Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Mystery of Deception

Webster defines deception as - the fact or condition of being deceived.

I thought I knew what deception was, at least in the general sense. It is a lie, disguised as truth, and that attracts people in such a way that they believe a lie. You usually assign deception to the gullible, or the susceptible, or the uneducated. They would seem to be the easiest targets of deception.

But I was unaware of the strength and depth of deception until I saw it unvarnished in the internet world. And this deception captures true believers who have a working knowledge of the Scriptures and who once embraced, and even championed, the truth. I do not speak of lesser issues, however important, but I speak of the very white hot core of theology, namely redemption. How does a sinner get saved and what is the gospel are the non-negotiable truths that must authenticate a minister and ministry. And this truth must be more than some tacit statement of faith, this truth must be woven unmistakably and forcefully throughout the writings and messages of the ministry.

One cannot just print some nice sounding theology in a statement of faith that seems to be orthodox, and then take license to speak and preach everything but the gospel, and in fact, speak and preach things contrary to the gospel of redemption. And the Biblical veracity of a preacher’s beliefs must not fall exclusively on the statement of faith, there must be irrefutable evidence of that truth in his teachings as well. A statement of faith without works is dead. How authentic would it be for a college class to advertise itself as a class that teaches the way to get to the Moon by spaceship, but the class only discusses things here on Earth? And when someone asks if this really was a class that teaches the way to get to the Moon, the other classmates point to the class description in the college advertisement.

See,” say the classmates, “it says right here that this class is to teach the way to get to the Moon.”

Yes,” you say, “but he doesn’t teach anything about getting to the Moon, he only teaches about the Earth.”

Well,” the classmates respond, “you must listen real hard to discover anything about getting to the Moon, and in fact, the professor assumes he is speaking to people who already know how to get to the Moon, so what’s the point?”

And when faced with that scenario, or something similar, the truth becomes obvious: The professor is not teaching people how to get to the Moon. In fact, one might question if that professor actually knows how to get to the Moon. The same can be said with preachers who teach about anything and everything but never teach the clear gospel message, much less give an impassioned plea for sinners to come to Christ. And when that void is pointed out to those who are “in his class”, they say he is teaching those who already know the gospel and it would only be redundant. But they maintain he believes the gospel and as proof they offer the statement of faith.

That kind of deception centers on the idolization of man at the expense of the truth of God’s Word. Believers who have appreciated some of the new and avante garde teachings that are called “emergent”, get connected to a man and that connection can quickly become unhealthy and counterproductive. And the departure from the gospel is not instantaneous and startling; it happens slowly and over a period of time.

Heb.2:1 - Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

A preacher usually doesn’t become a heretic overnight, it happens very slowly and often the deception occurs in him first. In an attempt to relate, which is not a bad thing, combined with a discontent with the old methods of communication and Scriptural interpretation, the preacher begins to search for the new and the innovative as it concerns truth. It begins with innovative perspectives on truth, usually juxtaposed on the many vulnerabilities of orthodox entrenchments, and eventually it progresses to a departure from truth rather than a more lucent and understandable communication.

And along the way these men pick up many types of followers. They can be the disenfranchised, the intellectual, the searching, the liberal, and an array of lost people looking for a religion that fits their mold. And as is the case with other social, political, and religious genres, once a person becomes enthralled with a man it is most difficult for him to see anything wrong with his teachings. When a person assumes a preacher is genuine, learned, and orthodox, he will process everything that preacher teaches through that perspective and he will hear and read everything he teaches with the most charitable orthodoxy, even taking the most obvious heresy and stretching it with a tortured kinship to Biblical truth. And those who question the preacher’s teachings provide fuel and energy for his defenders since they take up an offense for that preacher. Of course those who are vicious and demeaning are not productive either.

Those are, in my opinion, some of the mechanics of this deception. But I continue to wonder and have questions as well. How can a believer diminish the sufferings of Christ’s cross and present a bloodless gospel? How can a ministry be considered Christian if it vacates the teaching and preaching of the cross? I once heard a friend who leans emergent say, “The resurrection is more important than the cross!” Why would someone say that, as if you could place levels of value on the gospel events? The obvious reason is that most emergents devalue the cross just by its absence in their teachings as well as their theology. And that, my friends, is the pinnacle of deception.

How can we devalue and diminish the cross of our Blessed Savior? How can we take those wondrous and mysterious sufferings and count them as just an equal part of the Biblical narrative? All the millions of gallons of animal blood that was shed under the law of Moses shouted forward to the blood that was shed by God’s Perfect Lamb! Are we going to politely acknowledge that redemptive slaughter in our “statement of faith” and then move on to things more relevant and refreshing, thereby revealing the true nature of our perspective of the cross?

And what shall we say about our brothers and sisters before us whose blood and ashes testify of a level of commitment to that cross? Tradition tells us Peter so valued the cross of Christ he requested to be crucified upside down so as not to be confused with the cross of Golgotha. The evangelical land upon which we walk is soaked in the blood of the martyrs. They were persecuted not because of acts of kindness toward others, but because they would not renounce Jesus and His cross. And when we refuse to teach and carry that cross in our messages, we shame the memory of those martyrs and we do despite to the Spirit of Christ Himself. It is a deep and profound deception.

I am open to a discussion of how we treat and reach the gay community. I am open to a discussion of new ways to evangelize. I am open to a discussion of different styles of music. I am open to a discussion of church service constructs. We should all be open to the Spirit as it concerns fringe issues. But the firewall begins and ends at the gospel. There can be no discussion about redemption and the exclusivity of Christ and the absolute necessity of a personal born again experience. We will never trade the blood of Abel’s offering for the product of Cain’s hands. And yet sincere believers are being swept away from the blood of Christ through the enticing words of men’s wisdom.

I would welcome a challenge to a more perfect emulation of Jesus. I would welcome the rod of correction for all of us as it concerns our too often neglect of the poor and needy around the world. Go ahead and point out, to our shame, that we do not seek to exhibit those words in red. Let us open that dialogue and ask God to awaken us all through repentance and a renewed heart to seek Christ. But as soon as you tamper with the gospel, and as soon as you elevate those works as redemptive, and as soon as I cannot find the true gospel in your words, then you can count me out.

I used to think that the emergent movement sought to bring the church into a more living expression of Christ while scrupulously retaining the gospel message. No one should think that anymore. And the tragedy is that genuine and sincere believers are being deceived, and true to the very nature of deception, they do not realize that they are deceived.

This is no game of doctrinal chess, and this deception has eternal consequences. Remaining humble and non-descript about our own struggles of discipleship while openly confronting and exposing these deceptions will ultimately be the real challenge. The Lord Jesus doesn’t need our help, but He commands our obedience and faithfulness. These are trying times in which we live, and there is an unseen battle that rages with ferocious sophistication, using nuanced mendaciousness to appear as something that they are not. These deceptive spirits will showcase the harsh self righteousness of some as proof that their brand of orthodoxy is not Christian and against that backdrop they will urge people to conclude that the new truths are of God.

The seriousness of these present events cannot be overstated. Believers will waste their time on worthless political back and forths while the urgency of God’s gospel remains a foundation rather than the eternal spearhead by which the church engages the lost world. Love without the cross is an eternal lie and spiritual murder. When we discuss the gospel and its metamorphosis there can be no melodrama and no exaggeration. Life and death are at stake, and those who accommodate are complicit. We will all give an account one day for how we addressed those who are teaching eternal death dressed up as redemption. Lethargy is sin and silence is being a passive enabler.

The days when God chose prophets and spoke to them exclusively are gone. Every believer with a Bible must be God’s mouthpiece. Humility must be in our spirit, but within that humbleness must be forthrightness and even confrontation. All of us come short of what we should and could be for the Lord Jesus Christ, but that still does not provide an alibi for ignorance or silence. In fact, a loving and sincere warning based upon God’s Word and not the accuracy of your own expressions of that truth is the essence of humility. Do we care about sinners? Do we care about Christ? Do we care about the cross? If we do care then we cannot remain as silent spectators and hope for the best. We must rise up with humble boldness and preach and live the truths of redemption.

Perhaps some will be enlightened to this deception and come out from among them. I believe, should Jesus tarry, that there may be a growing number of “ex-emergents” who will give testimony to the delivering power of the Spirit of God.

Pray for them and pray for yourselves as well.

1 comment:

mrs k said...

Amen! Praying!