Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Should Pastors Quit Preaching Doctrine?

Sometimes Facebook can be hazardous to your health.

Like when you come across that certain post from someone seen as a Christian leader and it is so off base that you almost choke on your chips and salsa.

This happened to me last night. Normally, I don't take the time to respond to such foolishness but it seems to me that there are a lot of people who buy into this line of thinking and perhaps the church will be served if I offer a few comments. First, here's the post in it's exact 'copy and paste' form:
Sitting here this Sunday morning and the one thing on my mind is the Oregon tragedy. And the one who caused it. It breaks my heart on two counts. One, for all the families who lost someone they loved, and two, that hatred for organized religion is what drove him to that point. There is always a cause and effect for most everything and I begin to wonder what happened?? How was he hurt by the church? Because that kind of hatred doesn't come for nothing. I wonder this one thing.....if Pastor's quit teaching doctrines and trying to regulate people's lives by a list of do's and don't"s and simply started teaching these simple things- love for Jesus and conforming ourselves to Him. Becoming like Him. A person who loves, not condemns or judges. Who sees everyone as Christ does. Whether we've chosen the path of Believer or not, we are all loved by Him. It hurts my heart the damage the church has done and continues to do by laying down our rules and regulations and not focusing on what truly matters. Being like Him. Do we need revival? Yes, but in our hearts, not our churches......
Where does one begin!?

Again, this person is seen as a Christian leader and so there are some things that are simply inexcusable. Let's take first that phrase "organized religion." I'm going to defer to my friend Matthew Woodside who had a great little post about this a while back:
A word from the Chaplain: 
Every so often the popular phrase, "Christianity is not a religion, it's a relationship," resurfaces. It's seen on memes, tweets, t-shirts, bumper stickers, and billboards. It's also said by pastors, teachers and by conference speakers.
That statement is false. It's false biblically, it's false sociologically, it's false on every level. While the statement sounds good, it's no less false. It's false because it's incomplete and it's disingenuous. 
Christianity is a religion. It's the ONLY true religion. By every definition of the word, Christianity is a religion: it has doctrine, it has a sacred text, it has ordinances of worship, it has guidelines for its people, it's people meet to observe it's tenets. It most definitely is a religion. 
But it's a religion unlike anything else. It presents a true God not a false one. It presents a divinely inspired text, not a text of mere human authorship. 
But more than anything, Christianity sets itself apart in that God died for man. Allah did not die for Muslims, the myriad of gods didn't die for the Hindu, and Buddha gave not his life for his devotees. But the fundamental difference in Christianity is that God in the person of Jesus Christ died for man. 
It's only when you do realize that Christianity is most definitely a religion, that the fact that man now can have a relationship with God is made plain. The God of the universe is thus knowable, relatable, and approachable not because of our external acts, but based on His own act of giving His own Son. 
When people say Christianity is not a religion, they think they are elevating the personal aspect of God's character. But, they are doing the opposite. If you really want to understand the personal and relatable nature of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ, place the truth of the gospel against all other religions of the world and creations of man. Then you would grasp that seeing Christianity as a religion, the only true religion, is not only right, but true.

The only thing I'll add to that is not only is Christianity a religion, it is an organized religion. It is organized by a Holy God in His infallible, inerrant, all sufficient word. To blame the tragedy in Oregon on the idea that 'organized religion' is bad, is despicable. It's false coming from any camp, but it is especially heinous coming from one who says 'they' are a Christian.

Second, let's consider the phrase "that kind of hatred doesn't come from nothing." Actually, that's true. But the conclusion is wrong. Anyone who shoots people in cold blood has a problem first and foremost with God. Of course, this is not to imply that there might not have been mental issues as well. The point is, the above post is taking the blame off of this person and his hatred toward God and fellow man and placing it on 'organized religion.' More could be said there but let's get to the meat of the issue.

"I wonder this one thing.....if Pastor's quit teaching doctrines..." That right there is where I almost choked on my chips and salsa. Before I comment let me just quote a few verses:

Titus 1:9 - [A pastor] must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

Romans 16:17 - I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.

2 Timothy 4:3 - For the time is coming when people will not endure sound doctrine, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions
The problem is, an exhortation to quit teaching doctrine doesn't come from the Good Shepherd but from the mind of the Serpent. I am NOT saying this person is Satan. I am saying this person is influenced by his wiles. To say "Pastors need to quit teaching doctrines" can't be said without detecting a not so subtle wolf howl even if the person is wrapped in sheep's clothing.

The very thing the church needs most in our day is instruction in sound doctrine. Doctrine is simply teaching. In fact, to teach someone to 'quit teaching doctrine' is doctrine. A healthy church has Christ as her cornerstone and is built on the doctrine of the Prophets and the Apostles (see Eph. 2:20).

Currently at our church we are walking through the Model Prayer together in Matthew 6:9-13. This prayer is dripping with wonderful and glorious doctrine! God loves sound doctrine because He is the one who has given it to us. And so we must preach, and teach, and heed the full counsel of God’s Word if we want His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Let's move on.

"if Pastor's quit teaching doctrines and trying to regulate people's lives by a list of do's and don't"s and simply started teaching these simple things- love for Jesus and conforming ourselves to Him. Becoming like Him. A person who loves, not condemns or judges. Who sees everyone as Christ does."

Ok, so 'teaching love for Jesus and conforming ourselves to Him' is doctrine. Also, teaching people to love Jesus and conform ourselves to Him is a list of do's and don'ts. But here's the deal: You don't teach people to become like Jesus, and love like Jesus, and conform to the image of Jesus, if you don't teach the Jesus of the Bible. Which, I think is the main issue going on with this person.

The Jesus of the Bible is the perfect God-Man. He is the 2nd Person of the Trinity. He is God in the flesh sent to rescue us from our sin by taking the wrath of God for us on the cross and rising again from the grave the third day in victory. Here's some truths about the Jesus of the Bible (meaning Jesus while He walked on earth as recorded for us in the 4 gospel accounts). The Jesus of the Bible hated sin. The Jesus of the Bible confronted people with their sin. The Jesus of the Bible loved people enough to show them that the only way to the Father was through Him meaning they must renounce themselves, take up their instrument of death, and follow Him. The Jesus of the Bible told people to eat His flesh and drink His blood. He told people that they couldn't follow Him unless they hated their own father and mother! The Jesus of the Bible actually talked some people out of following Him!

We've got a big problem in the United States when it comes to love and the Bible. We want to define love in whatever way we think it is, instead of defining it as Scripture does. Many, including this person, think love = nice, not hurting feelings, thinking positive thoughts toward others. But the Bible defines love as something that actually seeks the highest good of another person. What kind of love is it to tell someone 'be like Jesus' but not teach them anything about what that means? What Jesus hates? What Jesus loves? What Jesus told us to do?

It is certainly true that Jesus is the Judge. But it is also true that we are to go throughout the world and to teach (or we could say 'indoctrinate') the world the things Jesus taught us. We are to communicate to the world what the Judge has spoken. And too often the word 'judge' is used as though Christians are not allowed to 'discriminate'. This of course is foolish. The word 'discriminate' simply means to differentiate between choices. We discriminate when we choose McDonalds over Subway.

Christians are actually commanded to discriminate. In the church, Paul tells us to 'judge' (1 Cor. 5:12). Outside the church we are not to cast our pearls before swine (Mt. 7:6) and to 'judge correctly' (John 7:24). There are many more passages we could look at, but the point is, it is actually sinful for a Christian not to practice discernment. For example, what person in their right mind would let a repeat level 4 sex offender teach their child's Sunday School class? That's an extreme example to show that 'everyone judges' and that this is good and right. No, we do not have the right or power to condemn any person to Hell. But we do have the obligation to preach the gospel, calling sinners to repentance and teaching the truth to people who live unrepentant lives that if they do not repent and believe the Gospel they will meet Jesus as a holy and righteous judge.

"Who sees everyone as Christ does. Whether we've chosen the path of Believer or not, we are all loved by Him. It hurts my heart the damage the church has done and continues to do by laying down our rules and regulations and not focusing on what truly matters. Being like Him."

This statment almost seems to insinuate that it's "ok" for a person to not be a Believer. Sounds very Oprah-esque. Again, to say to someone 'just be like Jesus' is a rule and regulation. In fact, to tell people 'be like Jesus' IS NOT the gospel.

What is the hope for the world? If I were to say to the masses: Here's your hope, Just go be like Jesus! That would be terrible terrible terrible news. Why? You can't be like Jesus. The gospel is the good news that Jesus lived a perfect life and then was treated as us on the Cross so that through faith we could be treated as Him by the Father. It is the truth that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, but on the 3rd day he rose again, all according perfectly to the Scriptures (1 Cor. 15:1-4).

That being said, the church most definitely should, by faith, strive to be like Jesus. And of course, we do want to always be wary of imposing any sort of man made rules. However, it is absolutely absurd to suppose Christianity is a 'rule-less' religion. That's the false teaching we call 'antinomianism'. In fact, probably helpful to cite a couple of verses here:
John 14:15 - “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

1 John 5:3 - For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.
Yes, we could get into a healthy theological discussion on the full meaning of these verses but suffice it to say Jesus did not say "Hey, don't worry about rules guys, just love me!"

Again, let's think of the Model Prayer, (Matthew 6:10b): "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

How do we know God's will for our lives? (It's not hiding!) How do we not only pray this petition but seek to have God apply it in a tangible way to our lives? Answer: Scripture. This Facebook post reeks of one who either does not know or simply does not care about what Scripture says. Many doctrinal statements say "the Bible is our only rule for faith and practice" meaning that not even our experience or feeling is enough to guide us rightly (see Jeremiah 17:9). God's Word is our supreme authority and all sufficient rule for how to become a Christian, what a Christian looks like, and how the Christian life is lived. As Believers, we must endeavor to teach every iota of doctrine, rule, and regulation that Scripture teaches us to. Too many treat the Bible as though it's simply there for us to just turn to to feel motivated or to find a verse in case we have a trial in this life. Beloved, the Bible is God's Book. It is our final standard and sufficient to teach us all things in accordance with a life of godliness.

The church must love people. And I do think we can do a better job at this. We must not only love those like us but also those unlike us. But to love someone is to desire their highest good. In the words of Charles Spurgeon: "it is treason against the King of kings to tone down the word of the Lord." But not only is it treason against God, it is unloving to our fellow man!

"Do we need revival? Yes, but in our hearts, not our churches......" I don't even know what this means. I think it is a stab again at 'organized religion.' As though what we really need is a bunch of individuals instead of an organized church? I think it is meant to sound deep when in reality it is nonsense. What we need is a revival of hungering and thirsting for righteousness in our hearts and in our churches. We need a people whose minds are captivated by the word of God. Who are so enamored with the glory of God that they refuse to compromise the Bible's teaching in any area.

Well, if you've made it this far, congrats! It is my sincere prayer that you have been edified in this post. If you are a pastor, I exhort you to stay in the Book, and strive with all your might to teach and preach sound doctrine.

If you are not a pastor, take a moment to text, call, or email your pastor and just say "Bro _______, please continue to preach and teach sound doctrine! Thank you for doing so. I for one need it and I just want to encourage you to continue the fight!"

Without sound doctrine, the church falters. So, take up the Book and read! Seriously, if you haven't read your bible today, go do so right now! The church needs it.

Oh yeah, and beware of reading Facebook posts...Especially while munching on chips and salsa.

Soli Deo Gloria

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