I was sitting in the town library the other day looking at the Church's homepage Guestbook and my eyes alighted on one of the newer entries. The writer said that he was an expert on the cults and that over the years he had discovered 25 claiming to be the "one and only true church" but realised he was in error, for having seen our homepage at NCCG.ORG he realised that there were 26! Admittedly, it's not nice being told that you belong to a "cult", though it's particlarly unpleasant when you aren't told what your supposed sins are. Actually, I do not blame the man. As Christians we are supposed to check and double-check to make sure that what we are teaching and practicing agrees with the Word of God, the Bible. Our critic was, I am sure, perfectly sincere and was only trying to be faithful to the scriptural injunctions. [He later apologised and said that he had jumped to a premature conclusion, for he had not studied our site properly].
I have met many such people like him over the years though most of them were considerably ruder and added as a caveat that I was hell-bound. In each and every case I answer the critics along these lines: "Yes, maybe we are wrong and stand in need of correction. Maybe we are leading thousands of souls astray, as you accuse us of doing. I guess you must love my soul enough (and those whom we are leading astray) to show such concern so I invite you to tutor me from the Scriptures. If what you say is biblical, we will repent and agree with you. If it isn't, we will rebuke you and continue on our own way. As a sign of our sincerity, we offer you free space on our homepage to present your views, rebuttals, and to say whatever you wish, and we will enter into a public dialogue."
In almost every case we never hear from such accusers again. One or two do respond, but launch such bitter attacks bristling with invective and rudeness that discussion is all but impossible. They simply won't "dialogue" - they are there only to be heard and not to listen. In the end we just give up on such in exasperation. But there are occasionally, though very rarely, others of a more spiritual disposition whom we listen to very carefully.
Over the years many have shown us errors here and there and we have not been slow to respond by changing. Indeed, over the space of two short years we have changed the day we worship on, adopted the biblical holy days, and follow the biblical dietary code. All of these were major changes for us. In the case of our change from Sunday worship to Sabbath worship, a very kind and patient man in the United States sent us some materials at his own expense and invited us to prayerfully consider them. Though we had certainly been primed on this subject before, it was he who gently led us over the hump of decision.
I really don't think anybody can be expected to do much more than this. If a person is convinced that he has the truth and is truly filled with the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) then he will present his case in a spiritual way. He will sit down patiently as Philip did with the Ethiopian and in a non-combattative way explain what the scriptures mean. And if the one he is addressing is God-fearing and God-loving, then he will sit down like the Bereans and carefully search the scriptures to see if his tutor is really teaching God's Word.
Paul warns us in the passage cited from 2 Corinthians today that we may be misled in three principal areas. First, we may have presented to us a "Jesus" (Yah'shua) who is very different Messiah from the one we read about in the New Testament. His personality, manner of speech, and teachings may sharply contrast with the true Saviour. Yahweh - the Name of God - literally translates as "I am what I am", and His Son, Yah'shua (Jesus), literally translates as, "I am what I am saves". In other words, only the true Yah'shua (Jesus) saves - the true personality, the true teachings of, the true being: what makes Yah'shua (Jesus) the Saviour of souls is everything about Him.
Two people can preach the same message but do so in very different tones. One can be cold and threatening, and the other warm and caring. One may embrace everybody no matter who they are or what they do and simply "accept" their lifestyles whereas the other may call a spade a spade and say that certain sinful lifestyles are not acceptable in God's eyes. Both the living Christ and the one proclaiming the living Christ possess a certain spirit, which brings us to the second area.
To be a Christian it is not enough to have the right teachings and do the right things if one does not possess the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). Paul said, "...if you receive a different spirit..." I have been into the meetings of some churches, heard the New Testament preached, but shivvered inside because I sensed a false spirit. We must remember that Satan is quite capable of standing up in the pulpit and preaching a scripturally sound sermon. I know for a fact that there are satanist infiltrators in local churches who work their way up to positions of leadership who are doctrinally correct. But once they reach their target - the pastorship, or youth leader, for example - they start changing the emphasis. It's then that they may start preaching a false gospel, which is Paul's third area of warning. And yet, whilst heading for that place of influence, they are preaching orthodoxy. Only the spiritually discerning will sense that the spirit is wrong.
So we come to the third area. Paul said: "...if you receive...a gospel different from what you accepted...". In this case the heretics heard the authentic apostolic message but then deviated from it. Sadly, today, people are hearing deviant gospel messages from the word go. What, then, shall we do?
I suggest the correct path is to take these three principles in reverse. We must first check to ensure that what we believe, teach and practice is what is written in our Bibles, even if at first our motives may not be pure. One has to start somewhere, and starting with recorded Truth is by far the safest. If, having accepted the "orthodox line" of Scripture we find we are repelled by it, then we need to work on our spirit by asking: "What spirit is it that is within me? Why am I repelled by, or indifferent to, what I read and accept as scripture?" Such a line of questioning will be very revealing. The honest soul will begin to take a very careful look at himself in the mirror. The dishonest one will ignore what the Scriptures say and simply "follow the spirit", assuming - quite wrongly and fatally - that the "spirit" is the "Holy Spirit". It is here, sadly, that so many Christians are dashed against the rocks of heresy and apostacy.
The Corinthian Church of Paul's day is not at all unlike the Christian Church of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Because we live in a post-Christian society, most converts to Christ are coming from a hedonistic, semi-pagan background, just as the Corinthians did. The Gospel is accepted only on a superficial level and the old pagan "spirit" remains very much intact. This is reflected not only in the type of "Christianity" that we see today but also in the mass defections back to paganism we hear about. In a report on the missionary activities of protestant churches in the South American country of Bolivia in the Norwegian Lutheran missionary newspaper, Utsyn (No.29, 24 September 2000, p.8), Asle Jössang writes that seven out of ten new converts rapidly fall away again. That's a 70% loss of new converts. The problems confronting these converts (mostly of Amerindian origin) is that whilst they are willing to accept Christ they are not willing to forsake their old pagan ways. It was the same problem faced by the Catholics - the locals simply combined Catholicism with their paganism. Unlike the Protestants, though, the Catholics were simply glad to have more followers for the Pope, and so the Protestants experience greater losses.
The response to Christ in the West is little different. Today Westerners are willing to accept Christ in quite large numbers provided they may continue in their hedonistic ways. Most churches, for whatever reasons, do not disciple their converts further and they are left with a superficial gospel which in truth is a mixture of Christianity and hedonism. The social habits of the converted change little and they slowly (some more quickly) revert back to worldly ways. The fact of the matter is that Biblical Christianity is not popular with our hedonistic neo-pagan Western ways. So what has happened? New gospels have appeared to accommodate Western tastes! They admit rock music (one of Satan's most powerful tools) and focus on things like making money and being prosperous. To substitute for the true Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which rapidly departs, they offer various fleshy entertainments like speaking in tongues, laughing, falling to the ground, and wild emotional outbursts. The feelings generated by loud rock music, unusual spiritual manifestations like gold dust appearing on skin, wild prophecies (which are hardly ever fulfilled), and so forth, are interpreted as being of the "spirit". Today the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is being given credit for alot of the out-of-the-normal carnal and demonic manifestations. But it all started when deceived Christians starting confusing human feelings with "the spirit".
Needless to say the "biblical orthodoxy" of groups where this sort of thing is taking place is highly dubious indeed. Not only is the Holy Spirit being confused with fleshy feelings, but false gospels and false Jesus' are appearing too. Today there is a vast charismatic movement which is to all intents and purposes preaching "another Jesus", administering "another spirit", and teaching "another gospel".
It is very easy to point out their errors in the Scriptures because they are glaring, but once people place an emphasis on "the spirit" more than they do on the Word, it doesn't matter what you show them in the Bible. They've "experienced" it, so it must be true....just as the Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses claim.
Quite frankly I don't care if people call me a "cultist" because I know in what I am trusting. My own reputation is no longer of any consequence to me, and I believe our members feel exactly the same when our Church as a whole is accused of being deviant. I am not trying to defend myself or my Church because we are in constant change. We're not stuck in a doctrinal rut as most of the bigger denominations are. The only thing that really concerns us is the truth.
In the 10th and 11th chapters of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul talks alot about boasting. The false Corinthian teachers of his day went about boasting how great they were and how wonderful the experiences they were having were, and so on. They were a "high profile" people to be sure. Their false "Jesus", "spirit", and "gospel" eventually collapsed so that by the time of the early sub-apostolic era they had setled down and matured. We don't know what led to the formation of what became a model congregation but my guess is they got tired of all the carnal "highs". The false stuff just doesn't minister to your spirit and you start expriencing the pangs of a spiritual famine for the true Word. And I suspect that is how the current wave of charismatic wind will come to an end - at least for the honest amongst its present adherents.
There are two ways that people can deal with false teachings: They can either face the truth of what the Scriptures teach and repent (change direction), or they can simply let it burn them out and come begging once they start to starve as the Prodigal Son did. Sadly, the majority are like the Prodigal Son. They want to go and taste the false fruit and "find out for themselves" instead of simply trusting the Lord by being obedient to the Word. The motto of our hedonistic generation seems to be, "Try it out!" And so religion is treated as a consumer product along with everything else, including sex and marriage. In this regard the moderns are no different from the ancient Corinthians and indeed the pagan culture of that day generally throughout the Roman Empire.
The modern Christian Church is indeed so radicaly different from the New Testament one that at times it is amazing to find that they have anything in common with it at all, except for a common terminology. The words are there but the spirit is so utterly alien. Actually, I find myself more tolerant of doctrinal deviancy than I am of a false spirit because so long as a person has a genuine love of Christ and possesses the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), their way of looking at doctrine will change by itself. More dangerous is the man who possesses a false spirit and an impeccable doctrine for he will more likely lead himself and others astray. There is indeed a real question in my mind as to whether 100% doctrinal "orthodoxy" is possible in these dark corridors of mortality where the interplay of the light of truth and error are apt to play tricks on one's eyes. Firework displays at night may be very nice to look at but they soon end and we must return to our daily work the next day. Most churches it seems to me these days are but places of entertainment with pupeteer pastors and evangelists putting on spiritual firework displays in order to lead the people along on their strings.
There's another group of "Christians" who don't like to hear this sort of talk but who do at least make little or no pretense about beliving in the Bible, and they are the liberals. Unlike the charismatics who start with their feelings, the liberals have invented their own gospel based on those parts of the Bible which they like. The ultimate authority of the Word is not of interest to them. Take Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former Chairman of the South African Council of Churches, who said that if he ever discovered evidence in the Scriptures which supported Apartheid that he would burn his Bible. Irrespective of what one may think of Apartheid (for that is not the issue I am raising here), we see only too clearly that for many of the Christian leaders in the world, and especially those who are of a liberal persuasion, the issues which interest them are politics more than what the Word of God has to say. Any person who declares that he would burn his Bible if he found something that contradicted a cherished and passionately-held belief is not, in my book, a Bible-believing Christian at all. Indeed, I would say he was along the path that leads to Atheism, for his God is in truth himself.
There are many who critise us at NCCG for being "unloving" in our critisicm of false teachings and who love to quote Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, they ye be not judged", but forget the salutory lesson in Matthew 18:25-35 wherein can be found the parable of the servant who owed 10,000 talents and who was owed 100 pence. There is no doubt that if you haul up a man before the judges you lay yourself open to the most searching investigation, and your antagonist will have ample opportunity for attempting to clear his name by besmirching yours. Be that as it may, the man who detects an incorrect argument or statement in another has before him the choice of two evils - either to correct that statement and run the risk of being judged himself, or to leave be and to allow his kin and countrymen to be misled by the incorrect statements. So it seems to me that what Yah'shua (Jesus) is saying here is this: don't judge unless you are yourself willing to be put under the seachlight of truth.
That said, we must remember that there is a scriptural injunction to expose all falseness. Paul said: "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them" (Eph.5:11, NIV). We are commanded to do it. In the light of Matthew 7:1 with which we must harmonise any other scriptures, it is clear that the Christian is to expose all falseness whilst paying particular attention to both extirpating it in himself as well as being willing to allow others to do it to him. That is why I say we must be willing to allow others to point out our faults at the same time as we expose the darkness in the churches. If we are willing to do that, then Matthew 7:1 cannot condemn us, because our motive is always repentance ourselves.
I must here add a footnote so that we don't get the idea that we can go around judging everything. We are not, for example, to go around and tell someone that he is going to hell, for we don't know that. We are not God and cannot judge. We may warn a person that in all likelihood that this is his final destination if, as a self-confessed Christian, he delights in spurning the Word of God, but we cannot be absolutely sure, because we do not know the thoughts and intents of any man's heart as Yahweh does. This wouold then be my underastanding of the warning in 1 Corinthians 4:5 where Paul warns about not judging anything "before the appointed time" (NIV). "(The Lord) will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts". Of course, the Lord may do such exposing through His ministers, and especially the prophets (1 Cor.14:24-25). Ultimately, it is not the courts of men that matter anyway, but the Court of Heaven (1 Cor.4:3).
To be a Christian judge a man must put aside all prejudice and let the Word of God be the arbiter of truth and orthodoxy. "Orthodoxy" does not belong to a denomination (like the Baptists) or to a movement (like Evangelical Protestantism or Eastern Orthodoxy) but to each individual who lives by the Word. Thus the battle-line between two opposing Christian sides must be drawn strictly in accordance with God's words, and not the traditions of men. The Word must be the vital, essential prior and stay of all our argument. It is the task of all of us to ascertain, enunciate and practice the principles that Yahweh has put forward. "What does Yahweh require of us?" is the touchstone of all our actions, decisions and arguments. The cry "how do men interpret the urgings of the Holy Spirit" is not going to help the argument. How many times have I heard a charismatic tell me, "The Spirit has told me such and such" when "such and such" contradicts the Word of God! We cannot live our faith in such a way. True, we must follow the promptings of the Spirit in our own lives and test all such unseen impulses against the Word, but do we have the right to dictate such a subjective impression to someone else, however sincerely we may believe such an impression to be of God? I say no - every man must find out for himself, and test everything against the Word. And tradition be blowed (Mt.15:6; Col.2:8), unless it is the apostolic tradition of the Scriptures.
No wonder the Scriptures warn again and again to be on the alert against false prophets and apostles for "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" (2 Cor.11:14, RBV).
Our modern hedonistic Christian loves a charismatic peacher, or spiritually-dead intellectuals who can wrap their minds up in high-sounding words. There are plenty of them. They want someone to fill them with awe and give them some dramatic signs. But they hate heavy written things like this article. A pity they never met Paul. "For, '(Paul's) letters,' they say, 'are weighty and forceful, but his physical presence is insignificant and his speech is contemptible" (2 Cor.10:10, RBV)!
I've said here that I believe having the right spirit is probably the most critical of all, and I'm convinced it is. There are plenty of ministers out there with the right "credentials" - a good education at a Bible School (denominationally-orientated, of course), who alone have legalistic authority to say whatever they want (the Mormons and Catholics), the sole channel to heaven (the Jehovah's Witnesses), who have a charismatic gift like "tongues" to prove they are born again and are always therefore in the Spirit (Pentecostals), and who once saved are always saved, even if they should become Satanists and subsequently deny Christ (Baptists). All are able to muster convincing sets of Scripture though predictably ignoring those they don't like by saying, for example, things like "that was for then, not now". And now there is a spirit of tolerance and ecumencism for the sake of "peace" even within the evangelical Christian movement. Now the Gospel is being waterned down more and more so that "everyone" can agree.
No, this is absolutely not right. "..the weapons of our warfare are not physical, but they are powerful with God's help for the tearing down of fortresses, inasmuch as we tear down reasonings and every proud barrier that is raised up against the knowledge of God and lead every thought into subjection to Christ" (2 Cor.10:4-5, RBV). I can just hear the howls amongst certain claimants to the name of Christ! Did you hear what the apostle said? We are to tear down false reasonings and barriers of pride. But they won't do it, will they, these hedonist Christians, because it is their reasoning and their pride which stands to be torn off. I can hear them crying, "Don't be so judgmental!" and "Oh, you're so unloving!". Yes, I can hear them alright but I can truthfully say to them: "Feel free to do the same to me!" And why don't they want to be exposed? Because "we are prepared also to punish all disobedience, when your obedience is fully expressed" (v.6).
The trouble is, since they have rejected apostolic authority saying, "oh, apostles were for that time, not ours", there aren't any apostles to punish them. And even if they were, they wouldn't recognise their authority. Most of the pastors won't do anything because they are under democratic control of their congregations and could lose salary and job. The Kingdom of God isn't democratic, brethren, it's apostolic! So the pastors appease their congregations so as to keep their jobs. Few are willing to be thrown out of their churches because they have made their stand on the Truth and not the vote of the Church Board.
If we at NCCG come with an apostolic mandate - which we do - you can be sure few will hear us. As in Paul's day, the true apostles are judged by "false apostles, deceptive workers, wearing the masks of apostles of Christ" (2 Cor.11:13) whom he sarcastically dismisses as "eminent apostles" (v.5, RBV). False pastors excommunicate and disfellowship members who are true, as with Diotrephes (3 John). These are signs of the times.
I stand today as an apostolic witness against all this falsehood masquerading as the truth. I belong to a tiny fellowship, so small that it merits the label "sect". Yes, I belong to a sect. I am a sectarian for the Truth. It's the Nazarene Sect (Ac.24:5,14) because we follow the Nazarene, Yah'shua the Messiah (Jesus Christ). And if you don't belong to this sect, woe unto you! There is no salvation outside it.
This sect is not, I hasten to add, the New Covenant Church of God (NCCG), an accusation levelled against us all the time. The Nazarene Sect is the true apostolic Body of Christ wherever it may be. It's members - true born-again Christians - are presently scattered in the denominations and outside them. They are our modern diaspora, the homeless without a true home. NCCG is but one gathering place for these souls...for now. Here you will find the no-nonsense apostolic doctrine taught and practiced, and without apology. Here we unapologetically tear down all falsehood and expect to be scrutinised and tested ourselves. We have no hidden agenda, no Golden Calves to protect. It's been a lonely position to take, but we do not regret it. We don't think you will either if you come and join with us.