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Every one of us has, at one time or another, been infected by a virus. I've never actually seen one because of their tiny size. I've been told it takes an electron microscope to view them, but I've had a good number of viral infections over the years.

From what I've read, a virus does its dirty work by attaching itself to a healthy cell and replacing the cell's genetic makeup with its own. When enough cells have had their genetic makeup altered or replaced by the virus, an infection occurs -- whether it be a cold, the flu or some other sickness.

Thankfully, our bodies usually fight off those infections and we recover. When our bodies don't or can't, even the smallest viral infections can lead to serious illness or death.

The way in which a virus does its work is much like the way in which Biblical truth is undermined in churches. The father of lies (John 8:44) comes with little falsehoods, small doctrinal errors, subtle compromises of the Scriptural doctrine. And like a virus, these errors are injected into and replace the "genetic" makeup of sound Biblical words and doctrine. Thus, infected churches may appear to have a solid confession of the truth and use all the right words, but the inner meanings of those words and the message have changed.

Should we be surprised? Jesus said (Matt. 7:15-16): "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits."

A doctrinal error doesn't come with a poison label attached or a warning that it may cause spiritual illness or death. It comes appearing as the truth. Outwardly, it appears to be the same truth taught in the Bible; but inside, it's different and damaging to our soul's health!

To diagnose a viral infection, doctors have to look deeper than what they can see with their eyes, or even with an office microscope. So also, Christians need to look deeper than the outward appearance.

What do I mean? In any Christian church, you will hear words like God, Christ, gospel, resurrection, life, repentance, faith, etc. But Christians need to look under the surface of these words to determine what is meant when they are spoken. Is it the Biblical meaning, or has a new meaning been injected into the old terminology?

As a Lutheran, I could attend almost any Lutheran church and see and hear many of the outward forms of the Biblical Christian Faith; but if I keep listening and examining things more deeply, I may learn that the god being worshiped is not necessarily the one true God -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit -- revealed in the Bible. I may hear preachers speak of Christ but later learn that the Christ of the Bible has been replaced by a less-than-divine Jesus who never claimed to be the Son of God and really didn't work mighty miracles or rise bodily from the dead on the third day. I may hear a minister speak of preaching the gospel but find out that the gospel he (or she) is preaching is none other than what Jesus says are the greatest commandments of the law -- love for God and love for neighbor (Matthew 22:35-40). I may hear of the resurrection and later learn it only refers to some sort of spiritual awakening or resurrection experience. I may hear Bible words like propitiation and atonement but later discover that something other than Jesus' sacrificial death for the sins of the world is meant.

To some, what I'm saying may sound far-fetched, but I've encountered it again and again and even in what some would consider a very conservative church body. And this "viral" infection is not only found within Lutheran churches and synods; it has spread to almost all Christian denominations and church bodies.

It's no longer enough to be satisfied if we hear sound words being spoken; we need to look underneath the "sheep's clothing" and find out if a wolf is hiding behind the "good words and fair speeches" which "deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:18). To let this viral infection go unchecked can quickly result in death for our souls.

What should we hear in Christian churches? We should hear the clear and plain teaching of the Bible, the very Word of God -- nothing more and nothing less. We should be taught of the one God of the Bible who is three persons -- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We should hear of our failures to keep God's law and the condemnation God's law lays upon us because of our failures to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. And we should hear the true gospel -- that God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son to become true man that He might fulfill all that God's law demands of us and bear the just punishment for our sins and the sins of the whole world by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross. We should hear and be assured of the fact that God reaches out to us and offers us mercy solely because of Jesus' death and glorious resurrection on the third day. We should hear that God forgives, justifies and accepts us as His own dear children, not by our own works and religious service, but through faith alone in the shed blood of Jesus. And we should hear that Jesus is coming again to judge this world and will receive all who trust in Him to the eternal joys of His everlasting kingdom but will also condemn all who do not repent and believe in Him to the eternal torments of hell.

The devil will seek to inject a new understanding and a different doctrine into the life-giving words of the Bible; but we must expose his lies, fight off his infections and "hold fast the form of sound words" which we have learned from God's book, the Bible (2 Tim. 1:13).

Randy Moll is the managing editor of the Westside Eagle Observer and the pastor of Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rogers. He may be contacted by email at Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 03/07/2019

Print Headline: Viral Infections Are Like Doctrinal Digressions

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