Just Wanna Talk About Jesus?

Just Wanna Talk About Jesus?

We’ve all heard someone say, “I don’t want to talk about theology or doctrine. I just want to talk about Jesus”.

While that may sound noble and profound, it’s really a ridiculous, ignorant, and dangerous statement.

The mere mention of the name “Jesus Christ” calls for all kinds of theological and doctrinal examination. Which Jesus do you want to talk about? Is it the Mormon Jesus who is the brother of Satan, the Jehovah’s Witnesses Jesus who is a created spirit creature, the Muslim Jesus who is just a prophet and teacher, or the Jesus of the Bible who is the very Son of God?

In reality, the name “Jesus Christ” demands that we consider all kinds of theological and doctrinal questions. Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua) means “the Lord is Salvation”. The implications of that are more than I can discuss in this short blog. The title Christ (Hebrew: Messiah) means “Anointed One”. That too is a theological and doctrinal goldmine.

The very idea that we can be DISCIPLES of Jesus Christ and not speak of the doctrines of Scripture reveals a spiritual shallowness in those with this kind of thinking.

Sometimes doctrinal and biblical truth unites, and sometimes it divides. Romans 16:17 says, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (NKJV). So clearly there are times to separate from people who teach false doctrines. We shouldn’t divide over peripheral doctrines, but those doctrines that are fundamental to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” are matters over which we must sometimes part company.

Everyone wants to talk about love these days. But what is real love? The deepest love is called agape in the New Testament. It’s self-giving, self sacrificing love that takes no thought for itself. Yes Jesus wants us to walk in love toward all people, but we can only have that kind of love as we are walking in the truth. The message of 1st John has a lot of emphasis on love, but it is love based in the truth of God’s Word. Without the foundation of the Bible, it is impossible to possess real holiness or have real love for anyone. In John 17:17-19 Jesus said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth” NKJV. In calling for believers to live a holy life, Peter mentions each of these things.

1 Peter 1:13-25

13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. 22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. NKJV

Clearly, holiness, love, and truth work hand in hand to bring us to maturity in Christ. Without truth there can be no holiness or love. Without truth everything becomes twisted, perverted.

Sadly, there are a host of so-called Evangelical leaders who are leading the Church away from the truth of the Gospel, away from a real salvation experience through the blood of Jesus Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit, away from a literal interpretation of the Scriptures, and away from the God of the Bible Himself. Some of these leaders are merely backsliding, but others have moved into complete apostasy. 2 Peter 2:1 speaks of people like them saying, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (NKJV). Things like doctrine (teaching) and apologetics (a reasoned defense of the faith) used to matter to denominational leaders, pastors, and other leaders in the church, but those days are apparently history. Now it seems to be anything goes. Just mention the name of Jesus and you’re in. But, again, which Jesus? The Jesus of the Bible? Or are we talking about the Jesus of a hundred different cults and false religions? Will the real Jesus please stand up? Or rather, will the real men and women of God please speak up? Let our leaders speak the truth of God in clear terms, or let them leave and go do something useful like selling used cars. At least we expect lies from a lot of those people. And I apologize to the used car salesmen because some of them are truly more ethical than most of the prominent “Christian leaders” we have today.

The bottom line is that if people can be led away from reliance on the Scriptures as God’s infallible revelation to mankind, then they are easy prey for all kinds of damnable heresies. Today the Church has been moved away from the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone), and the sheep are being led into damnation by the philosophies of smooth talking hirelings. These so-called postmodernists, and others, reject the authority of Scripture and moral absolutes. They are idolaters who place their minds and intellect above the Scripture, and force their imaginations, opinions, and philosophies upon it. Again, Christianity stands or falls on the inspiration, infallibility, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible as the God-breathed revelation of God to mankind.

A final biblical warning is in order as I close this blog. Colossians 2:8 says, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (NKJV). Heed that warning. Believe the Bible above everything and everyone else. Many of the prominent leaders are watering down the Gospel and twisting the message of the Bible. Please wake up Church before it is eternally too late.

Titus 1:10-11 “For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” NASB.

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What Are They (er, ah, We) Thinking? Part 2

Today’s church leaders are allowing, and even inviting, teachers and authors with blatantly heretical theology to come in and “teach” the flock of God. We are told that these teachers and authors must be heard because they are the ones “impacting” this generation of thinkers. In my thinking, that makes it all the more imperative that we know up front where they are coming from and what they are about.

My own fellowship, the Assemblies of God, has invited openly New Age Mystics and Positive Confession (Word of Faith) teachers to speak at its General Council meetings. It puzzles me how they can continue to assert “we are people of the Word and the Spirit”, when they invite open heresy into the camp to speak to the shepherds and missionaries of this movement. I’m asking myself what word, and what spirit? Whose word and whose spirit? The things coming in are not from the Word of God or the Spirit of God.

Although we have a position paper in which we officially oppose the Positive Confession movement, our leaders saw fit to invite Christine Caine to speak at the 2013 General Council in Orlando, Florida. She openly admits her Christian roots are deeply founded in the word of faith movement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUZ0pS-jyLM).

She is now living and ministering in the USA, but she was originally part of the ministry team at Hillsong Church in Australia, pastored by Brian Houston (officially part of the Australian Christian Churches, formerly the Australian Assemblies of God), that pastor and church went off into the Word of Faith camp quite a while ago (Brian Houston completely mangles the text of Habakkuk 2:2-3 from a message of impending judgment into a promise of fulfilled positive vision in his message When Ordinary People See posted at http://vimeo.com/33948858). Yet that too doesn’t seem to matter.

From the New Age Mystic camp, they invited Ruth Haley Barton to speak to our credentialed women at the 2013 General Council. Barton is so far off the rails that she makes Christine Caine look like a raving Fundamentalist. Ruth Haley Barton has a website for her Transforming Center (http://www.transformingcenter.org/) that emphasizes mystical experiences almost to the exclusion of the Scriptures. She received extensive training at the Shalem Institute (http://www.shalem.org/), which is a New Age/Contemplative training institution. One might argue that just because she attended that training center doesn’t mean she agrees with everything the institution teaches. This is a weak excuse and a copout for not exercising discernment. Tilden Edwards, founder of the Shalem Institute and New Ager, has given a positive review of Barton’s book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Rhythms-Arranging-Spiritual-Transformation/dp/0830833331/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372206304&sr=1-3&keywords=ruth+haley+barton). In fact, one of the Sacred Rhythms videos is posted here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0a0WNnz70aU).

Barton also received extensive training at the Shalem Institute (http://www.shalem.org/), which is a New Age/Contemplative training institution. Her above mentioned book has been endorsed by one of the instructors, Tilden Edwards, a New Age mystic.

Tilden Edwards writes:

“Ruth Haley Barton offers much wise, sane, concrete help for people who are ready for the ‘more’ of God amidst their busy lives, and want a better way to arrange their lives to receive God’s transforming presence. She clearly spells out an excellent rhythm of classical spiritual practices that can keep us open and available to God’s transforming actions in and among us. She grounds these practices in our own deepest desires, connecting those desires with God’s desire for our well-being. She shares some of her own personal experiences as a sometimes struggling Christian in an honest and inspiring way. She gives very helpful guidelines for using the book within a group of people who are seeking to create better conditions in their lives to receive God’s transforming presence.

I think this book will be of enormous value to individuals and groups who are seeking to more fully ground all dimensions of their often fragmented and hectic daily lives in the liberating ground of God’s transforming presence, with the help of a rhythm of vital spiritual practices that can keep us available to that loving presence.” (Tilden Edwards, author of Sabbath Time and Living in the Presence)

Notice Tilden Edwards says that Barton grounds her practices in “our own deepest desires, connecting those desires with God’s desire for our well-being.” He goes on to say, “She shares some of her own personal experiences as a sometimes struggling Christian in an honest and inspiring way.” What happened to grounding our teachings in the Word of God? What happened to experiencing God on His terms and in His prescribed manner? Her teachings, as well as the teachings of others in the contemplative prayer camp, are experience based, not Scripture based. Rather than examining our experiences in the light of Scripture, the experiences have become their own authority. This is a recipe for disaster.

I would point the reader again to The Focus of Prayer article posted on this blog on 01-05-2015. In that post, I show that Thomas Keating, one of the men who revived the practice of contemplative prayer or centering prayer, did an interview with the Garrison Institute in October 2008. In the interview, the man clearly reveals that his worldview is more Hindu and Buddhist than Christian. That interview is posted in three parts at the following links.

Part 1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaLRcCooyTY

Part 2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bnbKZID1Jqc

Part 3

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XjUBp1bjt0k

Contemplative Prayer as it is called is Christianized Transcendental Meditation. It is a methodology the so-called “Desert Fathers” (Roman Catholic mystics) acquired from Hindu and Buddhist sources and added to their “Christianity”. Although the Assemblies of God officially opposes Transcendental Meditation, this stuff, posing as Christianity, is being welcomed with open arms.

Barton is also now a “spiritual director” (whatever that means), and she operates the Transforming Center (http://www.transformingcenter.org/) in Wheaton, Illinois. Interestingly, her Transforming Center is headquartered at the Loretto Center (http://www.lorettocenter.org), a Roman Catholic Convent in Wheaton, Illinois. The Loretto Center promotes all kinds of unbliblical practices, such as walking the labyrinth and Shamanic (as in shaman=witch doctor) healing. Some of these practices, such as the shamanic healing would repulse most of the Roman Catholics I know.

Michael Harner has written about these practices in his book The Way of the Shaman. Harner is a practicing shaman, and he tells us what it is all about. Sadly, most of these so-called “spiritual directors” are nothing but shamans and witch doctors with more respectable titles. Whatever happened to the 5-fold ministry of Ephesians 4:11? God gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers. I don’t find a “spiritual director” in the list. But I will give the “spiritual directors” credit for one thing—they know how to rake in the money to the tune of $40-$100 an hour. (Man am I in the wrong line of work. I should just call myself a “spiritual director” and charge $50 an hour. Working 5 hours a day 4 days a week would be $1,000 a week. I certainly never came close to that as a pastor—pardon the sarcasm).

If we all need the help of a “spiritual director” from the Transforming Center to guide our lives, then that seems to say that we are just lower-tier Christians who are unable to find the direction of the Holy Spirit through the Bible and prayer without the help of enlightened spiritual gurus (i.e. gnostics) like Ruth Haley Barton. That is no different than the traditional teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that the RCC is the only qualified interpreter of the Bible. Even a lot of Roman Catholic groups are now doing group Bible studies and Roman Catholic individuals are reading and studying the Bible for themselves.

I don’t want to sound proud, but when I consider her false doctrines, unbiblical practices and psycho-babble, I don’t think Ruth Haley Barton is qualified to give “spiritual direction” to any real born-again Bible-believing Christian.

The leaders of the General Council of the Assemblies of God can tout their “growth” numbers all they want, but this is about more than the number of dollars in the offering bags and the number of butts in the seats. This is about what people are believing in and trusting for their eternal salvation. Of the people in any given church on any given Sunday, how many are truly saved souls? How many are just part of the crowd? I am thankful for everyone who shows up to a Christian gathering, but I am concerned for those who think they are fine just the way they are without having repented of their sins and receiving the free gift of salvation through faith in the blood atonement of Jesus Christ.

Thank you very much, and have a Blessed Day in the Lord Jesus Christ!

His Hebrew name is: Yeshua haMashiach or Yehoshua haMashiach