From the desk of  ...  Preston H. Hazzard, Sr.  ... My Daily Blog    


 

Our Christian Faith
Raised in a Christian Home?

Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 2:00pm

The picture on the right shows my Dad and the first 7 of us in Detroit. I am the youngest shown in the bottom left. I had two older brothers, and 4 older sisters. Two more younger brothers and two more sisters came after this picture was made

I was born in the early 1950’s in Detroit, Michigan. We moved to Texas when I was 7 years old.  We had a large family (5 brothers, and 6 sisters). I was the 7th of the eleven children. 

My Dad’s family was raised in the Nazarene church. He had three older sisters. My father and my grandfather were born on a farm in Millington, Michigan, about 30 miles northeast of Flint.

My mother’s family was from Indianapolis. My mom had only one sister. They grew-up attending the United Brethren and later the United Methodist church.

After we moved to Texas, we began attending a non-denominational (Pentecostal) church in Dallas. My Dad was the song leader and all of us attended church together. That lasted about 5 years until we moved to Euless. For a while after that, we attended the Nazarene church in Hurst.  But by then my older siblings began to drift away from the family religious exercises.


Y Christian Testimony

     When I was around 11 years old, my baseball coach, Mr. Stinson, invited us to attend a revival they were holding at his church. The preacher taught that the "gospel" or "good news" ... that you must "believe", ... centers on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who died for our sins and rose again. When I went forward at the altar call, the counselor re-emphasized that I had to believe that I was a sinner, incapable of saving myself, and that God sent His only Son to the earth to live a perfect life, shed his blood, die for my sins, and be resurrected on the third day, defeating death. 

By calling on the name of the Lord, trusting in Him alone, turning away from my sin, and confessing Christ as my Lord, I was now gloriously saved, by faith alone, trusting God and His written Word - the Bible - to be true. This was the same gospel I heard in Dr. Lovell's church, and the same gospel I was hearing at the vacation bible school at Beckley Heights Baptist Church in the summer. Even at such an early age, I knew beyond a doubt that I wanted Christ as my Lord and Savior. 

When invited to come forward to accept the free gift of salvation, I wasn’t sure what my parents would say (they were not there), but I was sure I wanted to be saved!  In tears the next day, I told my mom I had gotten saved the night before. All she said was that it was OK. Yet, we never discussed it again. 

By the time I entered high school, my parents joined the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), led by a man named Herbert W. Armstrong and his son Garner Ted Armstrong. What was being described by the Armstrongist system isn't grace at all. It's legalism. It's earning forgiveness by works! 

About half of my siblings joined them. And those that did, married spouses in that non-Christian cult. Today, only two of my sisters remain active in an Armstrongist splinter group. The rest of my brothers and sisters (and most of their kids, I might add) quit churches altogether, although one brother much later became Roman Catholic to keep peace with his 2nd wife.  And our youngest sister joined the Unitarian Universalists. 

Today, the next generation of nieces and nephews (perhaps 30-40 of them) have left church altogether as agnostics or atheists, essentially rejecting religion entirely.

I know of only one of them (a niece in Colorado) who is a true Christian.


The word “Christian” has lost a great deal of its significance and is often used of someone who is religious or has high moral values but who may or may not be a true follower of Jesus Christ. I've met people who have told me, "I was born in a Christian nation, so of course I am a Christian". Others have said: "I've been a Christian all my life; I was born in a Christian home" or "in the church." Many of us today identify ourselves as Christians because we go to church, or you just believe that Jesus Christ existed and the bible is true. These things however, do not make a true Christian.

The Bible teaches that the good works we do cannot make us acceptable to God. Titus 3:5 says, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” ... (3rd person of the Trinity).

So, a Christian is someone who has been born again by God (John 3:3; John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23) and has put faith and trust in Jesus Christ. “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.”  Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”.

A true Christian is a person who has put faith and trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ, including His death on the cross as payment for our sins and His resurrection on the third day. John 1:12 tells us, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,” The mark of a true Christian is love for others and obedience to God’s Word (1 John 2:4, 10). A true Christian is indeed a child of God, a part of God’s true family, and one who has been given new life in Jesus Christ.


Orthodoxy vs. Heresy

In Christianity, the term orthodoxy refers to "The body of essential biblical teachings. Those who embrace them should be accepted as Christians."

The opposite of orthodoxy is heresy, "doctrine which is erroneous in such a way that Christians must divide themselves as a church from all who teach or accept it; those adhering to heresy are assumed to be lost, although Christians are unable to make definitive judgments on this matter."

  • Individuals who - while claiming to be Christians - reject one or more central doctrines of the Christian faith are considered heretics.

  • Groups which reject one of more essential doctrines while claiming to represent Christianity, are considered - theologically - cults of Christianity

  • Note the difference between theological and sociological definitions of the term 'cult.' Sociology concerns itself with behavior, while theology concerns itself with doctrine. The word cult has an established history of usage, long before the secular media or social sciences got hold of it. Historically cult has been a religious term, not a sociological or psychological one.


Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith

In his book, "Unmasking The Cults" - which addresses cults of Christianity (as defined by theology), Dr. Alan W. Gomes writes, "'Central doctrines' of the Christian faith are those doctrines that make the Christian faith Christian and not something else."

1.     The Christian faith is a definite system of beliefs with definite content (Jude 3)

2.     Certain Christian doctrines constitute the core of the faith. Central doctrines include the Trinity, the deity of Christ, the bodily resurrection, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, and salvation by grace through faith. These doctrines so comprise the essence of the Christian faith that to remove any of them is to make the belief system non-Christian.   

3.     Scripture teaches that the beliefs mentioned above are of central importance (e.g., Matt. 28:19; John 8:24; 1 Cor. 15; Eph. 2:8-10).

4.     Because these central doctrines define the character of Christianity, one cannot be saved and deny these.

5.     Central doctrines should not be confused with peripheral issues, about which Christians may legitimately disagree.

Peripheral (i.e. non-essential) doctrines include such issues as the timing of the tribulation, the method of baptism, or the structure of church government. For example, one can be wrong about the identity of "the spirits now in prison" 1 Peter 3:19) or about the timing of the rapture and still go to heaven, but one cannot deny salvation by grace or the deity of Christ (John 8:24) and be saved.

6.     All Christian denominations -- whether Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant -- agree on the essential core. The relatively minor disagreements between genuinely Christian denominations, then, cannot be used to argue that there is no objectively recognized core of fundamental doctrine which constitutes the Christian faith.

- Source: Source: Alan Gomes, Cult: A Theological Definition, excerpt from "Unmasking The Cults"Zondervan Publishing Company (May 11, 1995)


Some final thoughts: 

Many will insist that we all have the right to practice Christianity as our conscience dictates. ... Wrong !
 
We have the privilege of living out a faith based on absolute truth as given to us by the "Author and Finisher" of that faith without error or omission in His written word. If we want to invent our own religion, we are "free" to do so, "free" to reap the consequences and "free" to call it anything we want – but Christianity.
 
Don't call yourself a Christian if you are going to deny essential doctrines. 

Some examples of Cults of Christianity would include

·       Mormonism - The Mormon Church - officially, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint - considers itself not just a Christian denomination, but rather the only true expression of Christianity. However, the history, theology and practices of Mormonism show this religious movement to be outside of orthodox Christianity.

·       Jehovah's Witnesses - Jehovah's Witnesses consider themselves to be the only true Christians. However, their organization - the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society - denies and/or contradicts several of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith.

·       Armstrongism - Founder Herbert Armstrong, Died: 1986. Worldwide Church of God, a cultic church that - though having undergone many positive doctrinal changes over the past few years - still has some discernment ministries and former members concerned.

o   Be warned that the following (and many other splinter groups too) are firmly Armstrongist:

§  THE RESTORED CHURCH OF GOD

§  UNITED CHURCH OF GOD

§  LIVING CHURCH OF GOD

§  PHILADELPHIA CHURCH OF GOD

§  THE GOOD NEWS

§  INTERCONTINENTAL CHURCH OF GOD

§  THE CHURCH OF THE GREAT GOD

§  Source:  http://www.ukapologetics.net/1arm.htm

o   ARMSTRONGISM IS ALIVE AND WELL ON THE NET!  

·       Christian Identity (the entire movement) - Adherents believe present day Anglo-Saxon people are direct descendants of the ancient Israelites, and have thus inherited all God's promises to Abraham and his descendants. The movement consists of a number of groups, most of which promote hate by considering whites to be the superior race (''white supremacy'').

·       United Pentecostal Church - Theologically, a cult of Christianity. Adheres to and promotes Oneness doctrines.

·       Seventh-day Adventist - Christian apologists and counter cult experts disagree on whether or not Seventh-day Adventism (SDA) should be classified as, theologically, a cult of Christianity.  Some point out that SDA also includes teachings that are contrary to the gospel, and are unorthodox in nature.


A Tree and Its Fruit

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”.  Matthew 7:15-20 

P.S.  Always remember that God placed the responsibility to teach children the things of God on the fathers, NOT on the local church.


Belief beyond proof is faith. Belief in spite of proof is folly.

Call or email me if you have questions.


Amen.

Pete, Sr.

 

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