Christianity’s Four-Letter Word

Yesterday we discussed how the popular almost-right theologies of today can lead us off our missional path. Tomorrow’s almost-right theologies may lead us down a different path, but just as far from our mission.

So how do we keep the fad theology of the moment from luring us off our mission? We follow the truth —Jesus Christ. To know Jesus means to study his life’s example and teachings found in pages of the Bible. And with that we have come to Christianity’s four-letter word— study. (OK, I know it’s really 5 letters—just humor me here.)

In the middle of warning his young protege to be on the lookout for false teachers, Paul advises him in II Timothy 2:15 to:  

Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth. (Amplified)

Why? So he can understand the truth, spot falsehoods disguised as truth, and teach others how to do both. Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians telling them to prove all things. Why? So almost-right theologies don’t creep in. No doubt, this is hard work. It’s not easy to study and apply yourself under the teaching of someone with your best interests at heart. 

That’s why it’s so tempting to take a short-cut by sitting under the teachings of a dynamic speaker and drinking in his or her theology without question. There are lots of teachers out there who have a commanding personality and impressive powers of persuasion, but hawk almost-right theology. We have to know the word enough to spot them and their off-mission teachings.

There’s a great example in the Bible of how blind faith in a person can lead to manipulation and destruction. It’s found in II Samuel. Here we find David desparate to cover up an affair he had with Bathsheba—an affair which led to her pregnancy. Unable to make it look like Bathsheba’s child was her husband’s, David began to plot his death. Bathsheba’s husband Uriah was a loyal soldier in David’s service. Samuel even listed him among David’s elite “mighty men”, of which there were only 37 in the enire nation. But none of this mattered to David. Conveniently, Israel was at war. David’s plan was to order Joab, captain of the army, to station Uriah for the next battle at the front lines where the fighting was fiercest. Then with Uriah out in front, Joab was to pull the army back leaving Uriah to die. And whom did David choose to send the orders to Joab? An unwitting Uriah.

Not knowing what the message said, Uriah delivered it to Joab who obediently carried out David’s wishes. Uriah is killed in battle after deliverying his own death sentence to the executioner. Uriah’s blind loyalty and faithfulness to David cost him his life. But all Uriah had to do was study the word he held in his own hands to know the truth of what was happening.

We are no different. If we do not study God’s word for ourselves, then we are just as naive as Uriah. Blind trust in the teachings of someone who may or may not have our best interests at heart leaves us open to the manipulation and harm of almost-right theology.

So study the word for yourself. Don’t just accept what I say on this blog, what Brad says from the puplit, or what anyone else says on TV or radio. Study it. Prove it. Know it. If what we say is true, it will stand up to the scrutiny of study. If it’s not true, then maybe you can help us all avoid the pitfall of an almost-right theology.

And now we come to the end of our series on “mission.” My next post will wrap up what we’ve been discussing for the past couple of weeks. Until then…

Live The Mission,