Posts tagged ‘doctrine’

What Is Truth?

What is truth? That is a big question, and one of primary importance for mankind. There is much debate among thinkers and non-thinkers about the very existence of absolute truth. The non-thinkers are those who would say, “there is no absolute truth” since they would see the logical corner they have placed themselves in. For that statement to be true, it would need to be absolutely true and would thus be claiming its own nonexistence.

Even the Roman governor of the province of Judea, in his unregenerate mind, asked the question of Jesus.

Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” And when he had said this, he went out again to the Jews, and said to them, “I find no fault in Him at all. (John 18:38 NKJV)

Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, He made a statement that answers that question.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)

So the first, and primary, thing we must understand is that the truth is a person — Jesus Christ. The ramifications of that are tremendous! In making that statement affirming His identity as “the Truth” Jesus was also saying a lot about what the truth is NOT.

1. The truth is not a set of teachings. Before you react, let me explain. Jesus and the Apostles taught many things, all of which are true. They are factually without error. But they are true because they come from He who is “the truth”. The correct teachings of the Bible are there to tell us ABOUT the truth, and as far as each of them goes, the provide illumination on a part of the picture of Christ. Don’t mistake what I am saying. False teaching is a big deal, because it draws us away from Jesus, who is the source of truth and paints a false picture for us. One good way of discerning truth, especially if someone is using Bible verses on us, is to ask whether or not the teaching in question magnifies Christ Jesus or magnifies us.

2. We can know the truth. Yes, we can have an intimate, personal relationship with the Truth. But that does not mean we will have the full, clear, perfected set of doctrines in our little brains. Full illumination is reserved for the eternal state. For now, we must follow after Jesus and take in pieces of truth for spiritual nourishment along the way. That means putting up with people whose plates look different than our own. They may see some things more clearly than we do. Paul, when talking about the eternal state, put it this way:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Corinthians 13:12, 13 KJV)

On our best day, when we are most attuned to the Spirit and are the most receptive, we still see through a glass darkly.

3. We must follow after things in their proper order. Jesus is the way to truth and life. We find the truth by following Jesus Christ. We don’t sit down and try to once and for all figure out a perfect doctrinal set of teachings and use them to find Christ. No, we follow after Christ and He gives is spiritual food and teaches us line upon line, precept upon precept.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, Line upon line, line upon line, Here a little, there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10 NKJV)

4. Jesus is the full revelation of God, and we need seek nowhere else for truth. God has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). The Holy Spirit uses the power of the Word to draw us to Christ (John 12:32; Romans 10:17). As long as we are putting first things first, and following after Jesus, the Truth will reveal truth to us through the living and active Word of God (Hebrews 4:12-13).

Be patient with yourself. There have been many times I have been frustrated by my lack of discernment or by not being rock solid on exact definitions of everything I believe. But that is okay. As long as I am following after Jesus, and nurturing my relationship with Him through prayer and feasting in the Word, my dark glass will slowly become easier to see through. Remember that we are not following after a philosophy, but after a person — the person of Jesus Christ.

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Doctrinal Perfection

Does God Require Doctrinal Perfection? The Mosaic Law was perfect, but it could not be perfectly kept by fallen humans. In fact, Jesus Christ was the only one to ever keep it. But it still served a useful purpose in that it convicts of sin and brings us to the foot of the cross with the realization that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23). Jesus died and freed us from the law of sin and death that was against us, nailing it to the cross.

But did He in effect transfer us from a Law that demanded moral perfection into a new law that requires doctrinal perfection? I don’t believe He did. But let me also quickly state that I am not saying that false teaching has no consequences, or that we are free to disregard the teaching of Scripture. Jesus himself said that is we love Him, we will keep his commandments (John 14:15)

What we need to focus on is that all of the commandments and doctrine of the New Testament points in one direction — Jesus. Jesus not only taught the truth, He is the truth! (John 14:6). Correct doctrine and practices are a means to an end, not the final goal. For too long we have scoured the scriptures to find what is allowed and what is not. While I am all for a diligent study of the Bible, trying to extract a legal code from the New Testament instead of reading it to draw closer to our Savior and to know Him better is to misuse Scripture. Israel used to be under a “letter of the law” covenant where perfect performance was demanded and nothing specifically authorized was permitted. But we are under a new covenant that changes our hearts instead of just our actions. Where there is no specificity, we follow the spirit of the law.
Paul described it this way in his second letter to the church at Corinth:

You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:2-6 NASB)

We no longer are under a system where anything not specifically authorized is a sin. Again, we are not free to violate specific commandments, because that is sin.

We do not earn salvation by our perfect interpretation of the Bible, any more than we earn it by our good works. It’s not that doctrine doesn’t matter. But we do need to make a distinction between what is essential, and what honest Christians can read and still end up coming to differing conclusions on. Plus, who of us has never had an erroneous idea that was later disproven by something we read or by a deeper understanding? There has to be room to grow in the truth as we grow closer to Christ.

In fact, if we make doctrinal perfection a condition of salvation, we are not trusting in the finished work of Christ, but instead are placing faith in our ability to properly interpret the Bible. No fallen man will ever have a mind so perfect that he will achieve perfect doctrine. And keep this in mind as well. On our best, most mentally alert day, dripping in spiritual anointing, and seeing more clearly than we ever have before, we still “see through a glass darkly.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

If you want to read about some messed up churches, both in doctrine and practice, read about Corinth, or some of the churches in Revelation chapters 2-3. There were definite consequences to their error, but at no point does Jesus say they have lost their salvation. They were expected to change in the light of the truth Jesus was speaking to them or they would die out as congregations.

So in the end, what shall we do? I would say to be firm on that which is plainly commanded (like what must I do to be saved, and who Jesus Christ is, the Gospel, etc) and where there is no specific directive, or just one example of a way a thing may be done, follow the spirit of the law without violating other principles of the Word. Avoid the works of the flesh, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. Realize that we are all at differing levels of understanding and that as long as we love the truth and draw closer to Jesus, we will finish the journey to our eternal home.

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Doctrines and Practices

Many things changed after the American Revolution. New freedoms were enjoyed, and citizens had to become accustomed to a republic instead of the monarchy they had all lived under in the past. It wasn’t that there had been a change in kings. It was a totally different type of government now. The same is true of what has happened now that the Mosaic Law is fulfilled in Christ. We have been set free form a law that could only condemn, but could not redeem. We moved from a law that was laid out line by line and specified everything that could and could not be done.

One thing that is different is that now, instead of having to commit a sinful act, we only have to want to do it in our hearts in order to be guilty before God. So it is not that this new law is easier. It is just different because it gets to the root of sin — our hearts.
The Hebrew writer refers to it when he quotes Jeremiah 31:33-34:

And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,”
then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Hebrews 10:15-18 ESV)

Before, the law had to spell everything out compel obedience. Now, the Spirit has put the New Law in our hearts. Whenever we take in the words of Scripture, especially if we commit them to memory, we are busy putting those laws in our hearts. As a result, our minds and hearts are transformed.

According to Jesus, the Mosaic Law was in force until John the Baptist. Now we are under Kingdom Law.

“The law and the prophets were in force until John; since then, the good news of the kingdom of God has been proclaimed, and everyone is urged to enter it. (Luke 16:16 NET)

Now, instead of being ruled by the letter of the law, we must keep the spirit of the law. The Apostle Paul put it this way to the Corinthians:

Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5, 6 NET)

Here is a good place to define the terms “doctrine” and “practice”. All doctrine must be founded in the Word of God. We are not to go beyond what God has revealed, but must be able to back up what we teach to be truth with chapter and verse.
But practices are different. They are the things we do to live out the truth in our lives. Practices must be done with doctrine in mind. For instance, if a practice violates doctrine, it is sin. But if a practice can be done without violating what has been revealed, and does not violate our conscience, the we are free do do it, keeping in mind that we are not to violate the spirit of the law either.

Here is an example. The Bible clearly says that the Lords Supper was eaten using unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine. To use anything else wild violate what the Bible says those elements symbolize. So using cookies and Pepsi would violate the spirit of the law and would be sinful. In the other hand, we make partake of those same elements indoors, outdoors, left handed, right handed, with red grape juice, purple grape juice, in one cup or many cups because none of those things violate the intent of the commandment. We do not need to wring our hands because we have no clear direction on those kinds of exact details. Neither to we have to find an example for everything we do. If it is not contrary to doctrine, and is not unwise (it’s not stupid), won’t create the appearance of evil, and will not cause a brother or sister to stumble, then go ahead.

Another example is in giving. What is important is that we give, not whether or not we use a check or cash. Either one is fine because they didn’t have checks 2000 years ago, so no direction is given about the exact type of funds to be given. We just give as we have determined in our hearts, and do so cheerfully because that’s what the Word says to do. Instead of looking at the exact amount we give, as was done with the tithe under the Old Law, God looks upon our hearts and the motive behind our giving. In a way, it’s easier and harder at the same time.

I have seen the pendulum swing both ways. A group of Christians starts off wanting to follow Jesus by the New Testament alone. And things go well for awhile, until some will start wanting a chapter and verse for every single thing that is done, when sometimes there is none. They end up missing the forest for the trees as they sink into focusing on the minutia and lose there first love. Take it to it’s conclusion, and you won’t have a church building, since none are authorized in the New Testament and none existed for the first 300 years of church history.
But then the opposite happens. A group splits off and declares that they are fee of such legalism and cat aside all restraint. Not only do they stop searching the Scriptures to find it what to do, they stop paying attention to the scriptures for what to believe as well. And as the baby swirls down the drain with the bath water, the sink into lawlessness and are worse off than when they began.

The key is in finding balance. We teach doctrine from the Word and only the Word, and are only open to practices that do not violate doctrine. That will end needless debate on things of little importance so we can focus on teaching the truth of God’s Word in its purity and simplicity. We will not be arguing over the arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic, but will be focused on getting people to the lifeboats before they are forever lost.

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Start Collecting

First of all, what I am writing is not some new revelation from God. This is a non-prophet blog. 🙂 But I have had this nagging feeling. It’s something that I started doing awhile ago and thought I would share it. No, you are not disobeying God by not doing it, too!
I am not certain of what lies ahead for American Christians. Whether persecution will be our lot or we continue to worship and spread the Good News (Gospel) freely. But here is what I am doing because of that uneasy gut feeling, and you might want to do it, too. Or you might not.

Start collecting Bibles. By that I don’t mean get a stack of printed Bibles, although it is always nice to have them to give away. I mean every format you can get. Save CDs, DVD, flash drives, and any electronic medium that can be used to transmit over the internet. We do not know when the Bible may be labelled as “hate speech” and banned or restricted.
Gather up good, solid, biblical teaching on any of the above mediums. If we are forced to be in hiding and/or in small house fellowships, good teaching may be hard to find. Its best to already have it so that your spiritual diet can be well rounded.
Find and keep song books. They can be the old hymns, choruses, or whatever. PDF files may be best. But be prepared to sing them acapella. You won’t want to be using music that will be loud enough to get you discovered if you must worship in secret. Even musical CDs and mp3 files are good, but make sure you have headphones for them.

And I would have a few blank books around for keeping a record of what happened to and through God’s people when times get tough. You never know who, generations from now, will be encouraged by them.
Again, this is not some dire prophecy, but rather emergency preparedness. If nothing happens, you will still have a valuable library of sound teaching that you can transmit to brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. So it’s a win-win proposition!

Doctrines Of Demons

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to sit and be taught by Christ in the flesh? How awesome it is that the Holy Spirit did as Jesus promised and brought to mind everything Jesus had taught them so they could pass those teachings to us in the New Testament!
On the other hand, what kind of teachings would we hear if, instead of Christ, a deceiver who had gotten his teachings straight from demons tried to pass him or herself off as a messenger of God? What kind of things would they teach as doctrine? Thankfully, the Lord, through the apostle Paul, told us how to recognize demonic deception when we hear it!

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:1-5 ESV)

Paul here says what is at stake if we are deceived. It constitutes “departing from the faith” and we must be on our guard to make sure we don’t let it happen to us or those we love. But how do we recognize such teachers? How do we discern that someone is a liar with a seared conscience? By what they teach as doctrine.
1. They teach abstaining from marriage. This can apply to two different types of teaching. First and foremost in the history of the church is the teaching of celibacy. While some choose to remain single, to bind upon those who would be elders (bishops) a requirement of celibacy flies in the face of the qualification listed in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 that they be the husband of one wife and rule their households well.
But the other, contemporary application is those who teach that physical intimacy is permitted before marriage. They even recommend living together to see if couples are sexually compatible. By advising couples not to marry, they teach doctrine that Paul describes as demonic!
2. They teach that dietary laws are binding for today. Now please don’t misunderstand me. If you choose to follow a kosher, vegetarian or vegan diet for some health benefit, you are free to do so. You can even tell others how you think it is healthful to do so. But when anyone begins to advocate these dietary choices because it is a command of God, they have crossed over into the demonic. I know that sounds harsh, but don’t blame me. I’m not the one who wrote it!
In fact, these verses loose us from all dietary restrictions, as long as we receive the food with thanksgiving, because God has said we can eat it, and we have prayed over it. What more reason do we need to pray before meals? But remember this is for those who know the truth. A weak brother or sister that would be made to stumble is more important than exercising our rights to eat whatever we are served!

I would encourage you, if any of the demonic teachings described here sound like what you are being taught, to get out of there right away. Doctrines of demons are spiritually poisonous and lethal to your soul and your diet needs to change if you are to survive!

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Picking A Different TULIP

Picking A Different TULIP

On many occasions I encounter staunch Calvinists, who hold to a system of doctrine that uses the acrostic of T.U.LI.P. These letters stand for:
Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement
Irresistible Grace, and
Perseverance of the Saints.

As with many doctrinal systems, there is an element of truth in each of these doctrines if one defines their own terms. Well, I have decided to pick a different TULIP, using my own titles to make the acrostic work. Plus, finding away to make anything memorable out of chrysanthemum was just too hard.

Total Natural Inability – Apart from an encounter with the Word of God, and the Spirit which makes that Word living and active, the natural man is incapable of, and unwilling to, find salvation and regeneration. Only when the Word of God is heard and understood can there be faith (Romans 10:17) and without faith it is impossible to please God. Left to his own devices, a natural man is totally unable to find salvation.

Unconditional Corporate Election – God has predestined that all who are “in Christ” will be justified, sanctified and glorified. This election is one of the group, or corporate, vice individual in nature. The gift of salvation is free to “whosoever will” appropriate it. At that moment, one is in Christ and has access to everything else that is in Christ, such as redemption and justification.

Limited Efficacy of Atonement – The atonement, purchased for the elect at the cost of the blood of Christ and through His finished work on the cross, is only beneficial (or efficacious) for those who are saved. It’s value is sufficient for all mankind, but only efficacious who believe and obey the Gospel.

Irresistible Love and Grace – Once a sinner whose heart is prepared (i.e. good soil) hears the Word of God preached and truly comprehends the love that God has shown him in his lost state through the sacrifice of His Son, he or she will repent and run to Jesus Christ for salvation. Those who reject this invitation either do not comprehend, or have hearts which have been hardened to the point of inability to receive the seed of the Word.

Perseverance of the Saints – Those who are saved and are faithful to the end, or at least by the end, have persevered and receive the crown of life. The saints should continually be encouraged to persevere, so as not to grow weary and quit the race. In the vast majority of cases, salvation is not lost; it is left. The secret to final victory is this – don’t quit!

I know there will be points of agreement and disagreement, and there is probably some verbiage that could be tweaked to make what I am trying to say more easily understood. But the purpose is to provoke to discussion and to individual searching of the scriptures like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.

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