1 Cor 4:6 “Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written.’ Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.”
Paul was dealing with the tendency of people to follow after personalities rather than their convictions. We have one leader and that leader is Jesus Christ. Problems crop up when we become overly dependent upon someone other than Jesus for answers to life’s challenges and questions. The Forerunner Commentary states; ” . . . some of the ministers in Corinth were speculating on things that were not revealed in the Bible. They were using human reasoning to explain things that were not spelled out in the Word of God.” For us as it did for the Corinthians, this tendency creates divisions and confusion about life and God rather than clarity. In the next few blogs I will describe some of the most pernicious lies that have crept into the belief system of churches and how these lies damage us and our ministry.
Over time the church has had to contend with many ‘false doctrines’ that go beyond what is written in the Bible. Some lies have crept into society that have become so pervasive that they are commonly accepted as true even within the church community. These are not doctrines created by those in the church; these lies are ‘seepage’ into the church fellowship from the world. By lies I mean anything that ‘goes beyond what is written’ in the Holy Bible and is put forward as part of the gospel. These lies steal the power of the Gospel in our lives and drag the church down.
The first lie is simply that people are basically good. This is a nice thought to believe because it allows you to hide especially from yourself why you really do what you do. If you believe solidly in your own goodness you can rationalise every harsh word (as much needed rebuke of a sinner), every judgemental attitude (I’m not like that) and indifference of the plight of others (people get what they deserve). Hampton Keathley writes; “The root issue in the discussion of the nature of man, is whether or not man is basically good or basically bad. Every non-Christian world view believes that man is basically good, and that he can save himself. I’m not sure why they think he needs saving, if he’s basically good, but every world view has some salvation mechanism like enlightenment, social reform, etc.” (What is the nature of man?) This lie of basic human goodness isn’t scriptural; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) Jesus said; “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
When this lie pervades the mindset of the church, people begin to live a shallow pseudo Christian life thinking: ‘I’m good and wow, Jesus make me even better!’ Salvation becomes an entitlement rather than the gift of Life for a desperate soul. We lose our thirst for God’s Word because we are so spiritually dehydrated that we have stopped feeling parched. And what do you do with people who consistently make ‘bad’ choices? Explaining bad behaviour if you believe in the basic goodness of humanity requires judging those who do wrong as ‘bad’ as opposed to those who do good as ‘good’. It doesn’t take long for ‘good’ people to start believing that most people are basically good but a few are bad. From that point the rot sets in and we start judging those outside our good group as hell bound sinners. The group of hell bound sinners grows exponentially as the habit of judging takes root. Only God can know the true motives of the heart (Jeremiah17:10). Only God can completely know the set of circumstances that prompts a person’s actions. Sometimes a man will steal food because his family is hungry. Judging leads to self-righteousness and the idolatry of Good.
To conclude, believing the lie that humans are basically good creates all kinds of problems in the church. We become lax in our own approach to God’s Grace – ‘I’m not a bad person in desperate need of Jesus seven days a week, 24 hours a day – just Sundays hopefully for one hour only unless the preacher is long winded.’ In the face of bad behaviour – drinking, drugging, gambling, fighting, anger, rage – we judge not knowing the circumstances or motives. Everything becomes a moral choice. We forget that sometimes people do bad things because of addiction, trauma or pain. We ignore our own motives for doing good things – social status, recognition, tax receipts, … We hide our ‘bad’ actions through covering up with lies or rationalisation. As long as we look good we are GOOD.
Hampton Keathley describes a church where Jesus was no longer needed; “I was watching a Mark Driscoll video the other night with some friends. He told the story of going to another church there in Seattle to talk to the pastor who was concerned that their church wasn’t growing. Driscoll asked him something about whether or not he preached Jesus. That pastor told them they were post-Jesus. Post-Jesus? How can a church be post-Jesus? He said it was like a swimming pool being post-water. That church was just a social club where people were encouraged to be moral. And that church was dying.”
We can actually get to a point where the last person we want poking around in our life is Jesus! What can we do to avoid being seduced by this lie? Read your Bible, know your scripture – use His Word as your standard. Call the lie when you hear it! Call the lie when you speak it. How can we avoid being trapped by falsehood? Abide in His Word! Jesus said; “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31,32)
Prase the Lord!