Back in the olden days, before vente and grande were coffee cup sizes, there were only four ways to order a cup of coffee. One could order a black cup of coffee, coffee with cream and sugar, coffee with sugar only, or coffee with cream only. These were the only options. There were no complaints.
Then things got really, really, complicated. Hot or cold? Regular, breakfast blend, dark roast, Amazonian Rainforest FreeTrade Spice? Mount Gerazim non gmo raised by monks sugar? Cream; no fat, low fat, extra fat, triple fat?
The most complicated cup of coffee to order is regular black coffee.
Perhaps this cultural shift in coffee is a reflection on all of the specialties we see all around us. When cable television began to blossom, specialty channels abounded. I recall thinking “how can news be 24 hours per day?” Our culture has demanded specialties, and where choices abound, therein we develop the notion that everything in life is about personal preferences.
When the iron curtain fell, and former Soviets could travel freely, a Russian pastor and his spouse visited our church. The couple needed some toothpaste, so we went to the grocery store, and the couple was overcome with emotion because there were so many choices for toothpaste! They had no context of choice. This new kind of freedom was going to take some getting used to.
Unfortunately, theology (the study and application of God) has become subject to too many choices. This has developed over the years; perhaps since the early 1900’s, but since the 1960’s has grown full stride.
Jude warns “Dear friends, I wanted very much to write to you concerning the salvation we share. Instead, I must write to urge you to fight for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s holy people. Godless people have slipped in among you…” (verses 3 and 4)
This being the case 2,000 years ago, we know that as time marches on, mankind needs more than ever a solid path to salvation. Pastors and teachers, either unwittingly or on purpose, have filled the earth with spurious teachings. Here are a few popular ones out there today:
- God wants everyone to be wealthy. Wealth is a mark of God’s favor in your life.
- There is no literal burning hell. This is a concoction of men, and anyone who teaches and preaches that there is, is a hateful bigot.
- Everyone will be saved.
- There are no modern day “five fold gifts.” All of these are in the pastor.
- All healing and miracles ended with the early church.
- Since the Bible was completed, there is no longer any need for the operation of gifts of the spirit as described in I Corinthians. Furthermore, anyone who operates in these gifts is of the devil.
- Holiness is legalism.
- Once you are saved, you never repent of sin again.
- Christ didn’t die for our sins.
- Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin; Mary was raped.
- the Bible isn’t trustworthy.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. All of the above are being taught in pulpits and seminaries around America. The Apostle Peter gives insight:
But false prophets also arose among the people. In the same way, false teachers will come among you. They will introduce destructive opinions and deny the master who bought them, bringing quick destruction on themselves. (2 Peter 2:1)
Peter bringing up “…but false prophets also arose…” gives us hope, that false teaching is nothing new. Like the black cup of coffee, our theology needs to be unconvoluted.
God’s promise to us that earnestly seek and apply the truth comes through the prophet Isaiah, ” If you stray to the right or the left, you will hear a word that comes from behind you: ‘this is the way; walk in it.’ ” Isaiah 30:21. Jesus came to uncomplicate things for us. He said that His sheep know His voice, and another they will not listen too.
This is a check point for us. There are many voices that speak to us. I am one of them! Believers, like the Bereans of the book of Acts, are to “check out” what someone teaches us to see if it lines up with the simplicity of the gospel.
YOU have what it takes to hear and listen to sound doctrine. The Holy Spirit lives in the believer. He is your internal “baloney detector.”
- You don’t have to have a graduate level degree in theology to read, understand, and apply God’s word. These things are written that you may believe.
- God is bigger than our presuppositions and prejudices. He will guide you into all truth.
- Sometimes godly people get off track and teach heresy. This is why the church body is so important to keep one another in check! If anyone is above correction, then they are above Christ. HINT: no one is.
In closing, it is better to know well the genuine that exhaust one’s self examining the spurious or false. Bank tellers don’t become experts in counterfeit money; they study the genuine article.
We will do well if we concentrate on three things: Prayer, Worship, and Connecting to one another. This is where we grow together as a holy temple to the Lord, (Ephesians 2:21).