“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
“Now they which were scattered abroad upon the persecution that arose about Stephen travelled as far as Phenice and Cyprus and Antioch, preaching the Word to none but unto the Jews only” (Acts 11:19).
“Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: and when he had found him he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:25-26).
The late Dr. Adrian Rogers, former pastor of the Belleview Baptist Church in Memphis Tennessee was quoted as saying, “It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error.” This sentiment is not a popular one in today’s society where truth has been replaced with relevancy, and doctrine has been replaced with experience.
Tolerance and broadmindedness are the modern virtues being espoused today. In every aspect of society, it is tolerance and political correctness instead of discernment and sound doctrine that are the standards by which everyone and everything is now judged.
Today’s prevailing philosophy contends that no person or entity should dare to step forward and proclaim that there is such a thing as absolute truth. Why not? Well it is for this reason: If absolute truth exists, then that would necessitate that one thing is true while something else is false, and in our present, globalist, ecumenical culture, absolutism is the unpardonable sin—at least according to today’s popular thinking.
But you see, this “enlightened” way of thinking poses a big problem for one who is a true follower of Christ. Christianity is different from all other religions in that it makes many about and unequivocal claims. For that very reason, genuine Christians cannot just merge together with that which is false and diametrically opposed to it.
The term “Christian” has a definitive meaning. However in our postmodern culture, the identifying traits of the term that make the word meaningful have been changed.
The label “Christian” was given to the disciples in the early church, and also to those from the first century onward (after Jesus’ resurrection) who followed both the person and the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth—the one Who proclaimed Himself the Christ (the term Christ means “Anointed one”).
As a result of Jesus’ claims of absolutism regarding His divinity, and the fact that He acknowledged that title of Himself as being the Christ; His claims were accepted and perpetuated by His followers. These early believers were identified by their belief in Jesus Christ and were thus called “Christians.”
The term Christian as it was first coined, was a derogatory name given to those in the first century after the birth of the church. This term of derision was applied to all who identified themselves as believers in the claims of Jesus Christ (that He is “God in the flesh”) and who followed His teachings accepting His claims as Truth.
The word Christian means “follower of Christ.” Christians then were those who identified their lives with the man Jesus of Nazareth who was “also called the Christ.”
Such followers were held in contempt and derision by the world because they believed that Jesus was indeed THE Christ – the long awaited and promised Anointed one—the “Messiah” of the Jews. The early Christians believed that this man was the One whose coming had been foretold in scripture.
And moreover, believers down throughout the centuries have been so convinced that Jesus of Nazareth was exactly Who He claimed to be, that they were (and still are) willing to endure the most horrific kinds of persecution and death because of their affiliation with the title of “Christian.” And it is still so today. We who are true followers of Christ in our day, also accept this term for ourselves. We, too, understand its true meaning.
Unfortunately, too many in our 21st century culture, the term Christian has come to mean just about anything to anyone. For example, Catholics call themselves Christians even though the beliefs and doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church are completely against the tenants of the Bible. Mormons call themselves Christians too, but like Roman Catholicism, the teachings of the Mormon “church” also flatly contradict the clear teachings of the Jesus of the Bible.
Many in the LBGT culture call themselves Christians as well, yet their lifestyles are in flagrant rebellion and complete contradiction of Scripture. New Age Hollywood pop culture icons such as Roma Downey and Mark Burnett lay claim to the title Christian, even though their beliefs are nothing close to genuine Christianity. Even our current president, sometimes calls himself a Christian without demonstrating one scintilla of evidence that he has any inkling of what the term means.
ALL of these individuals and groups claim the title of Christian, but each one has his own ideas regarding what being a Christian means. Furthermore, each of these beliefs blatantly contradict the clear teaching of the One who calls Himself “The Word made flesh,” the Christ from whom the very term Christian is derived.
Now think about this: If all of those with contradictory beliefs and doctrines call themselves Christian then the very term becomes meaningless. If there is no set meaning for what defines and differentiates one as a Christian, then the very term loses all sense of identity and distinction.
But, being a Christian does have a specific definition. It has both a particular meaning and an historical meaning. Therefore for any person or entity to hijack the term and twist it to suit their own definition or agenda, does violence to both the meaning of language and to history.
In actuality, calling oneself or any entity Christian should mean a particular thing. It should mean that everyone who calls himself by that term (as well as any other group or entity that identifies itself as Christian) is one who adheres to the fundamental beliefs set forth by the One who made the term meaningful in the first place.
In the case of Jesus who claimed the title “Christ,” we had better find out from Him the criteria that He set forth for those who would follow Him and who would identify themselves with His name.
According to the Scriptures, a genuine Christian is one who:
1) Believes in Jesus as being THE Christ (God incarnate).
2) A genuine Christian is one who accepts Jesus’ statements regarding Himself and His purpose as fact, and who lives his life by faith according to those claims.
3) A genuine Christian is one who accepts Jesus as Savior through faith believing that He is the One and only Savior of mankind that He claims to be,
4) A genuine Christian is one who puts his faith in the crucified and risen Son of God—the Christ, and who follows the teachings regarding Jesus Christ as they are revealed in His Book, the Bible.
Thus, a real Christian is one who accepts the record of the Bible as being literally true, one who has followed Christ for salvation and forgiveness of one’s sins according to the criteria Christ Himself set forth in the Bible.
In 2 Timothy, the Holy Spirit, speaking through the apostle Paul, warned that in the last days there would come a time when most people would no longer endure “sound (healthy) doctrine” but would rather run after those who would fashion a “Jesus” and a “Christ” more to their liking.
However, as inconvenient as it may be, there is such a thing as absolute truth. The Bible makes bold claims that it and it alone is the very Word of God. Furthermore, the Jesus Christ of the Bible makes the daring claim that He alone, is that same “Word made flesh” that came to earth and “dwelt among us” (John 1:1) Furthermore, He claims that this statement is absolute truth!
These are specific, bold, and unequivocal claims that have a definite and unambiguous meaning. Those who claim to be Christians must accept these claims as truth, or else change the title by which they identify themselves. For to believe anything other than what Christ has said about Himself or to refuse the doctrines (teachings) that are foundational to what Christianity is, means that one cannot in all honesty, call oneself a “Christian.” Words, after all, do have meanings!
In fact, Truth is not just a particular position one takes. No, the Bible declares that Truth is a person! Jesus said of Himself, “I am the Way, THE TRUTH and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6, emphasis mine).
That is an absolute, unambiguous, and exclusive statement. These absolute statements about the person and work of the Lord Jesus are the very bedrock upon which all that constitutes sound doctrine is built.
The sound doctrine which the apostle Paul taught consists of the “whole counsel” of God as revealed in the totality of God’s Word. If any person or group rejects the veracity, inerrancy, and authority of any portion of God’s revealed Word, then he/they have rejected TRUTH and are following another gospel, another Jesus, and another Christ. In other words, they are following and perpetuating a lie.
With so many voices in the Church today, it can be very easy to be lured away from “sound doctrine.” Even those of us who have grown up in church and who have been fed upon sound doctrine from an early age, can be lured away from it if we do not stay grounded in the Word of God. Each of us needs to take stock of our lives and see if we have been drawn off course with regards to the fundamental truths of the Bible.
I realize that using the word “fundamental” causes a knee-jerk reaction in some people. It is a term that has become derogatory to the point that anyone daring to call himself a fundamentalist, runs the risk of not just being ostracized, but actually vilified!
However, the term “fundamentalist” simply refers to those who hold to the tenets of their foundational belief system or worldview. So, a genuine Christian should never be offended by the term “fundamentalist.”
By the grace of the loving Savior and upon my profession of faith in Him for the forgiveness of my sinful condition, I proudly accept the term “Christian fundamentalist” to describe what I am, and how I identify myself.
The Holy Spirit has been dealing with me a great deal lately with regard to making sure that I am not only adhering to sound doctrine, but also making sure I am conforming to sound doctrine when I teach my little ones or in any way engage in the sharing of my faith.
Since God often uses simple things to teach us valuable lessons, please allow me to share how He got my attention about standing strong in the truth. I was in our backyard pool a while back just hanging onto one of my grandbabies’ float rings. I had closed my eyes and was not really thinking of anything. I was simply relaxing.
I had started out at one end of the pool, but when I opened my eyes, I found that I was nowhere near where I thought I was. You see, I had forgotten about the current in the pool. I had been just drifting with the flow. Had I wanted to stay in the same place, I would have needed to have stood in place and fought the current.
That is exactly the advice the apostle Paul was giving to young Timothy, and through him, to us today. We as Christians must always be on guard lest we become “carried away by every wind of doctrine,” and thus fall prey to unsound or false doctrine ourselves.
The Church is in the sad shape it is in today because those of us who do know the truth have not stood in place and fought the ever strengthening current of false teaching. We have allowed into our midst many of the ravenous wolves the Lord Jesus warned us about—those very ones who are bringing in the “damnable heresies” that are causing a shipwreck of faith in young believers, and are sending multitudes of lost souls straight to hell.
There are false teachers, false prophets, and false doctrines galore in our churches; indeed they are flourishing in every area of our culture. Many of these people call themselves “Christians” but they do not adhere to the doctrines of genuine Christianity as defined by the Bible. They are perpetuating a false gospel and promoting a false Jesus. And it is we who are genuine Christians, who are to blame for the proliferation of them.
We have allowed these heretics and hirelings to flourish by not “earnestly contending for the faith” (Jude 3) as we have been admonished in Scripture to do. As a result of our carelessness and apathy, young or immature believers in the faith are being ensnared by unsound teaching.
They are not growing stronger in the Lord nor are they growing more deeply grounded in the Word. Even worse, those who are lost are being led straight to hell by hirelings who are nothing more than false shepherds.
Untold numbers of lost souls are being deceived by these pied pipers of the pulpit; many of whom are themselves lost and on their way to hell. These are they who Jesus referred to as being like “the blind leading the blind.”
We need to have the courage of our convictions, and according to the inerrant Word of God, raise our voices and proclaim, “NO MORE.”
No more will we sit idly by while those who claim to be followers of Christ deny the veracity and inerrancy of the Scriptures.
No more will we allow so called pastors and religious leaders to take the infallible Word of God and twist it to suit their own personal, political or social agendas, or to line their pockets with money they have fleeced from elderly, unwary, or spiritually immature believers.
No more will we remain silent while the Holy God of Glory is defamed, defrauded and demoted to the status of a “genie in a bottle.” No more, church of God! NO MORE.
It is Jesus Himself who both defines and determines what a Christian is. It is not my opinion or anyone else’s that matters. It does not matter how influential or popular these impostors are. It does not matter how big a name they or their “church” may have, nor does It matter how many letters or degrees they may have strung behind their names.
If these men (or women) whose influence holds sway over others do not preach, teach, or write according to sound doctrine, then their errors must be exposed. The cost of not doing so is just too high!
There have always been true and false professors of Christ. When anyone comes to Christ, he comes to Him on His (Christ’s) terms, or he does not come to Him at all. It is written:
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).
“Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And I will declare unto them, depart from me ye workers of iniquity; I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus warned us that there would be both true and false “believers,” professing Christians who are among us but are not of us (1 John 2:19; Christians in name only). Jesus’ own criteria for what constitutes a true Christian is set by HIM, and is non-negotiable.
We come to Christ by faith accepting His finished work on Calvary as payment in full for a sin debt that everyone has that none of us can ever pay.
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
This is Jesus’ definition of a genuine Christian, and I am one solely and only by the grace of a merciful God. Jesus tells us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
This is Jesus’ statement of fact. We either accept Him on His terms and follow Him on His terms, or we do not. Either way, all will stand accountable before a holy God for the choice we make.
For the true believer our judgment took place at the cross, and became efficacious for us personally the instant we placed our faith in the finished work of Christ and accepted Him as our Redeemer.
For the unbeliever, the false or professing-in-name-only “believer” — his judgment will take place at the Great White Throne where the lost of all the ages will be judged at the end of the Millennium.
Let us have the courage of our convictions to stand against those who (no matter how powerful they are or how influential or well educated they may be), dare to call themselves a Christ-follower, when their own testimonies, beliefs, teachings and actions show that they in fact, are not.
Let us learn (with an humble and contrite spirit but yet with boldness and a passionate heart for truth) to “earnestly contend for the faith” against all who are polluting God’s church with lies. Let us oppose and expose those who teach that there is no eternal hell—those who teach that objective truth is not real, but that everything is relative; those who teach that experiencing our best life here is enough, instead of coming to the cross as the sinners that we are in need of the Savior that He is.
Let us expose as frauds and liars, all those who teach that “God wants everyone to be rich right now — those who prey upon the sad, the sick and the wounded by telling them that God will heal them if they only have enough faith, instead of teaching them that God is sovereign and that His ways are not our ways; that sometimes our greatest blessings come wrapped in layers upon layers of sorrow, hardship, trials, and pain. Or that sometimes our deepest and most profound growth comes from learning first hand that His grace is sufficient in our weakness.
Let us put to shame the false teaching that God wants us to have “our best life now” when in reality He is preparing for those who belong to Him, an eternal home “where moth and rust does not corrupt and where thieves do not break through and steal.”
This evil, fallen, blood drenched, violence saturated world is slated for destruction, so why would anyone trade the sham that is this world for the splendid, glorious, heaven which is eternal?
It will not be popular to confront the false teachings of the wolves in sheep’s clothing. It will also not be profitable. You see, following Jesus will cost us something. It will cost some of us friends and family. It will cost us popularity among our peers. It will cost us our reputation within a lost and depraved culture. It is increasingly costing many their jobs, and it could someday cost us our lives. It has cost all of these things for our brothers and sisters in Christ in many parts of the world to this very hour.
We must go back to the Scriptures and search them diligently so that we may know what is the full counsel of God. Each one of us must decide in our own hearts, just how far we are willing to go for the sake of our Savior and for the truth of sound doctrine. We must realize that Jesus never lied to us.
He promised those who love Him would have suffering and heartache in this world because this world is not our Home. He told us that if this world hated Him it will also hate those of us who follow Him. He told us that we would need to take up our cross daily and follow Him. He did not say we should to head to our boardrooms to form a social/political action committee and convene seminars together in order to dialogue and form a consensus.
As followers of Christ, must be willing to pay the price for being genuine Christians, just like those in the 1st century Church who bore that title with honor, knowing that to identify with the name of Christ meant shunning, and most times—violent death.
We must begin to learn how to see things from an eternal rather than a temporal perspective. We must return to sound doctrine, and forego the easy and false security of those who simply tickle itching ears. We must do this no matter the personal cost to us.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you have learned it” (2 Timothy 3:12-14).
God help us to stand immovable upon sound doctrine, and to be worthy to be called “Christians.”