Are You a Practical Heretic?

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Mat 25:41-46)

When we think of heresy, we think of facts. When we think of the gospel, we think of doctrinal truth which is so vital to salvation in Christ, that if it is denied it is rightly called heresy. A person, for example, cannot deny the deity of Jesus Christ and still claim to believe the gospel. Facts and details are indeed important.

But notice carefully in the scripture above that these cursed people whom Christ will command to depart from Him on that Great Day to come, end in hell for denying Christ in a hands on, practical way. They gave Him no drink, no welcome, no clothing, no comforting visit. By their actions, or in this case, their lack of actions, they denied Christ and were damned. They were, shall we say, practicing heretics. They literally denied Christ’s very Person by denying His presence and His Body, the Church.

How many practical heretics fill our churches today?

When the victim of any or all kinds of abuse calls for help, you will always find plenty of practical heretics distancing themselves from the nastiness of abuse. They will expound, as we have heard it all so many times before, how the victim needs to patiently endure for Christ. They will minimize the abuse. They will make excuses for the abuser. They will…well, they will do and say just about anything in order to avoid entering into the burden and suffering of the victim. It is fine for the victim to suffer, you see. But victims need to just shut up, suck it up, quit whining, and be thankful. If they won’t, then they just need to go away. This is practical heresy. It is heresy in practice. It is damnable heresy that will result, by our Lord’s own words of warning, in being cast out into eternal fire prepared for such from eternity past. Recite the Apostles’ Creed all they want, it will do them no good. A person can deny the gospel with their actions, or lack of actions, just as much as with the words of their mouth.

Have you ever given thought to this question: “What is the gospel?”? Most professing Christians think that the gospel is a basic set of facts about who Jesus Christ is, about what He has done for us on the cross, about His resurrection, about faith alone that saves, and so on. But if you will study this word “gospel,” in Scripture, you will find that the gospel is much more than this. For example:

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Tit 2:11-15)

Clearly by “the grace of God” that has appeared, bringing salvation, Paul means the gospel. He means Christ. And an integral part of that gospel is that it trains all who are in Christ to “renounce ungodliness.” We are to be people zealous for good works. That is what James meant when he wrote so much about “faith without works” being a dead faith. Practical orthodoxy. Practical heresy.

And Jesus had a whole bunch to say (as did the Apostles) about how the gospel commands us to help the oppressed. Therefore, one of the chief good works we are to be zealous for is helping victims. Victims of wicked, oppressive power. And yet, if you have ever been such a victim and have called upon your church or other fellow Christians to help you, what did you so often find? The Good Samaritan, or the priest and Levite? Practical heresy, you see. It won’t go well with such on the Day Jesus comes for His own:

You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; (Mat 15:7-8)

A Good Description of Real Repentance

1 Peter 2:1-3, So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

One of the questions we all face in dealing with someone who is only a pretender in their Christian “faith,” is this matter of their oft-repeated claims to be repentant.  They can seem quite convincing.  The puppy-dog eyes inviting pity.  The insistence that everyone must believe their claims of “sorry” (a definite sign of un-repentance, by the way).  You’ve heard it all many times.  You have wanted to believe it.  Sometimes you did.  Always, you found out it was false.

The Apostle Peter gives us a remarkably clear description here of the abuser.  He does so because he is speaking of the characteristics of sin, and abuse is sin in one of its purer forms — largely or entirely let loose from any constraints of conscience.  Consider these five elements of the abusive mentality and tactics:

  • Malice –  An ill-will toward someone.  Malevolence.  Intentional desiring to harm someone.
  • Deceit –  Lying, disguise-wearing, changing the facts of history, crazy-making.
  • Hypocrisy – Deceit gone wild.  An entire life constructed that is a fraud, designed to cover the corruption inside the cup.
  • Envy –  Coveting glory and honor for oneself.
  • Slander – The verbal spewing of all the other wickedness directed toward others.  Malice, deception, hypocrisy and envy set to words.

These are the things that must be put away if real repentance is to occur.  All of it has to go.  There has to be a thorough scouring of one’s life, loading up all of this trash and sending it to the dump as the garbage that it is.  But there has to be more.

In place of all of these things, there must be a new craving for God’s truth.  Think about it.  Every single one of this five-fold inventory of trash – malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander – is an expression of what is a lie.  And that is a pretty good description of the essence of the abuser’s life — it is a lie.  He is a lie.  The lie must go.  The truth must come.

How can we know if someone is repentant?  Well, Peter is showing us here that where genuine repentance is, you will find this new hunger and thirst for the pure milk of the Word of God.  And as this milk is consumed, growth takes place.  Growth in salvation.  Growth in Christ.  The stench of the old garbage is replaced by the fragrance of Jesus.  And as the truly repentant, believing heart consumes this milk, it finds the taste of it quite agreeable.  “What is this savor?  Give me more!”  It is kindness.  It is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ shown to a once rebel heart.  And it really, really tastes good!  Real repentance is a beautiful thing.  It tastes, and it finds that the Lord is good.

A Reminder – You MUST be Born Again

Joh 3:3-7 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (4) Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (5) Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (7) Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’

George Whitefield, the famour evangelist of the 1700’s, was once asked why he spoke so often said in his sermons, “you must be born again.” His answer was this: “Because, Sir, you must be born again.”

And this is what I want to remind all of us about in this article. YOU must be born again. This is the absolute indispensible. Without being born again, apart from being made a new creation in Christ through faith alone in Christ alone, none of us will ever see Christ in His Kingdom. We will never stand justified before Him. We will never know Him, love Him, or be loved by Him. Unless we are born again we do not belong to His flock, we cannot and will not hear His voice, and we will wander around in spiritual and eternal darkness.

This is a very dangerous thing to take for granted. You must be born again. Are you? Many people I have known for years, people who are church members, people who sit in the pews each week, many who preach and teach in their church….are still dead in their sins. Over time, you can see it. You can see the zero growth in their hearts. You can hear the very same delusions from their mouths that by now they should know are lies….IF they were born again.

Rom 8:9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.

I probably take it for granted too often that the abuse victims I talk with really are born again. I still believe the majority of them are – they have been abused by the wicked because they really do belong to Christ. BUT…get this:

1Co 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Even if I deliver up my body to be burned… Do you see it? Someone can suffer and be very religious, and still not know Christ.

One of the things we should be seeing in one another is growth. Growth in Christ. The fruit of the Spirit being progressively evidenced in us. Now, coming out of and healing from the effects of deep evil like domestic abuse is not a quick cure, overnight event. And in NO way do I want to be misunderstood here and wrongly guilt anyone. We’ve all had more than enough of that ugly business. But what I do want to say is that as time rolls by, a Christian, the real article, someone who has been born again and therefore who is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, IS going to evidence increasingly the fruit of the Spirit. They are going to find healing and joy and peace. Check it out:

Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

So what I want to do is remind us all. You must be born again. Do not be deceived by some detour. There are many “cures” out there offering to fix you. Some are helpful, but many are not and any that do not include the new birth in Christ are in fact built on a faulty foundation that will inevitable crumble.

You must be born again. Are you? If you have any doubts, it is time to run to Christ and be honest with Him. And in doing so you can be confident of this:

Rom 10:13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”