Saturday, March 25, 2017

Does Truth Really Matter in Doctrines and the Peripherals?

Does truth matter? I have attended a number of different denominational churches over the years as the Lord has led me. Some of them brought tremendous questions to my mind when I felt God's leading, as I knew the denominations were not necessarily known for their adherence to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, nor did they always take it as literally as I did. I always found God's purpose in my attending these churches (usually to point them to truth and warn them of apostasy), but was disturbed by how truth seemed to be of minor importance to them. The same could be said of some of the fundamental evangelical churches I attended, for their theologies were radically opposed to each other in some cases.

I have been exposed to Calvinism vs. Arminianism; election vs. free will; eternal security vs. conditional security; amillennianism vs. premillennianism vs. post millennianism; pre-trib, mid-trib, and post-trib rapture, although never the one I espouse, a last trump rapture; grace alone salvation vs. works alone salvation vs. grace plus works salvation; infant baptism vs. believer's immersion baptism; the Lord's Supper as transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and symbolic. I have heard it taught that the Old Testament God and New Testament God are two different Gods vs. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I have been exposed to teachings that say that Jesus died for our sins as in “paid the penalty”, but that we need to keep repenting as we sin against God, because we still live in a sinful body vs. Jesus did not pay the penalty, He merely wiped all sins out and now when we accept Him we are sinless in a sinless body. The list of discrepancies in beliefs can go on and on.

The one common factor in all of these organizational churches and theologies is this, they all think they have the truth. The problem is, they cannot all have the truth, as they are in disagreement. So what is the truth? Does it matter? I was once told by a friend, who had started her Christian walk in a church I was attending and then when she got married and moved had started attending a church with diametrically opposed teachings, that she felt as long as she was faithful to the teachings of the denomination whose “umbrella” she was under, that God was fine with that. When she made that statement to me I think for the first time in my life I was literally, quite literally, speechless. She had so shocked me that I was unable to react. Where in the Bible is it ever taught that it is acceptable to believe anything, provided you stay under the “umbrella” of the church's teachings and remain faithful to them? Nowhere, that's where. I could not believe, coming from the background that she had, that she had made this turn in her thought processes. I wish I could say that this was the only time in my life that I saw this happen, but it wasn't. I have seen more friends than I care to acknowledge suddenly make a 180 degree turn in their beliefs. Now this would not bother me at all, if they were turning from lies to truths, but here is what bothered me, they didn't care whether it was the truth or not, they only cared that it was convenient for their life or comfortable. There was a complete lack of concern with truth. In fact when confronted with Scripture that contradicted things they were now espousing, they dismissed the Scripture as irrelevant. I was told that they trusted the messenger.

Years ago the division of beliefs between denominations meant that there was no communing between them. This past century has seen a move to ecumenicalism where they have come to say that as long as the core doctrine (and I don't know that they all can even agree on this) is in agreement, the peripherals are not important. We can agree to disagree. While I agree that we can disagree with someone and still be friends, I do not agree that peripherals are unimportant. I do not feel that truth is unimportant, nor do I think God does, and the peripherals are as much truth as the core doctrine is. And now the core doctrine is under attack. The fact is, there is only one truth, so obviously somebody or all of them are wrong about something.

C.S. Lewis made a comment about truth. “If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort, you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.” I believe this is the problem. We are told in Scripture that in the end times people will have itching ears. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” The world has become a frightening and violent place in which to live. Life is uncomfortable for most everyone in one way or another. If not physically, then emotionally and definitely spiritually. Truth, unfortunately, is a commodity that is generally not pleasant. Truth is convicting. It is usually a source of great discomfort. So consequently most people do not want to hear it. They ask questions as if they do want the truth, but the fact is, they want comfort. Let us take for example this question. “Does this make me look fat?” That is a loaded question any husband or boyfriend wants no part of. The truthful answer probably is, “Yes, it makes you look fat and you know that or you wouldn't have asked me in the first place.” God help the poor man that says that, as he will be in dire need of God's help. What is desired is to be comforted with a nice lie, so that you can wear this piece of clothing which does not flatter you, but which you have convinced yourself will make you look like your fantasy of what you want to look like. With a comforting lie, you can shove aside the the truth and convince yourself to enjoy wearing the attire, but do you really enjoy it? Is the truth not in the back of your mind just sitting there and nagging at you? The truth is, to everyone else, you may very well look fat in that outfit, so nobody has been comforted by the lie. So you have neither the truth nor real comfort. Just imagined comfort. It was soft soap and wishful thinking. The truth may not have brought comfort immediately, but maybe have caused you to diet, and so bring comfort in the end, as then the outfit will not make you look fat, because you aren't fat and you can wear it feeling great and looking great.

I have never made a practice of telling lies, because have never been able to tell a lie with any degree of success due to my comfort level (conviction of the Holy Spirit) getting so stressed that it is obvious I am lying. The only time I have been able to convincingly lie is when it is just for the purpose of keeping a secret party from the honoree or some such thing as that. When it is for an innocent reason, to give someone pleasure such as a present or party, my comfort level is not taxed, because I know it is not that they will not learn the truth, just that the truth is being delayed as a pleasant surprise, and I don't want to spoil that surprise. I have never had to lie to save someone's life, but I think I might do my best to lie convincingly under those circumstances, as the midwives in Egypt did for the women of Israel. I hope I never have to learn whether or not I could. What I have found is that my truthfulness has made me disliked in many places. I try not to deliberately look to offend, but it is very hard to cushion blunt truth when you know it is not the answer that is desired. I am straightforward in speech as it is, so this is almost an impossible feat for me to give truth and not make someone get mad at me. When applied to for my opinion (which I often try to beg off from giving for this very reason) and it is insisted that I say what I think, people are not happy about with my response, because I cannot bring myself to lie. It sticks in my throat and I gag on it, and it is obvious that I am gagging on it. And try as I might, there is no nice way to cushion an answer that will be despised, no matter how you say it. It is going to offend no matter what. They were looking for affirmation, and I gave them the truth. Most people are not looking for the truth, but for affirmation of their choices. They do not want to hear negative comments about their choice, as that is a condemnation of their thinking and/or values. As a result of this mind set, the world has learned to pander to people's feelings with lies instead of trying to direct people to good choices by giving them the truth. We have become a society of pathological liars.

As an example of what I have dealt with in people's reactions to truth, I will tell a story of something that happened to me in a church I attended. As background information, I have both a Bachelor's and Masters degree in music. In the church I was attending I was the only trained musician. The organist was an elderly lady who had learned to play years before and was still playing, but nobody had any formal training except me. The church wanted to have a children's Christmas program. They had about two months to pull it together with one rehearsal a week and they intended to sing about eight songs. I was not asked to help with the music in the program, so therefore stayed out of it. Now having taught music in school, I was aware of how long it can take to teach children one song well enough to perform, let alone eight. The songs that the people in charge wanted to do were some contemporary songs that Christian pop stars were singing, not familiar Christmas hymns. When given a chance to listen to the songs, I was asked if in my professional opinion I thought they would work. They were so sure I would give my approval and affirmation of what they dreamed of doing, but given my background and experience, I knew the answer was an emphatic “no” and that is exactly what I told them. That the songs were far too hard for these children to learn in so few rehearsals, as the songs would have to be memorized as well as sung. The response was immediate and it wasn't pleasant. They got very angry and started making comments about how could I be so certain, why was I being negative, what was wrong with the songs, and a list of other complaints. I hadn't volunteered the information on my own accord, in fact when asked for my opinion, before giving it, I said that I would rather not, as I knew what the response would be, but they insisted. At that point I spoke up and said, “You asked me what my opinion as a professional was. I gave you my professional opinion. If you don't want to take it, you don't have to.” And of course they didn't. And what they ended up having to do was play the tracks from the CD's of these artists and have the children try to sing along with it. Nor did that even work, as the children didn't know the songs at all. So basically what happened was we watched some children stand up in front and try to occasionally mouth the words to sing along with some songs being sung by the artists on the CD. I felt embarrassed for the children and the people in charge, who had put them to this embarrassment simply because they did not want to hear the truth. They wanted what they desired. They did not get it. Neither soft soap or wishful thinking worked to accomplish their desire.

The Church has fallen into the same trap with God's Word, as society has in all other areas. The Church should be above that, for we worship the One who is the way, the truth, and the life. John 14:6 “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life.” We should be preaching the truth, for the truth is the only way. Yet the Church continues to set aside truths for the temporary comfort of its people. The Church should be in unity over what the truth is, yet there are more differences than there are things in common. Why is that? Because we have forgotten how to understand Scripture. We should first take it at face value except where grammatically it is otherwise indicated, and where visions are given and explained by God. The first lie and the most useful lie Satan ever spoke was “Yea, hath God said..?” By making us question what God has said is truly meant, God's Word can be made to mean anything, and that is precisely why we have so many variations on theology. Truth has become irrelevant in the light of respecting some “scholarly” or “great” man's opinion of what he thinks God's Word says. People do not even bother to take this man's words and go to the Bible to check to see if he is reading it correctly. He is a scholar, so that means he knows more than the average person (not true), so he is accepted without question. Satan cleverly used this mentality, and then led astray those who were the “scholars” (usually by puffed up pride) to get them to either have “revelations” about God's Word which were not accurate or true, or to spiritually interpret the Word in a way which did not coincide with a face value interpretation. Another way was to have people pick and choose what they liked o build a theology around those verses, ignoring the verses which might disagree, as Thomas Jefferson did when he took a pair of scissors to the Bible and created his Jeffersonian Bible, removing those things which he did not like. And from there things progressed until we have wandered so far from God's Word in some cases that even God Himself would have trouble recognizing from where it came..

God's Word is filled with verses about truth.

Joshua 24:14a, “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth.”

1 Samuel 12:24 “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you.”

Psalms 25:5 “Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day.”

Psalms 26:3 “For thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes: and I have walked in thy truth.”

Psalms 40:11 “Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me, O LORD: let thy lovingkindness and thy truth continually preserve me.”

Psalms 86:11 “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: unite my heart to fear thy name.”

Psalms 91:4 “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”

Psalms 96:13 “Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.”

Psalms 119:151 “Thou are near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.”

Proverbs 3:3 “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.”

Mark 12:14a “ And when they were come, they say unto him, Master, we know that thou art true, and carest for no man: for thou regardest not the person of men, but teachest the way of God in truth:”

John 4:23 “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.”

John 4:24 “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

John 16:13 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”

John 17:17 “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

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.”

These are just the tip of the iceberg in what God has to say about truth. So why is it so important to have the peripherals correct if you have the core tenets in truth? Why does it matter whether we have truth on the details that seem less important? If one envisions doctrine in concentric circles, the “core” doctrine of Jesus as the Son of God, who died for our sins, rose from the grave, ascended to intercede for us, the Trinity, and those things which are essential for salvation will be in the center circle. Going out to the next circle would be those things which are essential for our walk with God, obedience to the ordinances and commandments and those things. Then the next circle out might be things such as end times beliefs, etc. and so on. If one thinks of each circle as a wall protecting the beliefs within it, the assault starts on the outer circle and works its way in. As one wall falls and lets the enemy in, he can attack the next wall. And so on. Eventually he stands at the wall surrounding the core doctrines and starts assaulting that wall. We have so let down our guards, that the enemy has actually broken down the inner most wall and has made inroads into corrupting the core doctrines. How is it possible to have come so far?

The problem has come from the fact that we have not sought truth all along. We have settled for the traditions and even lies of men, instead of being Bereans and weeding out those things which are not upheld by Scripture. We do this because we have itching ears looking for easy salvation and comfortable living. 2 Timothy 4:3-4 “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears. And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” We have allowed wolves into the sheepfold. Acts 20:29 “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 2 Timothy 3:6-8 “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith.” Romans 1:18, 25 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;.. Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.” 2 Peter 2:2 “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.”

When you have believed the lies Satan has implanted, when the time comes that he needs you to let go of them for his purposes, he will not have trouble convincing you to let go of them. You will be deceived, because you have already been deceived. Only those who know that they are firmly planted on the truth of God's Word will be able to withstand the assault on their beliefs. Truth stands. Truth endures. Division was necessary to conquer God's people at the beginning, as the rule is divide and conquer. Now that we are sufficiently divided with the lies he has sown, and we are far enough from the truth, he is creating a false unity of the church through compromise, for the sake of the new world order, over which he intends to reign.

God will have us worship Him in truth, and if we will not seek it on our own, He will put us in a place where we are forced to accept it in a harsh reality. If you love the Lord, you must desire truth above all else, for He is the truth. Any lie that we accept only puts an obstacle between Him and us. The question is, are you willing to sacrifice all for the truth? How important is it to you? Have you prayed and asked God to show you the truth at all costs? Most who call themselves Christian know the truth of the death and resurrection of the Son of God, but are you willing to take your long held traditions of men and ask God to help you examine each and every one in the light of Scripture - all of Scripture, not the pick and choose type – to see if what you believe is actually what is taught by Him? Are you willing to let go if it is not? From painful experience I can tell you that it will be one of the most excruciating things you will ever undergo. I am reminded of a story in the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis when a boy named Eustace was turned into a dragon because of his greed, and the only way he could become a boy again was to have Aslan the lion (the prototype of Christ) literally and with excruciating pain rip the dragon skin off of his body to get back to the human boy. Christ has to painfully peel away all the lies in your life to get to the truth. I was forced to change so many peripherals as I examined Scripture that I ended up with a very different theology, except for my belief in being born again through Christ. It was a shattering time in my life. And yet it was the most freeing time also. When He said “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32, He was not kidding. Knowing that you have found the truth, a truth that Scripture will uphold at every verse that deals with the subject, is a deeply spiritually grounding experience. It removes any room for deception. It removes any room for compromise. It removes any room for doubt. And this is why we have to have the truth, all of the truth, even in the peripherals. They do not have to keep you from loving others, but they do matter in your personal walk with Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic! O, how I wish people understood this.