Digested But Untested

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail“Believers think of themselves as individuals first, Americans second, and Christians third. Until that prioritization is rearranged, the Church will continue to lose influence, and biblical principles will represent simply one more option among the numerous worldviews that Americans may choose from.” – George Barna

“Prove all things; hold fast what is good.” – I Thessalonians 5: 21

Ask a roomful of believers if they’re all on the same page, and they’re likely to say yes. Ask them to then read aloud from the page they’re on individually, and the varied responses will bring the Tower of Babel to mind.

We give lip service to unity because, after all, it sounds nice. But too often it’s a vague unity; a common belief in kindness and decency, perhaps, or in the existence of a supreme being. But press for the nitty-gritty of our beliefs about that Being, and His expectations of us, and despite our claims of same-page agreement you’ll often find we are, in fact, reading different books.

In his 2001 work Boiling Point, Barna indicates this by showing a majority of Christians polled believe that the Bible teaches “God helps those who help themselves,” that the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s power and presence but not a living entity, that Satan does not exist, and that there are many paths by which a person may experience eternal salvation. (Mind you, this is from the majority of Christians surveyed!) Clearly they got these ideas somewhere, but wherever it was, it was far removed from the Bible. Compare this doctrinal sloppiness to the discipline of the Bereans, who refused to take even Paul the Apostle’s words at face value, testing them against scripture before accepting them and distinguishing themselves as “noble.” (Acts 17:11)

The Church today cannot claim such nobility. Too many of us seem quick to digest the untested, swallowing ideas and principles from varied sources without proving them against an objective, authoritative standard. So when determining the nature of God, or assessing whether something is right or wrong, Paul’s question to the Romans What saith the scripture? (Romans 4:3) has been replaced by What saith Oprah? What saith Bono? or What saith Dr. Oz?  (All of whom can be valid resources, but none of whose words can claim to be, at all times, “given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (II Timothy 3:17)

Granted, even among those holding the highest view of scripture, there’s disagreement in a number of areas. So debates over eternal security, the pre or post-tribulation rapture of the church, or the gifts of the Spirit, are inevitable, doing little or no damage. But lack of agreement and conviction on basic points is another matter. If we’re unconvinced of Jesus’ claim that no one comes to the Father but by Him (John 14:6) or His description of a literal place or torment for the unredeemed (Mark 9:44-48) or His definition of God’s design for marriage (Matthew 19:4-6) then it logically follows that we’ll feel no urgency to promote these essential truths to the world, much less recognize them in our own congregations. And where can we expect that lead, if not to apostasy?

Truth calls for its rightful place as a priority in the Church today, crying out to be known, promoted, and adhered to. Its neglect accounts for so much of the serious error, outright heresy, and general immaturity we see so much of in 2015.   By contrast, Paul noted that the person informed and guided by scripture “may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Timothy 3:17) And Charles Spurgeon, lamenting the minimization of sound doctrine’s importance, summed the issue up nicely:

“My firm old fashioned belief is that some doctrines are true, and that statements which are diametrically opposite to them are not true – that when No is the fact, Yes is out of court, and that when Yes can be justified, No must be abandoned. We have to deal with God, whose servants we are, and He will not be honored by our delivering falsehoods.”

My sweet Southern grandmother used to say, “Most of your problems in life come from what goes into your mouth, or what comes out of it.” There’s a simple wisdom to that: watch what you put out, but also watch, carefully and constantly, what you put in.


  1. What a great and timely word Joe. Thanks. More and more in recent days I find myself pointing people back to the original temptation. Has God said? And does He mean it. The dividing line is getting clearer by the day.

  2. Matthew McIntyre says:

    What can the Church accomplish when unified? (Matthew 16:18)
    Thank you Joe for a great word that I need to hear and then be a doer of The Word.

  3. Much needed today! Paul, I ceased not to preach “the whole counsel of God”…His truth and wisdom must be pre-eminent in our lives!

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