Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. If you watch enough religious TV, you'll be confused about which doctrines are true and which are false. Today, a pointed call to return to a standard against which doctrines must be measured, doctrines that impact your eternal destiny.
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, why are there so many conflicting sets of doctrines out there?
Well Dave, there may be many reasons. As a matter of fact, in my book entitled Who Are You to Judge, I think I give four or five reasons why it is that we all have the Scriptures, and yet of course there is conflict, there is misunderstanding, and oftentimes we come onto different sides of a theological issue. But consider this. First of all, the Bible is a book that was written thousands of years ago, and so there's different customs, there's a different way to approach reality, and some of that enters into our interpretation. At the same time, I have to say that the Bible sometimes presents truth in opposition, that is to say that sometimes it appears as if it teaches one thing, at another time it may appear to teach another thing, and what we need to do is to resolve that very, very carefully. And then of course you have various traditions that enter into people's interpretations, but let this not deter us from determining what the Bible teaches.
The core doctrines are very clear. At the end of this program, I'm going to be giving you some important information as to how you can help us, but for now I want you to listen carefully because for us, the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Somebody said to me, I don't care what you believe, I only care about the way you live.
That sounds so good and so pious. But the fact is, my friend, what you believe determines your eternal destiny, and what you believe determines your priorities here on earth, and what you believe determines whether or not God brought about a change in your heart, so he implanted some new desires within you that were not there when you were born. What you believe is a matter of eternity, which leads us to the subject of discernment. As you know, we're in a series of messages on the topic titled, who are you to judge? What is discernment?
Discernment is the ability to distinguish between right and wrong at its basic level, that's what it is, but it's really also the ability to distinguish between right and that which is partially right, and that's the greater challenge. There are some people who say that we should do away with discernment, that the word heresy should not be in our vocabulary, just let people believe whatever they want to believe, everybody makes up his own religion, and therefore everybody's happy just accepting whatever, which is the basic word of the age. And so you have a lot of people say, as long as somebody gets healed in a service, you should not question the faith healer or his theology, who are you to judge? Or if somebody's preaching to large crowds and just saying good things, they say, who are you to judge?
Let me tell you what's happened to popular culture. We have today many talk shows, and the basic talk show format is to allow every manner of abnormality, of aberration, fringe behavior to be put out there without comment, just as if to say it's all on the same basis and this is what I want to do and that's what you want to do, and so just let everybody do whatever they want to do, and what's happening is that the abnormal is being normalized. So people look at culture and they think, well, you know, some people live this way, every kind of deviance, every kind of aberration is all given this kind of exposure and there's no judgment, there's no one saying, you know, this is false and this is right, you just put it out there and let people think that that's the way normal people also exist. The very same thing happens when it comes to doctrine. You have so many different TV shows today, and some of them, not all of them, but some of them put up with all kinds of doctrinal error, and it's just allowed to be out there and people are accepting it because nobody seems to want to say you are wrong, this is false. I want us to notice two passages of scripture and then I will comment also on what has happened in society in other ways. Notice in 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul says these words, he's writing to Timothy and he is warning him. In fact, the Bible is full of warnings about false teaching and false teachers. 2 Timothy chapter 4, I'm picking it up in verse 2. Paul says, preach the word, be prepared in season and out of season, correct, rebuke, encourage with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.
Boy, I'll tell you, that day is here. Instead to suit to their own desires, key word here, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
And the people who are teaching the myths, who are responsive to people's desires, teaching them what they desperately want to hear, they're the ones who are going to get the crowds as a matter of fact, usually. Now there's another passage and that is 2 Peter chapter 2. And I want you to notice that in the New Testament, there are whole chapters devoted to false doctrine.
And that's our subject today is judging doctrine. It says, but there were also false prophets among the people just as there will be false teachers among you. The next sermon in this series is how to recognize false teachers.
What are their characteristics? And we'll discover that there are at least five that the Apostle Paul gives. It says they will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed, and notice that these teachers will exploit you with stories they've made up. I just marvel at the accuracy of the Bible here, stories they have made up.
You can see them almost any day, particularly on television. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them and their destruction has not been sleeping well. Now, today I'm going to talk to you very plainly. I don't like it when people leave a church and say, now, what does he actually believe? So today I want you to relax, but I'm going to be plain so that when hopefully we leave, we all understand whether you agree or not. I do want you to understand what I'm saying. We live in an age when people who purportedly believe the Bible are teaching heresies.
And I'll tell you how it came about. It came about this way, that there were two principles of biblical interpretation, which have been used widely and are widely accepted. And those principles have allowed these kinds of heresies to flourish within Christendom.
Let me give them to you. Number one is to take all of the promises of the Old Testament that God gave to Israel regarding prosperity and to apply it to the church. That's bad interpretation. When God was dealing with Israel, that was an entirely different situation. He was dealing as with a nation. And so he says, if you follow me, I'll give you good crops.
If not, I'll give you a drought. And if you follow the Lord, I'll give you abundance. So what these teachers have done is they have invented the doctrine of prosperity, applying it to today in ways that are not consistent with the rest of the Bible.
And they've taught it. Now, one day I was watching one of these teachers on television and he actually said, if you send money to me, that's always a requirement. If you send money to me, all these miracles will happen. It will be seed faith. And there are people who send their money to us who discover that their mortgages are miraculously paid. They get a letter from the mortgage company saying you don't owe us any more money and on and on.
You have all of these stories. And if anybody says, now, wait a moment, is this scriptural? They say, who are you to judge what God can or can't do? Well, the issue is not whether we can judge what God can or can't do.
God could pay people's mortgages if he wanted to. The question is, is this what God has revealed? Is this consistent with the teachings of the Bible? Is this what God has promised?
And the answer is no. But this kind of nonsense flourishes. That was the first principle of interpretation. Then there was a second. And the second was that love and unity was going to cancel all of the rest of the Bible that has to do with heresy and false teachings and a clear gospel and everything. Under love and unity, we would now be able to say anything that we wanted to say and nobody would say that you are wrong because that is being divisive.
That is dividing the body. So you just let all of these heresies flourish. And then there came another step. And I know I'm going to step on some toes, but I'm on a roll here. I'm just going to keep going today. I can always leave even before the benediction.
I did last week for other purposes to catch a flight. And that was this, that, you know, we've got all these prophets in the church. We don't even need the Bible.
The word of knowledge was interpreted to mean clairvoyance, that you can see the diseases that people have. And furthermore, God is giving visions and dreams and revelations. Why should we even bother studying the Bible?
Because we don't need it. Because you've got all these people saying, you know, the Lord just told me and he tells them exactly what they need to know. And it's such a fresh new revelation. And if you were to say, wait a moment, is this scriptural? You know what they'd say to you?
They'd say, well, wait a moment. The Bible says that God is going to do a new thing and this is the new thing. So many years ago in Toronto, you have the Toronto blessing from which some blessings may have come, I might add, because I'm not, one must be discerning here. There are sometimes as good and bad existing together, but you had people who were barking like dogs and roaring like lions and, and you had all this going on. And if somebody were to say, wait a moment, is it scriptural? Somebody walked into one of those meetings and was watching all this stuff going on. And he says, I wonder if this is really scriptural. And the woman next to him said, well, who are you to judge? It's happening in a church, isn't it?
My dear friend, if you want to look for the devil, sometimes you have to look for him in church. But if somebody said, now, wait a moment, is this really scriptural? They'd say, well, you know, it's a new thing. In fact, the more bizarre it was, the more likely it was believed to be of God because he's doing a new thing. Can you imagine what this has done? It undercut the possibility of the church having any defense against error.
Anything could come in because it was a new thing. I'm not being critical of the whole charismatic movement. You have to understand. But some of its own authors, and it's always best to quote someone from within a movement rather than outside of it, said this, our greatest fear springs from the fact that the Bible is no longer occupying a place of prominence as it once did in the evangelical community. Indeed, the whole controversy is, in fact, a major battle for the Bible.
Do we need it or don't we? This isn't a new phenomenon. During the days of the Reformation, there was a man by the name of Thomas Munster who made fun of those who studied the Bible. He says the letter killeth. In fact, he ridiculed the Bible scholars by saying, Bible, Babel, bubble. And Luther knew that this was a very serious matter because Thomas Munster was getting all of his information from God unfiltered through dreams, through revelations, and was taking his people in dangerous, absurd directions. And Luther says, I will not accept his visions and revelations, even if he, quote, swallowed the Holy Ghost feathers and all. That was Luther's way of saying it very clearly. Now, today, we're going to do a study in doctrine if you're still going to be with me by the end. And we're going to introduce what I would call antithetical thinking.
That's a big word. What does it mean? It simply means this, that if you affirm something as being true, its opposite is false. Now, we don't have that in today's society. You can affirm your truth, I can affirm my truth, and they can be totally contradictory and yet we put a circle around it and we say all of it is true.
Well, that's not possible. Back in the days when I used to teach at a college, I used to say that a contradiction is a charley horse between the ears. Not all these views can be true. The Bible is a very antithetical book.
There are only two trees in the garden. Well, there were many other trees, but two trees that signified the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good or evil. Jesus said that there are two paths, the broad way that leads to destruction and the narrow way that leads to life.
And there are only two destinations. There's heaven and hell. The Bible is a very antithetical book. And so we have to think antithetically.
Now, you say, oh boy, so this is the Moody Church. You're dividing people. Doctrine divides. And you're absolutely right.
That's what it's supposed to do. That's the whole purpose of doctrine is to divide. And as I mentioned in an earlier message, it is so much better to recognize that we are divided by truth than to be united in error. So yes, it's true that doctrine divides, but doctrine also unites. We talked a moment ago about the Apostles' Creed that says, I believe in one holy Catholic church. That word Catholic means universal. And we believe in the universal church. We believe that all those who have trusted Christ as Savior belong to the body of Jesus Christ.
Truth unites, but truth also divides. Let me be clear here, for example, I'm going to make a statement and then we're going to talk about what it excludes. If you believe, as I do, that the Bible alone is the basis for all that we need to know about our relationship with God, angels, demons, and eternal things, that it is sufficient and it is God's only revelation of these things to us, then that automatically excludes a lot of things, doesn't it? It excludes, for example, the Book of Mormon. It excludes the writings of Mary Ellen White. It excludes the writings of, what was her name, Mary Glover Addison Baker Eddy.
I don't think I got all that right, but it was a long name. Because what it says is that this is God's word and we must follow it and it alone. And that excludes. And that's the way doctrine is. It's always dividing.
It's including, but it's also excluding. What we'd like to do in the next few moments is to look at the most important doctrine in all the Bible. You say, well, how do you know what it is? Well, take your Bible and turn to the book of Galatians. Galatians is found, of course, in the New Testament.
It's written by the Apostle Paul, who is greatly burdened. And what he does is he expounds the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the most important doctrine that one could ever embrace or ever understand. And we don't divide over lesser issues, by the way. We can put up with a lot of differences. Not everybody has to agree. Not everybody has to see things the same way. There are many doctrines over which we can be charitable and simply say that we do not have to agree. But the gospel is one that we need to agree on. Listen to what Paul says in Galatians chapter 1 verse 6. He says, I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently, some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.
But now notice in verse eight. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one that we preach to you, let him be eternally condemned. Wow. As we have already said, so now I say again, if anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than the one that you accepted, let him be eternally condemned. Remember the translations that say let him be accursed.
Wow. If an angel came and preached a different gospel, reject him. Well, my friend, let me ask you a question. Do you believe that the gospel should be spread around the world? I assume that you do.
Let me ask you a question. Would you be willing to help us by becoming an endurance partner? Endurance partners are those who stand with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your decision. But we are so grateful for all those who become a part of what I like to call the running to win family. I hope that you have a pen or pencil handy because I'm going to be giving you some info.
I also want to stress that because of folks just like you, we are in 20 different countries in four different languages and we have some other plans for expansion. Well, here's what you can do to find out more information about endurance partners. Go to rtwoffer.com. That's rtwoffer.com. And as you know, rtwoffer is all one word, rtwoffer.com or pick up the phone right now and call 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. Thanks in advance for your support and your prayers because as you have frequently heard me say, together we're making a difference. Time now for another chance for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. In whose name should a Christian be baptized?
The issue is causing some stress for Angela who has this story. My church has been placing a lot of emphasis on being baptized in Jesus' name. I was baptized over 20 years ago. I'm not certain, but I believe I was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. They are suggesting that we should be baptized again in Jesus' name.
I really feel they're becoming very legalistic. I also feel that being baptized is symbolic of your belief in faith. My daughter-in-law wants to become a member and she's already been baptized. She was told she can't become a member until she is baptized in Jesus' name. Does God even care about all this? I thought belief in Him is most important. Please explain. Well, my friend, thank you so much for writing and I appreciate your concern.
A couple of comments. First of all, beware of those who want to baptize people in the name of Jesus. Sometimes these people deny the Trinity. That's why they don't want to baptize people in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As far as they are concerned, Jesus is the Godhood, and the Father is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is Jesus, and there are no distinctions within the Godhead.
Traditionally, it has always been believed that indeed God is a Trinity, and that's a long discussion, but keep in mind that many people want to deny the Trinity. Also, be very careful because these groups are often very cultic. By that I mean they think that their baptism is the only one that is really valid. Furthermore, many of them believe that one must be baptized in order to be saved. So I would caution you about this church.
I don't know about it particularly, but if I were you, I'd check their doctrine very, very accurately, and I would also discuss this with your daughter-in-law in some detail. You might be going in the wrong direction. Thank you, Angela, for your question. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer, for your counsel. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer, or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. One thing's for sure, there is no room for error or opinion when your soul is at stake. What you and I need is the truth and nothing but the truth. Next time on Running to Win, we'll list the core components of the Gospel and why any teaching that omits them or distorts them is heresy. Don't miss the conclusion of Judging Doctrine. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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