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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These Two Just Don’t Mix

These Two Just Don’t Mix

THURSDAY’S COLUMN: “CAPTAIN’S BLOG”

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Carl Pollard

Some things just don’t mix. Milk and orange juice, Auburn and Alabama fans, Coca Cola and Mentos. There is one particular mix that can sometimes be fatal. Blood pressure medicine can be a great thing, but when mixed with Advil/Ibuprofen it can harm your body and even give you a brain hemorrhage.  If you mix two common household items, rubbing alcohol and bleach, you can create chloroform. 

It’s safe to say that some things in life just don’t mix. Twenty to thirty years after the ascension of Jesus, Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Galatia warning them of the dangers of mixing two teachings. In Galatians 1:6, Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” He goes on to say in verse 7, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Paul is writing to the Galatians to answer a simple question: “What is required for a person to be saved?” Forget circumcision (Acts 15:1), forget additional teachings, what does GOD say? His answer can be summed up as this: “We need nothing other than what is found in scripture to walk in the Light.” 

Paul addresses the problem in verse six, and he uses the word “amazed” (“thaumazo”) (cf. Acts 4:13; Mark 5:20). He was amazed because these Christians should’ve known better than to listen to these false teachers. Paul’s point is that if there is anything added to that which is necessary for the maintaining of your walk in the light, it is not necessary for salvation.

These Christians should’ve known better, but sadly we are sometimes the same way. We know what’s right and wrong, yet still choose poorly. We know how our speech should be as Christians, we know how we should act and how we should think, but more often than not we make the wrong decision. 

The message that these Christians were to accept was that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the correct way to be saved. Any requirement outside of the plan of salvation was to be condemned. If that other requirement is the sinner’s prayer, it must be condemned. If that other requirement is a “new wave of salvation,” as some denominations teach, it is to be condemned. If that other requirement is a tradition not necessary for salvation yet enforced as such, it is to be condemned. We are only compelled to follow what is contained in God’s Word. 

We do this because there is only one source of truth, as Paul goes on to say in Galatians 1:7-9. No one else (not even an angel) has the authority to add to what God has already completed. Scripture is our objective standard, the one source of truth that we can count on no matter what. 

Every year there are new medical breakthroughs that may change how a doctor treats his/her patient. For example, doctors used to bleed their patients because they thought there was such thing as “bleeding out bad blood.” We know this isn’t the case today and that’s because as humans our knowledge is fallible and subject to change. This is not the case for Christians. 

Our methods may change as time goes on, but our message and teachings will never change. Their author is our perfect, unchangeable, all-knowing, infallible God. 

We need nothing other than what is contained in scripture to walk in the light. Paul tells them what is required for salvation. There is only one Gospel that helps to walk in the light. There is only one source that the gospel has come from. We have to decide which gospel we will listen to. Will we let man ruin what God has deemed perfect? Will we let someone else tell us how to be saved? Man, on his own, doesn’t know how to be saved. 

God gave us one gospel through One source, now it is up to us to make the right decision.

 

Hymenaeus Was A Low Man

Hymenaeus Was A Low Man

Neal Pollard

Only two verses call his name, but he is as infamous a Bible character as you will fin. A school teacher once told us, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all!” The Spirit led Paul to no such congenial approach to Hymanaeus. The figurative cup on the man’s life was so filled with wickedness that it toppled over and spilled its insidiousness all over Ephesus. He apparently was viewed by God as a godless sinner. Why would God choose to include so stained a soul, if not to teach us key lessons about forsaking Him and the price of ungodliness?

This was a man who ran with wicked companions. He was a co-worker with Alexander (2 Tim. 4:14), with whom he blasphemed god (1 Tim. 1:20). He left the faith with his cohort, Philetus (2 Tim. 2:17-18). Maybe the downfall of Hymenaeus began with his poor choice of associates. Undoubtedly, these choices impact our own morals (1 Cor. 15:33).

This was a man who had a blatant disregard for the name of God. The Bible treats this offense most seriously (2 Tim. 3:2; Mk. 3:28-29). How spiritually degenerate must one be to ridicule and slander the name for God? Paul says that this man should be handled in the same way as the infamous Corinthian Christian who had his father’s wife (cf. 1 Cor. 5:5). What would have happened to the Ephesus church if a couple of men were allowed to spread disrespect for God and falsehood without rebuke and discipline? The same devastation happens in any church that allows the rebellious to operate unchecked.

This was a man whose teaching was compared to gangrene. Consider the graphic imagery Paul uses in 2 Timothy 2:16-18. The word of Hymenaeus and Philetus, with others like them, would “spread like gangrene.” A gangrenous infection makes amputation, in the threat of death to the entire body, a necessity. Likewise, the poisonous teaching of Hymenaeus and his partner would cause great harm to the body of Christ. Their false teaching was that the resurrection had already occurred (18). The result of their doctrine was that it threatened to upset the faith of some!

In context, the only way to guard against false teaching like Hymenaeus was doing is by diligent study of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). Like Hymenaeus, many have and will both personally err from the truth and overthrow the faith of others. Our task is to fight, like Paul did, the cancerous spread of “profane and worthless talk” (16). The result of disrespect for Bible truth is increasing ungodliness (16). How tragic! We must oppose the Hymenaeus’ of our day.

Hymenaeuses live and die, and they drag others down with them. Their influence wanes, but the damage they do has an eternal impact on those duped by their doctrines. As we keep our focus on the cross and our zeal to convert the lost, may we keep up our fight against the cankered! Let us pray that modern Hymenaeuses will turn from error and come back home to a God who waits with His mighty arms outstretched!

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“It’s All About Me”

“It’s All About Me”

Neal Pollard

“It’s all about me.” I would see that saying on a car tag frame nearly every day. Is that really the message we need? Aren’t we self-centered enough, as it is? Truly, the man who lives only for himself runs a very small business. What a bankrupt business it is, at that.

According to the Bible, it’s hardly about the individual at all. In fact, the Lord makes a strong point of it to call our attention to others. Paul says, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:4). “Selfish ambition” is condemned in Scripture (Phil. 1:17; Gal. 5:20). In fact, James says, “For where envying and strife (literally, “selfish ambition”) is, there is confusion and every evil work” (Js. 3:17).

That is both provable and measurable. Abortion is a horrid, evil practice–the most literal way one could shed innocent blood (cf. Prov. 6:17). What is at the heart of the commission of every such abomination–whether one pleads inconvenience or hardship or any other reason given? Self-interest is. Selfishness is putting self above others, in this case taking another human life to protect selfish interest.

Adultery is a contemptible crime, ripping families apart and giving what may be the most intimate heartbreak a human is capable of experiencing. What compels someone to lie to God and others (breaking vows and covering indiscretions)? What drives one to fill physical and emotional wants in ways that fly in the face of God’s written will? Selfishness does! For that matter, selfishness drives every sexual sin, every departure from God’s design and structure for sexual needs and fulfillment (cf. pornography, homosexuality, fornication, etc.).

Every New Testament writer roundly renounces false teaching (Matthew–7:15; Mark–13:22; Luke–Acts 13:6; Paul–Galatians 2:4; Peter–2 Peter 2:1; John–1 John 4:1; Jude–Jude 4ff; James–2:14ff). Untold millions of people will lose their souls because of false doctrine. Hell will be populated with followers of false teachers (cf. Mat. 7:21-23) and the teachers themselves (cf. Jas. 3:1). The New Testament gives insight into some common motivations that drive men and women to teach false doctrine. The motives are so often selfish. Jude says of them, “Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah” (11). Greediness propels fold to “practice every kind of impurity” (Eph. 4:19). What is the problem? Often, it is unmixed, shameless selfishness.

I will never make it to heaven if my attitude is that “it’s all about me.” It is not all about me. It is all about Him. It is about Jesus–serving Him, obeying Him, and imitating Him. It is about the lost–loving them, teaching them, and winning them. It is about the church–helping it, strengthening it, and supporting it. Selfishness is unattractive, but common. Remember, the one who lives for self alone usually dies the same way.

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Traits Of A False Teacher

Traits Of A False Teacher

Neal Pollard

John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7). The particular deceiver in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself. There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth of Christ and about Him. Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known.

  • They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). They distort what grace is, making it a blanket that hides blatant, willful sin, lust, and materialism. Some rationalize and condone the practice of sin, with the false assurance that God’s grace will cover it without an abhorrence of sin and genuine repentance.
  • They cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11). Superficial comfort is given to people in their sin. How many preachers, rather than confronting sin, tell people they’re OK?
  • They overthrow the faith of people (2 Tim. 2:18). Teaching which distorts or waters down the potency of scripture is to faith what a virus is to the immune system. False teaching destroys people’s faith in God.
  • They teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). If it contradicts or nullifies revealed truth, it is of man rather than God. Looking at Christendom today, so much of what is widely embraced and assumed to be true are blatant departures from the Bible.
  • They cover up their true intentions (Matt. 7:15). Jude describes the various motives of false teachers. Some do so for the sake of being accepted. Others do it for illicit gain. Some do so out of an arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, they usually insist they are trying to help people get closer to God. Jesus insists that they deliberately hide their agenda.
  • They are well-liked (Luke 6:26). Few preachers relish offending people or upsetting them. Yet, preaching the whole counsel of God means that, sometimes, some will not like it. Preachers and teachers should proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but truth taught will sometimes offend no matter how pleasantly and gently it is delivered. Those who compromise truth to placate their hearers may have their acceptance, but God will reject them.
  • They secretly introduce their teaching (2 Pet. 2:1). Why? Were they to publicly proclaim such ideas, they would be exposed. Their ideas can only survive if spread to weak-faith individuals who are not so discerning in more intimate settings. Truth is not afraid of inspection. Error grows in darkness rather than “Sonlight.”
  • They are destined for eternal torment (Rev. 20:10). No matter what success they achieve in this life, there will be an eternity to pay for it. Take soberly the warning of James 3:1.

Preachers (and teachers), have backbone. Preach the truth, even if it is difficult and opposed. Have faith. Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all. Have conviction. Do not let circumstance determine content (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

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!

MIKEY, LIFE, AND POP ROCKS

MIKEY, LIFE, AND POP ROCKS

Neal Pollard

Those of us who grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s remember the infamous Life cereal commercial featuring “Mikey,” the finicky little boy who liked the taste of that cereal.  Somewhere along the way, the story got out that Mikey—whose real-life name is John Gilchrist—ate Pop-Rocks candy, washed it down with a Coca-Cola, and had the resulting chemistry experiment explode in his stomach, killing him.  How many mother’s absolutely forbad their children eat Pop-Rocks and drink Coke thanks to this story?  It turns out to have been a hoax, urban legend, or whatever you’d like to call the fabrication.  Today, Gilchrist, who appeared in a total of 250 commercials, is sales director at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Who knows how these silly rumors get started?  It has been said, “There’s a sucker born every minute” (stated by banker David Hannum rather than P.T. Barnum, as is popularly thought, by the way; R.J. Brown, editor-in-chief, historybuff.com). The idea is that people are gullible and many are trusting to a fault.  Cynicism is its own problem, and gullibility can be amusing.

Too many, however, have bought into ideas that could not be more destructive.  Consider the following sentiments:

  • “One church is as good as another”
  • “It doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you’re sincere”
  • “God just wants you to be happy”
  • “Anything’s permissible between two consenting adults”
  • “Truth is whatever you think it is”
  • “If it feels good, do it”

Obviously, the list is rather long but these are illustrative of the point. How remarkable it is that such lies are nearly as old as the world itself.  The serpent lied to Eve, selling her on the belief that she would surely not die if she ate fruit forbidden by God (Gen. 3:4).  Jesus taught a group notorious for changing God’s Word, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).

Who are we listening to? Are they telling us the truth?  “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

CRAIGSLIST CASUALTIES

CRAIGSLIST CASUALTIES

Neal Pollard

Ad consultant Peter Zollman issued a report in June 2014 saying that more than 40 slayings and 30 convicted killers have been linked to Craigslist (Stephanie Slifer, CBS News online, 1/28/15).  Robbery is most often the motive behind the crime. Parry Aftab, a lawyer who specializes in Internet privacy and security law, offers these precautions:

  • Never go alone
  • Meet at a central location
  • Make sure someone else knows where you’re going and communicate frequently with them throughout the transaction
  • Research the seller’s name and address on the web
  • Don’t get cornered
  • When you arrive, snap a picture of the person and/or their license plate
  • Use common sense and if you’re uncomfortable, leave (ibid.).

If you’re like me, you’ve used Craigslist many times and have lived to tell the tale.  We’ve not always followed all these rules, though a great many of them seem like common sense.  We’ve bought and sold and have had great experiences with decent, friendly folks.  The worst I can recall is that someone in our immediate family bought a vehicle from one less than forthcoming about all its flaws.

While these are very helpful public service tips, there is a danger far greater and much more common.  What is at stake is even more serious than the taking of physical life as it involves the soul.  The Bible warns about teachers who project themselves to be speakers of truth but are far from it.

  • By smooth speech and flattering words, they deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:18).
  • They turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny Christ (Jude 4).
  • They bring in destructive heresies which many follow (2 Pet. 2:1-2).
  • They exploit people with deceptive words (2 Pet. 2:3).
  • They prey on those inclined to turn their ears from truth toward fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
  • They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for anything good (Ti. 1:16).
  • They pervert the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:7).
  • They captivate the impulsive (2 Tim. 3:6).

So often, these teachers find those already looking for a cheap and easy message.  However, often they draw in sincere folks who allow themselves to be misled.  In either case, while God holds teachers responsible (Jas. 3:1), He also holds hearers responsible (Lk. 8:18; Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15).  We must make ourselves accountable for what we and our families hear—eternity is on the line!

PUTTING OUT FIRES

PUTTING OUT FIRES

Neal Pollard

The last few years have brought heightened fire danger to Colorado.  Our forest fires have made the national news several times during that span.  They seem to start spontaneously and spread, well, “like wildfire.”  Untold property damage, millions of charred acres, and even loss of life have followed the paths of these fires.  The cause of the fires are sundry, from human carelessness to beetle infestation mixed with drought and high winds.  The cost to fight these fires is exorbitant, but ignoring the fires is not a wise option.  Time, resources, and manpower are diverted to these fires, and this naturally occurs at the expense of other pursuits.

I have noticed that there have been quite a few fires popping up among God’s people in the last few years, too.  There’s the push for instrumental music in worship.  Akin to this is the push to fellowship the Christian Church.  One of the largest conflagrations involves the push for woman to assume leadership roles from worship to roles like deacons and preaching ministers.  Of course, certain fires had been previously burning that are not yet contained–a looser view on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, denying the inspiration of the Bible, and such.  There are even areas we could consider tinderboxes, poised for combustion. How far are we from having to combat the spreading idea that those in committed, homosexual relationships should be part of our spiritual fellowship.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I am not being fatalistic or giving up hope.  I believe we have the time, resources, and manpower to fight these fires.  Not only that, but we must be engaged in this business.  Ignoring these fires is not an acceptable option.

Yet, putting out such fires comes at an expense.  There is a lost world to be won to Christ.  There are so many opportunities to be proactive and serve the benevolent needs of our communities.  There are needed programs to build our fellowship, Bible school, singles, young adults and college students, and more.  There is the need to solicit greater involvement from members.  There are projects to take on, from media ministries to mission works.  These require our interest and effort.  Let us man the firebreaks, but let us not be wholly consumed with just putting out the fires.  Neither let us be afraid to equip ourselves to battle those flames.  Such will require balance, wisdom, courage, and love.  May God help us have a double portion of them all.