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Unintentional Deceptions?

I’m on a little bit of a rant tonight. That’s because I have attended a number of services lately that it was difficult for me to sit through. I just can’t believe the theology or comments that are coming from the pulpit, or the stage, for that matter.

First, let’s back up a little. The Bible is a very complicated document and many people believe that there are multiple interpretations of the Scripture. When I went to school, I was taught that there is only one interpretation of Scripture. But based on where you are in your spiritual walk, the Holy Spirit can give you different applications of the Bible to fit where you are in your development and your desire to become more Christlike as you mature in your faith.

Folks who go to more conservative schools, like I did, tend to be more conventional in their theology and usually think more “old school.” I am very much this way. I believe in the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, Bodily Resurrection of Jesus, a literal Heaven and Hell, as well as a litany of other core Christian beliefs that are cast in stone as far as I am concerned. And while I am deeply committed to conservative theology, not all schools teach this line of thinking and application of the Scripture.

In fact, there are a number of graduate schools, (seminaries), that are actually thinking about removing the word “seminary” from their school name in the hope of attracting atheists to study. So help me understand this – how can an atheist stand in the pulpit and preach the word of God?

Or how can pastors preach that it doesn’t make any difference if you believe in communion as a memorial of what happened in the Upper Room; or whether you believe in transubstantiation – a belief that the communion elements become the actual body and blood of Christ. Is baptism as act of obedience to a belief in Jesus as Savior (my belief), or is it necessary to be baptized in order to be welcomed into heaven?

Last Christmas season I listened to a pastor, from the pulpit, announce that it was possible that Jesus was a gay man who was possibly in the “closet.” I believe that these comments are not helpful and are at best, confusing, to the majority of people who attend church. Or how about the statement that evil doesn’t exist today because Satan was defeated at the cross when Jesus rose from the dead. It’s difficult for me to sit and listen to this. Of course, I think evil still exists – just look around.

The truth of the matter is that many people are authentic Christ followers and attend church as a part of their spiritual walk. But many people who attend really don’t have deep theological underpinnings or training and they are susceptible to believe false teaching. We just don’t think too deeply about tough subjects like theology. We believe in God and are supposed to have childlike faith. And there are deeply opposing views on what is correct – even among highly trained scholars.

Not all misrepresentations are intentional. Sometimes, even pastors and other spiritual leaders can become confused about hot topics and complex issues.

This past weekend I heard a pastor say that repentance leads to increased grace from God. Personally, I find this difficult, if not impossible, to believe. Grace is “undeserved favor” and is dispensed by God at His sole discretion. We can’t force God to give us grace, nor can we affect the amount of grace that God decides to bestow on us. Just we can’t can’t control God’s love for us. It is complete – we can’t earn it – God loves us. Period… And even if we sin, God still loves us… While God would desire that we repent, I don’t for a moment believe that it affects the amount of grace that God dispenses to us.

Admittedly, I evaluate every word that is spoken from the pulpit. But I also know that I am a tough audience and that most people don’t parse every word the way I do. When Janet and I visit a church, I almost always rehash the sermon afterward. I guess that it is an occupational hazard.

I wonder if these “errors” are really deceptions of Satan that are designed to divide us. It’s a very real possibility. And while we are on this topic I want to be sure to admit that I am sure that there have been times when I have not understood something completely and I may have given false information. Of course, not intentionally, but I am sure that somewhere, sometime, after 25 years of teaching, mistakes have happened. For that I am sincerely sorry and seek God’s forgiveness.

Our verse for tonight comes from the end of the Bible. In the end of Revelation, written by the apostle John after he was favored with a view of the future, including heaven, we are told in Revelation 22:18-21, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.”

My encouragement this evening is that Jesus wants us to study His Word – the Bible that we have been given. My prayer is that we will all sit under authentic, legitimately trained pastors who have been schooled in God’s Word and have prayed for illumination by the Holy Spirit. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…

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