How gullible are you?
A few years ago, a story was being told on Christian television and in many churches throughout America. The story varied from preacher to preacher, but essentially told the tale about a group of scientists (or oil drillers, etc...) who were digging "the deepest hole ever on earth." [i]These scientists, for some reason or another, attached a microphone to the end of the drill. To their frightful astonishment -- they heard chilling screams! After hearing the sounds of "Hell," these scientists shut down their drills and headed for the nearest church to get saved![/i] This story spread rapidly amongst churches in North America. The "source" for the tale was usually said to be a newspaper from Denmark or Finland. Unfortunately, those who told the story didn't realize that it was originally concocted by a couple of guys who wanted to demonstrate how gullible some Christians could be. It was later published in a ridiculous supermarket tabloid, which helped spread the story all over the U.S. Even today, if you were to perform a Google search, you would find several variations of this story.
[b]"Test everything. Hold on to the good."[/b]
I Thessalonians 5:21 (NIV)
Unfortunately, some Christians feel that by "testing everything" that they are demonstrating a lack of faith. But nothing could be further from the truth! By "testing everything," a Christian is showing faith in the Word of God -- and not the supposed "experiences of man." The Word of God is the only true and safe test for our experiences or doctrine. In fact, if your "experience" does not line up with God's Word -- then your experience is a lie.
[b][i]But the Bible says
As Christians, we obviously believe in Christ. True believers have come to a similar point where they value Christ above all and their relationship with Christ as their greatest treasure. Yet we live in a world in which other believers in Christ hold different views in certain matters of faith and doctrine. In fact, some of these views are [i]radically[/i] different.
Some are pre-trib, some are post-trib and some dont believe in a rapture at all.
Some believe that women should wear man-made hair coverings; others do not.
Some people believe that the KJV is the only acceptable translation; some believe that the KJV is the best acceptable translation; some believe that it is merely an acceptable translation and some people dont like the KJV at all.
Some people believe that tongues is a gift that is the initial sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit; some believe that it is merely a singular gift of the Holy Spirit; some believe that it is a gift that is no longer needed of valid today; and some believe that it could be a work of the devil.
Some people believe that all secular music is satanic; rock and roll music is satanic; some believe that Christian rock and roll music is satanic; some believe that all music is acceptable.
Some people believe that drinking any alcohol is a sin; some believe that drinking any unnatural beverages is a sin; some people feel comfortable to drink as long as you dont get drunk.
Some people believe that television is unconditionally a tool of Satan; some believe that they can watch some programs (including entertainment); some believe that only educational and informative shows are acceptable; and some believe that they can watch what they want.
Some people believe that there are two judgment days; some believe that there is one judgment day; and some believe that there are no judgment days for the believer.
Some believe in tithing; some do not believe in tithing.
Some believe in voting; some believe that voting is unwise; some believe that voting is a sin.
Do you see the differences of opinion found within the body of Christ? There is a plethora of variation within our beliefs. In fact, the variation of beliefs is nearly as numerous as the number of people who consider themselves to be followers of Christ!
While it is important that we seek to understand the Word of God in regards to doctrine, it would be wise to consider the Lords silence on many such subjects. There are things in the Bible that just are unanimously clear. Just because something [i]seems[/i] clear to you doesnt mean that it is: (A) Clear to everyone; or (B) Completely true. We are all at different stages of maturity in our pilgrimage. Some of us have changed our beliefs on an issue (and some of us, [i]more than once[/i]!). Each of us are obviously seeking the right destination TRUTH. Concerning these changes, arent you glad that no one approached you (as a young believer) with a whip in hand in order to force you into total adherence to the beliefs that you have now? Rather, the greatest change in attitude is often subtle.
The Bible warns us about the manner of our communication. The Bible says, [i]Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying[/i]" (Ephesians 4:29). Perhaps this could also be modified to prevent corrupt communication that comes from your keyboards.
God sometimes uses others to point us in a different direction or enlighten us concerning a matter that we might not have seen before. But the Lord is gentle. Matthew 11:28-30 speaks of the Lords gentle, caring nature: [i]Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light[/i]. Are we reflecting Christ in our manner of discussions? Too often, we carry the attitude of the sons of thunder ready to call down fire from heaven to consume those reprobates who disagree with us (Luke 9:54)! We may laugh, but many believers think that this sort of zealous attitude is a virtue. According to Paul, truth (of what we think to be truth) without love is simply a sounding brass or tinkling symbol (I Corinthians 13:1). In other words, it is meaningless and quite annoying!
In fact, we often forget what exactly Paul is referring to within the Love Chapter (I Corinthians 13). Paul had just finished admonishing the believers at Corinth about which gifts are greater (in chapter 12). He then reminds them that all of their gifts, if used without love, are nothing. Paul reminds us about how childish our thoughts, words and actions can be when demonstrated without the love of Christ (I Corinthians 13:11).
[b]How should we discuss doctrine?[/b]
Doctrine is, by its very nature, quite controversial. Why? Because we all see things differently. We should remember the example of Paul during his trip to Ephesus as a case study in civility. In Acts chapter 19, Paul arrived at Ephesus to believers who had only received Johns baptism. Paul didnt scold these believers. He didnt question their spirituality or use a gift of suspicion to question the validity of their relationship with Christ. He simply explained to them the difference between Johns baptism and what he was certain to be truth. The effect of this sort of civility? The believers were receptive to what Paul taught them.
[b]What is truth?[/b]
A couple of years ago, I was privileged to speak at a Christian organization on the campus of the University that I attended. This was a very large and eager Christian group representing college students from vast multi-denominational (and nondenominational) backgrounds. I gave every student a piece of paper with a list of ten topics. I informed the students that this was an open book test (what student doesnt love an open book test?) in which they could list the reasons they believe one way or another about the topics listed on the sheet of paper. These topics included such things as abortion, the rapture, tithing, drinking and music, amongst a few other often controversial issues. I gave the students twenty minutes to write as many supporting scriptures in which to express the validity of their beliefs. First, I asked the students to first write what they believe (i.e. the rapture pre-trib, post-trib or no-trib, etc
). Next, I asked them to find the Scriptural justification(s) for their beliefs.
At the end of the twenty minutes, I asked the students to stop writing. I didnt embarrass any of my fellow students with the opportunity to share their beliefs on any of the ten topics. Rather, I simply asked (by a show of hands) how many people could write [u][i]what[/u] they believe[/i] on the paper. Most of the students hands were raised. In fact, nearly every student could make a list of what they believed on everyone of these issues. However, this was not the case when I asked about the amount of Scripture that these students could find that substantiated each belief. The vast majority of these students could hardly find a single Scripture verse to justify the belief that they held as doctrinal truth.
Why did I do this? I wanted to demonstrate the problem in many of todays modern Churches. It isnt that we dont know [i]what[/i] we believe. Most of us are quite convinced about which doctrines we hold to be truth and which we consider to be a lie. The problem is that many believers simply dont know WHY they believe as they do. When I asked these students, many of them simply responded that they had believed in such a manner for their entire lives. I explained the danger of just going with the flow of doctrinal persuasion. We can no longer depend on the traditional beliefs that have been handed down for generations. We need to know the certainty of our beliefs for ourselves.
[b]Is it okay to question your beliefs? [/b]
Sometimes, a young Christian will reach a point where they feel guilty for "questioning" some of the beliefs that have been engrafted in their hearts and minds. We sometimes feel that by questioning things that we were told or taught, that we are "falling into doubt." However, it is clear from the Scriptures that God desires for us to know the certainty of our beliefs (Luke 1:1-4). Am I saying that we should not hold doctrinal positions? No. But too often, we hold "doctrinal positions" without either truly understanding our doctrinal "beliefs" -- or by just believing something that we are told because it came from a Christian we either followed or respected. It is true that God has given us leaders. But we do that leader a [i]disservice[/i] by only believing what they say. In fact, every truly genuine Christian leader desires for their "flock" to verify the truth of what they say.
[b]"But God told me..."[/b]
However, there are some "Christian leaders" that request or almost demand unconditional allegiance to their particular "vision" or "doctrine." The Bible warns of such men -- who sometimes misuse their authority in order to flaunt (or perhaps, try and secure) their position of leadership. Sometimes, these men are actually sincere. They truly believe in their own words, and because they do, they ardently defend themselves against those who question the validity of what they say. But we are never to believe something just because it is taught -- regardless of who it is that teaches it. The Word of God is clear that there are no perfect people. Sometimes, even the most Godly men and women make mistakes. Abraham begat Ishmael. David thought it was a good idea to take a census. Paul and Barnabas argued over who God wanted them to take on a missionary trip. The point is that sometimes sincere men and women believe that they have heard God -- only to find out later that it was just a "good (or bad) idea." Be very careful of men or women who often "quote God." Instead of saying, "[i]The Bible says
[/i]" or [i]I think[/i]
, they often indict God by saying, "[i]The [u]Lord[/u] told me[/i]..." However, we are admonished in the Word to verify what is said by what is written. II Timothy 2:15 states, [i]Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth[/i]. Only then will we not be "[i]blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine[/i]" (Ephesians 4:14).
[b]Why is this so important?[/b]
If you get in your car and turn on your radio to the local Christian radio station, you will often find a dozen different preachers teaching a dozen different things -- with some actually contradicting (or sometimes, [i]attacking[/i]) each other's doctrinal positions. Go home, turn on Christian television, and you will might find the same thing. Go to the local Christian bookstore, and you'll find several books on both sides of a doctrinal dispute. Different denominations hold different positions on everything from water baptism to spiritual gifts. In fact, you'll probably find such doctrinal disagreement everywhere -- including within your own church! One person may think that it is sinful to attend a football game, while another may think that its sinful to drink a Pepsi. There have been congregations that have actually split because someone thought they "heard the Lord" tell them to paint the church. The problem was, 30 people heard 30 different colors that God wanted the church painted!
[b]Show me the scripture![/b]
Recently, I spoke with a fellow believer about Bible prophecy. He constantly told me that he knew that the Lord was coming soon. While I agreed with him, I was puzzled about why he believed what he believed. I asked him, "How do you know?" "Well," he responded, "the signs point to the Lord's return." "Which signs?" I asked. My friend soon became frustrated, because not only could he not remember a single sign pointing to the Lord's return -- but he could not find one in his Bible! Indeed, he couldn't find a single Scripture verse concerning the Lord's return at all! He just assumed that the Book of Revelation was full of them. He did, however, quote a few things he heard from his Pastor (and a few things from some Rapture films). After I used his Bible to show him some passages concerning our discussion, he almost seemed embarrassed. Not wanting him to feel embarrassed, I encouraged him for having so much zeal. He left grateful that I recognized his "hunger" for God. However, I was saddened that a young man who had been saved for several years (and who seemed so "knowledgeable" about Bible prophecy) could not verify his beliefs with the Word of God. I wondered how many other Christians are like him -- who believe because they are told.
What is needed now are people with the wisdom and discernment of the Bereans. The Bereans were not gullible. In fact, the believers in Berea were considered "noble" for questioning the authority of Paul's teaching. "[i]Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true[/i]" (Acts 17:11). Churches across America (and the world for that matter) desperately need men and women like those in Berea -- who are firm in their faith and know the certainty of their beliefs! In this day when so many winds of doctrine are preached and taught over the airwaves and in books, we need to take a stand for what we know to be the Word of Truth. And only those who know the Truth are truly free -- and will stand firm in their faith.
[i]"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers."[/i] - Psalm 1:2-3
This is something that I wrote a few years ago. Notwithstanding my poor writing skills at the time, I still thought that it was worth looking at.