Tag Archives: religion

Make Sure of Sound Doctrine

I read once that the creator of the classic Peanuts cartoons, Charles Shultz, once painted a little picture of Lucy and Linus in their home looking out a window at a thunderstorm.  Lucy is worried that all this rain would flood the whole world.  Linus responded by referring to Genesis 9:13-14 and God’s promise to Noah that he would never again send a flood that would cover the whole earth, putting the rainbow in the sky as a promise that this would be true.  Lucy sighed and said, “You’ve taken a great load off my mind.”  Linus replied, “Sound theology has a way of doing that.”

He’s right.  Sound theology, or doctrine, gives us steady assurance of continuity in a world filled with change.  It helps us to make sure of what we are to believe and how we are to behave.  Along that line, we need to make sure of these things:

First, we mustn’t mistake man-made traditions for the true doctrine of God (Matt. 15:9).  If the doctrine we are teaching is not the doctrine taught in the Bible then it is man-made.  We must make sure we understand a distinction here.  Simply because we are able to fashion a doctrine from a compilation of Bible verses doesn’t make it Bible doctrine.  The intended biblical patterns of the New Testament are for the church to follow for all time.  The invented patterns of many Christians today are nothing more than Scripture taken out of context and forced into supporting some pet belief.

Secondly, we mustn’t mistake “smooth talk and flattery” for the true doctrine of God (Rom. 16:17-18).  Sadly, many people can be persuaded of just about anything depending on the communication skills of the communicator.  We need to be a discerning people who “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Thirdly, we must understand that sound doctrine is not just about baptism, communion, how Revelation is interpreted, etc.  It is also about how we live our lives.  Paul told Timothy that the law is good if one uses it lawfully and then lists behavioral sins such as profanity, fornication, and lying to be “contrary to sound doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:8-10).  In all we do we should be “showing all good faith, so that in everything (we) may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior” (Tit. 2:10).

Only when God’s people are consistently fed a steady diet of sound doctrine can they grow into mature Christian men and women (1 Tim. 4:6-7; Tit. 1:9).  That they hear it is no guarantee that they will grow (James 1:22-25), but not hearing it is a guarantee that they won’t.  Like Linus said, sound doctrine has a way of making you feel a whole lot better.  It gives us an objective standard by which to measure ourselves and a promise of steadiness in a world filled with change.

How’s Our Prayer Life?

It is my sincere hope that all of us pray to our Father in heaven, and pray often.  The Bible says to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17), and we should remember that this verse is a command from God that he expects us to obey.  Prayer is not an optional thing if we want to be saved; since Christ is “the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:9), we must obey the commands to pray often if we want to see Heaven.

We should also want the Lord to be pleased with our prayers and to answer them.  Have we ever stopped to consider what exactly it is that we pray for?  Have we ever thought about for whose benefit it is that we are praying for?  We should.  Consider the example of Solomon’s prayer and God’s response to it (1 Kings 3:5-14).  He did not ask that God give him a long life, or a lot of money.  He did not ask that God do something bad to his enemies.  Instead, he asked for wisdom and understanding to make the right judgment calls in life.  God was so impressed with this that he not only gave Solomon wisdom, but also granted to him all the things that he didn’t ask for.

We can pray to our heavenly Father about our jobs, our health, our school work, and our finances.  We have the example of a man God called honorable who prayed for these types of things (1 Chr. 4:9-10).  These aren’t bad things to pray about, and praying about such things is certainly better than not praying at all.  However, how many of these things will be with us a century from now?  None!

Let’s remember to pray also for the spiritual, the things that we can keep forever such as love, mercy, humility, understanding, meekness, patience, and honesty.  These are qualities of the heart that truly matter to God and will truly help us reach heaven.  They, rather than our successes in this world, are what matter in the long run.  Remember also that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), so we should pray for the spiritual and physical well-being of others more than for ourselves.
We should all want to get to heaven as our top priority, so let’s make sure we are aiming at the right target by asking for the best things to help us and everyone else get there.  Let’s seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness before all other things, and He will provide the rest (Matt. 6:33).

The Zeal of Phinehas

The New Testament, the law of God which applies to us today (Heb. 8:7-13), tells us that the Old Testament still has much value for the Christian.  The accounts of what happened to the Israelites provide instruction, admonition, encouragement, hope, and an example to us today (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:1-11).  Therefore, it is proper for modern seekers of God to study the Old Testament, because through it we can find out a lot about how our Creator looks at things.

For example, consider Phinehas (Num. 25:6-13), a little known man in the Old Testament who lived during the time of Moses.  While the Jews were wandering in the wilderness, one of them brought a foreign woman into the camp in front of everyone, presumably either to marry her or to fornicate with her.  While the idea of marrying a foreigner may seem trivial to us today – possibly due to the New Testament giving no prohibition between races (Gal. 3:28) – it was a sin under Old Testament law (Ex. 34:11-16; Deut. 7:3-4).  Phinehas apparently recognized this and was very upset that one of his Jewish brothers would so blatantly disobey his God, and so he picked up a spear, went into the man’s chamber, and killed both him and the woman.  As a result, God took away the plague he had thrown upon Israel, and even praised the actions of Phinehas.

What lessons can we learn from this?  First, let me make it clear that I am not advocating killing someone whom you see blatantly disobeying God’s Word.  While the Old Testament allowed that (Josh. 7) due to being the lawbook of a singular theocratic nation, the New Testament – the lawbook of Christians of all nations – tells us to deal with sinners among our brethren in a firm but non-violent way (Matt. 18:15-17; Rom. 16:17-18; 1 Cor. 5; Eph. 5:11; 2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15; 2 John 9-11).  Under the New Testament, only the various secular governments have the authority from God to use capital punishment to punish evildoers (Rom. 13:1-4), and anyone – including Christians – who would purposely take a man’s life outside of governmental parameters would be guilty of sin (Gal. 5:19-21).

That said, what I would like us to consider is the zeal Phinehas must have possessed in order to do such a thing as take a man’s life because that man was sinning against God.  We need to remember that Phinehas was putting his own life in danger by going into that man’s tent and attacking him.  The man could have defended himself and maybe even taken Phinehas’ own life.  Yet, Phinehas cared so much about God’s Word being obeyed that he would not allow sin to be in his presence for one minute…and God praised him for that attitude.

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” (1 Pet. 2:12)

Do we have that attitude?  Do we hate sin that much?  When someone tells a dirty joke or uses foul language in your presence, do you have enough zeal for God to politely ask them to stop?  If your friends are involved in fornication, do you care enough about God and them to tell them that what they are doing is wrong?  Or do you look the other way and maybe even join in so that they won’t think you’re weird?  If that’s the case, where’s your zeal for God?  More importantly, where is God’s approval for you?

I hope we all can have Phinehas’ zeal for standing up for what is right in the sight of God.  It’s something to think about, and a goal for us to have.