Mixed up Christianity

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As a young boy, I can remember the day my father declared I was old enough to cut the grass with the riding lawn mower. I could hardly wait for the grass to grow tall enough to cut. When the day arrived, I filled the tank on the mower from the can labeled “gasoline” and positioned myself be- hind the wheel. Turning the key, the engine caught and ran smoothly. I had just reached the edge of the yard when a huge cloud of white smoke exited the exhaust and the engine promptly quit. efforts to start the engine produced impressive amounts of white smoke, but nothing more. When Dad came home from work, I carefully explained to him what had happened and why the grass was still uncut. He demanded that I show him the gas can that I had used to fill the mower. He sniffed the empty can and said “kerosene.” For the next several minutes I was lectured on my irresponsibility and failure to “check” what was in the can. “Don’t you know the difference between gasoline and kerosene?” I didn’t.

It seems to be popular today to mix things. A trip to a grocery store will reveal a myriad of hyphenated food flavors. Lemon-lime, apple-cinnamon, and chocolate chip-mint occupy space in our cupboards and freezers. The manufacturers of these foods advertise them on the basis of the pleasing taste produced by the combining of two dissimilar flavors. In 1 Thess 2:1-4 Paul writes; “For yourselves, brethren, know our entrance in unto you, that it was not in vain: But even after that we had suffered before, and were shamefully entreated, as ye know, at Philippi, we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention. For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile: But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts.”

The apostle is stating; “Our exhortation or encouragement to you was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, not in guile. brethren, our presentation of the gospel of God was to you, without mixture.” Doctrinal deceit runs rampant in much of what calls itself Christianity. Truth is readily mixed with untruth to produce a “flavored” gospel more acceptable to the carnal nature of man. It is true that the wages of sin is death. It is also true that all have sinned. but this is not a popular message in most so-called Christian churches, so Scriptural truth is mixed or blended with something that is a bit more palatable. Consider the rise of counseling that blends Scriptural principles with a secular understanding of the nature of man. Immorality, drunkenness, and homosexuality are labeled as sicknesses that are to be cured; not sins to be confessed.

Initially, deceit or error in doctrine prepares the way for uncleanness, or sinful practices to enter the church. It was error in doctrine that made room for Mennonite sisters to begin cutting their hair decades ago. It was deceitful doctrine that prepared once Scriptural Mennonite churches to accept women into church leadership. Once deceit has produced a defiled practice, there arises a group of individuals who will seek to deceive or beguile others, if for no other reason than to justify themselves. These beguiled souls trumpet the virtues of their own unique mixture of two dissimilar flavors. The mix grows more complex all the time. How should we respond?

Perhaps first, we must accept that God’s Word contains God’s mind on the issue of mixtures. In Matthew 16:6, Jesus warns His disciples concerning the doctrine of the Pharisees. The majority of what the Pharisees believed was true, but the blending of a few unique “flavors” produced a product that obstructed people from becoming followers of the messiah. Christ labels this mixture as “the leaven of the Pharisees.” Paul warns in 1 Cor 5:6 “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” People generally become beguiled as a result of following a false teacher whose practices and “flavor” seem to taste good. Rarely is one beguiled by study of the Truth. The false teacher practices a false gospel as the result of deceit. Somewhere in his past, he was likely given a mixture of truth and untruth.

The Bible does not quantify the amount of leaven in the whole lump. It simply says that a little will spread to the whole. How careful should we be in our doctrine? How cautious should we be to keep right doctrine in our homes, schools, and churches? How much mixing can we accept? How should we respond? The Scriptures instruct us to “purge out therefore the old leaven” that we might be as the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth; which contain no deceit or guile.

This teaching implies that a thorough purging will cast aside all that is contaminated. Further mixing of additional ingredients could not repair the mixture of gasoline and kerosene I used. The contents of the “gas tank” were removed and unmixed gasoline was replaced. Our response to polluted doctrine must follow the same corrective course of action. We cannot correct the uncleanness, which contaminated doctrine produces, unless we correct the doctrine. We cannot correct contaminated doctrine by further corruption. That which is identified as contaminated must be cast out, and doctrine that contains no leaven must be put in place.

At the conclusion of my Father’s lecture, I pointed out that the can from which I had poured the kerosene was clearly labeled as containing gasoline. This seemed to mollify his perception of the whole affair. Calmly now, he took two gas cans. What followed was an education in determining the difference between kerosene and gasoline. “Smell this, now smell that.” Dad said, “Always sniff. If you take time to sniff, you will know what you have in the can.” In a generation where doctrinal mixtures abound both in and out of the church, it behooves us to sniff what is in the can.
September 2009