Darryl Bernard Harrison on the Ineffective Church

Six Reasons the Church in America is Becoming Increasingly Impotent


By Darryl Bernard Harrison
“We can never worship God acceptably unless we worship him regularly; and how can we do that if we are ignorant of the rules and elements of religion?”
Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity

My purpose in writing this article is to expound on the tweet below, which expresses my own personal opinions and are not intended to set off a theological firestorm. 

The impetus for what is expressed in the aforementioned tweet was simply my desire that professing Christians become more aware of what they believe about the Christian faith and why they believe it. 

The above list is neither exhaustive nor comprehensive. It was never meant to be. The reasons why evangelicalism in America is so powerless, in my estimation, number exponentially more than six. In fact, it could easily be six-thousand—or six-million (or more). Nevertheless, given the character-count constraints of Twitter, I was obliged to be as concise as possible in sharing my opinions—and they are only opinions.

You—yes, you—are a theologian

It wasn’t long after posting the above tweet that some, not many, responded that they found the multi-syllabic theological terms mentioned in the tweet too “deep” to comprehend. And though I can understand why someone might think that, I would respectfully disagree with them. Admittedly, such terms can seem weighty to those unfamiliar with them. But they are not so opaque that they cannot be understood through effortful and disciplined study.

In Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology, the late Dr. R.C. Sproul, Sr. (1939-2017) explains that: “The purpose of theology is not to tickle our intellects but to instruct us in the ways of God, so that we can grow up into maturity and fullness of obedience to Him. That is why we engage in theology.”

Dr. Sproul is right. 

Theology—the study of the Word of God—is not limited to seminary-trained “professional” theologians. 

Whether we realize it or not, every Christian, regardless of education, occupation, or socio-economic station, is a theologian—a student of God’s Word. The only question is how good a theologian you are. As is stated on the website Got Questions?: “All Christians should be consumed with theology—the intense, personal study of God—in order to know, love, and obey the One with whom we will joyfully spend eternity.”

As followers of Christ, our study of God and of His Word is to be both “intense” and “personal”—neither of which necessitates the undertaking of formal seminary training (Acts 4:13). That is not to suggest or imply that seminaries do not play an important role in helping us to better understand, apply, and articulate what is contained in Scripture. Not at all. (I would think that that much would go without saying.)

Nevertheless, seminary isn’t for everyone. Not to mention that, ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit, not any seminary professor, who illuminates the truth of God’s Word to our minds and hearts (John 16:13-14).

Do you understand what you’re reading?

In Acts 8:30, Philip, at the urging of the Holy Spirit, encountered an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the book of Isaiah. He asked of the eunuch the same question you and I must consider when studying the Word of God for ourselves: “Do you understand what you’re reading?” 

The verb “understand” in the Greek means to come to know or to gain knowledge of. As believers, not only must we read God’s Word but we must read it toward the larger goal of understanding it. The importance of Christians having a proper understanding of Scripture is conveyed by pastor and author John MacArthur who, in Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Biblical Truth, says that:

“The intellect shapes what we believe and love in our heart. Our will desires what we love and repudiates what we hate. Our actions then accord with what we want most. The mind shapes the affections, which shape the will, which directs the actions. Theology is not fully finished until it has warmed the heart (affections) and prompted the volition (will) to act in obedience to its content.”

The study of God’s Word takes effort—lots of effort. And that effort often involves the diligent application of oneself to learning what certain “deep” and multi-syllabic theological terms mean. To earnestly commit ourselves to the disciplined study of God’s Word benefits not only ourselves in terms of our own sanctification, but also the church and society in general (Matthew 5:13-16; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Titus 3:1-2).

But, I digress. On to the list.

Six reasons 

1. Hermeneutical immaturism(Yes, I know “immaturism” isn’t actually a word.)

I mentioned earlier that the study of God’s Word takes effort, and much of that effort involves understanding how to properly interpret the biblical text. It is in that regard that I believe many Christians are immature. I don’t say that to be condescending or disrespectful in any way. Nevertheless, the reality is there are many in the church today who are hesitant to study the Scriptures for themselves (Acts 17:11) because they’ve deemed the Bible too difficult to understand.

It was the “prince of preachers,” Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who said: “If you wish to know God you must know his word; if you wish to perceive his power you must see how he worketh by his word; if you wish to know his purpose before it is actually brought to pass you can only discover it by his word.”

I am of the opinion that there is a difference between being a reader of God’s Word and being a student of it. To be a student of God’s Word is to not only read it but to study it, to dig into it, to regularly and diligently immerse oneself in it. As Christians, we are not only to be aware of what God’s Word says but of what His Word means by what it says. Which is where hermeneutics—the science of biblical interpretation—comes in.

In 2 Timothy 2:15, the apostle Paul exhorts us to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Accurately handling the word of truth is the responsibility and obligation of every believer in Christ. Unfortunately, some Christians want to take shortcuts when it comes to understanding the Word of God. But I want to let you in on a little secret: there are no shortcuts.

As Charles H. Spurgeon said in The Treasury of David: “We are warned by the Word both of our duty, our danger, and our remedy. On the sea of life there would be many more wrecks if it were not for the divine storm-signals which give to the watchful a timely warning. The Bible should be our Mentor, our Monitor, our Memento Mori, our Remembrancer, and the Keeper of our Conscience.”

Scripture declares that “He who gives attention to the word will find good”(Proverbs 16:20a). Giving attention to the Word of God takes desire, discipline, and dedication—characteristics that are found only in spiritually mature believers who desire to graduate from milk to solid food (1 Corinthians 3:1-2Hebrews 6:11 Peter 2:2). 

See also:
What is hermeneutics?
Knowing Scripture
The Art and Science of Biblical Interpretation
The Ligonier State of Theology Survey
How Do We Become Spiritually Mature? 

2. Theological progressivism:

Earlier in this article, I defined theology as the study of the word of God. It is critical to keep that definition in mind, particularly as it relates to the issue of theological progressivism. 

Anything that is deemed “progressive” involves change. Anything, that is, except God.

Theological progressivism is fundamentally rooted in the postmodernist view that God’s Word is mutable and commutative. It is a mindset that wreaks of the odor of epistemological dualism in that it proffers the notion that a person can refer to God as God, yet treat His Word not as sixty-six books of authoritative, divinely-inspired, God-breathed scripture, but as sixty-six containers of textual Play-Doh®, filled with words that are so ductile and pliable as to make them mean, or not mean, anything we choose (depending, of course, on which way the socio-cultural winds happen to be blowing at any given moment.) 

The idea of theological progressivism is most evident today within evangelical churches and ministries that embrace homosexuality and LGBTQ inclusion (such as Revoice and Living Out), “same-sex marriage,” the so-called “social gospel,” and that reject the apostolic prohibition against female pastors (1 Corinthians 6:8-101 Timothy 2:12-14; Revelation 21:8).

Such “progressive” (unbiblical) perspectives are borne from a rejection of what is emphasized in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: Q2:What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? A:The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Professing Christians who subscribe to a progressive application of Scripture would do well to remind themselves of the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: “For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.”

The word of God does not change. 

It does not change because the God whose words they are does not, will not, and cannot change (Malachi 3:6a).

See also:
The Immutability of God by Charles H. Spurgeon
The Importance of God’s Immutabilityby R.C. Sproul

3. Soteriological universalism:

In biblical theology, soteriology (from sōtēr “savior, preserver” and logos “study” or “word”) refers to the study of the biblical doctrine of salvation. Conversely, universalism is the belief that every person, regardless of religious persuasion or identity, will ultimately spend eternity in heaven when they die. 

Sadly, countless people who profess to be Christian are proved to not be when it comes to their understanding of what salvation is and how it is accomplished according to the Word of God. Despite the clear teaching of Scripture—that salvation is available only in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12)—they nonetheless are convinced that when a person dies—anyperson—God will weigh their good works against their bad works and if the good works outweigh the bad, then—Voila!—like magic, God will open wide His “pearly gates” and welcome them into heaven. 

Those who have a works-based view of salvation would do well to remind themselves of the words of Charles H. Spurgeon who, in All of Grace, said: “The salvation of God is for those who do not deserve it and have no preparation for it.” 

The Bible is clear that salvation is only through faith in Jesus Christ, not our works (Mark 16:16John 14:6Acts 16:30-31Romans 10:8-9Ephesians 2:4-9Titus 3:5). As the great Reformer Martin Luther confessed: “I must listen to the gospel. It tells me not what I must do, but what Jesus Christ the Son of God has done for me.”

To hold to a works-based view of salvation prompts at least two questions that require thoughtful consideration: 1. If our “good works” are salvific in and of themselves, then, why did Jesus have to die? and 2. Why is it necessary to believe in Jesus Christ if one’s “good works” are the determining factor in one’s worthiness (or unworthiness) of heaven? 

To even begin to answer these and many other associated questions would take a separate blog post—or ten—which I have neither the time nor energy to write. Instead, I will leave it to you, dear reader, to ponder those questions for yourself. 

Despite the countless religions that exist in the world today, religion does not save anyone. Only faith in Jesus Christ saves. It is only by the wounds Christ received on our behalf that a person enters heaven (Isaiah 53:4-5), not by the weight of our own works, which God regards as nothing but “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).

Those who trust in Christ alone for the forgiveness of their sins are saved (John 3:16-17; Romans 10:9-10). Those who do not, are not (John 3:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

It’s really that simple.

See also:
Myths About Salvation by John MacArthur
Christ Did It All by Dr. Stephen Nichols
What Is Real Repentance? by Dr. Guy M. Richard

4. Ecclesiastical ecumenicism:

Did you know there is such a thing as “progressive Christianity”? There’s even a website dedicated to it: progressivechristianity.org. It was on the aforementioned website that I encountered these words from John Shelby Spong of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, New Jersey: 

“Beneath our religious diversity, there is a remarkably similar humanity. I am convinced that a religious unity that we have not dared hope for might now be dawning. Perhaps in the next hundred years we will come to think of the religions of the world as being as similar to one another as we today think the denominations of Christianity to be. That would be a major breakthrough in consciousness. To me, such is not only possible, but it is also highly desirable.”

What you’ve just read is one of the best (or perhaps worst) examples of ecclesiastical ecumenicism you’ll find anywhere. Ecclesiastical ecumenicists like Spong often employ terms like “religious diversity,” “similar humanity,” and “religious unity,” as if to suggest they are the aims of the gospel and the church. But, in reality, ecclesiastical ecumenicism is essentially New Age humanism draped in a cloak of evangelistic piety. 

The goal of ecclesiastical ecumenicism is not the salvation from sin that is accomplished through the propitiatory work of Jesus Christ on the cross (Matthew 1:21; Ephesians 2:8-9; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 2:2), but is rather a kind of Gnostic, man-centered, pseudo-salvation that is experienced by means of a “breakthrough in consciousness.”

In The History of Christian Doctrines, theologian Louis Berkhof chronicles various attempts by the State to pervert the gospel against which the Church, for centuries, has had to defend itself.  “But,” Berkhof explains, “however great these dangers from without were, there were even greater dangers which threatened the Church from within. “

Ecclesiastical ecumenicism is one of those threats of which Berkhof is speaking. Religious unity and diversity is not the church’s raison d’être. 

The church exists to preach to lost and dying sinners the gospel of salvation from sin and the wrath of God (Mark 1:38John 3:36; Luke 4:43). It is a redemption that is attainable only by faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12), which renders the concept of ecclesiastical ecumenicism entirely moot and, more importantly, biblically erroneous.

As Charles Spurgeon said: 

“Christ’s gospel has not come into the world to be co-equal with other faiths and share a divided kingdom with differing creeds. False gods may stand face to face to each other in one Pantheon, and be at peace, for they are all false together, but when Christ comes, Dagon must go down, not even the stump of him must stand. Truth is of necessity intolerant of falsehood, love wars with hate, and justice battles with wrong.” 

See also:
The 8 Points of Progressive Christianity
The Mission of the Church by John MacArthur

5. Pneumatological ventriloquism:

In biblical theology, pneumatology (pneuma  = breath, spirit and and logos “study” or “word”) refers to the study of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Conversely, ventriloquism, which is derived from the Latin for to speak from the stomach (venter = belly, loqui = speak), is defined as the art of altering or “throwing” one’s voice so that it appears to be coming from somewhere else. 

Many people view ventriloquism simply as harmless entertainment, but history begs to differ. Consider this brief Wikipedia excerpt on the history of ventriloquism:

“Originally, ventriloquism was a religious practice. The name comes from the Latin for to speak from the stomach, i.e. venter (belly) and loqui (speak). The Greeks called this gastromancy (Greek: εγγαστριμυθία). The noises produced by the stomach were thought to be the voices of the unliving, who took up residence in the stomach of the ventriloquist. The ventriloquist would then interpret the sounds, as they were thought to be able to speak to the dead, as well as foretell the future. One of the earliest recorded group of prophets to use this technique was the Pythia, the priestess at the temple of Apollo in Delphi, who acted as the conduit for the Delphic Oracle. One of the most successful early gastromancers was Eurykles, a prophet at Athens; gastromancers came to be referred to as Euryklides in his honour. In the Middle Ages, it was thought to be similar to witchcraft. One of the uses was by people pretending to be mediums or those claiming to be able to cast out evil spirits, and throwing the voice added to their credibility. It was not unusual for (particularly) women doing this to be accused and burnt as witches. As Spiritualism led to stage magic and escapology, so ventriloquism became more of a performance art as, starting around the 19th century, it shed its mystical trappings.”

Conversely, in an article titled The Demonic Origins of Ventriloquism, author Andy Wright explains:

“[Back then] ventriloquists were called “engastrimyths”. . . . a mashup of “en in, gaster the stomach, and mythos word or speech. Basically, people believed engastrimyths had demons in their stomachs who belched words from their host’s mouths. Engastrimyths plied their trade for entertainment . . . . and as divination.”

Many professing Christians view the Holy Spirit as if He were a divine ventriloquist. They are convinced that every “voice” they hear or perceive—either within their own conscience or vicariously through someone else’s counsel or advice—is the voice of the Holy Spirit “speaking” to them. 

Consequently, and solely on the basis of such self-perception, they make decisions and choices about their life which, in hindsight, were neither wise nor godly. But as Henry T. Blackaby said in Spiritual Leadership“There is more to knowing God’s will than believing that every open door is an opportunity from Him.”

It should go without saying that Christians are to seek wise and godly counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 12:15; 13:10; 15:31-32; 19:20; 24:6; 27:9). But not everything that can be described as “counsel” fits that description. 

Spiritual discernment is vital to Christians being able to understand when it is truly the “voice”—figuratively speaking, of course—of the Holy Spirit leading and guiding us as opposed to the spiritual mimicry of a pneumatological ventriloquist (James 1: 5; 1 John 4:1-6; Proverbs 1:10; 2 Corinthians 11:13-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21). 

See also:
Misconceptions of the Holy Spirit by John MacArthur
The Holy Spirit by Sinclair Ferguson
Listening to the Voice of God by Nathan W. Bingham
How Can I Increase My Spiritual Discernment? from GotQuestions?
Spiritual Discernment is Wholly Lost Until We Are Regenerated by John Calvin 

6. Evangelical pragmatism:
In Ashamed of the Gospel, John MacArthur writes: “Today more than ever, evangelical church leaders are held captive to the notion that their main duty toward the world is to study the trends of popular culture and try desperately to get on every passing bandwagon as quickly as possible.” 

MacArthur’s words provide a very accurate description of what evangelical pragmatism looks like. 

Evangelical pragmatism is rooted in the misguided notion that the gospel somehow needs help in order to achieve its desired end—the salvation of those who are enemies of God (Romans 5:10). It is an approach to evangelism that emphasizes employing worldly strategies and tactics toward the goal of making the gospel more attractive and palatable to unbelievers. But as pastor Josh Buice rightly explains: “Pragmatism will always lead the people of God away from the will of God at some point. If the gospel is working—pragmatism says, “do it.” When the gospel seems to not be working, pragmatism says, “do something else that gets better results.”

In The Soul Winner, Charles H. Spurgeon said: “I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is that the world has so much influence over the church.” What Spurgeon is describing is what pragmatism invariably begets—the church becoming indistinguishable from the world. 

Pragmatism denies the inherent power of the gospel to penetrate and regenerate the stony hearts of sinners (Ezekiel 36:26-27; Romans 1:16Hebrews 4:12-13). It distrusts that the same gospel that—without the aid of worldly gimmicks or stratagems—brought salvation to thousands of believers in the early church continues to save countless souls today in that same way (Acts 2:41, 4:4, 13:48). 

In 1 Thessalonians 2:13, the apostle Paul says that the word of God “performs its work in you who believe.” In Jeremiah 1:12, God declares to His prophet: “I am watching over My word to perform it.”And in Isaiah 55:11, God says of His own word that “It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

What evangelical pragmatists fail to understand is that the gospel doesn’t need our help to do what it is divinely designed—and sovereignly ordained—to accomplish. It is with that reality in mind that we must never confuse God using us with God needing us (because He doesn’t.)

See also:
The Next Generation Needs the Gospel Rather than Another Cheap Pragmatic Trick by Josh Buice
Pragmatism by Ligonier Ministries
Pragmatism: Modernism Recycled by John MacArthur
Human Inability by C.H. Spurgeon
Ashamed of the Gospel (book) by John MacArthur

In Christ,

Darrell 

Malawian Intern to Work with MRN

From Malawi Reformation Network

I am Madalitso Isaac Dube married to Rose Mtunda Dube and blessed with two children, Joyous and Joanna. I was born in a Christian family, both of my parents were Christians of Zambezi Evangelical Church, hence I was raised with Christian values and principles. My parents used to send me and my siblings to Sunday school until the time I was baptised. Thereafter, the Lord saved me.

After I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and saviour, I started serving him in different capacities such as Sunday school teacher, chairman of the fellowship of youth and treasurer of student Christian organization of Malawi. All these duties helped me to grow spiritually and in the fear of the Lord. Because of the love I had for the Lord and a desire to grow in the knowledge of Him, I applied for theological studies at African Bible College where I obtained my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Biblical Studies in 2007. Since my graduation, I have been serving God as an assistant pastor, church elder/treasure, youth executive member of Zambezi Evangelical Church and also as Zonal Chairman of Student Christian Organization of Malawi. Through all these services, I have come to know more of God’s grace, love, kindness, and mercy.

Since my graduation, I have been serving God as an assistant pastor, church elder/treasure, youth executive member of Zambezi Evangelical Church and also as Zonal Chairman of Student Christian Organization of Malawi.

As I sense God’s call to serve him as a minister in a Reformed church here in Malawi, I humbly submit myself to the call. I am really excited and humbled to work together with Rev. Confex Makhalira through Malawi Reformation Network (MRN). This will give me an opportunity to continue growing spiritually and mature in the Lord because I will be exposed to a full range of pastoral duties such as preaching, leading Bible studies, attending session meetings and doing evangelism.

Furthermore, working with MRN will help me gain more understanding of the Reformed faith since I was raised in a broader evangelical church. Apart from the above-mentioned responsibilities, serving as an intern with Confex will help me to be rooted and established in the Reformed faith through a more in-depth study of Reformed literature and discussions I will be having with Confex and my fellow interns. Through my internship, I hope to also help many who are being led astray by false teachings to see the light of the gospel.

Through my internship, I hope to also help many who are being led astray by false teachings to see the light of the gospel.

Finally, my wife and I are really happy and count ourselves blessed to be part of MRN work here in our motherland Malawi. It is our hope and prayer that we will see many people accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8). We really thank God for the grace bestowed upon us.

God bless you all, Amen!!!!!

A Call to Discernment

On the Deception of False Prophets in Africa and a Call to Discernment

By Pastor Gideon Mpeni, Florida Baptist Church, South Africa

When we look at the benefits of a Metropolitan lifestyle, we see that it exposes citizens to the unique privileges of buying all they need in shops that are close to their residence. Members of the society are awarded the pleasure of window-shopping, and buying items from the shops of their choosing.

But once they buy items in one shop, and as they move into another shop, sometimes people are met with a difficult situation. They meet the security personnel in the next shop who either seal the parcel they are carrying, so that they don’t put anything else in that bag, or they are asked to put their bag on the “parcel counter” before they enter. This will also apply to those who find themselves in a city with a major shopping center or a mall.

I see a similar scenario happening in many churches on our continent, which has been known in the past as “the dark continent”.

We have seen the rise of men and women with different academic qualifications whether they be lawyers, chartered accountants, medical doctors, doctors of philosophy, engineers, architects, excellent artists (who tell their stories on the canvas to the point that one will begin to think it was a Nikon Camera that took the picture) or as you watch those actors who make you feel and think the story is real. Not to mention the gifted musicians, with powerful voices, and with melodies almost equal to the heavenly beings, and many who have excellent IT (Information Technology) capabilities.

A few of these wonderfully gifted people were depicted in two recent movies, “The Black Panther” and a true story of one of my countrymen, Malawian William Kamkwamba, in a movie titled, “The Boy who Harnessed the Wind”. These two movies portray Africa as a hub for innovation.

One depicts Africa in a modern civilized picture as a metropolitan city full of wonderful shops that enable this city to flourish and make it the desired destination for all other people from other continents. The other displays Africa as she really is—a place which embodies the same genius which could be ranked in the Guinness Book of Records.

With that in mind, the reality is that men and women in the city can move to any other platform, such as in sports, where they can critically think and analyze how the different teams are performing, critically and constructively bringing out ideas and voicing their opinions on how the coaches and managers should lead their teams.

Or when it comes to politics, we see the citizens taking to the streets if those entrusted to lead the country do not fulfill their promises or violate their terms of office.

It does not manner which field we are talking about, there are generally accepted standards of operation—in accounting, law, architecture, music, art, sports, politics, etc.–there is a strict expectation that you must abide by those standards, and apply your mind actively, by a way of thinking and constructively looking at the concepts presented for that particular field.

Now we come to the topic of how all of this relates to the African churches. For the sake of this article, I will use the term, “fields shops”. I am using that term “shop” not because that is the right way to describe the church, but we have increasingly seen that the modern “man of God” has turned the church into a marketplace where he wants to fleece the flock and has made it “a den of robbers” (Mark 11:17), with himself as a chief robber.

Though we have such a contingent of great thinkers, movers and shakers in our land, there is still a sad reality that deception thrives in the land and people are caught up in that deception in some of our local churches. The “man of God,” who rules the church, demands the ultimate allegiance from these men and women of such high caliber.

This is where we see the idea of a “parcel counter” as I described previously. In many ways as these brilliant men and women enter the church, they sometimes leave their brains on the “parcel counter”. They dare not question or examine what is said. It is for this reason that the church must stand up and be vigilant in discerning the teachings and claims that are made by these self-acclaimed prophets.

I will therefore look at the meaning of this word and provide a biblical basis by using the letter of Paul to Titus and that of Peter’s second letter to the men and women who obtained a faith of equal standing with that of the apostles by the righteousness of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1).

What is Discernment?

The English dictionary simply defines this term to mean the ability to judge well. Pastor John MacArthur describes it as the ability to decide between truth and error, right and wrong. Unlike the passive syndrome that we see demonstrated by many believers, this term makes us realize that we must be active participants in the local church, whether it be in practical affairs but more importantly in what is taught from the pulpit. Discernment is the process of making careful distinctions in our thinking about truth.

The implication is that we must develop the skill of discriminating between truth and error, good and bad. To further clarify the point, we find another interesting eye-opening definition given by MacArthur in a book titled, “Fool’s Gold? Discerning Truth in an Age of Error”, he points out that the main Hebrew word in the Old Testament for discernment is “bin” and in all its usage this word is often translated as discernment, understanding, skill, or carefulness.

Interestingly enough, this word conveys the idea of the word discrimination. In the New Testament, the Greek verb translated “discern” is “diakrino”, which means to make a distinction as in Acts 15:9. Therefore, the man or woman in any context must be able to make a clear contrast between truth and error and be able to “test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every evil” (1 Thess. 5:21-22).

The word “test” is “dokimazo” used by Paul in this text as an imperative, implying that this is not a suggestion but rather a command for these believers to “test,” “analyze,” or “prove.” This is the process of testing something to reveal its genuineness. In other words, the ability to think with discernment is synonymous with an ability to think biblically.

Why do we need Discernment? The Rise of False Teachers.

In an age that glories in deception and which is governed by the arch deceiver himself, we have seen many churches with “brain counters” and the demand for discernment has not been as high as it is now for all believers.

Basically, deception refers to a deliberate misrepresentation of the truth, especially in moral and spiritual matters, in order to purposely mislead another person. And this is what most false teachers have set their hearts to.

In any given city, there is a church on every corner. Some are faithful to the Lord and their desire is to see believers edified and conformed to the image of Jesus. Then we have “many insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers” (Titus 1:10) as Paul would plead or warn Titus. These are men with a selfish agenda not that of Christ, “they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what ought not to be teach.” (Titus 1:11).

This sounds like the same description that Paul gives to the false teachers of the church in Philippi, who are described as “enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with mind set on earthly things.” (Phil.3:18-19).

These are men such as Joel Osteen in North America and many other preachers of the prosperity gospel, which is no gospel at all. Or on the soil of Africa, the false prophets such as Shephard Bushiri and other self-acclaimed prophets.

As you go into most of these churches, you will find that these men are an authority to themselves, in that they will barely open the Bible or teach from it. They devote themselves to their own dreams, visions or worldly philosophies, similar to what the Apostle Paul called “myths and commands of people who turn away from the truth,” (Titus 1:14).

The most evident trait is that these are people who “profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” (Titus 1:16). The authority and sufficiency of Scripture is completely overlooked to the point that the members of these churches with “brain counters” do not take their Bibles to church because for them, they wait to hear what the “man of God” will tell them that day.

Contrary to the attitude of the Thessalonians, who are commended to receive the word of God not as a word from man but as the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13), sadly these are the same believers who will fall prey to the hands of these men by buying items such as holy water, holy oil or bumper stickers. These are believed to be some kind of insurance or protection, to the extent that personal devotion in studying God’s word and devotion to prayer is neglected.

The false prophets and teachers have never been a blessing but rather a curse to God’s people. We are warned by Peter the Apostle of the Lord Jesus concerning this trend, which is in no way the latest trend but rather an ancient trick that has been employed by the serpent of old, the Father of Lies, the Devil of the Garden of Eden.

It was lack of discernment that led to the fall of our forefathers Adam and Eve but the Children of Israel were not exempt from false prophets, especially during the time of Jeremiah as recorded in Chapter 23.

We must remember that what we are seeing is a fulfilment of the prophecy spoken by the Apostle Peter (2 Peter 2), who reminded his readers that “false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you,” and that they come with an agenda, which is to “secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them.”

Why do we need Discernment? The Rise in Disobedience or Immorality.

Sadly, when the church is full of men and women who leave their brains on the counter and do not engage at all among themselves or with their teachers, it falls into a trap of immorality, which is an outright disobedience to the Word of God. Due to lack of discernment among us, we see “many following their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed” (2 Peter 2:2).

As stated earlier, these false teachers are exploiting many with their greed and false words. Their moral standards are so low that they go to length to commit immoral acts with their church members, “having eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin. They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed.  They entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption” (2 Peter 2:13b-14).

So how should the Church respond?

To combat these false teachers and the corruption that has come about as the result of their false teaching, any local church will honor and glorify Christ if they do the following–

1. Having a Plurality of Biblically Qualified Elders: Paul urges Titus to do the same in the churches of Crete. He requires that local churches should have more than one man running the show. These are men who will model Christlikeness (Titus 1:7-9) in the way that they will be able to protect the flock of God from wolves, by silencing them (Titus 1:11).

Secondly these men will also provide for the flock by teaching sound doctrine, hence it is required that they too “must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, and give instruction and rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9).

Unlike the common trend, where we have one man running the show, even in local churches that would have more qualified men who would serve in the capacity as elders. If we are to see change in the church in Africa and beyond, we need men who uphold sound doctrine and do submit to the Word of God and are accountable to others.

2. Faithful Preaching of the Gospel: There is no potent remedy to man’s sin or any kind of corruption other than the Gospel. Paul has urged Titus to exhort all men and women in the local church to live lives that are motivated by the Gospel as it is in Titus 2:11-13. He begins with the glorious grace of God that has appeared to all, to bring Salvation for all and consummated in the glorious return of Christ.

In reminding us of the Gospel Paul declares God as the Possessor of Grace, and sinful mankind as the Partaker of that Grace. He goes on to the third chapter and commands Titus to remind all Christians of their past misery and God’s perfect mercy (Titus 3:3-7).

Unlike the false teachers of our day, who sound as if they are already glorified and were born already filled with the Holy Spirit, Paul includes himself that apart from the mercy of God, he too was “foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (verse 3).

This is the message that is infinitely powerful to rescue sinners from the deadly traps of deception.

3. Living Lives that Display the Grace of God: This is imperative considering the moral decay and corruption in our day. Paul exhorts the believers to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. He urges Titus to speak to instruct the believers to honor Christ in their households (Titus 2:1-10), this includes older men, older women, younger women, and young men. Then the attention moves to the workplace then finishing with their responsibility as citizens of a country (Titus 3:1-2).

To that end, we must be men and women who have been completely transformed by the Grace of God through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-6), realizing that when it comes to matters of Christianity, it requires more than a great IQ or EQ, persona, academic achievement or any of the most revered ingenuity in our society to allow anyone to understand the things of God. We need the transforming power of the Gospel.

Don’t be a victim of false teachers. It is high time we rise and discern what is taught and said by these men in shiny suits.

Why Malawi?

By Richard Jones–Malawi Reformation Network

When I was first contacted about the work beginning in the African country of Malawi, I had never heard of the country and had no idea where it was located geographically.  But, I did know one thing…. Pastor Jason Helopoulos was involved, and if he was excited about a ministry beginning in Malawi, then I needed to know more.

So, I “Googled” Malawi and learned some basic facts about the country, like that Malawi is among the world’s least-developed countries with an economy that is heavily based in agriculture, that the British colonized what was then known as Nyasaland in the 1890s, and in 1964, the year I was born, Nyasaland became an independent country under Queen Elizabeth II’s leadership and became Malawi.

Then, after a phone conversation with MRN’s Chair of the Board, Evan Vanderwey, I learned more about Malawi and Confex Makhalira in particular. I was excited to hear that Confex is a Malawian who came to the US for seminary with great plans to return to Malawi and start a Reformed Presbyterian church in Blantyre. And I learned about the church in Malawi, how David Livingstone, a missionary and explorer first visited the area in the mid-1800s, how the Presbyterian Church had a great influence in the country, and how Malawi came to be considered as a Christian Country. But, sadly, how the influence of the false Prosperity Gospel has led the people astray and how the church no longer has the same prominence in the life of its people.

So, why Malawi? Because the Malawian people need Jesus and the Truth of His gospel. The Good News of Jesus Christ will change hearts and minds for eternity.

So, count me in!  I don’t know how God will use me in this ministry, but I feel His call to move forward. Teach me Lord, how to pray for the Malawian people. Use me Lord, in the work of MRN. Help me Lord to get others excited about your work in Malawi.  It is Your work! Use me Lord to help Confex however you see fit.  Praise the Lord!


Obedience is Our Joy: Lessons from Malawi Part 2

James Hammack and Hamilton Richardson in Malawi (2018)

This is Part Two in a three-part series focusing on missions in the African country of Malawi and how missions work there affected a small church in Alabama.

In Part One, I talked about how Malawi missions became a reality for His Way Community Church in Prattville, Alabama and what the team experienced during a two-week trip to the country.

After a successful first trip to Malawi in 2016, the discussion began on when to return. Many on the original team were excited at the prospect while others whose life circumstances had changed, realized they would not be free to join the team.

It was decided however that 2018 would be the target for the next missions endeavor and the team started to form.

The group formed more slowly than two years prior as some tentatively joined the team then decided against their participation and others, like Worship Leader James Hammack, initially said no but then life circumstances changed and what was previously not a possibility, became one.     

Hammack, although joining the His Way mission group a little late in the process, none-the-less began to prepare for the teaching opportunities that would come in Malawi.

The 2018 team, like the 2016 group, worked hard prepping, raising funds through many yard sales, and completed all the necessary documents.

The two-week trip came and went with wonderful and unexpected results and new relationships formed with a local reformed pastor and his church, a prison ministry opportunity and some heavy and fruitful biblical ministry.

“We had a wonderful time joining in with Pastor Mala (Malamundo Chindongo) and the church (Antioch Baptist Church) there,” said James Hammack. “It was great to learn what the local church was already doing and then partner with them in those endeavors. I was blessed by the faithful saints there and even challenged.”

James discussed some of the issues he found that are facing the African church.

“In addition to the sin and temptation of worldly cares, there are many churches outside of Mala’s church that have fallen into the prosperity gospel,” he commented.

The His Way leader added that consistent and biblical preaching in both regular Bible studies and worship on Sunday would be the main remedy to the false gospel taking over many churches.

Hammack said that he believes the church in the U.S. and the church in Africa share many of the same struggles.

“People may be in different cultures with various customs, but we are far more alike in our struggles with sin than we are different. And the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only remedy to our sin,” he said.

Many on the team had not been to Malawi before and James shared his thoughts on his first trip.

“For the most part, it was what I expected. This was mostly because of sweet time and conversation with Mala before we joined him on the ground,” explained James. “He prepared us very well for the needs that we would encounter.”

James also shared his thoughts on his missions experience from the perspective of American Christianity.

“I think there is a great apathy and even laziness towards mission efforts in the ‘American church’. Obedience to the will of God is the sustaining power and drive of his people. It’s our joy,” he said. “So, when we allow ourselves to succumb to disobedience through apathy and laziness, we forfeit the great joy of the Lord in obedience. That’s a sad place to be in. We need to return to the call that we have as kingdom establishing people. This will bring a fullness to our joy in Christ and display His glory to those around us.”

The Christian’s Call To Purity

Darrell Bernard Harrison’s Wonderful Piece on Holiness and Purity

Just Thinking...for Myself

http://www.jamesgphotography.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Fair-Brook-Waterfall-Peak-District-Photography.jpg


Lately, I’ve been ruminating on certain matters that are, or should be, in my opinion at least, of concern to professing evangelical Christians, but that seem to have gotten lost amidst the current climate of socio-political animus that exists, particularly within American evangelicalism. Among those divers concerns is what appears, to me anyway, to be an increasing disregard and apathy for purity within the church, under the guise that it is somehow obligated to offer to the world around it a kind of “big tent”, unoffensive, non-convicting gospel that is inclusive, not merely in terms of ethnicity or sex, mind you, but also of certain sinful behaviors and practices.

My disquiet is based largely in the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Cor. 11:2-3, and the weighty burden he carried for the purity of the believers in the church at Corinth, to whom he confessed, “For I am…

View original post 1,119 more words