In listening to many sermons by Christian men and women, I am struck by how contradictory their thoughts are. How deeply men differ in their positions.
And how even basically solid men can say things that are not biblical. And can go off on tangents that undercut otherwise good teaching and preaching. Or engage in ministry practices that destroy the clarity of the gospel they proclaim.
This is why I believe a Christian must do his own homework. He must study diligently to know he is on the right path.
Knowing For Sure
It is just too dangerous to casually accept the teaching of men because they have a good reputation within the popular Christian world. Or because they have received wide, scholarly approval from prestigious academic institutions.
Take a deep look at this oft-repeated verse. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (II Timothy 2:15)
This verse is actually a promise.
It is not just a command to do some homework. There is something very unique in this verse that God has given to us.
It tells us that we can know we are approved of God. And that we can know that our understanding of scripture is correct.
Allow me to back up for a minute and reflect on some things I have seen first-hand over my 45 years as a Christian.
I’ve found that one of the faults within Bible churches has been a tendency by pastors to push too quickly for people to “take a stand” on a particular issue. This is particularly a problem in Fundamental churches. Where one can easily become cornered to choose a side.
A pastor or teacher may be quite convinced on the “rightness” of his position. And he can be very emotional about it. And he can be very vocal and aggressive in his presentation of that position.
And that is OK; as far as that goes. One should be passionate and zealous in a good thing. And to desire that others see the truth.
But the process for any Christian to come to a deep knowledge and conviction of the truth requires more than a good sermon and a persuasive presentation.
It requires that every Christian studies the issue for himself. And that he reads and double-checks the source material for himself.
What is the Authority?
For example, what if a pastor and his leadership team decide to start a program in a church. That program may be based on the materials and teachings of another author or leader who has a wide following. Maybe from a very influential, scholarly man.
The guy in the pew will then have a decision to make. He can just go along with the teaching or program or he can double-check the soundness of the source.
Most Christians today just go along with it.
They may not like all aspects of a program and may not want to give their hard-earned money to all aspects of a program. But most will still just go along with it.
Because they are too lazy to read for themselves.
And because they don’t want to make waves. Because they don’t want to be accused of creating disunity in the body.
To Be or Not to Be . . . Sheep
And this is one of the main reasons why most churches are weak and in trouble today. Because, like sheep, we’ve gone astray. We follow just about anything that is put in front of us. Like a bunch of stupid sheep.
Some of our brothers even think it is arrogant to ever question the teachings of pastors, leaders or other ministries.
As if, a truly humble Christian, would not be so proud as to think he has such a firm grasp on the truth. As in the accusation, “Do you think you are the only one with the truth?”
This is a direct result of the Evangelical church forsaking the spiritual gift of discernment.
Discernment comes through experience guided by the study of the word of God, of prayer and of checking things out with diligence and consistency.
As if God might have actually told us somewhere in His word to be shepherds. To guard the sheep. To feed His sheep. To watch over His sheep.
Not to BE sheep!
The solution is that we must check the sources. We must get off our lazy rear ends and become vigilant about what is being taught. Whether it is biblical or not.
Who are the men we are following? The authors, the preachers, the academics, the colleges and the scholars?
Everyone must line up with the final source of authority.
There are no exceptions.
Even the apostle Paul placed himself under scrutiny. We would do well to heed the following example of those who double-checked Paul’s teaching and sources.
“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11)