On reflection, what are some of the things experience has taught me!
1) My introduction to the Christian faith was evangelically orthodox, but not biblically sound, making the early years more difficult than necessary, creating unreasonable expectations that could never be fulfilled.
My first step to the Christian life came through reciting “the sinner’s prayer”, asking Jesus into my heart, a non-biblical practice that could give to some a false assurance of salvation. However, if done sincerely, it can become a first step to a greater, more legitimate discovery of discipleship.
A traveller doesn’t arrive in London by taking a flight to Tokyo but the desired destination can be reached later with amended directions and travel arrangements.
2) A Christian’s understanding of “spiritual” often isn’t very spiritual at all. Consider what motivated me to drop out of my first Personnel Management course, described in part iii of this series.
Also, for a short time after rediscovering my faith, I had regrets about my University study when I began to wish I’d gone to Bible College instead of spending three years studying writing and literature.
I gradually began to realise that those literary studies were far more beneficial than being taught what a particular church or theological group believed about the Bible. My university studies equipped me to understand the nature of communication, and how messages can be manipulated to create a desired outcome.
For someone who was very prone to assuming the unbiased integrity of people presenting a message (especially Christians), that was a very important lesson to learn. I’m now much more diligent about checking things out for myself instead of accepting things at face value. I also double check myself – am I REALLY remembering a part of scripture correctly and in accordance with its intended context? A lot of the time I find I’m not – and need to correct assumptions I’ve made.
Too often what we “remember” from scripture relates more to the context of teaching we’ve heard than its actual BIBLICAL context. At one time I had an impressive arsenal of memorised proof texts to back up my beliefs. Later I realised that MOST of them had been picked up from recorded sermons and my understanding was influenced by the context of the sermon instead of its intended context in scripture.
3) Inadequate, ill-considered or insincere teaching creates vulnerability that can lead someone to accept false teaching. If a teacher is careless with the content and method of teaching, their students will be equally careless.
Teachers need to take extreme care. James cautions that teachers will receive a stricter judgement and the gospels warn of the consequences of leading people astray.
However, false teachers don’t exist in isolation. They are sustained by willing followers. Paul writes of people who aren’t interested in sound doctrine who collect and surround themselves with teachers who say what they like to hear.
Regarding both teaching and being taught we need to be sure of our personal standing.
4) It is essential to test all things – accept nothing at face value, no matter what its source.
Even the bible can be used to support a variety of false beliefs, that’s why so many contradictory doctrines can have an alleged scriptural foundation. We will be held accountable for the things we believe and the things we pass on to others – so we need to be sure of their truth, as well as being sure of the truth and integrity of those who pass things onto us.
When the bible is used to support a belief or teaching, is the bible actually saying and meaning what is being claimed?
5) Be honest.
Don’t bend the truth in thought word or deed.
Always act and speak with integrity.
Always think and reason with integrity.
Always demand integrity from your chosen teachers.