Sermon:  Barking Dogs and Christians

Summary:  There have been challenges to Christianity from day one, Jesus said there 
would be.  The latest challenges are a resurrection of Gnosticism.  Jesus said the 
gates of Hades shall not prevail against his kingdom.  Therefore, we should not be 
fearful when the world slanders God, the Bible, or Jesus.  Without ignoring evidences 
of Christ, our biggest concern should be to live as lights in a world of darkness.

Know:  Challenges to the truth of God does not invalidate truth.  Therefore, we should 
not be consumed with debunking every challenge nor should we ignore them so that 
we can remove barriers to faith for unbelievers.

Feel:  A confident faith in God despite intellectual challenges to it

Do:  Look for opportunities to dialogue with others about your faith

Text:  Matt 16:18

Scripture Reading:  1 Pet 3:14-16

1.  Used to live in a neighborhood full of dogs
	a.  Used to hear them bark all over the neighborhood walking home
	b.  One dog always made me smile
	c.  He was old, "wuh"  takes a breath "wuh"
2.  When a Christian comes into the neighborhood, people still make a commotion
	a.  It has been going on for so long
	b.  Nothing new under the sun
	c.  Like that old dog = "wuh"   "wuh"

I.  Challenges to the faith are nothing new
	A.  In early Christianity, came in many forms
		1.  Intimidation, slander, persecution, false teaching
		2.  Ancient heresy known as Gnosticism
	B.  Characteristics of Gnosticism
		1.  Hard to pin down what it is, it wasn't a coherent movement
			a.  The various teachers all taught different things
			b.  They had different practices
			c.  Would be like the New Age Movement
				- All you can do is generalize
				- They are not a unified movement
		2.  Some generalizations about Gnosticism
			a.  Matter is evil
				- World is full of evil
				- Why would a good God create evil matter?
			b.  Emanations 
				- God put forth emanations - lesser Gods
				- They in turn put forth other emanations
				- The further away the emanations got, the less 
				    like the highest God they were
				-  One of these emanations did the evil thing by 
				    creating the world
				- This Old Testament God was vengeful and 
				-  An emanation that was closer to the original came 
				   to destroy this god and rescue mankind from him
				- This was Jesus Christ
			c.  Jesus was not human	
				- Since matter is evil, he could not become human
				- Jesus only appeared human
				- Some taught that Jesus descended into a human at 
			   	   baptism, and left before the crucifixion	 
			d.  Underlying assumption - The creator god is evil, man is 
			      basically good
		3.  Salvation came from knowledge
			a.  Salvation was not from sin
			b.  Needed to be freed from the creator god
			c.  Had to be in the "know" in order to do it
		4.  Appealed to intellectuals
			a.  Turned religion into a matter of privileged information.  It 
			     was about knowledge, not relationship with a god
			b.  Not everyone was granted gnosis, some were chosen 
			     others were not.  Some were the "elite"
			c.  For some, it meant gratifying the desires of the flesh - 
			     what mattered was knowledge, not the flesh
			d.  For others, it meant suppressing the desires of the flesh - 
			     matter was evil, so needed to suppress it.
	C.  ILL:  Church leaders denounced this as heresy from the beginning
		1.  Difficult to combat - Opponent could always claim knowledge 
		     that no one else had
		2.  Gnosticism didn't have a coherent, universal set of teaching
		3.  In contrast, the SAME teaching could be found in the churches
			a.  In Corinth, Antioch, Alexandria, etc.
			b.  This was proof that they had the Apostolic message
		4.  The New Testament had already been written, and these NEW 
		     books that were appearing in the 2nd century were false
	D.  Gnosticism eventually disappeared
		1.  All we knew about them came from Christian's writing against 
		2.  In the 1940's A Gnostic library was discovered in Egypt
		3.  Gnostic Gospel's appeared, and unbelieving scholars hailed 
		      them as being truer than our current Gospels

II.  A current challenge is resurrection of Gnosticism
	A.  Unbelievers who want to destroy Christianity put a lot of stock in these 
	      Gnostic gospels
		1.  Used to be discussed only in scholarly circles
		2.  However, Hollywood has be disseminating it to the masses
		3.  Examples:
			a.  Movie:  Jesus,  Movie:  Judas
			b.  Book: The Davinci Code
			c.  I am sure more will be coming
	B.  Want to spend a moment with DaVinci Code for a minute
		1.  Front cover:  "All descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents, 
		     and secret rituals in this novel are accurate".
		2.  Some of the claims in the DaVinci Code
			a.  "The Christian Scriptures evolved through countless 
			      translations, addition, and revision.  History has never had a 
			      definitive version of the book." (231)
			b.  "More than eighty gospels were considered for the New 
			      Testament, and yet only a relative few were chosen for 
			      inclusion…The Bible as we know it today was collated by the 
			      pagan Roman Emperor Constantine the Great (p. 231).
			c.  "Constantine commission and financed a new Bible, which 
			     omitted those Gospels that spoke of Christ's human traits and 
			      embellished those Gospels that made him godlike.  The earlier 
			       gospels were outlawed, gathered up, and burned (234)
			d.  “Fortunately for historians…some of the gospels that 
  			     Constantine attempted to eradicate managed to survive. The 
			     Dead Sea Scrolls were found in the 1950s hidden in a cave near 
			      Qumran in the Judean desert…And of course the Coptic scrolls 
			      in 1945 at Nag Hammadi…” (p. 234).
		3.  Problems
			a.  A definitive Bible did exist
				- Old Testament was fixed long before Constantine
				- Earliest Canon of scriptures in the 2nd century
				- Early Church leaders spoke against many of the 
				  Gnostic gospels by name
			b.  There were never 80 gospels.  
				- By my counting, I count only 11 in addition to the 4
				- In 2nd century, church leaders already spoke of only 
		4 gospels by name
			c.  The Dead Sea Scrolls contain no Gospels
			d.  The Bible does not downplay the humanity of Christ
				- Jesus coming in the flesh a cardinal doctrine
				- John 1:14 - Word became "flesh"
				- Heb 2 - Jesus shared in flesh and blood
				- 2 John 7 -  Deny flesh, is deceiver & antichrist
			e.  The Nag Hammadi library is Gnostic
				- They do not teach a human Jesus - matter is evil
				- They emphasize deity but denounce humanity & all 
				   that goes with it
	C.  ILL:  The Gnostic works are
		1.  Gospel of Philip:
“The world came about through a mistake. For he who created it wanted to create it imperishable and 
immortal. He fell short of attaining his desire.”
		2.  Since Jesus wasn't human, Valentinus says in his Epistle to 
Jesus digested divinity; he ate and drank in a special way, without excreting his solids. He had 
such a great capacity for continence that the nourishment within him was not corrupted, for he did 
not experience corruption"
		3.  Second Treatise of the Great Seth, Jesus says: 
"I did not die in reality, but in appearance." Those "in error and blindness....saw me; they punished 
me. It was another, their father, who drank the gall and vinegar; it was not I. They struck me with the 
reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. I was rejoicing in the height over all
....And I was laughing at their ignorance."[20]
		4.  Gospel of Thomas:  
(14) Jesus said to them, "If you (plur.) fast, you will acquire a sin, and if you pray you will be condemned, 
and if you give alms, it is evil that you will do unto your spirits. And when you go into any land and
 travel in the country places, when they receive you eat whatever they serve to you. Heal those among 
them who are sick. For, nothing that enters your mouth will defile you (plur.). Rather, it is precisely what 
comes out of your mouth that will defile you." 
(114) Simon Peter said to them, "Mary should leave us, for females are not worthy of life." Jesus said, "See, 
I am going to attract her to make her male so that she too might become a living spirit that resembles you 
males. For every female (element) that makes itself male will enter the kingdom of heaven."
	D.  Doesn't appear to be much of a challenge if you do the slightest 
                 amount of investigation

III.  Reminds me years ago of a dog down the street
	A.  One dog I hated down the street.
	B.  The most irritating was the little rat looking dog
		1.  Walk by yard, and he come out & yip at me," eyes bulging
		2.  Never left his yard.  Sometimes kids would be afraid
		3.  I never kicked him ---- but  I thought about it
		4.  There was no contest between me and it
	C.  That dog has been yipping from day one
		1.  Yip yip yip - Said Pharisees when they tried to trap Jesus
		2.  Yip yip yip - Said the Sanhedrin when they ordered Peter not to 
		      preach Jesus any more
		3.  Yip yip yip - Said the Jewish authorities when the arrested Paul
		4.  Yip yip yip - Said the Romans when they slandered Christians
		5.  Yip yip yip - Said the Gnostics and other heretics when they 
		     claimed they were the true Christians
		6.  Yip yip yip - Said Dan Brown when he wrote the Davinci Code
	D.  The dog makes a loud noise
		1.  As long as you are on the path, nothing to worry about
		2.  Shouldn't we be concerned?
		3.  I don't think Dan Brown is going to destroy the Kingdom of God

IV.  Let's Go to God's word
	A.  God's word has something significant to tell about things like this
		1.  Is 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our 
     		     God stands forever.
		2.  Dan 2: 44 -  "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will 
		     set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and {that} 
		     kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put 
		     an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.
		3.  Matt 16:18 "I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this 
		     rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not 
		     overpower it.
		4.  No little yipper is going to yip God away!
	B.  So what should we do when these challenges come up?
		1.  Don't ignore them - Early Christians didn't
			a.  Deal with them
			b.  Dealing with them might help remove obstacles to faith
		2.  Don't be fearful of them or let them consume us
			a.  Gates of Hades will not prevail
			b.  Why do you believe?
				- Because of evidence?
				- What evidence - The Tomb was empty!
				- Gates of Hades didn't prevail against Christ, nor you!  
		3.  Continue to live as a Christian
			a.  Be godly and Christ like in all you do
			b.  Tell your story about how you came to Christ
			c.  Take the Gospel in whatever way you can
				- May be a little different for various people
	C.  ILL:  Two people
		1.  Jaqueline was a skeptic at first
			a.  All kinds of questions - Preacher removed barriers to faith
			b.  Eventually committed to Christ, sins were washed away
			c.  Has been a dynamo bringing people to Christ
		2.   Andrew is still a skeptic
			a.  Very negative things to say about God and Christianity
			b.  Former preacher used to get in debates
			c.  One day, I at the door.  Some disaster had just happened
				- He said, "God didn't keep that from happening did 
				- I said, "No he didn't"
				- "Why didn't he?"
				- "That's a good question, I don't know."
			d.  Andrew began to soften and stop being so adversarial
		3.  As he opened the door a little more, began to witness kindness
			a.  No arguments, but regular people struggling
			b.  People loving each other
		4.  A couple people in the church began befriend him
			a.  Last I knew, he has been going to church
			b.  Maybe he will one day obey the Gospel
	D.  Don't be afraid to strike up a dialogue with someone who is not saved
		1.  The We Care Seminar will tell us how to do this
		2.  Bottom line - need to get to the point - the Gospel point
		3.  All this can do is remove barriers, it doesn't save
		4.  If spend all our time proving the Bible, but don't preach the 
		     Gospel, haven't done a person's soul much good.

1.  So don't let the yippers consume you 
2.  God's word has stood the test of time, because it is God's word
3.  God tells us that to come to him, we need forgiveness (invitation)