Friday, December 14, 2012

Our Guardianship

“Remember that we are the people You chose long ago, the tribe You redeemed as Your own special possession! And remember Jerusalem, Your home here on earth. Walk through the awful ruins of the city; see how the enemy has destroyed Your sanctuary. There Your enemies shouted their victorious battle cries; there they set up their battle standards. They swung their axes like woodcutters in a forest. With axes and picks, they smashed the carved paneling. They burned Your sanctuary to the ground. They defiled the place that bears Your name. Then they thought, ‘Let’s destroy everything!’ So they burned down all the places where God was worshiped” (Psalm 74:2-8, New Living Translation).

Reading this I am reminded of the New Testament’s continual warnings about our greatest threat as the gathered people of God. It is not as in the days of the Psalmist, for our deadliest enemies do not come from the outside with axes, war-cries, and fire.

  • “I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20:29,30).
  • “These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ. But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
  • “Have I now become your enemy because I am telling you the truth? Those false teachers are so eager to win your favor, but their intentions are not good. They are trying to shut you off from me so that you will pay attention only to them” (Galatians 4:16,17).
  • “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
  • “Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrites and liars, and their consciences are dead” (1 Timothy 4:1,2).
  • “For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths” (2 Timothy 4:3,4).
  • “But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves. Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered” (2 Peter 2:1,2).
And there are dozens of other similar warnings

Sometimes they don’t burn the places of gathering from the outside. Keep your Bibles open before you, reading them alone and together, giving thanks in prayer and rejoicing for the great promise of the new covenant sealed with Christ’s blood: that God the Holy Spirit would write His Word on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). Guard the Church from its greatest enemy: false teaching. They may sound good, look good, make you feel good with their words. Be diligent in scriptural doctrine and practice that comes consistently and carefully from that scriptural doctrine. Stay together. In this way, be the Church that doesn't "tolerate evil people," examining "the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not" (Revelation 2:2). "Being the Church" (a popular phrase these days) means being "the church of the living God, which is the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Scripture is "the true center of Christian union" (Baptist Faith & Message 2000, 1).

“Behold! The ecclesiastical power which is given to pastors of the church (by whatever name they are called) is clearly declared! That is, by God’s word which they are established to administer, they boldly dare all things and constrain every glory, greatness, and power of this world to obey and submit to the divine Majesty. By this word they have command over the whole world; they build up Christ’s house and overturn Satan's kingdom; they feed the sheep and kill the wolves; they lead by teaching and exhortations those who are teachable; they constrain and correct the rebellious and obstinate; they bind, loose, thunder, and cast lightning - but all in the word of God.”
John Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” 15 (1541 version)

No comments: