In Western Pennsylvania, we are well into the hunting season and the white-tailed deer and black bear are on the menu! I have spent countless hours chasing down the allusive whitetail; they are amazing animals.
Having grown up in Cameron County, Pennsylvania, I can attest to the fact that we have some of the most picturesque landscapes in the state! Many of the mountains we have are amazingly steep and treacherous.
If you find yourself on the side of one these steep inclines while the ground is wet or snowy, you could be in real trouble!
However, if you look carefully, even on the steepest slopes, you will find a deer path headed out across the steep mountainside. Some of these deer paths have taken centuries of deer hoofed travel, to become so deeply worn into the steep mountain.
The truth is these paths are the best routes to take; they are time-tested to be the safest, surest and most direct route to carefully get these critters from point A to B.
The Bible seems to have a similar strategy for us to follow as well
This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
There seems to be an increasing number of popular “Christian” teachings out there, which are leading many astray.
New ideas about the Scriptures, what they mean, and new prophetic voices clamouring for attention; many of these “new” teachings lead us down a path that may be rather precarious; we need to be extraordinarily careful.
Someone once said . . .
About the Bible – If it’s something new – It’s probably not true. And if it’s true, it’s probably not new!
How can we guard against being misled? There is so much teaching going on today, and much of it is fraught with error, some blatant, some subtle; but an error nonetheless.
There are some good guidelines that will help us from falling into the snare of the devil; if we will follow them.
A very influential Christian man, John Wesley, founder of Methodism, came up with a brilliant, 4-fold idea, that would keep us all on track; let’s take a glance at it today!
They are; Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason
As we engage this incredible time in history, we MUST be students of the Bible. Scripture is the ONLY reliable source for determining whether a certain teaching is of God or not.
By the way, we live in a country where getting your hands on a Bible is as easy as going to Wal-Mart. There are countries today, modern countries, where owning a Bible could land you in jail . . . or worse!
The Scriptures (God’s Word) can be applied to every area of life, indeed the Bible declares . . .
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16
To be thoroughly equipped takes time and effort; consistent study of the Word of God requires a bit of discipline. Too many times we take for granted that the one speaking knows what he or she is talking about.
It is your obligation to check it out; too much hinges on whether they are telling you the truth or not, and you will give an account of what you believe to be true.
When you stand before Jesus and look into His eyes, you will not be able to use false teaching as an escape mechanism, you are responsible. I too will look into His eyes and give an account as well, but I will not be able to speak on your behalf, you are responsible for your own salvation.
You need to be like the people mentioned in the Book of Acts 17:11
Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Once you have thoroughly searched the Scripture for answers, we can take a look at the following three areas to further help us to understand whether the doctrine is of God or not.
We have over 2000 years of tradition behind us to look at and study.
While NOT Scripture, the men and women down through the ages have had to wrestle with the very same issues we are wrestling with today. The Bible again gives us insight into this:
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 10 Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. Ecclesiastes 1:9-10
We can look back across history and read about how others faced these issues; it helps us to clarify the Scriptures and gives light to the topics at hand.
We need to be mindful that it is the Word of God that is the bottom line, NOT tradition, but we do not throw out several thousand years of Biblical tradition because we have “found something . . . “new . . . under the sun.”
Dr. Vic Reasoner, a noted theologian well known for his scholarship and writings says;
“We believe in heart-felt salvation, but we are not interested in seeking any experience the Scriptures do not command us to seek. We contend for the direct witness of the Holy Spirit, but we do so, on the basis that it is promised in the New Testament. I have no authority to preach my experience and you are under no obligation to seek my experience.”
It is one thing to preach the truth of the Gospel, but another to actually experience what you preach.
If the Bible does NOT clearly teach that we should experience; “this or that” thing, then we should be cautious.
This is NOT legalism, as some are thinking, just good common sense, so as to help us from falling into error.
When we come to church we do not put our brain on the hat rack! We appeal to common sense and a certain amount of reasoning as we come together. We do not try and rationalize everything either. It was not by logical deduction that you found Christ, but it was by faith!
When you tried rational thinking to understand God, you came up short. God revealed Himself to you through His Word, and faith sprang up and you believed!
While we believe that we are to be a people of faith, we should not engage in “mental gymnastics” either. Common sense and reason will be valuable if we use them properly, after all, they are a gift from God.
We will never be able to rationalize everything we see, but we should not be so gullible that we toss out reason and common sense either.
There will be many things we do not understand.
We are in the “last days” and there will be much deception in and through the church, Jesus warned us! You can use these 4 principles to keep yourself from getting into trouble. Remember what the Good Book says . . .
“Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls”