How To Win Souls Without Compromising Doctrine

How To Win Souls Without Compromising Doctrine

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

It’s hard to have balance while times change. Some seize current social realities and use them as opportunities to push unbiblical ideas (God’s design for marriage, leadership in worship, leadership in the home, etc.). As a result, our human nature kicks in and we’re ready to swing the other way. After all, we don’t want to be associated with groups who don’t teach or practice what God wants, right? 

Balance is way more difficult to maintain than reactionary practices in either direction. Both are extremely harmful to the church! Compromising doctrine is never acceptable, but gaining a reputation for being old-fashioned or otherwise incompatible with modern culture is equally harmful. 

I Corinthians 9.19-23 is an awesome text for this. We’ll look at a few key points in this passage briefly. 

  1. It’s About Serving Other People (9.19)
  2. It’s About Winning Them (9.19)
  3. It’s About Meeting Them Where They Are (9.20-22)
  4. It’s About the Message (9.23)

We do what we do because we want to save souls. We cannot maintain a church culture based on reaction because it does not save souls. It is not a sustainable culture and has led to many viewing the church as being incompatible with the modern world. This was never God’s design! We must never compromise doctrine, but we must always try to win souls. We need to do what we can to meet folks where they are and show them something better. 

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (9.20). 

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

 
Say that three times in a row. Now that you’ve done that, let’s focus on a very important question. Are traditions splitting the church? To answer this we must look at the source of our traditions. As a church we follow both divine and man-made traditions. The ones from God must be followed and taught in the church, but the ones from man have no authority from God.
 
So, are traditions splitting the church? The word “tradition” means to “pass something down.” Galatians 1:14 says, “and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” Were the traditions that Paul was learning about passed down by man or by God? He labels them as being his “ancestors’ traditions.”
 
We must be careful to determine if a tradition that is being taught is divine or was instituted by our “ancestors.” For example, serving the Lord’s Supper from the front of the auditorium on a table that says, “Do This in Remembrance of Me”, and using brass plates are man-made traditions. This is not found in scripture.
 
There’s nothing wrong with practicing this tradition. The problem is when some try to enforce this and say “if you don’t do this for the Lord’s Supper then you haven’t really done what has been commanded.”
 
This teaching of tradition can split the church and we must be careful that we are enforcing God’s tradition and not our own. To do this we should ask, “Is it a violation of Scripture, or is it a tradition?” It’s okay to go along with traditions, but it is not okay to bind human traditions as a salvation issue.
 
There are some in the church that have taken their man-made traditions to heart. So we must ask ourselves, are we binding man-made traditions on others for salvation? Do we get upset if someone changes up the order of worship? Maybe we get mad when there are only two songs between the opening prayer and the sermon?
 
Divine traditions are what we must follow, and we must not force man-made traditions. Galatians 1:8-9 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Paul’s point is this: “Who did you receive it from?”
 
1 Corinthians 15:1-3 tells us, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” It is important that we check to see where the tradition came from.
 
Paul got his teachings from Jesus Christ. That is the divine source we must use. Not your preacher or the old wise man. This tradition was divine. Even if it is a tradition that has been around for many years, this does not automatically make it a divine tradition.
 
We must always keep in mind two facts when it comes to tradition.
  1. Divine tradition is binding while man-made is not.
  2. Look for the source of the tradition in order to clarify fact number one.

“Does the Bible Really Teach That?”

“Does the Bible Really Teach That?”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Have you ever heard “chimney corner Scriptures”–those things that sound like or we think that are in the Bible but are not (“Let your conscience be your guide” or “confession is good for the soul” or “God works in a mysterious way”).  It is not as funny when our hearts and minds are not adequately protected from a teacher or preacher who promotes something as biblical that is not.  It may be someone who touts a thing as acceptable to God which the Bible teaches is not.  It may be someone who asserts that something must be believed or done, though the Bible does not bind it.  Either way, God holds each of us accountable for knowing His will.  We are cheating ourselves and our souls who allow a teacher or preacher to dictate to us how we should feel or think about a given matter.  I am not saying we should be suspicious or distrusting.  Instead, I am saying we should be like the Bereans.  One of the most powerful, positive statements made about any group of people is said of them in Acts 17:11: “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” You have likely read that passage before, but what is the Holy Spirit saying about them?

They Were Characterized By EXCELLENCE.  They were noble-minded. Notice that it began here.  All else positive that is said about them began with their mindset.  Jesus praises people who hunger and thirst for righteousness (Mt. 5:6). These people were predisposed to accept God’s Word.  What higher praise can be lavished on anyone?

They Were Characterized By EAGERNESS.  The antithesis of this would be apathy and indifference.  These were “word-receivers.”  They were sponges, anxious to know God’s Word.  The Bible, from cover to cover, touts itself as the message of salvation.  Doesn’t it deserve our greatest enthusiasm?

They Were Characterized By EXAMINING. But, they were not uncritical, undiscerning students.  They were listening to one of history’s greatest Christians, borne along by the Holy Spirit, but they still checked after him.  Every man who purports to be God’s proclaimer deserves that same level of scrutiny.

They Were Characterized By EVERYDAYNESS.  They were not content to wait for the next Bible class or sermon.  They were daily devourers of these Divine dictates!  Aren’t there things you feel compelled to do on a daily basis (eat, sleep, brush your teeth, check social media)? We prove to God we are serious about the blessing of having a relationship with Him by constant, consistent consultation of His revealed mind and desires–we only find that in His Word!

How can we tell whether something is just a man’s conviction or is God’s command?  How do we know that some strange, new doctrine is true or false? Do not be content to let somebody be your sole source of gauging that!  Be a Berean!

“Self-Sufficient Study”

“Self-Sufficient Study”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

All gas internal combustion engines require three things to operate: fuel, spark, and compression. If one of the three is working improperly, a number of symptoms can arise. This is an oversimplification, of course, but those three systems must be mostly operable in order to be usable. 

Troubleshooting can be expensive if a person has little or no experience with this common engine type. Learning to maintain a vehicle and enact basic repairs saves an enormous amount of money! Relying on someone else to do it is often very costly. 

We fully understand that not everyone is equipped to be a scholar-level theologian. However, many Christians take this idea and swing the opposite direction. How many have been Christians for decades and have just a basic understanding of scripture? How many multi-generational Christians snore at the thought of advanced biblical studies? How many have only the knowledge they retain from a sermon? How many base their understanding and beliefs on the values held by respected friends or family? 

No one is perfect; the more a person learns through deep bible study, the more they are confronted with their own inadequacies. But a dedicated student of the scriptures also gains this: 

  1. A profound appreciation for grace and its role in our practical lives. 
  2. Mind-blowing discoveries and realizations about the nature of God and eternity that bullet-proof our faith. 
  3. The full emotional and intellectual impact of biblical principles. 
  4. A deeper understanding of the goals, message(s), meaning, and practical applications of a book. 
  5. A heartwarming and emotion-eliciting  appreciation for the role of The Word, Jesus, and His hand in creation, sustaining the genetic line that brought about His physical death, the timeless sacrifice He made by subjecting Himself eternally to the Father, and the role He plays today on our behalf.
  6. An ability to defend the faith, refute false doctrine, convert a lost soul, and build faith in others. 
  7. An ability to avoid sin more effectively. 
  8. A far lesser likelihood of accepting false doctrines or harmful practices.  
  9. Excitement, joy, and fulfillment about being a Christian! 
  10. A great disdain for arguments over petty issues that are weakening the church, and the ability to shut them down and refute them soundly. 

As a bonus, learning to read and translate Greek or Hebrew (at least with the help of a lexicon, a decent understanding of rules of each language, and their proper application in each context) will give even more profound insight into words and concepts we read in our native translations. 

Relying on what others tell us is not sufficient! We may find that the cost, eternally, is far steeper than what we would pay to the most expensive mechanic for repairs we could do at a fraction of the cost. Not only will we gain a great appreciation for what we know and live by becoming true Bible students, but it also greatly enhances our ability to live a faithful Christian life. 

 

CHURCH INVADERS

CHURCH INVADERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

During a prayer recently, a brother thanked God that our congregation had not been “invaded.” I thought it was an interesting, thoughtful way to thank God for His protection from physical harm, but it also took my mind in another direction. More often than we’ve faced armed intruders, the Lord’s church has had its share of others who have snuck or pushed their way in and to detrimental results.

Churches Have Been Invaded By Wolves. They are described in stark terms, being “ravenous” (Mat. 7:15) and “savage” (Acts 20:29). They do as Ezekiel described, “tearing the prey” (33:27). The Bible is describing false teachers who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. What’s so alarming is that these are “from among your own selves” (Acts 20:30). These are individuals whose teaching is false by the Bible’s standards, and the fruit of whose teaching causes people to be severed in their relationship to God. Jude describes them as those who can creep in unnoticed, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). God’s remedies to stop such church invaders are godly, qualified shepherds (Acts 20:28-30; cf. John 10:12) and active, thoughtful Bible students who effectively discern spiritual fruit (Jude 3; Mat. 7:15-20). 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Leaven. Paul addresses an issue “within the church” at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:12), which he illustrates by referring to “a little leaven” that “leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). The leavening influence here was unchecked sexual immorality that the church came to accept rather than address. Paul urges Corinth to take action regarding immoralities like those he lists in verses 9 through 11. When a church normalizes and embraces what Scripture condemns, it has been invaded and taken over from God’s will. Churches who adapt views which accommodate the moral decline of their members rather than challenge their members to rise up to The Standard have been invaded. 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Legalists. Jesus targeted the Pharisees more often than any other single group in the gospels. He is most plain in Matthew 23, noting that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (2). While in context Jesus is dealing with matters under the Old Law, what He observes continues to today. How many have put themselves in the seat that rightfully belongs only to God? They exact rules that are too hard for anyone, even themselves, to follow (4), that are borne of improper motives (5-12), that are harder than God’s rules (13), that make disciples of themselves rather than Jesus (15), that major in the minors (23-25), and that create superficial righteousness and inward rottenness (27-28). Such churches are afflicted with those who appear alive, but are spiritually dead. 

Surely we want “to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). There’s only one Lord for the one body (Eph. 4:5). He is head over all things to the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). That is the basis and marching orders for us to prevent any and all “church invaders.” May we keep vigilant to protect the purity of His church (cf. Eph. 6:10-17)! 

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What To See When False Prophets Speak

What To See When False Prophets Speak

Neal Pollard

Peter has a sobering warning for the church, writing, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Pet. 2:1). He warns them about the model, the methods, and the message of these men. The counterparts of these modern messengers is the false prophets of old.

Jeremiah lived at a time when such prophets flourished, and the result of their work was the destruction of the people. Jeremiah 23 is a graphic depiction of what God helped Jeremiah see as he looked at and listened to these sinful seers. Notice that in Jeremiah 23:9-40), he saw:

  • Tears (9-10)–Jeremiah was heartbroken, trembling, and overcome, because he knew their message was different from God’s Word and it was taking people off course. 
  • Pollution (11-12)–The Lord found their way wickedness, and this pollution made for a slippery path that would make them fall in calamity and punishment. 
  • Offensiveness (13-14)–They looked to the wrong spiritual source and it led the people of God to commit horrible depravity. 
  • Tragedy (15)–Their message was going to cause their own spiritual sickness and death.
  • Emptiness (16-18)–The message is from their own imagination and not from the Lord’s mouth, so they tell those who hate God they’ll have peace and those who walk in stubbornness that everything will be fine.
  • Storms (19-20)–The storm is the tempest of God’s wrath upon the heads of these false messengers. 
  • Audacity (21-25)–They ran, but God didn’t send them; They prophesied, but God didn’t speak to them; God was right there listening when they said, “I had a dream, I had a dream!”
  • Heart Trouble (26-27)–The prophets had spiritual heart trouble, and their message was loved by people with heart trouble. It resulted in both of them forgetting God. 
  • Straw (28)–Just as straw and grain are totally different things, so is God’s message and their false message. 
  • Judgment (29-40)–God’s Word is like fire and a hammer. He is against their Word and against them for misusing their speaking abilities and leading His people astray. They don’t furnish the people with “the slightest benefit.” They cause the people to forget what truth is.  The end result is tragedy. 

So many can have a message that sounds good, makes one feel good, but does no good! In fact, their message contradicts what God said in His Word. As we grow our Bible knowledge, it will help us see these messengers and their messages for what they are. God’s Word is a blessing to us, both now and eternally. But, measure their message against the Master’s. Embrace only the words that are from Him! Reject the words that come from them!

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Alternate Realities

Alternate Realities

Neal Pollard

I don’t know when I first noticed it, but I’ve noticed that it has dramatically intensified in the last few years. We might call it the “CNN-Foxnews Dissonance” where a specific event is viewed, explained, and interpreted in such different ways that the observer is left believing that it could not be just one single event but two totally different events instead. The cultural divide in our country is distinctly felt, and it is baffling that the world could be seen in such different ways by people who coexist beside each other day by day. Environment partially explains it, where we grew up, who influences us, and what we value. However, what guides our life–our authority–is perhaps the biggest influence on how we see the world. All of us base our lives upon a premise, a purpose, and a prospect (i.e., where we came from, why we’re here, and where we’re going). This belief system materially effects how we see our world.

Your worldview effects:

  • The value you place on people, especially as compared to other living things (animals, plants, etc.)
  • The value you place on human life, especially the most vulnerable ones (the pre-born, mentally challenged, chronically ill, terminal, and elderly)
  • The value you place on other people, especially compared to your own rights, feelings, etc.
  • The value you place on objective truth (whether or not you believe it exists)
  • Your stance on moral and ethical matters involving human sexuality
  • Why and how you interact with people in your various relationships (work, school, family, friends, etc.)
  • How you think, talk, and act.

It’s no wonder that people see our culture and our world so differently from each other. It’s more a matter of perception than proximity.  What erases these typically harmful dissonances is a mutual willingness to submit to the supreme authority. If we let God through His Word tell us how to see the world and if we come to it truly determined to listen to Him without prejudice and hardened hearts, we can see eye to eye on anything that has ultimate meaning and impact. What divides us from each other may be ourselves as much as the other person–our view of God, His will, and our submission to it.

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One Of The Hardest Biblical Positions To State

One Of The Hardest Biblical Positions To State

Neal Pollard

There are few statements or pronouncements that are clearer than Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:9, yet perhaps none, in our current culture, is more intimidating to state. Jesus contrasts His will on marriage, divorce, and remarriage with the already existent stance of the Law of Moses. He says, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (19:8-9).  From this brief response (the Pharisees ask the question, testing Him in verse three), we see:

  • The teaching transcends time and culture—“From the beginning…and I say to you”
  • The teaching transcends all other authority—“I say”
  • The teaching transcends only believers—“Whoever”
  • The teaching transcends the caveats and conditions men have tried to place on the matter of marriage, divorce, and remarriage (not the specific law with its exception).

Yet, despite the clarity of Jesus on the subject, in the spirit of Christ we want to always approach this with utmost compassion, patience, and tenderness. Souls are at stake. Often, children are involved. Emotions are inevitably involved. A cold, callous treatment of people’s lives will surely draw Divine disapproval. That’s why Jesus’ stated position on this matter is one of the hardest to take. But, that cannot mean that we refuse to stand with Him in His teaching. However, we should ask why it is so hard to stand where the Bible stands on this matter?

—Learned men have stated different positions from this.
—Divorce is so prevalent in our culture.
—All of us have family members who are in marriages that violate Matthew 19:9.
—Marriage involves one of mankind’s greatest drives and needs (cf. Gen. 2:18-25).
—Leadership in more and more congregations refuse to deal with marriage, divorce, and     remarriage in the classroom, pulpit, or the hands-on shepherding of the local church.
—Few of us relish the role of being “the bad guy” (the one who has to break heartbreaking news to husbands and wives).

I could lengthen the list of reasons, and you could add several to it, but if the list grew to hundreds of reasons, we have one sobering, gut-wrenching question to ask, “Do any of them nullify the strength of Jesus’ teaching?” If Matthew 19:9 were not in the Bible, fewer preachers would have lost jobs, fewer elders would have lost favor, and fewer churches would have seen members go to congregations accommodating their marriages. But, Jesus warned that His way was difficult (cf. Matt. 7:14). He tells aghast disciples that discipleship requires whatever sacrifice is necessary to follow Him (Matt. 19:10-12). That message must be shared lovingly, gently, and patiently. There can be no other way (cf. Eph. 4:15). The harsh, unkind, or mean-spirited will deal with the Judge of all (cf. 1 Pet. 4:5; 2 Tim. 4:1). However, what will be the case for those who neglect, change, or distort what Scripture says to accommodate people? Perhaps there’s no way to ask that question without evoking a visceral reaction from those who have reinterpreted Jesus’ words, but in light of eternity it must be asked. Balance looks for biblical truth in between unbiblical extremes. However unpleasant a position that may put us in, that is the place we must always humbly stand. But, the only enduring place to stand is on the rock solid foundation of Christ (cf. Mat. 7:24-27; 1 Co. 3:11). God give us loving, but courageous, hearts to stand there.

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The Brooks-Sumner Affair

The Brooks-Sumner Affair

Neal Pollard

In 1856, Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts Senator, delivered an excoriating speech full of vicious name-calling and personal insults—especially against Senators Douglas and Butler—for their defense and advocation of slavery and especially the violence in Kansas in response to the actions of John Brown and his followers. The speech went on for two days, and shortly after its completion a man named Colonel Preston Brooks, a U.S. representative from South Carolina and distant relative of Andrew Butler, retaliated by beating Sumner with a cane. It was a serious enough beating that Sumner would take years to recover. Sumner would become an iconic hero to northerners and Brooks, who as punishment for the crime was fined $300, a darling of the south. Newspaper headlines of the time, in each region, painted their man a hero and the other man a demon (read a sample here: http://history.furman.edu/benson/docs/sumenu.htm). It is not the loathsome sin of slavery that I wish to highlight here, but the age-old tendency to blindly defend a person or position one feels inclined toward and the incredible efforts to vilify those on the other side of the issue—no matter what.

People are inclined to line up behind men rather than the Messiah. It is not just during political season or for certain social agenda items that this occurs, but more importantly in every season of the year when it comes to religious matters. Paul decried men’s tendency to be “of Paul…of Apollos…and…of Cephas” (1 Cor. 1:12). In the religious world, division has occurred because men have lined up behind some man’s teaching. Often, this teaching is a misconstrued view of a passage (for example, John 3:16, Acts 16:31, Mark 16:17, etc.) or a teaching without benefit of a passage (for example, having an experience of grace, saying a sinner’s prayer, infant baptism, etc.). As with politics, people can become blind apologists for their leaders and champions who promote what they already believe. Often, no amount of reason and logic can overcome the predisposed bias of the adherents. Lost in the cacophony of religious debate can be clear, simple biblical truth. Religious division is not the product or prompting of God (1 Cor. 1:10; 14:33). It is entirely of human origin. While there are some matters where God has not legislated, there are also some clear “right” and “wrong” matters in Scripture. Where God has spoken, we must take His word and will over that of absolutely anyone else. Otherwise, we will find ourselves guilty of elevating one above the One we must all ultimately give an account to. That would be an injustice and violation to top even “The Brooks-Sumner Affair.” May we keep our allegiance to God free from the taint of personal prejudices, even in the matter of our religious convictions. Psalm 119:89.

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METH-FLAVORED MILKSHAKE

METH-FLAVORED MILKSHAKE

Neal Pollard

It allegedly happened in 2014, but now Fred Maldonado is taking In-N-Out Burger to court for what he said he found at the bottom of his cup.  While their is some “fishiness” to his story and the restaurant “will vigorously defend [against] these baseless claims,” Maldonado “found a napkin and two capsules in the bottom of his milkshake cup” and “later testing revealed that the capsules contained methamphetamine” (from “Businesstech” article).

Search the internet a little and you will find more stories than you can probably stomach about what people have found in their prepared or packaged food and drinks.  As a consumer, the thought of such is enough to make you grow everything you eat and never eat out again.  In the supposed “meth” incident, add danger to disgust!  There is a certain amount of faith and trust one has that those responsible for getting his or her food (or drink) will give them what and only what they paid for.

Tragically, every Sunday in churches across the globe, people sit down to receive what they sincerely believe to be the “bread of life” (cf. John 6:35) and the “water of life” (John 4:10). They trust that the one who is delivering it to them, maybe one they consider a friend and a spiritual brother, is giving them exactly what is claimed—the Word of God. Yet, Scripture warns that there are those who taint the message with something far more appalling and dangerous than anything else could be.  Instead of truth, they get myths (2 Tim. 4:4). Instead of the sure word of Scripture, they get destructive heresies (2 Pet. 1:19-2:1). Instead of light, they get darkness (John 12:46). Instead of Christ, they get philosophy, empty deception, tradition of men, and elementary principles of the world (Col. 2:8).

Paul wrote that divine judgment awaits any who “did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12).  The hearer has a responsibility to check what the teacher says, to make sure it is right and true (Acts 17:11).  God will hold everyone responsible for what they did with His Word. Even though teachers face a stricter judgment (cf. Jas. 3:1), He holds you and me responsible for avoiding dangerous, disgusting doctrine.  It takes practice to have our “senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).  Take charge of your own spiritual nourishment, from what you hear on Sunday to what you read every day!