Sunday, August 21, 2011

Be careful to stay between the lines!

Deuteronomy 12:32
What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

Revelations 22: 18-19

18For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
 19And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.

Matthew 4:4
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Being a Christian and studying the word of God is exciting. Maybe I'm weird (of course, as we learned last week, God says we are Peculiar, so being weird in the eyes of this world is how we should be), but I enjoy digging into the word of God and learning new things, deeper things, than I ever did before. However, we must be careful. 

Just as on natural roadways, the spiritual road we are to follow- the highway of holiness (Isaiah 35:8)- has lines we are to stay within. These lines (or boundaries, if you prefer) are spelled out in the word of God. As such, it is absolutely necessary that we study God's word to discover these lines. There are a few rules we all need to adhere to when we are doing this. 

1) The word of God is MORE SURE than the voice of God. 

In 2 Peter 1:16-21 tells us an amazing truth. Peter says that, even though they heard the voice of God on the mount of transfiguration (and through the lips of Jesus), the disciples ultimate trust in God was built not on what they heard, but on the WRITTEN word of God itself. In fact, he tells us that the written word of God is MORE sure than the voice that they heard. Why is this true? 

2 Corinthians 11

13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
 14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
 15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

There are many voices in this world. The vast majority are not of God. Not every preacher who gets behind the pulpit and preaches is actually preaching the true word of God. Not every teacher is a teacher of truth. Not every voice you hear in prayer is the voice of God. Always check everything you here, irregardless of it's source, against the written word of God (the KJV Bible). If what you heard is right, then say Praise the Lord and take it to heart. If what you heard is wrong, then don't accept that teaching into your lives.

Yes, go to church gatherings and services, but take notes. The scriptures tell us to "test the spirits to see whether they be of God". Pray as you go in, that the Lord will illuminate your heart and mind to catch ANY false teaching that may come across the pulpit or across the table. Then, when service is over, on your own time (even if nothing triggered as being false), go over your notes using these fundamental rules of study and make sure what you have heard is indeed true. As one person said, "Eternity is too long to be wrong."

2) Look for second and third scripture confirmation.

2 Corinthians 13
1This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

Look for other scriptures that agree with your understanding of the verses in question. If you cannot find verses that agree (and they must be taken IN CONTEXT, not twisted out of context), then your understanding of a passage (or the preacher/teacher's understanding) is wrong. Be very wary of any "doctrine" that cannot be confirmed with more scripture. 

3) God and his word NEVER change. 

Malachi 3
6For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.

Whenever we are looking at scripture, the surface understanding of the scripture is the main meaning of the text. There can be, and often times are, deeper understandings of the scriptures in question, but these understandings will NEVER contradict the surface teaching of the verse. 

For instance, "The joy of the Lord is our strength" the scriptures say. This is absolutely true! However, it can be asked is it the joy WE feel, or the joy GOD feels, that this scripture is referring to? Many a Christian has been tripped up because they don't FEEL joyful in the midst of their trials. Are we supposed to? Job didn't. Yet, God obviously took Fatherly pride and JOY in the fact that, no matter what was thrown at him, Job still kept his testimony and faith in God intact. Job didn't understand his situation, but he held on to what he KNEW about God from the written word. Therefore, GOD was joyful in his child's life. It is STILL the joy of the Lord that is our strength, for we can endure ANYTHING as long as we know God is getting glory and joy from our lives.

Deuteronomy 6:4 (and other places) Clearly states that there is only ONE God. ANY teaching that tries to change this truth to being two, yet one, or three, yet one God, is simply NOT true.

There is such a thing as progressive (or ongoing) revelation, BUT this process will never contradict the original. If we hear something that does, we need to ditch that teaching, in favor of the original. 

4) Remember the breakdown of the divisions in the word of God.

2 Timothy 2:15

King James Version (KJV)

 15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

If we keep in mind the proper divisions in the word of God, then we are not as apt to misinterpret or misuse scripture. For instance, in the law it is commanded to give physical sacrifices for sins and trespasses. If, we do not keep that in mind, then we can find ourselves trying to follow the laws that Jesus sacrifice fulfilled! 

The law was the school master to lead us to Christ. It shows us what is sin and what is not. But the sacrifices are paid through Calvary. 

Matthew through John, are the Gospels. These books are the basis of the church doctrine. We find here the life, acts, and teachings of Jesus while he walked this earth. 

Acts. This is the only New Testament book that contains the direct teaching of the Apostles TO THE LOST, telling them how to be saved. It is where the Apostles walked out what Jesus taught them in the Gospels. We MUST go through the Gospels and Acts to GET saved.

Romans through Jude. These are the Epistles. They are LETTERS written TO the church telling us how to STAY saved, not how to get saved.

Revelations. Book of prophecy, that explains in symbolic language, end time events to come. 

5) We need to pray, study, and work out (work AT KEEPING) our own salvation with fear and trembling.

1 Thessalonians 5:17

King James Version (KJV)

 17Pray without ceasing.

2 Timothy 2:15
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Philippians 2:12
Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

6) We DO need to fear God, not just respect him.

Luke 12:4-5

King James Version (KJV)

 4And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
 5But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.

Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

We study the word of God because we love him and want to learn his ways and obey. But, we all have weak moments. We ALL have times when we don't FEEL like it. So, if we have legitimate fear of God in our lives, this fear will cause us to do what we are supposed to do when not doing it would be the easier way.   

Because we fear God, we will be diligent in our studies to try our best and ensure that we are NOT mishandling the word of God or misinterpreting the word of God. It really is that simple. 

Yes, over time our fear of God changes into a deep love for and longing for God. But, the fear is still the basis we must stand on. 

In closing, my friends, we MUST "study to shew ourselves approved, a workman that needeth NOT to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth". Get in there. Compare what you hear to the Bible. Let God teach you through his word. Stay between the lines on God's highway of holiness and you won't find yourselves running into a tree for going off the road.