Posts tagged Catholic Church
7 Ways to Identify a False Church

photo credit: melodramababs via photopin cc

There's a ton of churches out there. There are Lutherans, Anglicans, Pentecostals, Baptists, Seventh-day Baptists, Evangelicals, Charismatics, Catholics, Presbyterians, Mormons, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventists, Christian Science, Non-Denominational's, Jehovah Witnesses, and so on and so forth. The funny thing is that if you ask any of these, "Are you guys a false church?" They will all say no. Some may even begin to tell you how all the other ones are false churches and how theirs is the only right one.
So how do you identify a false church? I'll tell you one thing, you don't do it by determining how perfect the members of that church are. Trust me, if you ever found a perfect church, you can be sure you don't belong there - and neither do I. However, the Bible does give us direction when it comes to false churches. I'd like to share seven ways the Bible helps us to identify a false church and then encourage you to ask the Holy Spirit for guidance as you search for where God wants you to be.

1. "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." - Ephesians 5:3

The first way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Is Jesus the head of this church?" If the answer is no, then I promise you, you have just walked into a false church. The head of a true church will always be Jesus Christ. Not some so called prophet, preacher, or teacher but Jesus Christ. Any church that does not have Christ as its head is a false church.

2. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! - Galatians 1:8

The second way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Does this church preach the gospel of salvation the way the Bible preaches it or no?" If the answer is no, then it is a false church. So how does the Bible preach the gospel? Here is a good summary:

For it is by grace you have been saved,through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. - Ephesians 2:8-10

Notice this text teaches 3 things:

a. We are saved by grace through faith. Any church that teaches that we are saved by our own works, that we are saved apart from Gods grace, or that we are saved apart from faith is preaching a false gospel.

b. Gods grace is a gift. Any church that teaches that Gods grace must be earned by following certain rules, believing certain things, or avoiding certain things is preaching a false gospel.

c. Gods grace produces good works. Any church that teaches that Gods grace gives us a license to live in sin is preaching a false gospel. 

In summary, any church that teaches that we are saved by our own works, that Gods grace must be earned, and/or that grace gives us a license to sin is a false church.

3. We love because he first loved us. - 1 John 4:19

The third way to identify a false church is by asking the questions, "Does this church love people?" and "Does this church love God?" The answer to the second is determined by the answer to the first. If a church doesn't love people, then it doesn't love God. Any church that doesn't love people the way God does is a false church.

4. If you love me, keep my commands.... Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.... Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. - John 14:15, 21, 23-24

The fourth way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Does this church obey Gods commands?" Gods commands are the 10 commandments recorded in Exodus 20. Any church that teaches that Gods commands are no longer valid, that they don't need to be kept, or that its OK to break them (licence to sin) is a false church.

5. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. - 2 Timothy 3:16

The fifth way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Does this church believe in the Bible?" Any church that doesn't believe in the Bible, has its own bible unique only to their denomination, adds to or takes away from the bible, or rejects portions of the bible is a false church. The Bible, from cover to cover, is Gods word. Any church that teaches otherwise, or that attempts to say that the Bible is incomplete, or subject to another mans (or woman's) "inspired interpretation" is a false church. The Bible should be our only rule of faith and practice. As I once heard a preacher say, "If its in the word it deserves to be heard." To which I add, "If its not in the word it does not deserve to be heard."

6. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” - John 13:35

The sixth way to identify a false church is by asking the question, "Do the people in this church love one another?" Any church that is judgmental, cold, formal, hypocritical, and hostile toward itself and others is a false church. Even if this church has all of the right teachings and its theology is 100% correct it is still a false church without love. Jesus never said people would know us by our faithfulness in keeping the 10 commandments, doctrinal purity, musical selection, or dress code but by our love for one another.

7. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” - Matthew 28:18-20.

The seventh and final way to identify a false church is to ask the questions, "Is this church active and dedicated to preaching the gospel to all the world?" Any church that feels that salvation only belongs to them and that no one else has hope, or that is simply to lazy or uninterested in sharing the gospel is a false church. If there is one command in the Bible that is non-debatable it is the command to tell the whole world about Jesus. Jesus, our God and Savior, commissioned us with the task of sharing the gospel in a joint operation with Him. Any church that doesn't share the gospel is a loveless, missionless stagnant church that will soon rot away. It is a false church.

In conclusion, any church that does not have Christ at the head, does not preach the true gospel, does not love God and man, does not keep Gods commandments, does not base all of its teaching on the Bible alone, does not love its members, and/or does not share the gospel is a false church. However, if a church has Christ as its head, preaches the true gospel, loves God and man, keeps Gods commandments, and bases all its teachings on the Bible alone you can be assured it is a true church. So whatever church you go to or plan to go to, explore each of these steps with your Bible to determine whether or not it is a false Church.[1] God bless!

PS. I'm certain that there are many more texts in the bible that can help out in the search, so if anyone has anything to add, then feel free to do so in the comment line!

[1] Always remember that determining whether a church is false does not always work if you simply apply these 7 tests to a congregation. For example, the Westboro Baptist church would fail these tests and thus come under the "false church" category. However, this doesn't mean that the Baptist church as a whole is a false church. Once you have determined if a specific congregation is a false church be sure to see if that congregation is actually following what its denomination officially teaches before declaring that denomination false.

Also, pay attention to the Spirits leading. If you find a denomination to be true but its local church to be false it may be that God wants you in that church to inspire change. We can always run away when we find a church that is not "perfect" but the truth is there is no perfect church. Maybe God has us there for a reason - to help it to change. So don't be dogmatic about this, be prayerful. However, if the denomination itself is false trying to reform it will prove impossible. In that case I suggest you move on.
"How Adventists are Blessed by Other Christians"

Below is a guest post written by Seventh-day Adventist pastor, Martin Weber. His website (where this blog is published) is an excellent resource of SDA apologetic's. I think Weber hits the nail on the head on this one. I hope you are as blessed as I was!

Christmas season draws together brothers and sisters in Christ from all denominations to celebrate our common faith. Despite doctrinal differences, believers around the world unite in appreciation for the gift of our Savior. However, some Christians feel duty-bound to abstain from such inclusive fellowship. They imagine that interfaith interaction betrays their own biblical distinctiveness. I regret that more than a few of my fellow Seventh-day Adventists fall into that exclusivist mindset.

Invariably they quote Ellen G. White in holding themselves aloof from fellowship with the larger Christian community. It’s true that Ellen White initially was a separatist who shared the “shut door” mentality of ex-Millerite Sabbatarians. But as she matured in her theology over the years, she extended herself into connectivity with the wider Christian community. (This is an aspect of her ministry strangely overlooked by most of her fervent followers.) 

For example, in the 1880s Ellen White joined forces with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, a group of Protestant prohibitionists. She spoke at their rallies and even recommended that some of our best Adventist talent should work for that organization.

In 1892, she braved much criticism from narrow-minded Adventist brethren when she entrusted her signature book,Steps to Christ, to non-Seventh-day Adventists for initial publication. Few today are aware that she contracted with Dwight Moody’s brother-in-law, Fleming Revel, to print that treasured book. 

Even her controversial “borrowing” from non-Adventist authors, in writing her later books, is a form of collaboration with Christians outside our denomination. The enemies of Ellen White allege plagiarism, while her friends point out that copyright standards back then were much more relaxed than they are today. Lost amid this arguing is the undeniable reality that Ellen White thought so highly of non-Adventist theologians and historians that she incorporated their insights—not just their language—into her own books. This amazing fact is highly instructive for Adventists today who wish to quarantine themselves from Christians outside our denomination.

Many of my exclusivist Adventist friends want Sabbath worship services to include only songs from the official SDA Hymnal, to preserve denominational distinctiveness. I’m wondering . . . do they realize how many songs in the SDA Hymnal were composed by non-Adventists (including contemporaries of our good brother Dwight Moody—the most popular Sunday-keeping preacher in Ellen White’s day)? Think of it! Every time we hold Sabbath services, we are effectively welcoming non-Adventist influences into our worship. 
Like it or not, we are one body in Christ with fellow believers of the larger faith community. Thus I’m dismayed and ashamed that some influential Adventists are restricting fellow Christians from speaking at our youth rallies, women’s groups and other church meetings. No matter how sincere their concerns, I believe they are guilty of the inconsistencies already cited here regarding worship music and the example of Ellen White. Moreover, I fear they are quenching God’s Spirit, who operates throughout the general body of Christ. They also limit the sovereignty of God, who exercises His right to anoint anyone He chooses for ministry, whether or not he (or she) carries Seventh-day Adventist credentials. And so God is blessing the songs, sermons and books of many Christians outside our Adventist community.
Some may wonder: “Well then, if God is working everywhere, why should I be a Seventh-day Adventist?” Because this is the only denomination on earth where we don’t have to sacrifice biblical convictions that are dear to us. All Seventh-day Adventist doctrines—when (and only when) they are interpreted properly—are special truths about Jesus for these last days. 
That said, I affirm again that God is alive and well throughout the general Christian community. Despite the exclusive mentality of some Adventists, there is much benefit to keeping our minds and hearts open to the ministry of faithful people outside our community. Just as Ellen White was enriched by fellow Christians (Sunday-keepers!), Adventists today may be likewise blessed.
Speaking personally, the folks at Logos Bible Software are dear to me and friendly to Adventists (they recently published the digitized version of Andrews Study Bible). My friend Pete Heineger at Logos told me that he attended a meeting at Saddleback Community Church where Rick Warren affirmed all the good Seventh-day Adventists are doing in Africa through medical missionary work. Warren’s books Purpose Driven Life and Purpose Driven Church have been a major blessing to me. So have books by other non-Adventists such as Phillip Yancey and Lee Strobel (The Case for a Creator, etc.). Every evening while driving home from work, I listen to Chip Ingram’s “Living On the Edge” broadcast—nobody explains Christian living to me better than he does. I get his podcasts on my iPhone along with “Just Thinking” from Ravi Zacharias, perhaps Christianity’s finest advocate against atheism and secularism. Although I can’t agree with everything I hear from these esteemed fellow believers, neither do we Adventists see everything alike.
If you remain unconvinced that fellow Christians have anything good to offer Seventh-day Adventists, I’ll let you borrow my scissors so you can get to work on the official SDA Hymnal.[1] And while you’re clipping away, maybe you can explain why Ellen White collaborated with non-Seventh-day Adventists whose descendants some of us feel we must shun.
- Martin Weber, How Adventists are Blessed by Other Christians.

[1] The SDA Hymnal contains songs written by both pre-reformation (Catholic) and post-reformation (Protestant) believers most of whom held theological views that are antithetical to SDA doctrines. (Footnote supplied by Marcos Torres,