Step 5 – Illuminated By The Word
Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Psalm 119:105)
A: Discovering the Truth
We live in the information age, nearly to the point of information overload. Much of the information we receive we can clearly distinguish as false or not to be trusted, and we easily dismiss or discard it. Some of the information we receive seems to contradict what we have grown up believing, but so many others believe in and swear by it, sometimes with such great passion and credibility, that we can hardly see how it could be wrong. Still other information seems innocent and appealing, almost to the extent of “having a form of Godliness” and yet we wonder if it can be trusted. How then do we decide what is truth? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Is the information from a well-known and trusted source?
2. Is the information consistent with what you have learned from well-known and trusted sources?
3. Is the information clear from the Biblical texts?
4. Is the information exclusive or nearly exclusive?
5. Is the information necessary to support a questionable position or lifestyle?
6. Does the information direct society to follow God’s moral standards or does the information encourage others to follow the world’s social mores?
7. Is the information’s emphasis on God’s grace and freedom too permissive?
8. Is the information’s emphasis on morality and obedience to God’s laws too repressive or legalistic?
9. Does the information deny the power of God to enable His children to overcome sin and temptation?
10. Does the information follow Satan’s pattern of masquerading as angel of light?
11. Does the information follow Satan’s pattern of deceit by calling God’s word into question?
12. Does the information call right wrong and wrong right?
Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.
B: Exploring the Truth
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament (the Bible) point us to God’s central truth that brought redemption to mankind – His Son, Jesus Christ. A redemption that was necessary because of the fall. Among other things, the Old Testament was written so that we “might have hope” in the truth that was to come (the Messiah) as it looked forward to Jesus’ first coming. The New Testament was written so that we “may know” and believe in the truth that came (the Savior) so that we might have eternal life, and as we look forward to Jesus’ second coming.
C: Knowing and Understanding the Truth
The Scriptures (the Bible), both the Old Testament and the New Testament, form the complete and inerrant Word of God. While the Bible was written by men (who are prone to error), the truths that the Bible conveys were inspired by God (Who does not make mistakes) to communicate His truths to mankind. God did this so that we might know, worship and serve Him. In its pages the Bible teaches us how we should live, by the laws God gave us in its words and by the example of His Son that it records. When we stray from these teachings, the Bible’s words of instruction become words of rebuke as the Holy Spirit works to bring correction into our lives. Through all of this (teaching, rebuking and correcting) we are being trained to become (be transformed into) the Godly men and women that God intended for us to be before the fall. He wants us to be thoroughly equipped for every good work as we have the opportunity.
D: Weighing the Truth
Jesus’ sheep listen to His voice because they know His voice. They know His voice because they are familiar with it. They are familiar with His voice because they have stayed close to Him and spent time with Him. Because of this, His sheep are able to distinguish the voice of the imposter (deceiver) who comes only to “steal, kill and destroy.” They will not “believe every spirit.” They will not be taken “captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy” that so easily ensnares those who are not familiar enough with the Master’s voice. They will not “turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
Knowing His voice is so very important because the imposter is very crafty. We see his craftiness in how he deceived Adam and Eve in the Garden. When confronting them doing (listening and following) what God had told them, he did not start with outright contradiction. First, he caused them to begin doubting the Word of God (“did God really say?”) by distorting the Word of God (“you must not eat from any tree?”). That made God’s Word seem unreasonable. Eventually, this allowed him to take things where he wanted them all along – disputing God’s Word altogether (“you will not”). This ultimately led them into disobeying God’s Word and with God calling out – “Adam, where are you?” They had hid themselves because they were no longer following Him.
So how do we guard against making this same mistake? While Jesus no longer walks this earth we can still know His voice by spending time in His Word. But we need to do more than just “hear” what it says; we need to “listen” to what it says. We must make the effort to process what it says so that we can capture its meaning and message. Without this effort we are merely going through a mechanical process and hearing background noise. But if we make this effort we will be able to see through the craftiness of the imposter. When he says “did God really say” we can reply yes He did, “it is written.”
So how are you doing? Are you merely hearing without listening? Are you listening without following? Which ways are the scales tipping?
E: Questioning the Truth – For Musing On Your Own
1. What are some commonly accepted “truths” or widely held beliefs of our day that might appear right or Godly but are contradicted by God’s word?
2. Which is the greater danger; beliefs that are clearly wrong, or wrong beliefs that appear right? Explain.
3. How does God’s Word protect us from being taken in by wrong beliefs and deceptive philosophies?
4. Why can we rely on the authority of the Bible as a useful guide?
5. What does it mean that all scripture is “God-breathed?”
6. What is the difference between teaching and training?
7. What is the difference between rebuking and correcting?
8. In what ways does God equip us to do His work?
9. Why do you think it is that some people, who are thoroughly taught, well trained and the best equipped sometimes do not follow through by putting them into practice?
10. How comforted are you in knowing that the word of God is inerrant and will never be superseded?
11. What is the difference between hearing and listening as it relates to God’s voice?
12. How does listening to God’s word help solidify our beliefs?
13. How can listening to something written thousands of years ago reveal anything about what God’s will is for us today?
14. What is the best evidence that God’s word is changing who we are?