims the Gospel in each sermon. (If you’re not in a similar church, please, go find one!)
And while there is far more that I don’t know that I do, I try to be obedient to the Apostle’s command to be discerning, so hopefully I’m a little outside the boundaries of the naïve folks he’s talking about. It’s a narrow road, folks, and Jesus said to strive to enter through that small gate, hard though it will be.
But this junk got past my spam folder and into my active email. And, as click bait headlined as it is, it gave me pause to consider how the world – at least some of it – tends to view Christians.
Well, okay. Jesus warned that we’d be hated because of His name, but that worldly hatred clearly doesn’t eliminate us as a potential cash-trough demographic.
As egregious as the miraculous mystery scroll medicinal cure for Alzheimers from Jesus seems, though, it shouldn’t be all that shocking that such nonsense would be targeted at “Christians.” It probably shouldn’t even be a shock that some will actually disregard responsible stewardship and buy into it. Just look around at what passes for “Christian” these days. The church – the visible church – is at the threshold of doctrinal lunacy. (And, umm, FYI, that leads down that other path … you know … the wide one …)
We’re a pathetically discernment-free lot as far as the visible church goes. I contend that the “true” church isn’t, but the true church surely is not as vocal as we ought to be in standing up and standing for truth. Apparently influenced – wrongly so – by the culturally approved, socially endorsed, and highly touted maxim of “tolerance,” we’re far too comfortable to “co-exist” with the goats in our midst, along with the false teachings being spewed to attract them. And so we let pass error, serious errors, that can only define us as either naïve or naïve-friendly.
It’s why you walk in a store like LifeWay and see false teachers, false teaching, and downright heresy hawked from the shelves. It’s why you turn on “Christian” television and see charlatans parading around in silk suits or aloha shirts as they peddle their latest “My Trip To Heaven” or “The Word The Lord Gave Me” books. It’s why you see, in less than TBN-worthy, but certainly with no more Biblical integrity, pastors stand in more acceptable “Christian” churches casting their “vision from the Lord” for their church, enthusiastically motivating pew sitters to get behind it with their prayerful support and, oh yeah, their wallets.
When the world peddles nonsense at stupid “Christians,” so what? When you boil it all down, they hate us anyway. That they want our money isn’t a surprise.
But when the “church” continues on this “let’s eat our own” feeding frenzy of doctrine-less “Christianity,” that’s when the Apostle’s words apply. On the whole, we eschew doctrine, and we must, because in our seeker-friendly, felt-need appeals to usher in the unbelieving to our nearest available pews, doctrine … well, doctrine’s a dawg that just don’t hunt.
The Gospel – y’all remember that? – must be watered down, excised of intolerable truth, and imbued with the “it’s all about you” appeal that sells to the “I want it to be all about me” crowd. It’s virtually no different than harvesting cash by emailing lunacy to the gullible.
It is precisely the condition of the church today that Paul’s words from Romans apply. The folks that teach contrary doctrine – or, worse, teaching none – are the ones creating division and obstacles, not the ones who are calling it out. Yet in our ecclesiastic culture of co-existence, those who polemically reach out and touch someone in defense of truth are instead called dividers.
Just understand, though, that “division” is divinely decreed. Divison will be a providential event that will one day be executed by the King of Kings. Tares over here; wheat over there. Goats to the left; sheep to the right. Realize that division will occur on the basis of Scriptural truth, not on the grounds of a fill-the-pews “church growth model” that embraces appeals for tolerance while simultaneously embracing the world itself.
If the apostle is right in his warnings – and of course, he is – it appears the division process starts here, first with the proclamation of the Gospel and then with our vigorous defense of it. John wrote words that highlight this fundamental division … “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19)
If you wanna be on the right side of that final act of division, there is a bonafide clue from an ancient, and divinely inspired, authentic bit of scrollwork … the words of Jesus, “If you abide in my word, truly you are my disciples.” (John 8:31)
Remember, the Gospel is divisive but it will never divide unless you share it. But in that proclamation of the Gospel power (Romans 1:16), miracles happen. Not like the fake miracle promised by a junk email … more like the true miracle when God transforms goats into sheep.
Don’t be stupid. Abide in the Word. And share the Gospel.
Contributed by Bud Ahlheim