Sound Doctrine: Share If You Like It

All a man, a church or a denomination needs to guarantee deterioration of doctrine is to take everything for granted and do nothing. The unattended garden will soon be overrun with weeds.
 -A.W. Tozer

As a father I know how it goes. The house doesn’t naturally get clean; the yard doesn’t automatically get greener; homework doesn’t get done on its own. Let things go their natural course and it’s all downhill, no
mystery there.

So it is with learning or ignoring sound doctrine, a phrase we hear too little of and a concept we could take much, much more seriously.

If our very lives are staked on certain truths, then we’d better know what they are. We’d also best know which ones are essential, which ones are negotiable, and how to tell the difference.

Neglect a tenacious hold on truth and you can expect a steady drift towards error until, like the garden overgrown with weeds, you see individuals and denominations choking out primary teachings on the divinity of Christ, the Genesis account of Creation, or the definition of the family.

That’s because a solid doctrinal foundation, shown by a working knowledge of the Bible and an ability to rightly divide the Word (II Timothy 2:15) is Ground Zero for Christian maturity.

It’s not everything, I know. Where there’s spiritual maturity there’s also agape love and self-discipline, among other building blocks. But proper handling of the Word is right up there in priority, and here’s how I think that plays out in today’s church: we need to Know the Word, Live the Word, Express the Word, and, as needed, Defend the Word.

Know the Word

When I was a sixteen year-old new believer, I joined a few thousand of my closest friends three to five times weekly to sit under Pastor Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel.

Armed with nothing but Bibles and markers, we listened to expository teaching, verse by verse, often lasting 90 minute or longer.

Mind you, we were a bunch of kids. But there were no videos, no warm-up games, no bells and whistles. There was, instead, a deep hunger to know the Word, an able teacher, and a tangible unity.

I can’t believe human need has changed so much that people aren’t hungry today like they were back in 1971. Then and now, when the Word is taught book by book, verse by verse, then the ability of the congregation to discern sound doctrine grows, and maturity of the saints grows right along with it.

These wildly out of control times call for stability, a need which the Church – the light of the world (Matthew 5:14) and the expression of God’s heart and mind (Ephesians 2:10) – has a definite commission to speak to.

But if we are to have any measure of stability in the Body of Christ, it can’t come without a deep and even passionate re-commitment to teaching, and studying, the Scripture.

Live the Word

Let’s close shop if we’re not willing to first apply and live out what
we’re learning.

This is a real concern today, when hypocrisy among believers is a prime reason many people report being turned off to Christianity altogether, opting instead for the vague label “Spiritual” over the term “Christian.”

Knowing the Bible is crucial, but when there’s a marked difference between the truth learned and the life lived, then the truth learned seems, to many, irrelevant. So God deliver us (today, preferably) from the horrendous sin of standing publicly for one thing while privately indulging something quite different. If we don’t practice what we preach, let’s at least have the decency to shut up.

Express and Defend the Word

I doubt that it will be enough to teach the Bible to our young people, if we don’t also prepare them to have what they’ve been taught challenged, refuted, even ridiculed.

It’s not enough for them to know. They also need to express and defend. That calls for preparation to articulate what they’ve learned, reason with people who disagree, defend Biblical concepts, and maintain composure in the face of a hostile culture’s withering

Surely there are enough apologists in our ranks who can rise to that challenge, because the need couldn’t be greater, and the fields sprouting our future evangelists, pastors and teachers couldn’t likewise be whiter
for harvesting.

Who’s Lighting Whom?

“Tell me what the world is saying today,” the late Francis Schaeffer once said, “and I will tell you what the Church will be saying in seven years.”

Hate to say it, but I’ve found most of Schaeffer’s predictions about the church to be true. If this one is, then the light of the world may soon reverse roles and become something lit by the world.

Our willingness to re-apply ourselves to a respect for the Word, evidenced by the way we study and live it out, will probably determine whether or not Schaeffer got it right.

I so want to say, probably for the first time, that he got it wrong.

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