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The Unity of Truth-Discerning False Doctrines
I had an opportunity to attend a Jehovah Witness Baptismal service, It was a real eye opener for me. Among the many observations that I brought away from the experience was the realization of how badly they have twisted scripture. I was amazed at how they could read the very same scriptures that I read and yet draw conclusions that severely contradicted mine.
Over the years, I have had multiple conversation with people of different faiths. Some of those folks claim to be Christians, yet they deny the trinity, and/or the deity of Christ, or they believe in multiple gods. It's crazy! We all read the same scripture and yet we are in totally different worlds. This is a problem, for God is not a ice cream parlor, He does not come in different flavors. Someone is wrong. Who is it?
Often I am left scratching my head. Reasoning with these folks becomes an exorcize in futility. They seem to have something over their eyes and ears, rewriting what the bible says. Tainting their understanding. In the case of the before mentioned Jw's, they literally rewrote the Bible. How on earth can I get through to these folks? How can I help them see the truth. They must come a way from our discussions feeling the same way. Shaking their heads, perplexed as to how I could be so blind to their perspective.
How do we overcome this problem?
Here is what I am learning, we all view the world through a particular lens or paradigm that aid us in drawing conclusions or understanding. When it comes to Holy Scripture and spiritual things, I view scripture through a Trinitarian lens, The Jehovah Witnesses have their own lens. The Mormons have their own lens, and so on.
It is a picture of perspective. We view right and wrong through the lens of experience. Put another way, we determine right and wrong based on our past experiences. Traditions, backgrounds, and personal biases can and do shape our view of God's Word. In a very real way we create our own lens. We build our own paradigm. We tend to allow our life's experiences to change God's Word.
I don’t believe I am to use my experiences to determine right and wrong. I don’t deny that experiences are important in shaping understanding however, I am to view my experiences through the lens of Gods word. That is, God’s Word determines how I am to view and understand my experiences.
When viewing scripture, the problem comes when we refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to conform us to God's Word. We tend to massage our way through it. Gently manipulating, stretching, and conforming it to fit inside our paradigm. Allowing our lens to change the color of God's Word.
There is only one perspective or lens that really matters, God's.
Proverbs 14:12- There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death
Proverbs 28:26a- He that trusts in his own heart is a fool
Proverbs 3:5- Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
It is vital that we place God's word before our perspective, Before our traditions, experiences and personal biases. In order to get an accurate understanding of truth, we must conform to it, not it to us
A man's theology will dictate his morality, or his morality will dictate his theology.-Bill Gothard
What Is An Elephant?
By now, I am sure we have all heard that illustration that depicts several blind men touching different parts of the same elephant. Each draws different conclusion as to what an elephant is and looks like. They lacked the ability to see the elephant in its complete form. They lack the big picture because they are locked into a singular area of the animal,
In a lot of ways we are like those blind men. When we focus on one part of scripture or one particular doctrine we too get locked into a limited view of God's word. This creates disunity with in the body of Christ. This speaks to the importance of Bible study and seeking the whole counsel of God's Word (Acts 20:27).
Lets take the elephant analogy a little further. Lets call the zoo keeper over to explain what an elephant is. Lets have him lead the blind men and have them all touch the same parts of the elephant. Let them all touch the tail, trunk, and the ears. Allow them all to run their hands over the entire length and width of the elephant's body. Give them as much information as they need to understand the big picture.
Do you suppose that when they are all given the same information, when they all touch the same exact parts of the elephant, they will then draw the same conclusion as to the form, size and essence of the elephant? I am sure this will help a great deal. It will broaden their understanding immensely. It may even allow them to find a measure of agreement. However, If I am any judge of human nature, I suspect the answer would still be no.
We make conclusions about new facts and data based on old facts and data. We view the world around us through our lens of experience. We must learn to lay the experience aside until we have consulted God's word. In this way we learn to view our experiences through His lens. We must start with scripture, and this can only be done if we know scripture. We must know God's Word.
A friend of mine recently made this statement in regards to big picture theology:
" Let the Word of God speak for it self" and " discovering biblical truth can best be realized through personal intense, prayerful bible study, evaluating as much of what the bible says on a particular topic as possible, comparing scripture with scripture, facing apparent contradictions head on, and never allowing unclear passages to "trump" clear passages. More often than not, scriptures that appear to contradict the majority of what the bible says, are usually taken out of context," Mike Caravaggio
This is a fantastic statement! I especially like the bit about facing contradictions head on. "Never give up! Never surrender!" Boo-Yaw! Indeed, the cults take advantage of ignorance.
False Doctrine- A Wolf In Sheep's Clothing
My Mom likes to remind me to keep it simple. However scripture is only plain and easy when we have enough knowledge of scripture in us to connect the dots. I have found that new Christians often look at the bible in confusion. Some things are clear enough while others simply go over their heads. It is a milk vs. meat distinction. The reality is we all must have some base or library to view scripture from
Another Friend of mine made this statement:
"The "Hermeneutical Spiral" recognizes that in order to even begin to understand Scripture, I must have some form of base, some form of basic understanding by which to begin to study Scripture and seek the Truth."Brandon Klassen
There was a time when a person could not live in this society with out hearing sound Christian Doctrine taught in one form or another. It was in the class rooms, courthouses Even in the pubs and markets. I have heard people say they knew certain things were true even though they had never actually had someone sit down and teach them. They picked it up here and there without even realizing it. When they come to Christ, these droplets of Truth begin to envelope and embrace more truth. Before they knew it, they were able to connect the dots.
However, today people are coming to Christ with no prior ground work. No lens by which they can view scripture. Their base is literally being constructed within the first days of their salvation. We, now more then ever, must be able to accurately explain the basics of God's Word. We have to suckle them at first, then gradually transition them onto solid food.
It has been my experience that the Holy Spirit uses teachers along side His Word most often. Our goal for these new believers is to get them to a place where they can easily, on their own, understand scripture. To have the skills needed to properly connect the dots.
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
It is critical that we are able to recognize the Truth and be able to teach others to do so as well. We must be able to work with each persons lens without sarcasm and judgmental attitudes. We must be able to guard the doors and windows of our fellowships. We must not leave our churches open to every wind of doctrine.
In light of this, I am asking:
Can we be sure we have the right lens, how are we to know truth when we see it?
When examining doctrine, shouldn't Truth reveal its self by embracing all truth and exposing lies? In other words, does a truth exclude or contradict other truths?
Can we judge truth by its ability to unite all truth without contradiction? Can we say where there is contradiction there is false hood?
I believe the answer is yes, yes and yes. Truth unites all truth and exposes falsehood. Kind of like water envelopes all water. If a water droplet comes in contact with another droplet they merge and become a larger water droplet. The water expands. In the same way, Truth envelopes truth.
How do I know I am dealing with truth? It gets easily absorbed into the greater body of truth.
Truth is often multi-faceted. There is room for multiple insights, multiple perspectives. It is one of the characteristic that defines it. It is true from every angle. If you are using the correct lens, your understanding will compliment and agree with all truth. It is this trait that allows me to know when I am dealing with God's truth/perspective. Truth is always true. No matter what. Truth envelopes truth
Knowing the truth is the best way to spot a lie.
When contradiction is present there is false hood. Truth will not contradict truth. It exposes lies. Water can't mix with oil they are not of the same essence. Visually they may appear the same both are liquid, but water can't envelope or embrace oil. When we mix them, they gradually separate exposing the one to the other. It is the same with truth and lies. The one will exposes the other by isolating the one from the other.
This distinction helps us know if or when we are looking at scripture through the proper lens. If our understanding of a particular truth gradually isolates us from the greater body of truth, there is trouble in River City.
An important point needs to be made at this juncture. True doctrine can isolate you from your local fellowship. If your church decides to accept a false doctrine and you alone stand for what is right and true, it will isolate you.
We can't judge truth by the number of followers. But rather by its ability to embrace all truth. If the majority has bought into the lie then you may very well be the one standing alone. When this happens, a distinction needs to be made between a church and The Church. Truth will never isolate you from the greater body of Truth. Nor will it isolate you from the Body of Christ. There is Unity in Truth. Everyone who is of the truth will be in Christ.
When I correct the errors in my doctrines, more life giving truth becomes available to me. The broader my world becomes. The more freedom and flexibility I have in my Christian Walk. It is my view that true Church worship will worship God in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24) So it stands to reason that The Church will be united by and enveloped in the truth."
John 18:37- Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
When we embrace False Doctrines we end up isolating our selves from the rest of the Church and eventually from society. Case in point. In my Christian walk I have embraced, several extreme doctrines. In doing so, I found that one extreme would lead me to another extreme. These extreme doctrines led me away from the greater Church and the greater body of truth. Eventually I found my self involved in a elitist group that was an unholy mix of Home Church, Home school, and Calvinism. It was a cult that isolated my family from the Church as a whole, and society. The more I embraced the lies, the less truth I was able to agree with or envelope. The more false doctrines I embrace the more rigid and legalistic I became, the less flexibility I had in my Christian walk.
The Devil is very clever at concealing this tragedy. He turns the isolation into a badge of Holiness. Convincing the deceived that their error is actually persecution and a badge of honor. All the while they get drawn deeper and deeper into instability, false hood and insecurity. Stuck in the muck and mire of false doctrine.
Another friend made this observation in regard to the stability that is found in Him:
“C.S Lewis said this in regard to the Israelites returning to God after chasing false Gods:
“Their delight in the Law is a delight in having touched firmness; like the pedestrian’s delight in feeling the road beneath his feet after a false shortcut has long entangled him in muddy fields”
So it is with God’s Law—With God’s Truth—There is no area of life that is untouched by the person of God. He is the firmness that brings Relief after being in the marshlands of false doctrine. He is firm and unchanging, always the same, and there is no part of life, from birth to death, to afterlife that is not touched and handled by his very being! There is certainty that can’t be shaken! Yet it isn’t found in outward acts of duty, but in the inward heart submitting to Him and loving others as He first loved us. In Knowing and showing His love, we know Him more and are made even more certain of His truth.” Carolyn Thomas
The marshland of false doctrine can easily be avoided. Simply delight yourself in the Word of God. Knowing, Loving, pursuing or chasing after His Word brings stability and assurance. Truth is stability.
It's sobering to realize that we are not simply talking about error or bad judgment. Scripture refers to this as Idolatry. When we chase after bad doctrine, refusing to acknowledge the truth of God's Word we are committing spiritual adultery(Colossians 3:5) this points to the heart of God toward His people. He is jealous for me. When I chase after false doctrines it takes away from my knowledge of Him.
Salvation is by faith. Bad doctrine, if left to run it's course, can destroy faith, at the very least, it keeps us from knowing Him. Like a Good Husband he sees us being drawn away and is jealous. Idolatry is a picture of spiritual adultery.
On the other hand, this suggests that it is in our pursuit of Truth that we are pursuing Him. We are showing God our love for Him by pursuing His Truth, His Word
Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful;
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
Planted by the rivers of water,
That brings forth its fruit in its season,
Whose leaf also shall not wither;
And whatever he does shall prosper.
We want our spouses to pursue us to romance us, to chase after us. It would seem God does too. I am excited to realize that in my pursuit of Truth that I am truly pursuing Him. My pursuit is showing God I love him. Of course for balance we understand that knowledge puffs up. Arrogance and religiosity is not pleasing to God. So simply knowing God's Word is only part of the process. It is through the knowing and demonstration of our faith that we show God our love for Him.
John 16:13 - However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
Now we know that the Holy Spirit will guide us into truth. But, on this point I have to pause. For clearly people are guided into cults not by, but despite, the Holy Spirit. Which is the point of this writing. This reveals the fact that people do not recognize truth when the Holy Spirit leads them to it.
Ephesians 1:17 - That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,
This point brings to the table a new dimension to this topic. A part of knowing and being able to recognize big picture theology or God's Truth is knowing and recognizing the voice of the Holy Spirit. So in reality, Truth is God's voice. What we are really talking about here is learning to know, recognize, and understand the voice of God. This was a revelation to me. We are not simply learning to recognize sound teaching, doctrine, and how to understand the Bible, but rather we are learning to hear the voice of the God when ever and wherever he speaks to us. All Truth is God's voice! Truth is God's Word.
John 14:6 - Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
This why I am so amazed by the trinity Doctrine. It easily gets enveloped or embraced by the vast majority of scripture without contradiction. Each time I have run across contradiction, I wrestle with it until I find the error. In every case, I have found that the error was not in the doctrine but in my lack of information or understanding. I have a flawed lens. The fault is always me, not God's Word.
Now Truth is the voice of God. I find it interesting that according to John 1:1-5 & 14, Jesus is the Word. Jesus is truth, He is the voice of God. What that means is, as you read the Bible, you discover who Jesus is, what Jesus is, His purpose for coming, and how He relates to humanity. As you get to know Him through the Holy Bible, you begin to know and understand truth whenever you see it.
Jesus is the Word of God. The more we know of him the more truth we embrace. As we grow in maturity the faster we are at recognizing lies and discerning false doctrines.
Truth Is True!
1 Kings 17:24 - Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is the truth.”
The proof is in the pudding. Do you know what it was that Elijah did to earn the respect of this woman? He, by the power of God, raised the woman's son from the dead. Proving that he was the man of God. He delivered on his promise to the woman that he knew God and More importantly God Knew Him.
Does your doctrine deliver what it has promised? Does it do what you have been told it will do? Has it introduced you to a personal intimate and tangible relationship with God? Has it given you life and Joy unspeakable? Is it aiding you in your struggle with sin? Are you an over comer? Have you been set free from your sin? Do you know Jesus? Is your theology true?
Romans 1:16 - For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
There are people all around us who need life. People who need to be raised from the dead. They are looking for Truth. They are looking for a way to know God. Jesus is the way, truth, and the light. They need Jesus. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ because it delivers what it promises. It gives life to the dead.
How do we know our truth is the right truth? That we have the right lens? It brings life, it saves, It bring unity, It bring the power of God to us and all those who receive it. Not just some who believe, but all, everyone who believes!
In closing. We want to effectively show people the truth of God's Word. They are watching us and wondering if we have the words of the Lord in our mouth. With that in mind recognize that everyone has a lens of some kind. In order to effectively reason with them you must be able to love them and not judge them. We are to live the truth, not argue over it. Don't split hairs. Try to see things from the other persons perspective. Don't present yourself as the end all, and all knowing, truth machine. Posturing is important we are looking for productive reasoning. Not a shock and awe campaign.
Proverbs 1:20-21 - Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
She cries out in the chief concourses,
At the openings of the gates in the city
She speaks her words:
The Word of God permeates every aspect of our world. It is invasive. There is no area of life that is untouched by it.
A poet once said:
"Where can I go, that He is not there. Where can I hide and not be seen? Is there a place that He can’t find me? Nay, for where I am, there He is also."
It is a picture of God's omnipresence and the width, height, and depth of the truth of His Word.
John 14:17 - the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.
Truth is a all around us, speaking to us. We must be able to hear His voice. We must be able to distinguish between error and truth. My truth or God's Truth. Check your lens, exchange it if you have to. Truth envelopes truth and exposes lies. Truth is the only path that leads to God. There is unity in truth not dissension. Agreement not contradiction. Life that brings more life. Find it, receive it, rest in it and be saved by it.
Your Brother In Christ
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