Today, we are all about tolerance in our culture. We don’t like to say anyone is “wrong” about anything. However, if there is significant false teaching in a church, a believer has a responsibility not to fellowship as a member of that church. And if a church is teaching a different gospel than the one Jesus preached and the New Testament teaches (if it is a cult), or if a church denies that the Bible is the Word of God and is the source of all truth (and teaches that it is a bunch of myths) – a believer in Christ could not stay and fellowship there. We must choose our church carefully and prayerfully, my sisters!
We need truth and love. If we have truth without love – we will be cold, judgmental, and harsh. If we have love without truth, we will embrace false teaching and stray far from God’s Word and stumble into sin. We need both love and truth in Christ. THAT is where the power of God is to radically change us and our churches!
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:6-10
THE DEFINITION OF DOCTRINE:
Doctrine is indispensable to Christianity. Christianity does not exist without it. The New Testament repeatedly emphasizes the value and importance of sound doctrine, sound instruction ( 1 Tim 6:3 ), and a pattern of sound teaching ( 2 Tim 1:13-14 ). The apostles defended the faithful proclamation of the gospel ( Gal 1:8 ). They formulated Christian faith in doctrinal terms, then called for its preservation. They were adamant about the protection, appropriation, and propagation of doctrine because it contained the truth about Jesus Christ. Knowing the truth was and is the only way that a person can come to faith… Pastors in particular were admonished to cleave to sound doctrine so that they could be good ministers of the gospel ( 1 Tim 4:6 ).
Christianity is a way of life founded on doctrine. Some disparage doctrine in favor of the spiritual life. Paul, however, taught that spiritual growth in Christ is dependent on faithfulness to sound doctrine, for its truth provides the means of growth ( Col 2:6 ). The apostle John developed three tests for discerning authentic spirituality: believing right doctrine ( 1 Jo 2:18-27 ), obedience to right doctrine (2:28-3:10), and giving expression to right doctrine with love (2:7-11). Faithful obedience and love, then, are not alternatives to sound doctrine. They are the fruit of right doctrine as it works itself out in the believer’s character and relationships.
WHY SOUND DOCTRINE MATTERS:
Some think that doctrine isn’t very important – it’s just “dry boring stuff.” But the truth is that doctrine, what we believe about God, the Bible, Jesus, creation, ourselves, the nature of man, the sovereignty of God, man’s free will, sin, salvation, victory over sin, submission to Christ, all of these things – determine our motives and understanding about the most important issues in life. Our motives determine out thoughts. Our thoughts determine our words and our actions.
Doctrine is extremely important – and it is critical that we choose doctrine that is in agreement with the truth of God’s Word. If we believe lies and build our lives on lies, we will be in a big mess.
I had wrong doctrine, too, all those years earlier in our marriage and even way before that. Lies I believed. Unbiblical fixed-beliefs about God, myself, and living for Christ. I didn’t submit to the Lordship of Christ and didn’t even know it. I held on to sin pridefully exalting myself above God – even though I didn’t realize what I was doing. I didn’t trust God because I thought He was pretty wimpy and I was pretty powerful. Because I held on to sinful thoughts, wrong doctrine, wrong motives and lies – even unintentionally – my flesh was in control, not the Spirit of God. I had the fruit of the flesh in my life – anxiety, worry, fear, bitterness, gossip, pride, self-righteousness, idolatry, disrespect, hatred, etc…
HOW TO BE ABLE TO HEAR GOD AND DISCERN RIGHT DOCTRINE
In order for God’s Spirit to be in control, we must be able and willing to tear out all of the sin and wrong beliefs and replace that with God’s truth and yield to Him fully as LORD. Of course, this means we have to be able to recognize wrong thoughts and wrong fixed beliefs. We can do this as we read the Bible and ask God to show us any wrong beliefs or motives in our hearts. When that is all gone, we can then invite and receive the Holy Spirit to empower us and to each us. Then He can give us Light and the power to walk in obedience to Himself. We can’t be godly in our own strength. It is all His work on our behalf. When His Spirit fills our soul as we walk in His truth, our lives will yield the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23).
We cannot have right relationships with others until we are right with God. Then His holiness, His love, His power, His righteousness, His strength, His perspective, all of His goodness floods through us and drastically changes the way we relate to others. When Jesus is Lord, and I live in His truth, it impacts everything I think, say, and do. It makes it possible for me to treat others in godly ways and it opens the floodgates of heaven to pour His healing into broken relationships many times.
The more lies I cherish in my heart, the more false teaching, the more destructive it is. I am building my life on sinking sand. I am listening to and submitting to Satan rather than to the truth of God. I will destroy myself, my relationships with others, and I will destroy my fellowship with God if I am a believer. If I am not a believer, I will continue to be separated from God.
WHAT I BELIEVE CHANGES THE COURSE OF MY LIFE AND ALL OF MY RELATIONSHIPS
Where do I turn for absolute truth? If I don’t turn to the Bible, if I trust a pastor, a person, another book, a church, myself, scientists… that greatly impacts my starting point and then completely changes the trajectory of my life.
We can see a dramatic example of this in those who are “radicalized terrorists.” The reason most terrorists today kill people and are willing to kill themselves is completely because of their theology. They read the books they believe are from God and believe them. Then they obey what they read and believe they understand. If I believe that maybe the only way I can be sure I get to heaven is to kill other people and martyr myself in the process, that is a powerful motivation for me to do things that I would not normally do. If I believe God loves those who kill anyone who doesn’t believe what I believe and I believe God rewards those who shed blood in His name – that would change everything about my life.
We can also see the results of this same truth when we look at the teaching of evolution – which is a false teaching, even possibly qualifying as a false religion. If I believe that the Bible is not true and Genesis is a bunch of myths, and if I believe that evolutionary scientists hold the source of absolute truth, then I can and will explain away God. Then I can completely dismiss the entire Bible and believe whatever I want to and act however I want to. There is no longer any right or wrong or any morality – until, of course, I die and stand before my Creator at the Judgement Seat in heaven. But then, my wrong theology and doctrine cannot be corrected. I am already doomed to be condemned because I have not bowed to Jesus as my Savior and LORD of all of my life.
It is so important that we very consciously choose our doctrine wisely. The greater the error, the more devastating the results and fruit in our lives. The closer we are to God’s truth and to Him, the more godly fruit will grow in our lives.
When those who follow Christ understand proper doctrine, they are willing to give up everything for Jesus. They know who God is. They understand how holy He is. Their desires change. Their perspectives change. Their primary goals and priorities change. They understand God’s sovereignty and that we have free will, but we are not sovereign. They want to obey Jesus at any cost to themselves. They are willing to give up any sin. They are willing to go to any length to share the Gospel with others. They want to please Jesus far above anything else – not out of duty, but out of awe, love, and gratitude.
Some resources I generally trust for biblical doctrine with what I have heard and read so far – (but always compare everything to Scripture yourself with God’s Spirit guiding you! There may be certain things that you don’t believe line up with the Bible. Ask God to help you handle His Word rightly and “study to show yourself an approved workman.”) We must do all we can to know God’s truth and to reject lies.
David Platt – http://www.radical.net
Francis Chan – http://www.crazylove.org
Wayne Grudem – Systematic Theology http://www.waynegrudem.com (available in podcasts)
Tony Evans – http://www.tonyevans.org
Andrew Murray’s books – Absolute Surrender, Humility, etc…
E.M. Bounds – The Necessity of Prayer
John Piper http://www.desiringgod.org