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Mark 13 v 3 - 6 & 21 - 23

We continue to pick our way through the chapter and these two passages I've grouped together today concern the last days before Christ's return and the dangers of heresy and being misled by heretics. Now, heresy arises from five main causes: 1. It arises from constructing doctrine to suit oneself. For Christians, it can be that we find passages in Scripture too difficult and so we skirt those and focus only on passages where God is seen as loving and faithful. For instance, the prophetic books of Isaiah and Jeremiah lend themselves to taking the odd verse or two which are very encouraging and neglecting the rest of these long books with their threats of doom not just for Israel and Judah, but also for neighbouring nations. For those who don't profess to have a faith, their desire can be that there should be no God, especially a moral, overseeing one. Psalm 14 v 1 tells us of those fools who say in their hearts: ''There is no God''. 2. Heresy arises from overstressing one part of the truth. Say, if we thought only of God's holiness, then we might never feel able to attain intimacy with Him; whereas to think only of Jesus as being our friend means that the truth of God's awesome purity-just recalling Moses and the burning bush or the mountain Moses went up to receive the Ten Commandments causing the Israelites to quake-is put to one side. 3. It can come from trying to produce a religion which will suit people. This entails watering down the hugely challenging parts of it and coming out with a god who is simply loving in a way which is anodyne and rather sickly! 4. It can arise from trying to live the Christian faith on our own and removing ourselves from regular Christian fellowship. I have known many people who free themselves from the constraints of the Church to discover that they have become unorthodox at the very least in their view of and worship of God. 5. The most subtle temptation is to embrace heresy through a genuine desire to make the Christian faith understandable. We are finite beings; God is infinite and so there will always be mystery. As Tertullian, the great 2nd century Christian scholar stated: ''I believe because it is impossible.''

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