By Elizabeth Prata
Previous essays on my reaction, here:
You know, it might be nice to be in a helps ministry. Everyone loves to see you coming. You’re filling a need. You’re bringing cake. There is an immediate satisfaction of a product of the help one can see (a cleaned house for an invalid, a casserole simmering for a bereaved family).
When in an exhortation ministry usually no one likes to see you coming. You have to say some unpleasant things sometimes. You have to challenge the status quo, and no one likes that. It makes people angry and it makes them uncomfortable.
But what does the Bible say? Titus 1:9 says church elders must be “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” Refute. Refute! Jude 1:3 says “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Contend defined in the Greek is “to struggle with skill and commitment in opposing whatever is not of faith (God’s persuasion).” Contend. Contend!
As we left the arena at the first session’s conclusion I cried but not in joy. It was in repentance, asking forgiveness for this preaching. But examining everything as we are instructed to do is a ceaseless activity. You’re never set. You’re never done. No matter how peeved you are, you have to let that burn off and then set about examining if there is truth to the charge.
So what do we think that satan’s subtlety looks like? (Genesis 3:1). It’s easy to say that rapture date-setter Harold Camping was wrong but harder to say where exactly the error is in Beth Moore’s stuff. But the Bible says satan is the most subtle creature on earth. Subtlety defined is “fine or delicate in meaning or intent; difficult to perceive or understand.” It is going to take a lot of effort, prayer and open ears and eyes to catch it.
What do we think false doctrine acts like? It doesn’t burst in, it creeps. (Jude 1:4). We’d notice if a bear stormed into our campsite. We do not notice when a snake curls up under our pillow. We can’t tell if a scorpion is slumbering in the shoe. They creep. They may go undetected for a long time, hiding there in your tent.
What do we think false doctrine will sound like? A Jerry Springer? With crashing chairs and loud yells and fights sprawling all over the stage? You’d want to get out of there pretty fast. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires…” I don’t know about you but when someone is tickling me, I don’t want them to stop. Really deadly false doctrine will sound good and you’ll want to let it continue.
False doctrine is going to come pretty close to the real thing. Consider what Satan said to Eve when tempting her with the fruit: (Gen 3:4-5)
“And the serpent said unto the woman,
–Ye shall not surely die: (half right. Flesh is alive, spirit is dead, he only told half the story)
–For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, (true)
–and ye shall be as gods, (false)
–knowing good and evil.” (true, but forgot to mention the penalty)
We HAVE TO “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess 5:21). “The meaning here is, that they were carefully to examine everything proposed for their belief. They were not to receive it on trust; to take it on assertion; to believe it because it was urged with vehemence, zeal, or plausibility”, says Barnes Notes. Moore certainly is full of zeal. She urges with vehemence. She is quite plausible. But I had to prove her and she failed the test. Now my job is to share my proofs with the body.
Now when we have a favorite teacher we get angry when someone says that their teaching contains false things. We might reject that assertion out of hand. We might reject that friend out of hand. As the person on the exhorting end of things, we might hold our exhortation because we do not want to make a friend mad. I was certainly not happy that I had to be the naysayer. Here my friend was, in the thrall of an emotional and what she felt was an uplifting evening, and I threw cold water all over her head. That’s what I mean when I say it is not an easy thing to contend and exhort. But we are called to defend the truth as Jesus revealed it to us, and we must obey the Spirit when He prompts us to do the unpleasant exhortations.
Sailing requires almost constant course corrections. The wind from above will push you off course. The current from below will push you off course. You must pay constant attention if you want to arrive in port safely. You keep a weather eye for clouds. You stay away from pirates. Now, the rocks are easy to spot and you can avoid those. But the underwater reefs are not easy to spot. The chart tells you where they are but if you don’t check the chart, or get off course through inattention, or failure to constantly check the compass, you can crack the bottom of your boat so fast that you won’t know what happened to you.
Catching false doctrines is like sailing. You have to be alert to the smallest of course corrections because before you know it you’re off course. It doesn’t happen right away. It is the accumulation of failures to correct that sends you up on the rocks. We’re told that this will happen, falsity will creep in:
“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” (1 Timothy 4:1)
“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.” (Eph 4:14). Notice the language here, ‘cunning’, ‘crafty’, ‘deceitful’ ‘schemes’. In other words- Hard. To. Spot.
“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 [innocent, unsuspecting].” (Romans 16:17-18)
Proclaiming error is not easy when it’s about someone who is popular, embedded, and sounds so appealing and gospel-y. But we have to take the risk we will offend someone when we exhort in love and gentleness. It is what contending means. The Bible says that the infants are tossed by every wind of doctrine but as we exercise our faith through prayer, corporate worship, Bible study and in the active parts of faith through discerning, contending and refuting, we soon become more mature. “He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Do not fear! The living water will keep your leaves green.
He is ALL GLORY, He is the treasure upon which we set our eyes. He is so exalted, the very courts of praise rock with the living angels who proclaim HOLY HOLY HOLY is He! His holiness should not be besmirched by Bible teachers who put man in the center and talk about how the relationship is reciprocal. “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.’ (Psalms 145:3)