The air is thick these days with encouragement. Encouragement, in fact, seems to have subtly replaced the Gospel. New Age think-ology has so infected Christianity that to the naive and scripturally illiterate, the two are becoming synonymous .

"God is for you!"
 "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." 
"God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life."

All true. All valuable parts of scripture.

The problem with the current trend is that many presenters of modern Christianity pretty much stop the message there. Rah-Rah Christianity has overtaken what Paul calls "the whole counsel of God."  In Acts 20:26, he says, "I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God."

The whole counsel of God. What a telling phrase! Encouragement is certainly a part of God's counsel, but his encouragement is reserved for those who are investing their lives in His purposes. God's encouragement has nothing to do with My dreams, My wishes, My desires, and My ideas. God's encouragement was always aimed at those who were committed to His dreams, His wishes, His desires, and His ideas.

The whole counsel of God has been pared down to pre-chewed bites of Postive Theology 
and doled out as tasty morsels 
to an entire generation who think that's all there is.

Even more interesting is that this verse is followed by a clear warning. "Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock...know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them."

Notice he doesn't say false things. He calls the teaching "twisted." To twist something means we take the raw substance and maneuver it to fit our desires. To twist the Bible is to take isolated verses and apply them liberally to people and situations where they do not apply. To twist scripture is to filter it and keep only the feel-good thoughts and slogans everyone will Like on Facebook.

And he warns that these "fierce wolves" will arise "from among your own selves." It would be easy to spot a fierce wolf from the Muslim religion, a Buddhist, or an atheist.  But it can be extremely difficult to identify fierce wolves who look like, talk like, and claim to believe the same things we believe. How do we recognize them?

Paul answers that: Are they declaring the "whole counsel of God?"

A.W. Tozer said, "It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply." We sure don't hear that taught much on religious television, do we? Can you imagine a NYT bestseller with that title?

Paul declares himself innocent of the blood of those who have refused his teaching based on the fact that he did "not shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God."

The whole counsel includes the vast bulk of Jesus' teaching that involved giving up everything for his sake. The whole counsel lays the scriptural foundation for pleasing God--death to SELF. "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet, not I, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20)

The whole counsel refuses to encourage the carnal in their carnality and the unbelievers on their way to hell. The whole counsel is the voice of the prophets crying the unpopular truth from the mountaintops. The whole counsel tells people what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.

The implication is heavy. What would Paul say to those who call themselves minsters of the Gospel, but they DO shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God?


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