We all know there is no shortage of nice sounding, but completely false teachings out there, but what steps are we taking to guard ourselves? Knowing we can be deceived over both simple, and difficult issues, why are so many Christians reluctant to study their Bibles or do any kind of research to find out what God’s truth is?
Newsflash: Our Personal Opinions Are No Replacement For Scripture
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where people base their point of view about a Biblical topic on their personal opinion rather than the Bible?
What, never, who would do such a thing!
The reality is, many Christians believe, and often teach, things they have done little or no research on, and in a lot of cases, use all kinds of justifications for not having done any kind of homework to back up their point of view
For example, I am sure we have all heard, or made, statements like these:
“Well, what I believe is…”
“I know the Bible says that, but…”
“The Bible was written so long ago, but our culture is different now so it no longer applies”
“But God wants me to be happy”
“I was once told…”
The list goes on, but you get my point
Call me crazy, but it makes no sense to have a point of view about the Bible when it is not actually based on things like, oh you know, the Bible!
I mean honestly!
Many are quick to talk about what they know about God, but often do so without quoting scripture, ever
Also, have you ever noticed how when we place our personal opinions over the Bible’s teachings, we almost always think things we feel comfortable with, not things we find challenging or difficult to accept–how convenient!
What is even more amusing, is when Christians put their un-researched opinions forward, it may not actually even be their real opinion, as they have not done enough study to make a truly subjective, let alone objective opinion about anything, as with new information, they may change their minds completely
We do not consider this often, but thinking and acting in a way where we even remotely think it is okay to place our opinions over God’s Word is beyond arrogant!
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you
Note how James says “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you”, as it is so important to understand that rejecting God’s truth in favor of our opinions is completely arrogant, and lacks humility of any kind
“Yes God, my opinion, emotions, and intellect supersede what you wrote in the Bible, I know what is best, thank you for your input, but I know what I am doing”
Even though making up what we believe makes no sense, I have heard people use their personal opinions on topics like what is required to actually become saved, whether Christians can lose their salvation, whether or not tongues and prophecy are still around today, whether we should marry non-Christians, and all sorts of other topics that are incredibly important!
I know it sounds obvious that we should not make up our doctrine as we go, but why is it so incredibly common?
Studying The Bible Requires More Time And Effort Than Many Are Willing To Invest
In speaking with numerous Christians, the number one reason we do not read the Bible frequently is because it takes time away from other things we want to do
It is just that simple!
“But I never have time to read the Bible!”
(I rarely get tired of asking this)
This excuse may sound logical at first, but our lives are filled with completely optional things we prefer to spend our time on, it is just not very comfortable to admit
Of course, there are required activities in our lives like work, school, chores, etc…, that take up our time, but look at these examples of completely optional, self-gratifying things we spend our time on instead of drawing near to God:
- Watching tv shows we cannot miss
- Playing video games for hours
- Spending ridiculous amounts of time on Facebook
- Filling our evenings and weekends with social activities, both with friends and relationship partners
- Going out to movies all the time
- Watching YouTube until we get bored
- Spending time on various hobbies or taking classes
These are just a few examples, but all of these things offer zero benefit to us spiritually, as they are designed to either to entertain us or give us peer validation in some way, yet these are the types of things we have come to value so much in life to the point where we prefer them over drawing near to God
“But I never have time to read the Bible!”
You see why this statement is so dubious!
Now, before people start thinking I am advocating we only spend our time reading the Bible without doing anything for rest or relaxation, I want to be clear there is a balance we need to find in everything, as Solomon, the wisest man to have ever lived, said there was a time for everything, including study
Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body
Finding this balance is important, as many insist their personal activities are what give them recharge time, but they do not understand what they are really saying, as if worldly happiness is where they draw their strength from instead of God, their life’s priorities are not where they should be
Above anything the world has to offer, we should seek God for strength, and renewal, valuing his presence over everything
For this reason, it is important to analyze ourselves objectively, asking what in our lives we can spend, even a little, less time on to make room for consistent Bible study, as there are always things we can put aside to make room for God, no matter how busy our lives seem
Now that we understand how our lives have more room for Bible study than we thought, why is reading the Bible so important in the first place?
Reading The Bible Is Not About Spending Time With A Book, It Is About Drawing Near To God
This is probably one of the most misunderstood concepts among Christians, as reading the Bible is not about checking off a box so our consciences leave us alone, it is about spending time with God!
Look at how God calls himself our “great reward”, this is so much better than receiving anything earthly!
Sadly, not many Christians view a relationship with God a reward, as he is a fixture in their lives, but they seek his help or blessings before seeking his presence, kind of like marrying someone for their money, but not caring about them enough to have a real relationship
When we spend a lot of time in the Bible, it helps us understand so much about God, as knowledge of his character leads us to maturity, and to a place where we can please him, learning to walk with him intimately, which is not only important for us, but for equipping us to teach others to do the same
For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light
In Greek, the word “knowledge” means “precise and correct knowledge”, so we see Paul is saying he wants people to be filled with “precise and correct knowledge of his will” “in order that [we] may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way”
Now, really stop and think about that for a moment, as Paul is openly telling believers they need be filled with the “precise and correct knowledge” of God’s will in order to live in a way that both honors, and pleases him–this is impossible to achieve without studying the Bible!
In fact, the author of Hebrews even goes so far as to chastise those who are “slow to learn” the deeper truths of God, openly saying their laziness is keeping them in a place of spiritual infancy, where they are not acquainted with the teachings of righteousness, to the point where they are not able to consistently separate right from wrong–yikes!
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil
(The word “milk” in Greek means “less difficult Christians truths”)
Now, when we read passages like the ones above, and see how openly the authors place importance on having accurate, precise, and mature knowledge about God, it shows how ridiculous it is when we use our personal opinions as a replacement for God’s truth, as no author of the Bible said the opinion or knowledge of man led to righteousness or a lifestyle that pleased God!
With these passages in mind, it is no surprise many Christians wonder why their relationship with God is not intimate, yet fail to realize, or acknowledge, they rarely spend time with him or live in a way that pleases him, as many are not aware God draws near to those who draw near to him through their lifestyles–oops!
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded
(A lot of Christians struggle with accepting this, but God does not have a history of walking intimately with people who reject him in favor of worldly happiness, and/or sin)
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him
(Notice how it says God “rewards those who earnestly seek him”, that means he reserves a level of intimacy to those who honor him enough to seek him passionately–get on it!)
In fact, these verses demonstrate why knowing the Bible is so important, as it is very common for Christians, especially those in the early stages of growth, to not understand what steps are necessary to walk with God intimately, ie: seeking him earnestly, doing everything possible to rid our lives of sin
Since it is at these early stages of spiritual growth that we are the most vulnerable, you can bet the enemy will try to fill our heads with all kinds of nice sounding, but completely false teachings that are designed to separate us from God both now, and for the long-term, which is why it is so incredibly important to know the Bible!
Knowing God’s Personality Is The Key To Having True Intimacy
If we have a proper understanding of the Bible, the enemy would be powerless to twist it in a way that is destructive to us or others
For example, even though the verse above in James 4:8 is clear about how God draws near to those who draw near to him, many teach that nothing we do can affect our intimacy with God, whether we live righteously or sinfully
These kinds of teachings are so destructive, as they sound nice to new believers, but they keep many at a place of immaturity, sometimes for the duration of their entire lives, as they think they are walking in the fullness of a relationship with God from day one, but have yet to actually encounter him in a life-changing way because they do not seek him like the Bible instructs–with sincerity, and with purified, righteous hearts
Be careful before reacting to that statement though, keeping in mind that the enemy is incredibly smart when it comes to sowing seeds of false doctrine, as they know exactly what kinds of things people are looking to hear when they have broken hearts, understanding that many are afraid of rejection, and of being seen as unforgivable or unworthy of love
Taking full advantage of these fears, the enemy twists God’s character into one where he is a giant teddy bear holding a rainbow in the sky, showering everyone who calls on the name of Jesus with equal blessings, and an equal relationship, regardless of whether they seek him sincerely or live righteously–this is beyond untrue!
Of course, there is a balance, as we come to God broken, dead in sin, and in need of forgiveness, but just entering into a relationship with God as broken sinners is, thankfully, not the extent of what a relationship with God is all about, as Jesus himself taught that a higher level of intimacy is available when our lives are transformed through righteous obedience
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him
We know God loves us, so when Jesus says those who obey his commands “will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him”, we should be excited knowing there is an incredible reward waiting for us when we reach a certain level of righteousness that the Bible defines as love for God!
Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me
1 John 5:3
This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome
Now, can you imagine the victory the enemy wins over us when they prey on our fears to the point where we unknowingly believe in a God whose personality does not exist in the Bible, or even go so far as to have us openly reject what is clearly written in the Bible about God’s character because it makes us uncomfortable or scared of rejection
If we cannot accept what it means to please God through our lifestyles, we will never have intimacy with him
This happens to more Christians than we can imagine, as many are only comfortable accepting God’s personality as far as their emotional comfort will allow, rather than dwell in a place of truth, which is exactly what the enemy wants
How Do We Have The Right Approach To Learning Accurate Doctrine
This is where things get real
Consider the common teachings where we are told God will forgive, love, and walk intimately with us no matter how we live, even if we willingly hold onto sin, and/or live in continual disobedience to the Bible, because “God knows our heart”
Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God
It is important to remember these verses do not apply to other people, they apply to us, just like all the other verses we comfortably believe
We cannot pick and choose our doctrine based on what we find emotionally comfortable
No matter what we think we know, there are always going to be things we need to learn, which is why it is important to be open-minded enough, and willing, to do research when challenging scriptures are put in front of us
However, where many Christians stumble in the face of God’s truth, is they place their personal opinions about the state of their relationship with God, salvation, and personally defined sense of righteousness above the Bible and God’s will, often completely ignoring God’s character as the Bible defines him, ie: as one who is to be greatly respected, to the point of reverence, awe, and fear
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell
(To make sure this passage is completely understood, in Greek, the word Jesus uses for “fear” means “to fear, to treat with deference or reverential obedience”, so we see Jesus is saying to not only respect God, but obey him as well)
Now, the most common, yet unspiritual, reactions to these last few passages are things like “God loves me, I could never disappoint or anger him”, or “My salvation is secure no matter what I do”, etc…, which is fine, as it illustrates the point of the entire article
To understand how to approach these topics with the right mindset, we should not be quick to say “No, that is wrong!” and then repeat a bunch of scriptures we feel support our existing point of view, we should diligently seek answers in the Word, starting by reflecting on the verses we find challenging, not focus on repeating what we think we already know–that is no way to learn or intelligently contest anything
We need to understand what we are disagreeing with before responding, without being eager to state our point of view as if we are above needing to do any kind of research
See how easy that is!
Another thing, is Christians have a reputation for being incredibly defensive about what they believe, often becoming aggressive or angry when questioned
These people demonstrate close-mindedness to the world in a way that causes many to be repelled by the very idea of Christianity, as many of its followers poorly handle even the most sincere questions by non-believers–we should do everything possible to change this perception about Christianity!
1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect
With this in mind, start challenging yourselves, your friends, your pastors, your Bible study leaders, me, anyone, about Biblical truths, but do so with a heart to understand, and to learn, not just to speak
Be prepared to do your homework, not just walk around telling everyone what you believe, and most importantly, be prepared to be wrong sometimes, because it will happen!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight