“Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”—–Romans 16:17-18
As the great divide between true Christianity and other perversions of Christianity continue to grow exponentially, I felt is necessary to write a word of exhortation as we head into the new year. I have been made more and more aware of how deception is growing within the visible church and how many are getting swept away into these lies. I am greatly concerned that if people don’t speak up, many more will fall away or never come to the Truth.
At the heart of the deception is an clear attack on the Gospel. People are flocking toward a gospel that lacks any form of repentance and real faith and is being replaced by a false sense of forgiveness of sins and believing in a pseudo form of “Jesus”. The visible church promotes this type of “Easy Believeism” in seeking to make converts that neither know or understand the cost of discipleship. Lives are not transformed and those that have “accepted” Jesus look no different than the rest of the world. Is this really what Jesus came and died for; that as long as people raise their hand, sign a card, or pray-a-prayer they are good to go and without a sense of pursuing obedience to the faith??
It sickens me that people are willing to water down the Gospel in order to feel like we are doing things “right”. “Look at all the people, look at how we are growing, look at how we are impacting the community.” People are quickly getting lured away into things that sound spiritual, but are actually compromising the heart of the Gospel.
At the end of Romans, after Paul has given great instruction, exhortation, and greetings, he gives a final word of warning. He tells us to keep our eye on people that are causing dissensions and hindrances. However, he doesn’t stop there, but continues to warn us against those people breaking away from the Truth. Paul doesn’t just say keep an eye on them, but to take action by turning away and breaking free from them. It is those that are are pulling us away from the Biblical Truth for another purpose.
In the next verse Paul describes the characteristics of these people. These people Paul calls “slaves”. They are enslaved and and seem to be serving; but then Paul goes on to say that they are slaves to their own appetites and not to Christ. These deceivers may seem to be concerned about the things of Christ, but are really only about their own agendas and success.
Paul describes how these people go about their deception; by smoothing and flattering speech. By having great charisma these people sound spiritual and may even use the Bible, but in the end lead people astray by their own selfish desires. The people Paul says that get swept away are the ones that he calls “unsuspecting”. People let their guard down and because they trust their pastors and leadership, the authors of the books they read, or others, they fall into the trap and end up being deceived.
I believe if we don’t take this warning seriously that we may also fall into deception. It is critical that we question everything boldly and keep our guard up against every deception that comes our way. Long past are the days when we can think that my pastor is not like that or my church is not like that. How foolish we would be to not test every detail of what we believe about faith and the Church against the Bible. Why be so arrogant to think that just because someone invokes the name of Jesus, uses the Bible, or has the appearance of success, is telling us the Truth.
My fear is that for some it is becoming too late. We would rather not count the cost of what it really requires to be a disciple of Jesus, but are comfortable with our man-made methods of faith and church. We like our modern church services and sermon series too much to question if they are something we should be concerned about. We like to do food/clothes drives and feel like we are a “missional” community. We like our worship bands, our volunteer places to serve, and all the stuff that makes up what we feel is “church”. We do all this while neglecting the greater purpose of discipleship and for the sake of compromising the Gospel because we like our ways.
So just as Paul urged us in Romans, so I pass on my exhortation for this next year; keep your guard up and turn away from all those that are setting up their own kingdoms by sounding spiritual and looking and acting like they are of Christ, but are no where close. Spend time reading and studying the Bible systematically, not neglecting any part. Be constantly in prayer throughout each day. And as 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
May 2012 be a great year as we mature in our faith in Jesus and put every dissension, hindrance, and deception behind us for His glory!!