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Missional Myopia
In Defense of the Faith
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Wendy Wippel

Today's Christian buzzword: the "missional" church.  What's the mission?  Well, depends what church you ask: ''Administering sacraments''.  ''Confronting injustice''.  ''Making disciples''.  ''Alleviating suffering''.  ''Caring for creation''.  ''Preaching the Gospel.''  All straight off their mission statements, but unanimously missing one clearly laid out in Scripture.  And a pretty fundamental one at that.

Jesus Himself taught it:

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:15 NIV)

Note that Jesus calls these men "false prophets".  Meaning, ostensibly, that they speak the Lord's words when the Lord hasn't really spoken to themHe went on to warn us that:

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven."

That's the context for that verse.

Paul, in contrast, gives us the apostles' credentials as a faithful messenger of God's truth. He laid it on the Thessalonians in their second letter:

"We speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel." (I Thess 2:4) 

And, obeying the injunction given to the apostles by  the Lord Himself to,"make disciples of all the nations" and teach "them to observe all things that I have commanded you", Paul passed on to his followers the responsibility of preserving the truth revealed in the Scriptures for future generations. And they passed it to their followers, and they to theirs, all the way down to us. 

And this is what Paul taught:

  • Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. (II Tim 2:15-16)
  • Test everything. Hold on to the good. (I Thess 5:21)
  • Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
  • That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.. (II Tim 1:13-14)
  •  you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you learned them. (I Tim 3:14) 

In summary, know the Scriptures for yourself and protect the truth therein from  corruption. 

Which makes you wonder why Paul made this point such a priority.

He 'splained that too:

"For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." (I Cor 11:13-15)

Those false prophets are not just well-intentioned fools.  Their missional statement comes from hell.  And we see Hell's methodology in Satan's actions on earth.

Exhibit A: the Garden of Eden. The wily serpent slithers up and asks Eve this question:

“Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"

Hopefully we all know the answer to that one.  God had indeed not said that.  And Eve, to her credit, doesn't fall for it either, but faithfully relays what God actually said:

"We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;  but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it."

Satan tried to twist God's words.  (He didn't fool Eve on the technicality, but as it turned out, he didn't have to.)

We see him work, again, tempting Jesus.

"Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,  and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up,  Lest you dash your foot against a stone."

But had God indeed said that?  Not exactly. What God said, exactly was that when a man makes the Lord his refuge and trusts in Him (kind of the exact opposite of selling out to the devil)

"He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways…. Lest you dash your foot against a stone." (Psalm 91:11)

The devil, again, twisting God's words.

And that's his mission: to pervert the truth in men's understanding.  To twist God's words into something grotesquely different from its original meaning.  And it hasn't changed since Eve believed him the second time, when he twisted God's promise that eating from the tree would cause them to die.  

And here’s what is critical to understand:  the devil's game plan is the same for us, but we're not going to be in a literal face-off with Satan in the desert, and we're not going to hear our garden snakes talk.  Fortunately, however, both Jesus and Paul warned us how we'll hear Satan, and it's a shocker:

We'll hear him speak through our pastor's mouth.  And our small group leader's mouth.  And our bestselling Christian authors' and speakers' mouths (and pens.):

“For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (II Timothy 4:3-4)

"Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears." (Acts 20:28-31)

"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer ...They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm…Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (I Timothy 1:13-15)

"But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit." (Jude 17-19)

Straight from God's mouth.  I'm just the messenger.

It's interesting that Paul declared he had been entrusted with the Gospel in the letter to the Thessalonians.  Thessalonica, the the largest city in the province, was a bustling seaport and center of commerce.  The church in Thessalonika, made up of both Jews and Christians, welcomed Paul's preaching, and, within three weeks, many had gotten saved. (Acts 17:4)

A faction of Jewish rabble-rousers, however, made trouble, and Paul and Silas, for their own safety, were dispatched, under cover of darkness, to Berea.

In Berea, Paul's preaching was again, like Thessalonika, eagerly accepted.  But with one difference.  The Bereans held everything Paul taught up to the truth revealed in Scripture. And it was in Berea that Paul made the observation that,

"the Bereans were, more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11)

And if you have to double-check Paul…?

God warned us, and He told us what to do about it:

"Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us." (II Timothy 1:13-14)

Funny.  Not a word about reimagining, emerging, rethinking or a new kind of church.  Just hold on and carry on.

Funny.  Thessalonians 1 is basically considered to be eschatological; every chapter the book ends with a reference to the second coming.  And the eschatological progression of church history, revealed in Revelation 2 and 3, ends with the church in Laodicea, a church in which Jesus is outside, His message to the church that if someone hears Him and opens the door, He'll come in.

And when you look around, that doesn't seem so all that far-fetched.

Exhibit A: The Shack, a book that clearly holds out a different gospel (i.e, God is love and won't send anyone to hell), but nevertheless sold millions of copies out of Christian book stores.  And I couldn't count the number of Christian friends who have acknowledged that, but still endorse it.

Which kinds of makes more sense of Luke 18:

"When the son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

We need to learn to repeat after Jesus: It is written:

"even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!"

It is written:

"Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him."

Don't bring him into your house. (That would include "Christian" radio, TV, and books, wouldn't it? ) And here’s why:

"Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work." (II John 9)

A couple in London recently started an atheist church, a church without the uncomfortable talk about sin and the pesky need for repentance and reconciliation.  Their "Sunday Gatherings" in just a few weeks, have exploded, with new groups already planted in the U.S.  A church without the Gospel, the power of God for salvation, they sing Beatles songs, talk, drink coffee and volunteer for causes centering poverty, ecology, and social justice. 

When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?  I'm not sure He'll find any difference.

About Wendy Wippel

Last week: A Matter of Life and Death

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