Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

   by Jeannette Haley

“Any truth, taken to extremes, becomes an untruth.”– Anon

Have you noticed that we live in a day of extremes? For example, while environmentalists tirelessly endeavor to save the earth, and endangered species (and some not so endangered) other groups seem determined to destroy the rain forests, pollute the world’s water resources, and endanger all life as we know it. On the news we watch with amazement as millions of dollars are spent trying save a whale, while at the same time we see millions of people living in unspeakable squalor, disease, starvation, and hopelessness in different parts of the world. Of course those who worship the creation rather than the Creator (see Romans 1:25) devalue human life and defend the right to murder the unborn innocents.

In the health field we see extremes between the medical profession and the advocates of alternative healing methods. We reel under the staggering statistics of how many thousands of lives are lost annually through mal-practice and dangerous, addictive prescription drugs while, on the other hand, the FDA bans the sale of beneficial herbs that have harmed no one, and the Government spends billions on the drug war. During her training to become a certified massage therapist, Rayola had to wade between the extremes of solid scientific fact and New Age eastern mysticism, shamanism, Hinduism, metaphysics, and outright occultism. The extremes were, to say the least, depressing and exhausting.

The rise of psychology has introduced major extremes that have adversely affected not only individuals, but entire nations. In a nutshell, psychology is the devil’s theology. Psychology disguises itself as being “scientific” yet there is nothing scientific about it. It is spiritual in nature, making it a religion. Psychology by its very existence dismisses the Word of God as the final authority and elevates godless humanism in its place. Psychology ignores the fact that all men and women are sinners by nature; that we need to take accountability for our sins; acknowledge that we need a savior, and that we must repent, and surrender to God. It conveniently ignores the fact that Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” John 3:7b, and promotes pride (which God resists) by broadcasting to every level of society that all of our social ills are the cause of low self-esteem.
On the opposite end of this spectrum is the unscientific theory of evolution which declares that we all descended from apes. The mind-boggling result is a society full of confused people who, in spite of the fact that they believe they are nothing more than a higher evolved life form, have extremely high opinions of themselves. What is even more shocking is the fact that this high self-esteem ends with self and in no way extends to the unborn. Talk about extremes!

Mainstream Christianity has flung its doors wide open to the Trojan horse of psychology with its self-esteem propaganda. The devastating results can be seen from pulpit to pew. One doesn’t have to look far to find ruined lives that have fallen due to pride. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” Proverbs 16:18. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome, “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” Romans 12:3. The extremes between true wisdom and gross foolishness are blatant, yet multitudes are blinded by their own form of pride. The truth, written thousands of years ago, still stands today: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth, do I hate” Proverbs 8:13.

We all know that there are extremes in our judiciary system, educational system, and economic policies. We see high-tech celebrities who are ignorant of the ways and wisdom of God. In the world political scene, there is an on-going tug-of-war concerning the establishment of a one-world government. The world’s major religions such as Roman Catholicism and Islam are manifesting extremes in their efforts to establish themselves as superior with the right to rule over others. Amazingly, Isaiah described our day when he wrote in Isaiah 5:20, 21, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!” It’s as if no matter where you find yourself, there you will also encounter extreme opposition.
Jesus warned that in the last days, “…nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” Matthew 24:7, 8. Satan’s kingdom, the kingdom of darkness, stands firmly opposed to God’s kingdom, the kingdom of light. In spite of what some believe, there is no in-between. People are either in the kingdom of light or in the kingdom of darkness.

It would be wonderful to think that every blood-bought sinner in God’s kingdom was “balanced” or, in other words, not operating in some form of extremity. Sadly, however, within the Body of Christ today extremes exist, and these extremes can carry with them a spiritually crippling and devastating impact on others.

We need to understand that when Adam fell into darkness because of his willful act of disobedience, he plunged the entire world, and the human race, into a state of extreme imbalance and perversion from God’s original plan and creation. Everything God created was “good”. But immediately after the fall things began to radically change. No one has ever been born into this world with a complete understanding of just how defiled and perverted in the extreme this world is except Jesus Christ. This is because, as the only begotten Son of God, He did not inherit Adam’s sinful fallen nature with its warped ability to reason, warped emotional makeup, and warped spiritual perception. Jesus had perfect vision (God’s perspective) of all that exists in both the invisible realm and the visible, material realm.

Because of this sinful, fallen nature we are all born into the kingdom of darkness. It is only as the light of the Gospel shines on our hearts and minds, and as we, by faith, believe that Jesus is God Incarnate, and that He died in our place, was buried and rose the third day from the dead that we can be born again and translated into the kingdom of light. Jesus said in John 3:3, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” However, it is at the point of “belief” that many of the extremes within the Body of Christ begin. This is why it is so vital that the Church (Body of Christ) obey Christ’s command to make disciples of all nations. A disciple is an adherent who is a student and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ—one who abides in His Word. Anything short of this results in extremes and spiritual idolatry.
There have always been extremes within the Body of Christ as testified to by the epistles of the Apostle Paul. After all, these letters were written to different groups of believers—each epistle dealing with problems, sins, misunderstandings, and challenges peculiar to that particular body. When we read these epistles today, we must keep in mind the culture of that time, to whom they were written and for what purpose. All scriptures must be read and studied in context, comparing scripture with scripture while bearing in mind the character and ways of God lest we unwittingly pervert the spirit and truth of the text.

An example of how scripture, taken out of context can be perverted and taken to extremes is Paul’s statement to Timothy as recorded in 1 Timothy 2:15 which reads, “Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.” If this scripture is to be taken literally, then a woman cannot be saved unless she bears children. This immediately poses a problem because we know that salvation is of grace, not works, and childbearing is a “work” and this is not consistent with the rest of the scriptures or the ways and character of God. It also poses a problem in that not every woman is married or can bear children! Furthermore, it contradicts Paul’s injunction to women who desire to serve the Lord that they remain unmarried, 1 Corinthians 7:34. How then, can they bear children unless they commit fornication? And the scriptures declare that fornicators cannot inherit the kingdom of God! It is more than unfortunate that many have used this scripture written to Timothy to put women in bondage—a bondage that Christ died to set them free from.

The point is there are many such scriptures that cannot be taken literally, but must be carefully studied and researched to discover their true meaning and intent. In this instance, the text is poorly translated. What this verse means is that woman shall be saved “by the birth of a Redeemer into the world.” (God’s Word To Women, pg. 160).

Another scripture that is used to suppress women who are called by God to evangelize through preaching and teaching is 1 Timothy 2:12, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” Again, one has to keep in mind to whom this was and written and to understand the dangerous times in which it was written. Professor Katherine Bushnell, author of God’s Word to Women, explains how the phrase “not to usurp authority over the man,” is not in the original. She is correct in writing that “Paul did not, at other periods in his ministry, forbid women to teach men. This is an exceptional, prudential measure to meet a dire necessity of perilous times. All are bound to agree that the order of the names, Priscilla and Aquila, proves that Priscilla was the more active and able of these two helpers of Paul.” [Page 156].

Down through the centuries there have been those who persist in taking every scripture in the literal sense which results in extremes in beliefs and practices, some of them abusive and completely contrary to the character of God. As one wise pastor’s wife taught, “If the scripture does not make literal sense, then look for another sense.” We would do well to bear this in mind as we study God’s Word in order to understand the principles behind it and retain its integrity in spirit and truth. Of course it takes integrity on our part to uphold the truth of scripture. Anyone can take verses out of context and twist them to say what he or she wants them to say for their own benefit. This is how cults begin.

Then there is the opposite extreme of “spiritualizing” the Word of God. Unfortunately, many Christians, including some in leadership, have a tendency to alter the clear teachings of scripture by either reading into them “hidden meanings” that do not exist or by attaching “spiritual truths” that were never intended in the original or accepted and/or taught as such by the early church. In the extreme this dangerous practice can lead one into the realm of mysticism and delusion. Of course the Word of God has many practical applications, but it is folly and dangerous to insist that it says something in a spiritual sense that it does not say. People who practice spiritualizing the Word of God end up with a metaphysical, religious, antichrist (substitute) spirit. The Apostle Paul warns of those who have another Gospel, another Jesus and another Spirit, 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4.

An extreme the Apostle Paul encountered and fought against was legalism. This trend, which has plagued the Church down through the centuries, is accelerating in the Church today. Legalism is the theme song of the super-religious who are self-righteous, judgmental and Pharisaical. Legalism is a system of “pick and choose” out of the Old Testament (covenant) that is then inserted into the New Testament (covenant) which actually forms a type of “freak” religion in and of itself. Because not all 613 laws of the Old Testament can be literally observed today (because they entail animal sacrifices and certain laws pertaining to marriage, such as the brother of a deceased brother taking his wife to rise up a name for him) the end result is a hodge-podge of confusing do’s and don’ts. These do’s and don’ts have nothing to do with a person’s salvation.

Concerning the only true liberty as written in John 8:36 and Galatians 5:1, Oswald Chambers wrote: “We have to present the liberty of Christ, and we cannot do it if we are not free ourselves. There is only one liberty, the liberty of Jesus Christ at work in my conscience enabling me to do what is right. If we are free with the liberty wherewith Christ makes us free, slowly and surely those whom we influence will begin to be free with the same freedom. Always keep your own life measured by the standard of Jesus Christ; bow your neck to His yoke alone and to no other yoke whatever; and see that you never bind any yoke on others that Jesus Christ Himself does not place. It takes a long time to get us out of imagining that unless people see as we do they must be wrong. That is never Jesus Christ’s view. Our true sympathy lies with the One Who is absolute tenderness, and every now and again God gives us the chance of being the rugged stuff that He might be the tender One. We have to be sacramental elements in the Lord’s hands.” Still Higher for His Highest, pg. 188.
On the opposite end of this spectrum we find the easy-believism, cheap grace gospel. This extreme puts forth the feel-good philosophy that all one has to do in order to get to heaven is repeat a sinner’s prayer and “accept Jesus”. There is no scriptural basis for this belief yet the majority of fundamental Christians tenaciously cling to the right to believe, promote and practice this falsehood. This camp is made up of people with flippant attitudes and an un-teachable disposition that cannot “endure sound doctrine” 2 Timothy 4:3. The question should not be if we have “accepted Jesus” but has Jesus accepted us.

Pastor David Kirkwood in his excellent book, The Great Gospel Deception, (pgs. 241-248) wrote, in regard to 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life“,…John said he wrote to those who believe in the name of the Son of God, not those who believe they are saved by believing in a doctrine about salvation. It is not believing that salvation is by grace through faith that saves us—we are saved by believing in a divine person. And if we believe that Jesus is a divine person, we will act, talk and live like we do.” He then goes on to explain that “John had written ‘these things’ in order that his readers mighty know they have eternal life.” He shows how we can evaluate if a person is a true believer in light of what John said and if God’s grace has really changed them. Pastor Kirkwood writes, “Many…cling to the memory of a prayer once prayed for the false assurance of their salvation, whereas true believers can look at their lives and see the work of God’s transforming grace. We can know that we are saved.” He then goes on to outline (using scripture) the moral test which is obedience to Jesus’ Commands; the social test of loving the brethren; and the doctrinal test.
Some other extremes that can be found within Christendom are denial of the gifts of the Spirit vs. excessive emphasis on them; the belief that every sin or problem has a demon behind it vs. the complete denial of demonic activity in spite of what scripture tells us; the extreme between those who talk the talk vs. those who walk the walk; and, the extremes between those who are led by feelings alone vs. those who deny any feelings in light of supposed facts.

Finally there is the hyper-faith movement with all of its Hollywood-style glitz, glitter, and showmanship. People caught up in this end-time phenomenon throw all caution to the wind as they swing from one spiritual “high” to another in search of “greater” experiences and “new” revelations. Driven by their insatiable need to experience the supernatural, they unwittingly open themselves up to spiritual delusion in “la-la-land” and the occult. For these people reality is based on their experiences, not the Word of God.

The opposite extreme of the hyper-faith movement is the idea that any experience cannot be trusted. Many people who, by the grace of God, escape the experience-driven camp end up mistrusting any Christian worker, leader or minister who relates genuine experiences they have had. Experience is validated by the Word of God, the fruit it produces, and the spirit behind it. Let’s face it, if you wanted to shoot the rapids on one of Idaho’s rivers, who would you choose for your guide—the person with the most experience or the one who had never even seen the river before?
For any believer the only safe way to avoid extremes is to build on the solid Rock of Jesus Christ, keeping in mind 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Amen!