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Cults and Christianity III

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Question #1: 

Are you aware of the Chronicles Project?

http://www.thechronicleproject.org/index.html

Is their work legitimate?

Response #1: 

Good to make your acquaintance. No, I had never heard of this, and after a brief investigation I think I can see why. The "project" team is never identified on this website nor, as far as I can see, anywhere else (that is always a real "tell", as anyone with genuine credentials is never ashamed to share them). Their methodology is hinted at, but never given in a full and understandable way. The translations they are producing are entirely inconsistent with the basics of the methodology they do promise (i.e., "glyphs", aka in scholarship "ideograms" of which Hebrew in truth has no trace). The intellectual basis for what they claim is lacking, and, indeed, everything we know about Hebrew and language in general refutes every claim they make about the character of Hebrew, the nature of language in general, and the way in which a language may be understood. Translation is only possible after a language is understood (it is not a means to an end).

This seems to me to be a new syncretic twist on "Bible codes", Gnosticism, and numerological Kabbalah. The agenda is not clear. I notice they use "the supreme one" in place of "God" for 'elohiym, so I would imagine they have some sort of polytheistic theology they wish to advance. As to the translation itself, it is more or less gobbledygook, but of the sort that has a tendency to draw in "seekers" (i.e., those who reject legitimate authority and fail even to question the bona fides of anyone who manages to tickle their fancy). In this respect the material reminds me of Nostradamus or the Sibylline oracles, material that hovers right on the edge of making any real sense, and thus invites the self-styled "gifted" to inject their own ideas.

Thanks for the link! I am always on the outlook for wolves, the better to protect my sheep.

In the Name of the Good Shepherd, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

Question #2:  

No problem, Bob...I think believers need to be having more of such discussions but my typical experience of large mainstream churches in the past (I honestly can't remember the last time I stepped foot in one) is that there is no such talk at all within their walls (I guess if there is less and less such talk eventually it drains away to nothing at all).

I received this FB message just yesterday, in fact, from an old friend back in Australia:

------------

i dont go to that Hillsong church anymore but i remember they used to bring in guest speakers from all over the world and none of them would ever preach cept for one of em. the others would just tell funny stories like my pants fell down once at high school just as i was asking my future wife to the school dance and its fine to do that but they never talk bout god at all

none of them and when the main pastor does prech he just says god wants to make u rich and bless you for the whole service there is nothing bout dying to yourself helping the poor the needy whatever

and i know alott of the people in church r now broke cause they all are trying to make money(and have failed business) and failing because they all think god wants to give them ten million dollars...

------------

My friend illustrates the negative effects of such churches in another way too. He is thoroughly confused about basic aspects of his walk of faith, seeing himself in a condemning way because of his struggles with some sinful behaviour (yesterday I had to correct him as to the meaning of being a Goat - i.e. someone who has no other-centred, Lordship relationship with Jesus as opposed to someone who does but is still a sinner...my friend figured that if you continue to sin at all then you stand condemned...obviously, one can point such a person to the relevant scriptures in context about all of us being sinners and only gaining an uncorrupted body in the next life but the fact he has attended the kinds of churches we have discussed for many a year and yet has such erroneous notions of God the Father is eye-opening...what the heck are they teaching in these places? Well, we know from what he says and his eventual reaction over time shows that their empty promises do nothing to quench the inner thirst of men and women. He is a real mess right now and so what was the good to him at all of those dozens/hundreds of megachurch messages).

Further enlightening to me is the basic notions about God and salvation brand name megachurch folk possess...you may be familiar with this but here is a link to a radio interview with two Hillsong London chaps:

http://www.benrdavis.com/audio/ToddFrielHillsongUK.mp3

Todd Friel of Wretched Radio toured Europe in 2007 visiting some major reformation landmarks while doing filming for a TV series. While in London, he inadvertently bumped into members of Hillsong London who were also filming and took the opportunity to grill them on their knowledge of the Christian Gospel (not saying I'm entirely a fan of his style and approach but from what he says at the end, substance-wise, he seems to be coming from an orthodox 'old school' position).

And, yes, it is only two guys Todd speaks with, but the fact they are possibly on staff at Hillsong London (they are involved in filming something so clearly they are not just people who go there but are more heavily involved), the fact they are more involved than the average Joe, is illustrative (if they believe the stuff they say then would the average Joe believe differently). Again and again the kind of faith they present is a diluted, wishy washy affair (prosperity and self-love being the main game)...it's basically a feelgood self-esteem thing with Jesus as the Chief Shrink (or, rather, the First Patient To Successfully Finish Therapy - as an example to the rest of us)...nothing about sin and salvation (yes, one speaker mentions the word 'salvation' but I don't think you would recognise his description of 'salvation' with what the Biblical term means), plenty about self-improvement through the wisdom and example of Guru Jesus...*sigh*

Response #2: 

This was a very interested interview and email, both of which will no doubt be helpful for future readers. I would like to believe like Plato that it's all just a matter of information. Sadly, however, we know from scripture that people "choose their own ways", so that at least half the problem with places like this are the people who support them and embrace their teachings.

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #3:  

Hi Dr. Luginbill!

I've listened to a Pastor (Joel Olsteen) and from his sermons I can spiritually discern that he's a false teacher. A friend of mine disagrees and believes that he's still a Christian because he uses the bible and at least teaches the milk of the word. He also says that Mr. Olsteen wears nice clothes, etc. Have you heard of this teacher? and if so, do you agree that he's a false teacher? and what is a false teacher in regards to what the bible says? Thanks!

God Bless,

Response #3: 

From what I have seen of Mr. Osteen, I would be inclined to agree with your negative opinion. I would not want to condemn categorically someone else's ministry unless I were absolutely sure that it was not Christian in any way. I would not go that far from my limited exposure to his teaching, but it seems pretty clear to me that there is at the very least very little spiritual depth to his inspirational pep-talks. In this, of course, he is far from unique. Contemporary Christianity has elevated the sermon-format to the centerpiece of corporate "worship", and it has come to be a mere form of entertainment (if it was ever truly anything else). Mr. Osteen has merely packaged this church-o-tainment in a way that is apparently attractive for some people's tastes. That does not mean he is not a Christian; it does not even mean that the Lord is not using him is some way (that is not for me to say). But it is certainly the case that aspiring to pablum of this sort instead of solid spiritual food is not what any Christian who truly loves the Lord Jesus ought to be doing.

The more one grows spiritually from careful attention to and belief in the Word of God, the more it becomes glaringly obvious when a particular teacher or brand of "teaching" is lacking in substance.

Keep on fighting the good fight of faith!

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4: 

Dear Dr Lunginbill,

I have a question for you sir. Yesterday I had a couple of Mormon gentlemen come to my door and so I invited them in to hear their spill even though I know they are a brainwashed cult. When they finished their spill I questioned them about their Book of Mormon and asked how I they could have such a thing when the Bible is a complete work of God. To have their book of Mormon is to say the Bible is incomplete, in turn God is incomplete. Looking at the book of Mormon I see that it is plagiarism. They took bits and pieces from the Bible plus false prophecies to comprise their book of Mormon. I invited them over next Wednesday to tell them the truth and witness to them. In your opinion is it wrong to do so . My wife doesn't think so, but I'm witnessing to them anyway. I'm witnessing to them based on that examples Christ set during his ministry. He disproved and corrected the religious sect of Pharisee's and Sadducees on numerous occasions. Whether those gentleman accept truth that I share is another story, but I pray they do. Your opinion on this matter would be greatly appreciated. I pray that the Lord continue to bless and keep you and your ministry.

Response #4: 

Good to hear from you. There really is no biblical standard for the right and wrong of 'judgment-call' areas such as this. There is a time and a place for everything, for acting and refraining (Eccl.3), and, as we grow spiritually, we get better about identifying which is which (in general everyone will always make mistakes). When it comes to witnessing, I am in the camp of thinking that erring on the side of too much rather than too little is preferable, though it is most certainly true that we should stay away from both too much and too little when we are convinced that it is definitely a case of one or the other.

On the one hand, witnessing to members of any such group is always better one-on-one than collectively, especially when they come in pairs. That is because cults tend to organize members in twos for a purpose. One very strong individual will be paired with a novice or a weaker individual (in terms of the cult's estimation of their commitment to the cause and "faith" in their false doctrine). And they are very well-prepared as to how to act in such couples in all of the anticipated situations they may face. That often means that the weaker person is like a sheep being circled by a sheepdog. We may be standing on the side yelling, but the sheepdog is really concentrating on the sheep, and the sheep is really more concerned about that darned dog than anything we have to say. That is often the case even when both individuals act polite and rational (that's part of the training too). So even though you will be fighting this fight on your home turf, it is really their battlefield with a trained twosome.

That said, since cults and false religions of all sorts tend to keep a tight leash on their members, if some brave Christians weren't willing to do what you are doing at least occasionally, when would these people ever hear the gospel correctly presented in the first place? And it isn't like the Holy Spirit is incapable of cutting through all the worldly interference and making the clear, crisp water of the truth hit the person's spirit like a bath of ice-water, waking them out of their stupor and leading them to salvation. The bottom-line of course is that this is really all about each individual's choice. Anyone who is even the least bit interested in the gospel is going to receive it, and anyone who is truly interested in being saved will most assuredly not the lack the information and opportunity to come to Jesus Christ. Sometimes this is a process, so there is no way anyone outside looking in can tell you that you are wasting your time; you may not be successful in converting either of them to Christ, but that doesn't mean that God will not help you and honor your effort, and perhaps use it later on:

I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.
John 4:38 NIV

Mormonism is a difficult one. Like all cults/religions, one cannot make the assumption that because a person "is" this or that, that they automatically believe what this or that teaches. I remember once in the Marine Corps one of my fellow officers who was also a Presbyterian (as I was at the time) explaining to me that because of my affiliation therefore "I must believe" in the doctrine of election in all its hyper-Calvinistic glory ("As a Presbyterian, that's what you must believe!"). I assured him that such was not the case, and I think that there are many individuals who have not so waived their free will as actually to accept all of the teachings of a particular group with which they may be associated. Indeed, in many cases it is likely that such individuals do not know all or many of the official teachings. I think there would be less Mormons if Mormon doctrine were better understood by their own members. For example, a true-blue Mormon does not believe that Jesus is equal to the Father in any way; for He may have "become a god", exactly as Mormons aspire to do following His example (one of their semi-secret doctrines), but they don't believe He started out as divine. Mormons, moreover, are not only working and praying their way to heaven they are working to become gods and praying for the dead to be saved. Not all Mormons understand all these things, in my experience, and the "church" itself has been soft-pedaling some of the more outrageous doctrines in recent years; like the Roman Catholic church, it is capable of changing for political expediency where doctrine is concerned. But the above precis should give you an idea of how far down the road of the absolutely unbelievable a dedicated Mormon has progressed. The Book of Mormon is, as you note, a good example of this. When I stopped off in Salt Lake City with a couple of my old buddies many years ago, one of the unbelieving engineers in our group quizzed our Mormon guide at the tabernacle about the existence of the golden tablets upon which the book was supposedly written. Naturally, they 'don't exist any longer'. Even an unbeliever with common sense gets it that this must be nonsense. To believe that some latter-day prophet was given golden tablets and special spectacles to be able to understand the language they were written in, then all trace of both was lost (so as to have to rely on the English version for all time to come) requires much more faith than believing in evolution. Once a lie like this has been devoured, the heart is already far down the road to hardening.

But it is very true that just because people grow up in a Mormon environment or a Buddhist environment or a Hindu environment or a Roman Catholic environment or what have you, and initially go through the motions because that is their cultural default, does not mean that they will never come to realize the lies with which they have been presented; but even for those who do come to understand that they have been sold a fraud, there may still be no desire to come to the real God through the real Savior, Jesus Christ. In the case of those who are actually out evangelizing for their religion, generally speaking one does not find doubters but usually "true believers". That is because in the first place why would you do something like this if your heart wasn't in it (i.e., if you didn't think you were earning extra wives in eternity and more planets to rule); and in the second place most of these groups which have been around a while and survived in a sort of Darwinian way have learned well how to cull out those with doubts or at least how to control them. That is to say, the chances of both of these individuals being responsive to what you have to say are nil; and the odds of either of them being open to the gospel are long.

Still, there is no overestimating what the Spirit can accomplish, and God most definitely does honor those who honor Him in presenting the gospel as in all other things (1Sam.2:30). God is in control of everything, and therefore the only question we ever really need to ask when it comes to matters of application like this where there is no definitive biblical pre- or proscription is "what does He want me to do?" Answering that question correctly gets easier the more we grow spiritually, but at least as long as we have answered it to the best of our ability and in all integrity, following the Spirit down that path of God's will as best we can determine it will never be the wrong thing to do.

I will say a prayer for you and your efforts.

In the One who died for all mankind that all might live eternally, our dear Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #5:  

DEAR INCHTHYS,

I COMMEND YOU FOR YOUR PURPOSE-DRIVEN EXPOSE I SAW ON YOUR WEBSITE (The Purpose Driven Life and Oprah's New Age Religion).

I invite you to preview our new website: perfectpeaceplan dot com

LATEST NEWS:

Two Investigations are complete and now released:

1. I just finished producing and co-hosting with Richard Bennett, Berean Beacon Ministries and former Roman Catholic Priest a new DVD on the MYSTIC PLAGUE entitled:

Experiencing God through Deceitful Mysticism now available on the media page of our new website.

&

2. HOW ASSEMBLIES OF GOD MAKE MERCHANDISE OF MEN'S SOULS

This story was first reported on CBS Television News: "Assemblies of God Seize and Padlock local AG Church"

My complete report on this story and Emerge Ministries, Inc., is now available at:

www.voiceoftruthradio.com/james/dnd.pdf

My extensive investigation of Leonard Sweet and the Emerging Church will be released shortly for your highly esteemed consideration. 

Hope you will report this news.

Loren Davis is a missionary in Africa, and resident of Kenya , who has conducted major evangelistic crusades in Africa for a quarter of a century. He personally has witness the destruction that Rick Warren has wrought over there. This is a six minute excerpt of his recent riveting interview on Southwest Radio Church. He leads the fight in opposing Rick Warrens teachings and programs in Africa and has inspired a host of pastors in Africa to reject Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Global Peace Plan. James Sundquist addresses what Rick Warren is doing in Africa in his book Rick Warren's Global Peace Plan vs. Scriptural Teachings on Peace in the Chapter 'Purpose-Driven Country'" Todd Hudnell, an Assemblies of God Pastor, led the campaign in Kenya, on behalf of Rick Warren and the AOG General Superintendent George Wood has brought Warren fully aboard its national and international agenda to transform the AG into another gospel."

"We had a major victory in Kitale, Kenya. Rick Warren's held a pastor's conference targeting 1000 pastors, but after my CD about him was distributed in that area, only 100 pastors showed up. They were very disappointed."

Just posted by Berean Beacon:

http://www .youtube.com/watch?v =HUWWCaKoork

Sincerely in Christ,

Response #5: 

Thanks for the update.

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6:  

How about this as part of a belief system:

http://www.canada.com/news/world/

document+would+give+Mother+Earth+same+rights+humans

/4597840/story.html

Response #6: 

I was disturbed about the implementation until I read with great relief that there will also be a "Ministry of Mother Earth". I feel certain that with a large enough new bureaucracy staffed by international good-Samaritans, there will be sufficient means to run every aspect of the lives of all the rest of us for own good. Actually, if I am not mistaken this was attempted once before . . . at Babel. Those involved in that previous effort no doubt found their initial efforts promising, but God had other plans. Given the lateness of the hour, the same thing is likely to happen again (with this initiative and all manner of similar "progress").

Your pal in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #7: 

Hi Doc!

Recently I was told about a boy who got into a terrible car crash and claimed to have seen heaven and even spoke about his experiences in a book. Several questions were asked of him in short, but there were so many other thing he had explained in a book. He claimed that he is not lying even though people, even some Christians don't believe him. Here are a few questions that were asked of him:

Author Q & A:

Q: Are there cities in Heaven?

A: Yes. They make New York City seem small! The skyline is awesome.

Q: What was your body like in Heaven?

A: I never really paid attention to my body. I never looked down or thought about myself. I was too in awe of everything else. I know that I could walk in Heaven, though.

Q: What do you think about the fact that God told Paul not to talk about what he saw in Heaven, but He told John to share about his visit?

A: I dont feel so weird when I think about that. Im a mixture of the two. Some things I can say and some things I cant.

Q: What is worship like in Heaven?

A: Its always happening. The angels have sessions of praising God. They go to His throne at certain times. I have seen the elders bowing down and saying "holy, holy, holy." But the most awesome part is the angels behind the elders. There are more than you can count.

Q: What people have you seen in Heaven?

A: I have seen people from the Bible. I cannot say anything else.

Q: Is Heaven a physical place?

A: How could I have been there if it wasnt?

Q: What would you tell people about spiritual warfare?

A: I would only have three main points. (1) Satan is a loser, and he has already lost; (2) demons are trying to mess with people nonstop; (3) we need Jesus in our hearts to fight the demons.

Q: What would you say to someone who is troubled or anxious?

A: If they are, I would just say, "Ask God for help."

Then the doctors said that he would have to have his spine fused, but the day of the surgery, his spine was miraculously straightened before they could do the surgery. What do you think about this in general? Thanks in advance!

Response #7: 

Good to hear from you. As is my wont, I believe scripture. If someone's experience agrees with scripture, I have nothing to say about it because even if it didn't happen, it doesn't conflict with scripture. If a person says something happened which does not agree with the Bible, I wouldn't believe it. For this reason, I never get too excited about all such reports.

It seems to me, by the way, that there are more and more of these experiences happening today than ever before. Doesn't that seem strange? Also, the people who have these exciting experiences always seem to get on TV or have a book published; so they are benefitting from their spiritual experience in a material way. That might not prove that they are faking it, but in other spheres of life we would be noting the "conflict of interest". Since as Christians are told to be "wise as serpents" when it comes to false teaching, it behooves us to be very careful about believing such things.

The excerpt you include here doesn't overtly clash with scripture, although there are one or two things that would be difficult to vet against the biblical record (e.g., the skyline, the impression of the interim body, etc.). To the extent that such reports support faith and encourage Christians, I suppose in a vacuum they might be considered "good". However, where are Christians supposed to put their faith? In the words of men or the Word of God? Once the devil has us listening to people who have their own special source of information which we cannot independently verify, then he has us right where he wants us. I fully except antichrist's tribulational false religion to operate along these very lines, starting out with teachings that do not obviously conflict with scripture but which are presented in an exciting and "supernatural" way. Once people have bitten into this poison fruit, additional things can be added until eventually there is much more of the lie than of the truth. This is the real danger I see in paying any heed to these sorts of reports. For the best we can say about them is that they are "not clearly untrue"; but even if we are influenced by them only a very little bit, then to that degree we are looking to human reports rather than genuine divine revelation for our spiritual food. Furthermore, this sort of thing tends to be highly addictive. Once a believer gets a taste for this sort of supernatural experience or independent revelation, generally speaking they are going to go deeper and deeper down that rabbit hole until they wind up putting far more stock in things which are clearly made-up and border-line demonic (or worse) than they do in the truth of scripture.

Finally, it is also a feature of such reports to append some sort of miraculous "verification". Being naturally loving and generously minded, Christians tend to take such reports at face value (or at least not react with immediate disapproval and disbelief). Consider, however, that the professional news media almost always gets something wrong of an important material nature in every story they report. I'm not talking about bias here, but in my experience whenever I have read something in a local paper about a story of which I had personal knowledge, the text in the paper or the report on the TV always got at least part of the story wrong. Getting it 100% right is a very difficult thing to do, and even professional journalists who do this for a living are far from perfect, even when they have no reason to be biased about what they are reporting. When the subject is something that does have political or social or religious aspects which do provoke the emotions, then of course bias makes the situation even worse. This is a long-winded way of saying that just because the report, verbal or written, says there was a miraculous healing, well, that does not make it 100% the case in the sense that you or I would understand it (i.e., if we had all the facts, we might not be nearly as impressed or even not impressed at all). Reserving judgment on that score is not un-Christian. Far from it. It is precisely the sort of walking by faith and not by sight that all Christians need to be entering in upon daily, especially as we approach the end times when the deception will be at an all time high and the deceivers will all make use of such things, even proclaiming the devil's son to be the Christ in no small measure on account of the "miracles" he performs.

Here are some links on that score:

Characteristics of the New Religion of Antichrist

The False Piety of Antichrist's Tribulational Religion

The Anti-Christian Religion of Antichrist and its World-wide Expansion

The Persuasiveness of the Tribulational False Religion

The False Prophet's Administration of Antichrist's False Religion

Antichrist: Alive and Well and Living on Planet Earth?

In anticipation of deliverance at our Lord's return Marana Tha!

Bob L.

Question #8:  

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I found your website this evening when I was trying to find information on Feng Shui and whether it was from God, because earlier today a Christian woman whom I had just met, admonished me rather forcefully (and somewhat offensively) when she learned that I was interested in Feng Shui. An internet search brought up the question on your website pertaining to the subject. (I just wanted to let you know how I came across your website, and I'm glad I did.)

Dr. Luginbill, when it comes to spiritual matters, I've rarely had any peace. I was raised in a Christian home, and I did my best to be a Christian when I was young. Sometimes I would go to the altar and pray, and I was even baptised more than once. Yet I had so many questions which I couldn't find answers for, and I simply couldn't find peace in Christianity. To make a long story short, I've been a member of various New Age churches; I've read books on different religions; and I've asked God to show me the truth. When it comes to religious matters, I've searched all over the place earnestly and sincerely seeking the truth. I'm STILL unsure what the truth is. Why can't I find any peace that I know 100% for sure what the truth is?! When I was growing up, I wasn't even aware that there were any other religions out there besides Christianity. My parents were good Christians, and my whole family were regular churchgoers and involved in the church. I have gotten on my knees and asked God to forgive me of my sins over and over and over again. I have confessed that Jesus Christ is my Lord and savior, over and over and over again as well. I've been doing this my whole life! Yet - no peace! Sometimes I think my spiritual search is a mental illness because it certainly has made me feel sick inside. It is even downright ridiculous at times. It's like I'm Alice in Wonderland who never knows what's down or up, or right or left.

I want to resolve this issue once and for all. I've cried and begged and pleaded for God to reveal the truth to me, and to give me peace about whatever the truth might be. Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free", so how come I haven't found peace in Jesus? Or in any other religion or spiritual belief, either? I was studying Judaism for a while, and I felt inexplicably drawn to it. I thought perhaps I was a Noahide, one who follows the seven laws of Noah. Are all of the good, God fearing Jews and Noahides, (i.e. Righteous Gentiles), going to burn in hell?! Am I going to burn in hell simply because I'm too stupid (apparently) to know which of the thousands of religions and beliefs is the true one?! I truly want to believe the correct thing, and to do God's will, so why won't God allow me to know the truth and to feel peace about it?!

Anyway, I'm writing to you because after perusing your website, it was obvious that you are not only a learned man, but also a man of depth and integrity, who delves deeply into the heart of God. I don't know if there is anything you can say which will give me peace, but I wanted to write to you anyway.

Thank you and God bless you.

Response #8: 

Good to make your acquaintance. Your experience and your dilemma are far from unique. I often hear from Christians who are unsure about many things which relate to our walk with Jesus, salvation, spirituality and Christian confidence being among the most prominent. In my experience and reading of scripture, peace, confidence and a sense of security which casts out fear and apprehension come from our assurance and acceptance of the truth of the Word of God and our diligent response to it.

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Isaiah 26:3 NIV

Trusting God, believing the truth of what He tells us in His Word (the idea behind the Hebrew word "trust" above), is where steadfastness of mind comes from for believers, and that is the basis for our experience of peace. More often than not, when Christians feel adrift, it is because they have nothing solid to hang onto in terms of absolute sure and certain biblical knowledge firmly and resolutely believed.

So now that we have been justified by faith, let us take hold of the peace [we have] with God [the Father] through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:1

The passage above indicates that, while peace belongs to every genuinely born-again Christian as a birthright (cf. Jn.14:27), as with many things that we possess "positionally" by virtue of our salvation, the actual functioning of the asset of peace is not something automatic: "let us take hold of the peace [we have] with God [the Father] through our Lord Jesus Christ". How, then, do we do what Paul encourages us to do here?

As with nearly everything else in the Christian life, the answer is simple (though the process is not necessarily so): find the truth, believe the truth, apply the truth, live the truth, minister the truth. Being believers in Jesus Christ, having accepting Him as the substitute for our sins, we Christians are absolutely secure in our salvation just as long as we maintain our faith in our Lord. If we do not feel that way, it is inevitably because we have not been nourished in the Word following the point of salvation. This is, as mentioned parenthetically above, not necessarily an easy process. For one thing, the Christian in question has to be ready and willing to invest the time, effort and energy necessary to engage in personal Bible reading and study and, very significantly, must find a good source of Bible teaching which is at once substantive rather than superficial and also doctrinally correct and faithful to what the Bible actually does teach and mean. The latter point is becoming an increasingly challenging task in our present Laodicean era (please see the link). Generally speaking, even legitimately Christian churches today are not much interested in paying anything more than lip-service to in-depth study of the scriptures. In the worship service, pop-psychology sermons are the rule; in the "Bible classes", personal opinions, relativism, and non-authoritative "teaching" holds sway. It takes no Th.D. in Theology to understand that such a small volume of "teaching" which is actually bereft of almost all substance (and is often wrong or at least skewed from the truth where there is any "meat" present) cannot produce any meaningful spiritual growth.

Spiritual growth (a main theme in the introductory Peter Series; please see the link) is impossible without Bible-truth, because spiritual growth is accomplished by hearing, believing and applying the truth of the Word of God. Diligent Christians can glean a certain amount of basic truth from reading and studying the Bible on their own (as they most certainly should make a conscientious habit of doing), but there are a whole host of limiting factors not the least of which is in most cases the absence of the appropriate spiritual gift of teaching which make progress beyond a certain point very problematic. Moreover, there is tendency for autodidact-Christians who lack the gift of teaching to doubt things they find on their own even though they are true, but to be emphatic about things they find on their own which they have actually gotten wrong. The Church is a Body wherein each member has to play its role well in order for the whole to flourish. Finding the right source of truth is not an easy task in the best of times, and from that point of view our present day situation is, in accordance with the prophecies about Laodicea, in many ways the worst of times (though by all earthly measures it should have been the best of times). Christians, especially new Christians, must exercise great care before committing their hearts to any new ministry. Most churches care little about genuine spiritual growth (what they mean by the phrase always seems to involve emotion, music, and monetary contribution with precious little else); these are easily evaluated as such and easily excluded from the running. Independent ministries, whether in person or on-line, ones which do take an authoritative tack, are probably ten to one more cult than genuine Bible-teaching ministry (please see the links: in SR 4, "False Teachers and their Essential Characteristics" and "Read Your Bible: Protection against Cults"). Care and discernment should therefore be exercised before leaping headlong into any organization or group, especially those that promise much without being long on the specifics ahead of time.

In contrast, Ichthys is an independent ministry which makes all of its material available free of charge and anonymously available on the internet to all comers. These materials are certainly not everyone's "cup of tea", and I dare say that is impossible to teach the whole realm of biblical doctrine without ruffling any feathers or occasioning disagreement on at least some points, but it is has been my hope that a fair reading of these studies (which are always supported by references, translations, and careful argumentation) will demonstrate that for the most part they are, like the scriptures upon which they are based, "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2Tim.3:16), that is to say, useful for personal spiritual growth.

Apologies for going on so long in this vein, but I feel it important to lay this groundwork in answering your question about how to appropriate Christian peace. That is because all Christian courage, confidence, assurance, surety, direction, encouragement and peace always comes and only comes from faith, faith in the rightness, worth and advantage of doing things "God's way". But how can we have confidence that we are doing it "God's way", how can we have the "steadfast heart" of Isaiah 26:3, if we are unsure about what God's way is? We may read something in the Bible, but we may not be sure we understand correctly what it means. We may hear someone in authority say something along these lines, but we may not have confidence that that person really knows what he is talking about. For this reason, matching up a sound source of teaching, one we have thoroughly investigated, vetted, and tested over time, with belief is the real key to and the mechanism for spiritual growth: we cannot use what we have not genuinely believed (because faith is the doorkeeper that lets truth into our heart), and we cannot believe what we have not heard, and it does us no good to believe things which are not in fact true.

I can attest from many emails from many Christians received over many years that this search for a sound source of Bible teaching has become a daunting one in our day. For that reason, I always advise believers who broach the subject to make finding such a source their top spiritual priority. As I always try to make clear, Ichthys makes no pretension of being the only such ministry (and, indeed, since all of us are different, it is clearly not going to be the right match for many of our brothers and sisters just in the nature of things). But the discovery of a good source and the proper utilization of it once found (i.e., embarking upon a disciplined and consistent program of Bible study supplemented by personal Bible reading and prayer, et al.) is absolutely fundamental for spiritual growth and it is only from spiritual growth that peace and every other positive aspect of the mature Christian walk and life ever comes forth.

For example, we are saved by grace through faith in Christ (Eph.2:8-9). Understanding correctly what that means in great detail and coming to believe the truth of this simple statement so as to have absolute confidence in being safe and secure in our salvation as long as we continue in that faith is a result of believing further truth about the gospel as that truth is correctly taught and explained. The Bible is filled to overflowing with raw material. For it to be beneficial, we have to put it into our hearts by faith; only then does it become usable "capital" for the Spirit who indwells us. We may not know what the value is of each little piece of truth we learn and believe, but over time, if we persevere, these tiny little grains of sand coalesce into building blocks which in turn produce a major edifice of faith. This is what leads to the kind of powerful faith in believers of the ilk of the "hall of fame" in Hebrews chapter eleven.

Now without faith, it is impossible to please [God]. For whoever wishes to draw nearer to God must believe that He exists, and that He will reward those who earnestly seek Him.
Hebrews 11:6

Faith is the key not abstract faith in who knows what, but faith in something, namely, faith in God and faith in His truth. Just as we believed in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the Living Word of God, for our salvation, so after we have become God's children we must continually be putting our faith in the truth of the written Word of God, the totality of what scripture teaches, rightly taught and understood for these are God's words, God's guidance for us. In doing so we will not only have peace, but so much more: we will be empowered to discover the gifts and ministries God has allotted us, and will be able to carry them out so as to earn a bountiful eternal reward, "thirty, sixty and a hundred-fold", a reward, moreover, which will bless us and glorify our dear Lord Jesus forevermore.

There is much to say about all these matters, but I will leave it here for the moment. I encourage you to persevere in your search for the truth always, and pray to God for your peace. On that point and in regard to salvation, I hope you will find the following links useful:

God's Free Gift of Salvation.

God's Free Gift.

Is Water Baptism Necessary for Following Jesus?

Assurance of Salvation

Faith: What is it?

Free Will Faith and the Plan of God

The Plan of God and Individual Salvation

Please feel free to write back any time about any of this.

In the Name of our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob Luginbill

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