Wednesday, March 20, 2019

“Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 2) (March 20, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 2)

(Mar. 20, 2019)


          You have probably sang the Christian song that goes “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  The meaning behind that chorus is that the fruit produced by being a “true” Christian/believer is love.  Christians bear good fruit, whereas pretenders either produce bad fruit or are simply barren.  True believers differ in significant ways from false teachers who try and catch the latest wave or are blown about by every wind of doctrine.  Sadly, in this day and time, many preachers with substantial platforms have succumbed to the spirit of the age and have compromised on many key issues where the Bible is clear.

          It would be impossible to try and cover all the types and specific examples of false teachers in our age.  We could study them and critique them one by one, but there is not tremendous value in doing so.  When people who handle money are taught how to spot counterfeit money, they do not try to learn about every possible type/way of counterfeiting.  Instead they study very closely the real thing – real money!  They know it inside and out.  That is what leads them to not get taken easily.  If you have been a believer for any length of time, you should not have to wonder if a certain preacher/teacher is a false preacher/teacher or not.  But, sadly many are being manipulated and fooled.

         What are false teachers?  Where do we draw the line?  Are Methodists, Presbyterians, Nazarenes, and others false teachers because, perhaps we as Baptist see things differently?  We can vary on numerous points and it is ok.  Maybe they are wrong.  Maybe we are wrong.  The false teachers discussed in the New Testament go well beyond the majority of mere “denominational” differences.  These would deny, to greater and lesser degrees, such fundamentals as the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the literal bodily Resurrection of Christ, the literal bodily return of Christ, salvation by faith in Christ alone (not universalism), etc.  Today it most certainly would include those who advocate wrong, unbiblical positions regarding practices such as same-sex marriage, practice of homosexuality, advocate abortion, allow sex outside of marriage, etc.  Teaching a “this worldly” approach to Christianity such as the “name it and claim it” or “health and wealth” (prosperity gospel) which paints a false picture of the Gospel.  In fact, it is more than misleading; it is another “gospel” entirely.  Sadly, it can also include silence where raising a voice is called for.  One prominent preacher at a very large Houston church said in an interview that he just did not like to mention “sin” because people have enough bad stuff and negativity going on in their lives and they know what sin is.  There was just no need for him to talk about it.  He believed his job was to help people feel good about themselves. 

          We see plenty of examples of television preachers flaunting their wealth with luxury cars, multi-million dollar homes, gold fixtures in the bathroom, their own private jets, air-conditioned dog houses, extravagant jewelry, expensive tailor-made suits, and on and on.  What are they teaching when they live this way?  They are conveying that their living that way is more important than missions, the homeless, the poor, the diseased, the oppressed, the suffering, and much more.  Would Jesus really live that way if He were to come back today? Ten million dollars will purchase one jet plane for a televangelist or could do extraordinary amounts of evangelistic work in the hands of missionaries.  Commentator Douglas Sean O’Donnell writes “To contemporize our Lord’s teaching, it’s as if Jesus says, ‘I teach self-denial; they teach look great, feel great.  I teach the dangers of materialism; they teach live your best life now.  I teach that there is only one way to God; they teach love wins – that the wideness of God’s mercy is so wide that everyone is eventually included in his kingdom.  I teach humility and dependence upon God; they teach if it’s to be, it’s up to me.’” (Douglas Sean O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth; PTWC; 198)

          A tree is known by its fruit.  When I was growing up, we would not say, “that tree out by the barn,” we would say “The walnut tree.”  We would not say, “those trees at the end of the garden,” we would instead say “The peach trees and the apple trees.”  Many can deceive for a time/season but eventually, it becomes known that they are by what kind of fruit they are producing.  In Matthew 7:18 Jesus says “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”  A prophet’s fruit includes both words and deeds.  True prophets teach doctrine that is sound and live holy lives.  False prophets may have great speaking skills and social graces but their doctrine and their ethics are gravely flawed.

          During his long reign of terror, Saddam Hussein claimed to be a bold fighter and brilliant leader.  But his deeds and words when he was captured revealed who and what he really was.  He had a loaded pistol at his side, but chose not to fight.  Instead he showed his cowardice.  He said, “I am willing to negotiate” when he was captured, as if he was in a position to bargain!  His words showed that he was vain and deluded not brilliant.  Every tree, Jesus says that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire, signifying punishment for the false teachers who bear bad fruit.  By the fruit they produce, you will know them.  Some will say, I know this person is a good teacher because look at how many followers they have; listeners they have; books they sell; some may say “I personally know people they have helped.”  We should never judge by that standard.  Only God’s Word can be the standard.  You can justify almost anything if you follow the numbers, or find people who like something, or think they have benefitted from something.

          God’s Word is “living and powerful” and it conveys God’s agenda for this world.  It needs no mixture of selfishness, individualism, or worldly-oriented false teachers with their lies, self-promotions, and distortions.  What we need now is what we have always needed –Truth!  By a person’s fruit, you will know them.


In Christ,

Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Thursday, March 14, 2019

“Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 1) (March 14, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 1)

(Mar. 14, 2019)


          Chuck Swindoll tells the story of the time one of his friends was tricked into eating dog food while attending a dinner party at the elegant home of a physician.  The dog food was served on delicate little crackers with a wedge of imported cheese, bacon bits, and an olive, topped with a sliver of pimento (hors d’oeuvres a la Alpo!).  This prank was pulled off by someone who had just graduated from a gourmet cooking course and decided she would put her skills to the ultimate test.  After doctoring up the food, she placed them on a silver tray and served them and one by one watched them disappear.  Swindoll’s friend said, he could just not get enough of them and kept going back for more.  Evidently everyone there had a good sense of humor, because when she admitted what she had done later, they all had a good laugh!  This true story is the perfect illustration of what goes on in the realm of religious deception.  Every day there are phony preachers, and other “professional” Christians that are marketing their wares and serving their hors d’oeuvres on silver platters to the undiscerning who are being fooled.  If it looks fancy enough, is served the right way, and looks appetizing, a certain number of people will always think it is good.

          In the Old Testament, there are multiple warnings about false prophets.  There were strict tests/criteria for a true prophet (Deut. 13:1-11; 18:20-22).  In the New Testament the Apostles give many warnings about false teachers.  You see it in nearly every book of the New Testament.  In the case of Jude, for instance, the whole book is dedicated to refuting false/deceiving teachers.  Jesus Himself also warned strictly about false teaching and teachers.  False teaching and false teachers running amok is one of the distinguishing characteristics of the last days according to Matthew 24.  Jesus had nothing kind to say about them, only the strongest words of condemnation.  In Matthew 7:15-20 He says “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

          In verse 15 of Matthew 7 Jesus teaches that false teachers can be known by the cloths they wear.  They are wolves dressed as sheep.  When we see a sign that says “Beware” we hopefully take notice.  Jesus says “Beware of false prophets!”  A false prophet does not simply make a mistake in his teaching; everyone makes mistakes.  The difference with false prophets is that they make mistakes in the fundamentals.  They misrepresent God himself.  They misrepresent the Gospel.  They deny God’s message and his messengers, and they resist correction.  They disguise themselves in an attempt to be less obvious.  Jesus tells us they come to you dressed as sheep; appearing as sheep, but are actually ravenous wolves.  In biblical times there was no greater threat to sheep than wolves.  They would utterly devour sheep.  Sheep are basically defenseless animals and a wolf could devour them in nothing flat!  The only thing that stood in the way was the Shepherd whose job was to protect the sheep from the wolves.  If the shepherd did not do his job, the sheep were left highly vulnerable.

          On the outside, these false prophets claim to be part of the flock of God, but on the inside they are ravenous wolves.  Picture a hungry, slobbering, growling wolf.  This is what Jesus uses to describe these false teachers.  It is quite a picture!  Commentator Daniel Doriani writes “To complete their disguise, they use biblical language even while they distort its meaning.  They recite creeds, but reinterpret their meaning.  They also have credentials – graduate degrees and ordination certificates.” (Daniel M. Doriani; The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of the Kingdom; 213)  Believers (sheep) need to be careful, watchful, and discerning knowing there are plenty of false teachers filling pulpits, writing books, coming over the airwaves, and streaming on the computer; but we should be familiar enough with our Bibles to know when major doctrines are twisted, changed, or ignored.  Furthermore, we should know when these false teachers add to the teachings of what the Bible says.  In these last days it is more important than ever to be on guard, be discerning, and be ready!


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

“Two Paths to Follow” (Pt. 2) (March 6, 2019)

Allen Raynor Weblog: “Two Paths to Follow” (Pt. 2)

(Mar. 6, 2019)


          Christians are often called “narrow minded” these days for holding to a belief that the path to salvation is limited rather than inclusive or broad.  The reason the world is attracted to the broadness is that they do not wish to be told their way is wrong; that the way of someone they love is wrong; or that even total strangers, in some cases, are wrong.  These days it is not unusual to hear someone say something to the effect of “Well, my god would/would not do . . .” Perhaps their “god” is ok with whatever they seek to justify; however true and absolute justification does not come from one’s own mind, heart, ideas, or philosophies but rather from the one true and living God. The one true God has revealed Himself to mankind through His written Word - the Bible.

          The English word “narrow” comes to us from (stenos) in the original Greek language of the New Testament and carries the meaning of  “groaning” or “to groan” as from being under pressure.  It is the word from which we derive our word “stenography” which refers to writing that is abbreviated or compressed.  “Narrowness” or “Narrow-mindedness” is seen “selectively” as a bad thing in our culture.  People insist on “many” paths to certain things – such as God; they are however fine with “narrowness” in a great many other areas.  Commentator Douglas O’Donnell writes “We are all opposed to narrow-mindedness but we are not as opposed to exclusivity as we might at first think.  For example, no one is opposed to a supermarket or restaurant – a place where food is handled and sold and consumed – having an exclusive sign on the front glass that reads, ‘No shoes, no shirt, no service.’  No one is opposed to the Spanish Club at your local high school being comprised only of members who have an interest in and a basic knowledge of the Spanish language.  No one is opposed to Woman’s Workout World having a policy that men are not allowed to work out there.  And nobody thinks that if there is only one vaccine that will cure polio, that is too narrow, that we should be able to take whatever drug we want to cure polio.” (Douglas O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and Earth; PTWC; 195)

          Beyond simply “narrowness” some believe it is “unjust” for there to be only “one way” to God (through Jesus Christ).  Scripture is abundantly clear on this issue; for instance in John 14:6 Jesus says, exclusively “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  In Acts 4, Peter is preaching before the Sanhedrin.  Verse 8 tells us he was filled with the Holy Spirit as he spoke.  He then says in verse 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)  In Matthew 18 the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him “Who then is the greatest in the  Kingdom of Heaven?”  In response to that question, in verse 3 He says “Assuredly I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mat. 18:3)  Is Jesus too narrow and/or exclusive?  Many certainly think so!  Interestingly, and quite ironically, there is a prevailing belief that many, or perhaps almost all, paths lead to God except for the one God actually tells us that leads to Him!  This is what philosophers call an “absurdity” when trying to follow a track of reasoning that simply makes no sense.  It is such a strange position you can hardly believe anyone would hold it; however, it is prevalent.  Sadly, this position often does not go much deeper than the surface. 

          Where do the questions leveled against the exclusivity of the Gospel and Jesus’ requirements really come from?  Are they from a genuine and humble desire to locate the truth; or are they merely attempts at self-justification?  O’Donnell goes on to write “We would not question the justice and goodness of the scientist who found the one cure for the Great Plague.  So why do we question God when he has provided only one cure for our Great Plague [sin]?  Thus the question ‘why so narrow?’ is a question of ingratitude and insubordination.  It is as contemptible as putting Sir Alexander Fleming on trial for only giving us penicillin.  Therefore in this courtroom I throw out this case against God.  Instead I do what God does here in his Word.  He puts us on trial. We must stand before him and give an account to our choices.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth; 195)

          When you think about it, Jesus has done a wonderful thing by making it so straightforward.  He is saying, in effect, this is it!  In John 10:9 Jesus said “I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved . . .”  All people are told they must enter by that narrow way if they will come inside.  Jesus gives true rest to all those who find Him.  In Mat. 11:28-30 we read His words “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”  Why would anyone be resistant to such an offer?  We are told the answer to this perplexing question in John 3:19-20 “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” Sinful man creates his own confusion and ambiguity when it comes to salvation.  He actually finds self-affirmation for his sinfulness in the self-made murkiness.  When you stir up crystal clear water it becomes hazy.  That is precisely what some in our day are doing.  Through it all, Jesus’ Words are clear “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Mat. 7:13-14)


In Christ,


Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor