🐑 ••part of the Smart Sheep series•• 🐑
Discernment is sorely lacking within the church today. Preachers claiming prosperity and health–in exchange for tithe–dominate the airways. Others eisegetically twist the Word of God to fit whatever narrative they're preaching, changing the meaning of the original text even to the point of feeding their sheep a different gospel. Still others add legalism and fundamentalism to their sermons, giving their sheep a list of things to do to be holy, saved and wise. And then you have the ecumenical preachers and teachers who are putting fellowship above doctrine, insinuating that Christianity can join with other religions. Many are swallowing everything they're fed without searching the Scriptures to evaluate what they're hearing, and many are being taught a postmodernistic philosophy of truth being relative, with crucial passages of the Bible being figurative. We dealt with the need for believers to be studying God's Word in the first part. (Read it here) And in Part Two, we briefly touched on these first five qualities of a Smart Sheep. (Read it here) 🐑
1- Smart Sheep Read the Word for Themselves.
2- Smart Sheep Ask God for Wisdom.
3- Smart Sheep Compare Everything to Scripture.
4- Smart Sheep Protest Against False Doctrine.
5- Smart Sheep Pray for their Pastor.
Now we'll continue to touch on two more qualities of a Smart Sheep to help remind us all of the importance of being diligent, watchful and discerning.
6. SMART SHEEP Choose Truth Over Unity 🐑
Smart Sheep will always choose truth over unity. Choosing truth over unity may end up affecting relationships–um, actually, no, it will most likely end up affecting relationships. And here is where Satan works overtime to convince you that it is unloving to be so critical. But doesn't this make sense when you consider Satan's goal? His aim is to confuse believers into adopting a more loving, non-oppositional, non-threatening, non-divisive doctrine that ultimately tolerates sin and doctrinal error. He would like us to believe that to reach the world we must be popular with the world, unite with the world, all the while making everyone comfortable, happy, and settled with their own interpretation of Scripture. If we do this, however, our theology will become relativistic and necessarily more liberal. God's Word then becomes open to anyone's interpretation with regard to its meaning and intent. And if we dumb down our doctrine, the truth is, we can include most any religion in our unbiblical attempt to unify.
There are many preachers who have dipped their big toe into the waters of ecumenicalism and are continuing to explore this unbiblical notion that we can unite with other religions and still be biblical. Um, no. John 14:6 comes to mind. Back in May of 2015, our former pastors attended a conference in England put on by Nicky Gumbel, the pioneer of The Alpha Course, and the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton Church, (an Anglican church in London). The focus of this conference was unity–ecumenical unity with the Catholic Church. Gumbel opened the Leadership Conference with a speech entitled, “A Vision for a United Church.” (You can read my letter to the editor of LightHouse Trails Research here, and find my notes on his speech here).
The speakers for this conference included Father Raniero Cantalamessa, (Preacher to the papal household), Joyce Meyer, Archbishop Justin Welby, and Cardinal Vincent Nichols. (So many no's in that last sentence, I just can't.) To unite with the Catholic church would mean a denial of Sola Scriptura (because they add traditions), a denial of Sola Fide (they add meritorious works as a requirement to be saved), a denial of the sufficiency of Christ's atonement (they believe we must pay for our own sins in purgatory). At the end of his talk, Gumbel invited all the delegates to kneel and ask God for forgiveness for any words, actions or attitudes, which may have wounded the cause of unity in the Body of Christ. They basically were repenting for the Reformation. There was a moment of silence while thousands of Christians from all denominations knelt together in prayer. UGH! 🐑
“To pursue union at the expense of truth is treason to the Lord Jesus.” -Charles Haddon Spurgeon
On the other hand, though, I am sure you've witnessed "discernment ministries" who are characterized by harshly criticizing those in error, calling people out with a judgmental tone that sends people running away with a sour taste in their mouth towards Christianity. These, unfortunately, are too often the norm. We must have balance. Although we must never allow for doctrinal error, we do need to watch our tone in confronting it, otherwise people will throw that baby out with the bathwater and run. We must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Refutation can be loving if we are truly concerned for people's souls. And if you really think about it, correcting error IS loving. Leaving people in error is not. (See 2 John 9-11) 🐑
7. SMART SHEEP Elevate Scripture, Not Experience.
The Word of God is the only valid test for truth. Experience can help to validate truth, but not by itself. We have the more sure Word, which is more authoritative and trustworthy than mere experience. It is impossible to exegete experience, and anybody who insists that their experience surpasses the truth found in God's Word is deceiving you. It comes down to "Sola Scriptura." This means that Scripture alone is authoritative for the faith and practice of the Christian. (source) 🐑
When people publish books claiming God spoke to them, this elevates their writing to the same level as the inspired Word of God. Books like Jesus Calling are highly popular, but one can easily see the danger in ingesting this blasphemy when researching into the background of how this book was written. (I'm planning on dealing with this in a different blog series called, Dangerous Teachers, coming soon.)
'Experiential theologians' would have us build our theology on sources other than the Bible–namely, their testimonies, their claims, and their interpretations based on their subjective experiences. Smart Sheep know better. They know that the canon was closed in the first century, and that we are not to add to the Word of God. They know that someone's experience can completely negate someone else's experience, and this is why we can never equate anyone's experience with truth.
“Actually, one of the most dangerous things we can do
as Christians is to determine our theology by our experience, because no one's experience is normative for the Christian life. We have to determine our theology from the Word of God,
not from what we feel.” - RC Sproul
Don't get me wrong, experiences can be helpful and meaningful; but God's Word is the only place that objective and universal truth can be found and validated. The problem then is if subjective experiences are allowed to validate truth by themselves, then you're allowing truth to be found in places other than God's Word. No truth exists outside of the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God. Truth never changes. It is objective, permanent, constant. But feelings change–they're subjective and temporary. Smart sheep cry foul when people elevate experience over Scripture. 🐑
In Part 4, I'll be dealing with a few more qualities of a Smart Sheep. Coming soon.....