A lot of things are happening in the Church today which, if those being involved and influenced by those happenings had actually studied the past, they would recoil in horror from them.
A lot of the old mistakes of the past are being replayed and it seems many Christians today are either completely unaware or completely blase about them.
As you know, I send out this newsletter not in a negative spirit to criticise and disillusion Christians in these last days, but in order to keep you aware and awake to the wiles of the enemy.
I have recently been re-reading an uplifting old book called ‘The Pilgrim Church’ by E.H. Broadbent.
I call it uplifting because it details countless examples of true Christians throughout history who have stood against the established Church when the official teachings of that Church deviated from the New Testament teachings of Jesus and the apostles.
I refer to those from the earliest times in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD right through the Reformation up to today. God has always kept His remnant, despite man-made tradition, heresy and persecution.
Some of the Lessons
1. Most heresies are based on gnosticism.
Gnosticism first appeared even as the apostles were writing within a generation of Jesus being on earth. There were many forms of gnosticism but basically it proposed that only those who had discovered some secret knowledge about God and Jesus could truly enter the Kingdom of God. Only if you had joined the inner circle could you be enightened.
Even today there are many heresies which claim that one cannot obtain salvation unless one accepts their special, man-made, non-biblical ideas and traditions: think about Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, SDA’s, Christadelphians, yes, and even ultra-Pentecostals who say there is no salvation without tongues-speaking.
2. True Christians have existed from Pentecost.No matter what the situation – persecution, lack of help, real believers have always trusted Christ alone for salvation.
3. True Churches and believers have always been persecuted.History shows us that the real Church has always been small in numbers, weak in political power, poor in finances and at odds with the world.
Large Churches and denominational organisations today which seek the approval of the world, follow its lead, emphasise money and entertainment-style worship are on very dangerous ground, in my opinion.
Today a number of Churches are experimenting with non-biblical practices which developed during mediaeval times. These are sometimes called ‘Emergent Churches’ and can be found in most denominations.
As Ray Yungen points out in his book ‘A Time of Departing’, some of the ancient mystical practices being used by Church leaders are actually being adopted by New Age activists and are sometimes occult in nature. They are not Christian at all, despite the veneer of Christianity from 1000 years ago or more!
I refer to such things as contemplative prayer, spiritual formation, yoga and the use of labyrinths.
Some Christian leaders teach that ‘the silence’ takes us into the presence of God, whereas it is more likely, because it is not a biblical concept, to introduce us to the great delusion and the falling away which is spoken about in the New Testament.
There is no short cut to a truthful relationship with God – not by any of these man-made methods – only through getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ through His Scriptures.
Persecution by Protestants
When we think of Christian persecution we don’t often think about Protestants persecuting one another.
Yet this is precisely what happened when Luther and Calvin gained the upper hand in Europe during and after the Reformation.
Despite the great advantage of many national groups being able to read the Bible in their own languages, the new Protestant Church leaders refused to allow ancient groups like the Anabaptists and the Waldensians the liberty of conscience they had gained many years previously.
As a result the Anabaptists, who took literally the NT practise of baptising believers only, were severely persecuted. John Calvin, the ‘Pope of Geneva’, actually had them drowned in a river to mock their practice of Biblical obedience.
I use this as a warning to true Christian believers today.
No leader or established Church or denominational organisation or leadership can be trusted with the ownership of God’s truth. It is only revealed in the Bible and we should thank God that we still have the freedom to act according to its precepts today.
‘Live Godly in Christ Jesus’
In spite of history and the clear warnings of Jesus and the apostles that ‘all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution’ [2 Tim 3:12], many Christians in Australia and the Western world still believe it is the right of Christians to be popular, fairly treated and respected, and that a happy, carefree life should be the expected standard for believers.
However, looking at things from God’s point of view, we should not complain about inconveniences or disappointments when our brothers and sisters in 131 countries around the world AT THE MOMENT are being actively persecuted.
Let us stay away from the self-centred Christianity practised in so many Churches today, and let us encourage our fellow Christians to support those who need help.