Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Library of One

Several years ago, I was given the privilege to witness to seven Mormon missionaries who, for fourteen months, visited our pizzeria on a weekly basis.  I was thrown into a bit of a tailspin because I was a bit of a fledgling to the process of sharing the Lord, His Truth, and His Gospel with any intensity.  My feelings of inadequacy were compounded over the limited knowledge I had of Mormonism.  Most of what I knew had been gleaned years before through personal experience and occasional material that was given to me by others more knowledgeable than myself.  So, I began gathering everything I could lay my hands on to educate myself of their religion, doctrines, and beliefs.

The pastor of the church we were attending at the time had a copy of the Book of Mormon.  Borrowing it, I brought it home and began to read.  But there was a glaring problem:  I was only able to get through the first two books before I had to put it down and return it to my pastor.  No matter how hard I tried to simply read it for the sake of educating myself, I was unable to do so.  The conviction I felt was overpowering and the discomfort was enormous.  I quickly acknowledged that there was no Truth in it, only borrowed and plagiarized half-truths from the wild imaginations of men.  In other words, there was just enough borrowed Truth in it to deceive the ones reading it and to make them believe the rest.

The question then became how I was going to inform myself in order to prove the Truth of God to these boys whom I had grown to love.  The solution was easy:  I enlisted the aid of former Mormons who had turned to the True Christ and the wealth of knowledge they had from a lifetime of daily exposure and influence to Mormonism.  The likes of James Spencer, the Tanners, and many others provided me with the ammunition I needed for the Spiritual warfare that ensued.  In fact, it filled a large box.  The beauty of the information that I received  from these wonderful Christians was that every part and parcel of Mormon doctrine was effectively and satisfactorily proven to be false through Biblical support.  Holy Scripture, when laid next to the teachings of Joseph Smith and his followers, burns holes in their concocted story, searing the very pages of the Book of Mormon into a flaming inferno of lies and deceptions.  As the boys came in for their weekly visit and free pizza, I found I was fully equipped with all that was necessary for the task at hand.  My Bible was a constant companion and always within reach.

This story brings me to a very important question.  In light of the market being flooded with “new and improved” Bible versions that are touted as more fitting to today’s Christian society, the growing influence of Islam and the ever-so-tiring debate over the correct interpretation of the Koran, and the infiltration of other so-called “enlightening, sacred writings” of ancient pagan religions - how far do we go to educate ourselves of these things?  Is it necessary that we fill our library with tomes of alternate ideas, philosophies, or theologies in order to gain a better understanding of their origins and the influence they are having in the world and in the church?  Or do we rely solely on the Word of God as presented in the Bible for all the answers?

In 2Corinthians 7:1, Paul makes this declaration:
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

Let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit… indicates we are to remove any influence that does not reflect God’s nature and the truth of His Word, especially false and damning religions.  John MacArthur, in the ESV study notes on this verse, says:

“While some believers for a time might avoid succumbing to fleshly sins associated with false religions, the Christian who exposes his mind to false teaching cannot avoid contamination by the devilish ideologies and blasphemies that assault the purity of divine truth and blaspheme God’s name.”

He further goes on to say that “bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” means to finish that which one first started.  “’Holiness’ refers to separation from all that would defile both the body and the mind.”  We are to seek Christ, to pursue His holiness, and that cannot be found in the writings of those bent on perverting His Word.  By exposing oneself to the corruption they contain is apt to cause it to spill over into the mind of the Christian, making him doubt God’s Word, or add to or take away from its purity.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon concluded his musings over the vanities of life by encouraging his son that the most meaningful thing in life was having a relationship with God, knowing Him, and applying all of His wisdom to it.

“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.  My son, beware of anything beyond these.  Of making many books there is no end, and much study [of them] is a weariness of the flesh.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:11-12, ESV)

Solomon was saying that true wisdom, the wisdom required to live ones life for God, is in God alone.  To wander into the dangerous territory of false religions, worldly philosophies, or twisted ideologies puts one in the position of possibly questioning the sovereignty and holiness of God.  “Books written on any other subject than God’s revealed wisdom will only proliferate the uselessness of man’s thinking.”  (MacArthur).  The more we read that is not in line with God’s wisdom and Truth, the more susceptible our minds become to believing it.

In Acts 17, we are told of the Jewish Bereans who lived among those Greek philosophers who were always ready to hear something new.  However, Paul’s account in Acts 17:11 reveals to us that they did not run straight out and consult others with differing philosophies.  Instead, after “they received the message with great eagerness”, the Bereans “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (NIV)  It was not necessary for these “noble” men to compare Paul’s message with the writings of others that may have contradicted what he was telling them.  They went to God’s Word, and it is there that they found the Truth - “...and many of the Jews believed…” (v12).

We can apply Paul’s exhortation to his protégé, Timothy in 1Timothy 4, to further understand the importance of with what it is we fill our minds.  Paul uses the analogy of physical training and its temporary benefits to the body, but impressed upon him that its value was limited to the body’s endurance or duration.  He encouraged Timothy to avoid all the mental things, the false teachings, “the godless myths, and old wives tales” that lead men astray (v7).  Instead, Paul told him to put more emphasis on the training of himself in the Spiritual exercises that held eternal benefit - “…devoting [himself] to the study, the preaching, and the teaching of Scripture” (v13).  By doing so, he was assured that through this self-discipline he would stay on the path to Godly living.

It is evident to us how rapidly a false message can gain ground in the church.  Many false teachers have infiltrated the sacred confines with their destructive heresies and are leading multitudes away from divine Truth.  The weak minds of the congregants are more than happy to receive a more palatable and appealing message that fails to speak against, but rather legitimizes, their sinful behavior.  These wolves in shepherd’s clothing have spread their false messages to the point that it has permeated the body of Christ like the “gangrene” Paul warned of in 2Timothy 2:16.  Their corrupted gospel lines Christian bookstore shelves and lures the eye with tempting words and phrases that sound so right.  Colorful splashes of Godly-sounding advice and encouragement leap from their covers, prompting the buyer to take it home.  Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life (or Purposeful Drivel, as I like to call it) is one such example.  It all looks and sounds good on the outside, but it is what is found on the inside of the pages, or between the lines, that matters.

I do occasionally read books written by trusted authors, those I know are firmly grounded in God’s Word and have no ulterior motives to pervert it.  There are many fine Christian men and women who write their prose with a strict adherence to the purity of Scripture, and the evidence is in their works.  Each morning I consult the writings of men like Charles Spurgeon and Oswald Chambers, and I am currently anxiously awaiting a devotional by John MacArthur, a well-known and trusted Pastor, to show up in the mail.  These are divinely inspired and validated by God, for they never deviate away from His Truth as set forth in the Bible, and their intention is to instruct us in His Word with His Spirit of Truth, not to deceive us.

I learned a valuable lesson while witnessing to the Mormon boys who visited me each week.  With eager willingness, they would tell me what they believed without my having to ask.  It was not necessary for me to study their book of tales.  The Lord had already convicted me of its deception.  As they attempted to address specific points of their theology, the Holy Spirit through the Word of God supplied me with everything I needed to refute it.

“All Scripture is God-breathed and useful [profitable] for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped [competent] for every good work.”  (2Timothy 3:16-17, NIV, with ESV alternate translation in brackets)

I know there are others whom the Lord has better equipped to delve into the dark world of false religions.  Perhaps it is one of those things that is necessary in order for us to be warned of their deception.  It is clear, however, that I am not one of them.  The Holy Spirit that dwells in every believer will let us know when a false message is being presented.  If you are unable to feel that conviction of unsettled discomfort, I suggest you reevaluate your position with God.  The Spirit of God stands ready to protect us from being “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” (Eph. 4:14, ESV)  It is good to be informed of destructive deceptions and heresies.  But it is not necessary to attempt to climb to the top of  the mountainous stack of worldly wisdom based on lies, only to find it ready to topple and bury you.

I would prefer to have my library of reading material sparsely lined with the writings of others and at the center of them, standing one well-used Tome from which they have all derived their words.  It is from that Book where we can find all of the answers to the questions that arise, even those that might throw us into a tailspin.

Within the eternal pages of Scripture is the very essence and complete nature and will of our God.  After all, it is a story about Himself, from beginning to end, and nothing has been added to or left out of it.


Karie said...

Karen, you know that we disagree about many things doctrinally. The most important thing I know is something we do agree on, that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer; that we receive salvation through his mercy and grace alone; that He loves us beyond our ability to understand, and that true happiness comes only through following Him. Of these truths the Book of Mormon bears powerful witness. Anyone who reads it with a sincere desire to know if it is God’s word can know of it’s truthfulness by the power of the Holy Ghost, who bears witness of all truth.
I love and respect you and your beliefs, and I admire your efforts to be a voice for truth. I debated with myself about posting this comment, I do not want to offend you or your readers, but I have made a commitment to let my voice be heard about the things I know and believe. I love the Book of Mormon and know that it draws all who read it with real intent closer to our Savior Jesus Christ.

Karen L. Brahs said...

Hi Karie,

I want you to know that I am glad you posted your comment! I also want you to know that when I was writing this, you were on my mind. Because of your beautiful and kind heart, I love you with the same love Paul had for the Corinthians who were being led astray by false apostles preaching a false gospel. He told them in 2Cor 11:1-3, "I am jealous for you with a Godly jealousy."

I want you to know the Truth of God and His Word as He breathed it out in Scripture; nothing hidden, nothing kept from us to be revealed at a later time, but all Truth revealed in its sovereign purity - from beginning to end.

The Corinthian believers had fallen into the trap Satan had set for them through the deceivers bent on destroying what Paul had established, and Paul was telling them that they were too willing to believe it and were rejecting the Truth he had first brought them:

"For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." (2Cor 11:4 NIV)

To the Galatians who were being led astray by false teachers (wolves in sheep clothing), Paul exhorted them by saying this:

"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." Gal. 1:6-10 ESV

You see, Karie, when I was writing this and you were on my mind, I contemplated not posting it because I knew it would probably cause you pain. But I want to use Paul's example of whether we are trying to seek the approval of God or of man. Like Paul, if I had chosen to not post this, then I would not be seeking God's approval. Instead, I would be disobedient to Him by seeking to prevent offense to some of my readers, rather than speaking the Truth. My desire is to remain a servant of Christ.

As Paul and the other Apostles declared to everyone they were sent, there is no other Gospel of Jesus Christ other than the one they were giving. To believe that there is will only bring condemnation or swift destruction.

I am continuing to pray that the Lord will be "pleased to reveal His Son" to you as He has done to me, and also to Rachel. He called us by His grace and revealed His Truth to us. The Holy Spirit has given us discernment in order to divide the Truth from lies and deceptions, and to keep us firmly grounded on the Rock of our salvation - Jesus Christ.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. We were going to go to Prosser, but the weather has prevented it, so we'll be at the kids'. I will love on those grandbabies extra hard for you!

In Christ,