My Musings – Much of the deceptive philosophy can clearly discerned as false or not to be trusted, and we easily dismiss or discard it. Some contradicts what we have grown up believing. Yet many believe in and swear by it with such great passion and credibility, that we can hardly see how it could be wrong. Some are appealing because they have a “form of Godliness” and yet we wonder if it can be trusted. How then do we decide what is truth?
Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Bible) point us to God’s central truth that brought redemption to mankind – His Son, Jesus Christ. A redemption that was necessary because of the fall. Among other things, the Old Testament was written so that we “might have hope” (Romans 15:4) in the truth that was to come (the Messiah) as it looked forward to Jesus’ first coming. The New Testament was written so that we “may know” (1 John 5:13) and believe in the truth that came (the Savior) so that we might have eternal life, and as we look forward to Jesus’ second coming.
The Scriptures (the Bible), both the Old Testament and the New Testament, form the complete and inerrant Word of God.
While the Bible was written by men (who are prone to error), the truths that the Bible conveys were inspired by God (Who does not make mistakes) to communicate His truths to mankind.
God did this so that we might know, worship, and serve Him. In its pages the Bible teaches us how we should live, by the laws God gave us in its words and by the example of His Son that it records. When we stray from these teachings, the Bible’s words of instruction become words of rebuke as the Holy Spirit works to bring correction into our lives. Through all of this (teaching, rebuking, and correcting) we are being trained to become (be transformed into) the Godly men and women that God intended for us to be before the fall. He wants us to be thoroughly equipped for every good work as we have the opportunity.
The Bible Is God-Breathed – The Bible is not merely good advice from a group of well-meaning men acting independently of each other. It is God communicating His thoughts and revealing Himself through these men. Each were dependent upon God’s inspiration for the messages that they wrote and were unconsciously acting in concert with each other as the mystery of the Gospel and God’s grace through His Son unfolded in perfect harmony. “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21, NIV 1978).
The Bible Teaches Us – The Bible is God’s instruction book for our life and conduct. It teaches us about Him and our relationship to Him; how we should worship Him and how we should obey Him. “It [the Word] is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees.” (Deuteronomy 17:19, NIV 1978).
The Bible Rebukes Us – The word of God cannot help but make us conscious of and reprimand us for the inconsistencies in our daily walk and in our profession of faith. Not just the apparent inconsistencies that are evident from our actions and lifestyle, but also the inconsistencies buried deep within our thoughts and that affect the attitude of our heart. “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).
The Bible Corrects Us – The word not only rebukes us, but it brings correction. It causes us to redirect our life and bring it back onto the path that is the way to a fulfilling life with our Lord. “For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life.” (Proverbs 6:23, NIV 1978).
The Bible Trains Us – The word teaches us what to do. It rebukes us when we stray. It brings us back to the right path. Finally, it trains us on how to stay on the right path. It does that by giving us understanding and by turning our hearts toward God’s word. And as we walk with the Lord the word becomes more than just something we read, and more than something to think about and reflect upon. It becomes who we are. Influencing our thoughts and actions. “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; and I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight. Turn my heart toward your statutes.” (Psalm 119:33-36, NIV 1978).
The Bible Equips Us – The word that trains us to live our lives consistently in accordance with God’s will is also equipping us and preparing us for active service. Because we do not just live our lives solely for self-improvement, but to be useful to God in service for Him. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. An instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.” (2 Timothy 2:15, 21, NIV 1978).
The Bible Calls Us to Action – How sad to think that some will be taught, trained, equipped and on the right path, but going nowhere and doing nothing. God did not save us for a life of quiet consent to the truths of His word. He called us to a life of service to Him. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James 1:22, NIV 1978).
The Bible Is Eternal – What we have learned. What we have been trained in. What we have been equipped with. What has changed our lives and has called us to service will never be superseded, go out of style, or become obsolete. It stands forever. “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18, NIV 1978).
My Advice – Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice because they know His voice. They know His voice because they are familiar with it. They are familiar with His voice because they have stayed close to Him and spent time with Him. Because of this, His sheep are able to distinguish the voice of the imposter (deceiver) who comes only to “steal, kill and destroy.” They will not “believe every spirit.” They will not be taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” that so easily ensnares those who are not familiar enough with the Master’s voice. They will not “turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Knowing His voice is so very important because the imposter is very crafty. We see his craftiness in how he deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden. When confronting them doing (listening and following) what God had told them, he did not start with outright contradiction. First, he caused them to begin doubting the Word of God (“did God really say?”) by distorting the Word of God (“you must not eat from any tree?”). That made God’s Word seem unreasonable. Eventually, this allowed him to take things where he wanted them all along – disputing God’s Word altogether (“you will not”). This ultimately led them into disobeying God’s Word and with God calling out – “Adam, where are you?” They had hidden themselves because they were no longer following Him.
So how do we guard against making this same mistake? While Jesus no longer walks this earth, we can still know His voice by spending time in His Word. But we need to do more than just “hear” what it says, we need to “listen” to what it says. We must make the effort to process what it says so that we can capture its meaning and message. Without this effort we are merely going through a mechanical process and hearing background noise. But if we make this effort, we will be able to see through the craftiness of the imposter. When he says, “did God really say” we can reply yes, He did, “it is written.”
So how are you doing? Are you merely hearing without listening? Are you listening without following?
Steve is an elder at First. He has his own blog, www.TheBrewIsAmusing.com