This topic deserves more time than I will give it, but I’ve already started typing and am legally bound to continue… 🙂
I received a letter from a church member in Trinidad today, in which he enclosed some pamphlets detailing the false prophecies that are currently being taught by some in his country. (No, the world will not end on that date in 2011, Pamphlet People!) I appreciate his concern, and there is false information everywhere to be sure.
What was fascinating in the pamphlets is how many biblical stretches the authors of the pamphlets make to “prove” their point. Absolutely unbelievable stretches, yet clearly they believe them with zeal and passion. And I am sure that if you showed them their error, many of them would simply smile and say you are simply ignoring the Scriptures — as obvious as it may be to you that the reverse is true.
While their positions were absolutely loony, I must say that I was reminded of several that I know of — individuals who had been associated with the Church for some time but who are no longer, having left the Living Church of God (or some other COG incarnation through the years) to form what I call the “Me Church of God.” Yes, the MCG — the one organization guaranteed to teach all doctrine and prophecy exactly how you would like it taught! And that fascination with one’s own ideas is one of the surest routes to heresy that I know of.
I know several people who belong to the “Me Church of God” — not that they belong to the same MCG, since they are all generally different from the others (hence “Me” instead of “Us”), though some of them are loosely aligned. What do they have in common? A spirit of Judges 21:25 — everyone doing what is right in his own eyes.
Oh, they say what they preach and teach is biblical — that they have “proven” it, all of it, of course! — and yet it is amazing how blind they are to what others are able to see so clearly. Jesus Christ teaches us, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21), and those who have formed their own MCG have invested much “treasure” in their personal doctrines in the form of time, energy, and devotion. And the more they invest in those private doctrines, the more they find it impossible to believe they could possibly be wrong.
Fascinating, then, that Jesus Christ and God the Father purposefully designed the Church — the Body of Christ — so that this should be impossible. Read Ephesians 4:11-16. Did God structure the church in such a specific manner and with such offices and gifts for no reason? Read in Acts 14 & 15 how those who passionately believed that the Gentiles in the Church did not need to be physically circumcised appealed to that very structure to determine the biblical truth of the matter rather than taking it into their own hands to determine doctrine and form the “Circumcision Church of God.” Of course, some did form such a “church within the church” over circumcision, and their activities continually vexed Paul from place to place. And their “entrepreneurial spirit” is alive and well today, in an era in which so many refuse to identify and defer to any godly, biblical authority that differs from their own sovereign and exalted will. Truly, it is an era in which many say, “I have need of nothing [cf. Rev. 3:17]! Certainly no need for a teacher! And if I do decide I need a teacher I will find my own, thank you very much [cf. 2 Tim. 4:3]. In fact, I see that there are many just waiting to teach me right here on the Internet, and I can tell by what they are saying (in that it agrees with much I have already decided that the Bible says) that they’re the ones I want to listen to [cf. 2 Peter 1:20]!”
I was speaking to another man about such attitudes recently — a man I am blessed to count among my friends — and he told me of his own experience leaving the Church and going after a zealous Bible teacher he had “heaped up” for himself. In his own words, “I misread his ability to quote scripture, as well as his self-confidence, as some sort of righteousness to be pursued.” In his humility, he found his way back years later after recognizing his sin — a sin that, at the time, seemed like the righteous, zealous path! — and allowing Jesus Christ to lead him back to where He wanted him all along. His example is an encouragement to me, and I appreciate his willingness to share it. I hope I can be humble enough in the years ahead that when my time of testing comes I will pass. And I pray that others out there currently lost in what appears to be righteousness while actually being a deadly maze of self-deceit, self-righteousness, and private interpretation of Scripture will be able to find the same path he did: a path that leads from doing what is right in one’s own eyes to doing what is truly right in God’s.