Build a toolbox of discernment
Published 11:07 am Wednesday, January 4, 2017
No longer is the church the Christian’s only source of biblical teaching. My congregation can listen to my sermon on Sunday, Google the subject and come back the next week with dissenting blogs or YouTube videos. Then you have the TV preachers, best-selling books and the Christian cinema phenomenon. It is important to develop discernment in the midst of a sea of confusion.
There are five questions we should ask when we are introduced to teaching about the Bible. I am recycling these questions from an inspirational sermon I heard a decade ago by Matt Chandler of The Village Church. This is not an exhaustive list but a starter package for our toolbox of discernment.
First, does the teaching regard the entire Bible as inspired? If someone says, “Well, I know what the Bible says, but you know, times have changed,” most likely what is about to proceed is a statement that undercuts the authority of the Bible. Yes, Jonah really did get swallowed by a fish. It shouldn’t be that hard to believe if you already believe a dead man named Jesus came back to life.
Second, is the teaching consistent with church history? Yes, there are many different beliefs found among Christians in church history. But if 99 percent of Christians believed something in the past in opposition to the claim, this should at least be a yellow light of caution, if not red. An example is the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Sadly in the 20th century virtually every Protestant denomination, especially some at the seminary level, flirted with denying the resurrection. Beware, Christian, of being a chronocentrist, one who treats Christian ideas of the past as mediocre while reflexively accepting the present as paramount.
Third, does the teaching add to the cross? Billy Graham’s grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, once noted, “Jesus plus nothing equals everything.” A true trust in the cross is enough to save a sinner. Acts 4:12 states, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Don’t add or take away from Jesus. He alone went from heaven to the manger to the cross to save to the upmost.
Fourth, does the teaching improperly elevate man? Isaiah 2:22 teaches, “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?” Some have propagated this idea that God was lonely, so he created humanity. First, God is not lonely. He was eternally content in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) with himself. That diminishes God’s perfection (which is the fifth point). But it also disregards man’s humble plight. We are the creation. We are imperfect. We are sinners. We need rescue. We need God. God doesn’t need us.
Fifth, does the teaching diminish God? When we elevate man improperly, we diminish God egregiously. We tend to fashion God the way we want him to look, not the way he actually is revealed in the Bible. You might think, “God can never save that person.” But the Bible depicts our sovereign God melting hearts of stone and giving them new affections for Jesus. Don’t diminish God.
In the main compartment of your toolbox of discernment should be the Bible. But you should find these five questions quite complementary.
Matthew Homan is the pastor of Eureka Baptist Church. He can be reached at matt@ eurekabckeysville.com.