There comes a point, I believe, in every believes faith where they reach an “aha!” moment. We go through a time where we don’t necessarily turn our back on God, nor do we really question God or his authority, but we start to kind of figure things out. The little things start to click and we start to “get it” and understand it like we never have before.
The last two-ish years have been that for me. I’ve been doing a lot of digging, a lot of learning, a lot of self-discovery and a lot of God-discovery…really grasping who He is and what He is really about. What He has for me, what He wants from me and for me, and what that looks like lived out.
Somewhere along the way, over the course of who knows how many years, we-the American church and the modern day believer-have gotten lost.
We’ve stopped following Christ to begin following people.
I don’t just mean your local pastor or youth leader. I mean the profound and prosperous Bible teachers whose names jump out at you from the bookshelves at your local Lifeway. People like Beth Moore, Lysa TerKeurst, Jen Hatmaker, Priscilla Shirer, Jennie Allen, Max Lucado, Bob Goff, Francis Chan and the list goes on.
Now. Let me say this before I continue, I’m not knocking reading books by Christian authors. My husband and I could probably keep a Lifeway store open just from the quantity of the books that we both own and have read and will continue to read over the course of our lives. I personally have goals and ambitions of being one of those Christian writers someday (just no one expect me to plaster my face on the cover…). I wholeheartedly believe that reading books from a wide range of authors is great for personal growth, for developing as a believer and just as a person in general.The problem is that we are basing our beliefs off of what one particular person says or thinks… Click To Tweet
The problem is that we are basing our beliefs off of what one particular person says or thinks about scripture without digging into the Word ourselves. We are taking our pastors at their word rather than taking God at His.
This is not to say that every single pastor and every single person on the face of the planet who writes about scripture or teaches scripture or preaches scripture is wrong. What I’m asking is when was the last time you followed up on the sermon using your own discernment and God-given wisdom?
In the book of Romans, Paul tells us that we are to test what we hear, what we see, what we know in accordance with scripture.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing [emphasis mine] you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (12:2).
It takes me a short eternity to read any book written by a Christian author. I grew up watching my mom read and study Beth Moore, but also watching her sit with her Bible open and a pen in hand while she read. She didn’t just sit and read and take Beth’s word as gospel. She compared Beth’s word with THE gospel, time and time again. It’s the way that I’ve learned to read any Christian book. With the Word of GOD in one hand and the text in the other.
When we rely only on man (or woman) to give us the message of the gospel, we are relying on their interpretation of scripture. It’s unfortunate to say that many sound pastors and teachers continue to use verses out of context and build “feel good sermons” without giving thought to the entirety of the passage or the context in which is was written in. Not only that, people-male and female- are human in nature. We are flawed. We make mistakes. We misunderstand. We misconstrue. We misinterpret. It happens. No human teaching of biblical doctrine should be taken at face value without comparison to scripture.
That includes the beloved Billy Graham. That includes your pastor. That includes your husband (if he is, in fact, a pastor). That includes Beth Moore. That includes anyone who claims to be teaching and preaching and sharing and professing the word of God in any sort of public place. Yes, that includes myself.
I’m not a bible teacher. I’m not a pastor. I’m not an educator and I’ve never even read the Bible in its entirety. I am not the person that you would go to for sound theological teaching and I can’t tell you what hermeneutics is (seriously…what is it?). There are far more people qualified than myself out there to talk about biblical doctrine.
What I am is a firm believer that the Word of God is the only Word of God, given directly from him and taken in the direct context that it was written in-both good and bad-to be used for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (see 2 Timothy 3:16). I wholeheartedly believe that every ounce of sermon that we take in, should be measured up to the only words that truly matter: God’s.
How can I do that?
For some, the idea of comparing sermons or Christian reading to Scripture itself can be daunting. Many will see this post, think that it’s a good idea and never follow through. Comparing the words that take most authors months to write with scripture can be time-consuming. I get it. I’m a busy mama a business owner. Time is precious.
I always take notes in church or when I listen to a sermon. I write down the passages that are being studied, I write down key points from the lesson itself and I write down anything that comes to mind during the sermon. Then I take it home and dig in.
I used methods outlined in Jane Johnson’s eBook, “How to Study Scripture” for the vast majority of my bible study. Her method outlines exactly how to dig into the word and take passages in their context, using cross references and historical information to take each verse into consideration and play. This is an essential tool for comparing what GOD says with what MAN (or woman) has said. Secondly, though maybe the most important aspect of discernment, is prayer. Praying fervently for God to speak to your heart and open your eyes to any misleading’s or misguided information presented to you during a sermon or while reading a book.
I fear that we are drifting away from relying on the gospel for wisdom and relying instead on what men and women who talk about scripture tell us. I think there is a lot to be learned from reading Christian literature and learning from the experiences of other believers, but those should never be our sole focus. God’s word and His word alone is where our heart should find its answers.
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ…(Philippians 1:9-10)