Posts Tagged With: teaching

 
 

New Reformation or Personal Reformation

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6).

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18).

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 16:25).

This post concludes a two-part series. Please read part one first.

Solomon

King Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 16:25). Illustration by Paul Gustave Doré via Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Those who call for a new Reformation are correct to recognize that there are problems in the Body of Christ. God’s people are perishing due to a lack of knowledge. The problems that led Hosea to make that statement thousands of years ago linger. People choose to sin. Many of those whom God has called to lead His people are neglecting their duties. Many preachers preach what they want to believe, not what they read clearly in Scripture.

Sometimes God’s people lack knowledge because they lack education. They have not read, studied, or learned enough. There is a simple solution to that. Read your Bible daily. Study the Word in-depth. Find a church that believes and preaches the Word of God, listen to the preaching and teaching, and learn.

Sometimes, though, the ignorance is more willful. Many Christians get their theology from the wrong places. They listen to preachers who are eager to tickle itching ears (see 2 Timothy 4:3). Many will reinterpret the Bible when it goes against their biases. (In part 1, I chose the two examples of hell and homosexuality because these have been two doctrines that have been frequently trampled with faulty reinterpretation and distortion of Scripture.) Others profess to be Christians but do not seek to learn what Jesus taught. They avoid the truth entirely. They learn their doctrine from Facebook memes; they are too busy following sports, music, movies, politics, and current events to take the time to read their Bibles.

Sometimes the ignorance is simply full-blown stiff-necked rebellion. People know what the Bible says. They know what it means. But, they choose not to believe or obey it.

How can we respond? First, every one of us should search our own hearts. Where do we stand? Do we trust Jesus at face value and believe what He says, or do we try to find a way around His message?

Next, we can ask the Holy Spirit to help us see what we can do to correct the situation. How can we grow in the knowledge of God and His Word? How can we grow in obedience and trust in Him? What can we do to positively influence those within our sphere of influence?

As a Christian blogger, I can make a greater commitment to include in-depth teaching in my posts. I can continue to study and grow in my knowledge of God’s Word so that my life can more clearly reflect His glory and be a greater witness. When I read something in the Bible that confronts an area of sin in my life or a way that I can grow, I can accept it by faith and stop making excuses.

Perhaps the Church does not need a New Reformation. The problems within the church are problems with human nature. New church structures will not eradicate them. Rethinking theology may actually multiply them. Each of us, as individual believers in Christ, need our own personal New Reformation. We need to daily recommit ourselves to saying “yes” to God and “no” to our own preconceived notions and preferences.

Copyright ©  2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

New Reformation or Right Teaching?

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children (Hosea 4:6).

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18).

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death (Proverbs 16:25).

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Martin Luther led a Reformation in the Church 500 years ago. Do we need a new Reformation? Picture from Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

Is it time for a New Reformation? From time to time, a Christian preacher or teacher (perhaps claiming the authority of an apostle or prophet) will claim that the church has grown so lukewarm or apostate that we need a new reformation. They would say that, just as the Protestant Reformation (spearheaded by Martin Luther around 1517) revitalized the church, the modern church needs radical reform. A quick Google search revealed three very different reformation movements here, here, and here. There are probably numerous others. In fact, almost every new denomination grows out of a belief that the church is lacking something substantial.

The broad variety of ideas expressed by these movements reveals the very problem that creates the call for a new Reformation. These movements contradict each other on several key points. They cannot agree on the key teachings of Christianity, the main problems in contemporary Christianity, or what a “New Reformation” church will look like. This is nothing new; we currently have at least three primary branches of Christianity: Roman Catholicism, (Eastern) Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. Within Protestantism, we have denominations that are as numerous as the grains of sand on the seashore. All of this arises from disagreements about doctrine, proper worship, church government, etc. Every branch of Christianity claims to know the truth, and they contradict one another.

A key element of Martin Luther’s Reformation was an emphasis on right teaching or doctrine. He believed the great error within the Christianity of his era was the way it chose tradition over Scripture. Although Luther never totally abandoned church tradition, he challenged his contemporaries to re-examine doctrine in the light of Scripture.

Every generation has its own heresies and false teachings. Modern American Christianity has a few that come to mind. Many of them stem from people’s desire to believe their feelings instead of the facts of the faith. We believe what makes us feel comfortable, or what makes it easy to claim a strong relationship with Christ without a radical change in our lives.

One of the great marks of Christian spiritual maturity is this: Are we willing to accept biblical truth even if it goes against our personal preferences or biases? When we encounter a teaching we do not like or understand, what do we do? Do we say “yes” to Jesus, or “yes” to our own opinions? Do we believe that God knows what He is talking about, or do we assume that we know better?

Here are two examples. First, I wish the Bible did not mention hell. Universal salvation—the belief that everybody eventually goes to heaven—sounds much more comforting. I wish it was true. Otherwise, the belief in the annihilation of the soul (that people who do not go to heaven just disappear out of existence without any suffering) would sound nice. However, there is a problem: The Bible teaches that there is a hell. I cannot claim to be a Bible-believing Christian and reject the reality of hell. I cannot even hide behind the Old vs. New Testament dichotomy that applies to some other teachings. I can say I do not believe in stoning adulterers to death because that was in the Old Testament, but I cannot say the same about hell. Most of what the Bible teaches about hell is found in the New Testament (much from the very words of Jesus!), with very little in the Old.

A part of me wishes the Bible did not consider homosexuality a sin. I know some very kind, generous, friendly homosexuals. Some of them are better people than many of the Christians I know. If I had written the Bible, the passages against homosexuality would not be there. I am left with a choice: Do I accept what God says in His word, or do I accept what modern American culture says?

Do you say “yes” to God, or do you say “yes” to sin, the devil, the world, and your own desires? Whom do you choose? If there is a need for a New Reformation, it is because we choose not to obey and believe our Lord.

In the following post, we will look at the cause of this problem and what we can do to resolve it.

Copyright ©  2018 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Christians and Culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Learning and Teaching

With_His_Disciples020

Jesus teaches His disciples.

As I continue to take the Blogging 101 course on WordPress, today’s task was to write a post based on a prompt from the Daily Post. Today’s prompt asked us to write about our learning styles:

What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?

I will write about this in two ways: First, by answering the question briefly; second, by discussing how this relates to Jesus’ teaching methods and the Bible itself.

My learning style is simple: I am very much a solo self-teaching type of student. I can learn well in a group, but I tend to thrive when I am allowed to follow my own curiosity wherever it may lead. I thrive most with books, although web pages work as well. (For me, web pages work best if I am looking for step-by-step instructions for completing a task or troubleshooting a problem, like when I recently bought a new printer and needed to connect it to my computer. Books are ideal for gathering information or learning about a topic.)

Like I said, that is my learning style. Yours may be completely different.

An in-depth discussion of learning styles can cover a lot of other territory. Some people learn best by pondering abstract concepts. Others learn best by following step-by-step instructions. Others enjoy stories.

Our learning styles evolve throughout our lives. Small children learn best by hearing stories or being given strict rules. You might tell a six-year-old boy, “It’s not nice to hit other children” (rule) or remind him how he felt when another child hit him (story). Ethical and philosophical discussions about the just use of violence and force (abstract concepts) should be saved for a few years later, when the child is more mature. (This is why most Sunday-school curricula for younger children focus on Bible stories. Discussion of broad application of the Book of Proverbs are best saved for the older grades.)

This may seem trivial, but it is a lesson we need to remember when studying the Bible. Several years ago, I wrote an article about how to study the Bible. One of the key points I made was that we must “{i}nterpret the Bible wisely,” and I pointed out the importance of recognizing a passage’s genre. History, poetry, prophecy (especially apocalyptic literature, like Revelation), laws, and letters teach different things, use different “rules,” and should be interpreted differently. The person who treats every symbol in Revelation literally, as if it is a historical book, will make mistakes as silly as the person who thinks a Peanuts cartoon is reporting current events since it is in the newspaper.

Thank God that He has provided diverse means of speaking to us through His Word. Some days, we will need to hear from a parable. Other days, He may need to set the law down for us. Let us embrace the grace He has shown by meeting us at our various points of need.

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Teaching, Reproof, Correction, and Training in Righteousness

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Having correct beliefs about God demands that we recognize false teachings about Him, such as those taught by churches that do not accept the historic tenets of the faith (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV).

The above passage is one of the familiar passages that we use to teach about the inspiration of Scripture. The King James Bible phrases it as “All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (hence, the theological term “divine inspiration of Scripture”), whereas the ESV translates it more literally, “breathed out by God.” The image depicts the words of the Bible being exhaled from the lips of God.

It is important that we avoid the temptation to simply focus on the fact that God breathed forth these words. Paul tells his young protegé, and us, that God breathed these words forth for a reason. God wants us to learn from His word. This learning is both doctrinal and practical, covering what we both should and should not believe and do. God wants us to know what to believe, and what not to believe; what to do, and what not to do.

Teaching indicates what we need to know. The New Testament teaches that we receive eternal life by believing in Jesus:

  • “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
  • “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
  • “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

There are certain teachings that are essential to salvation. There are things God wants us to know. I hate to be divisive with other Christians, so I do not reject a professed believer over purely denominationally distinctive doctrines. Accepting other believers who adhere only to your own church’s official statement of faith borders on cultism. Yet, we have to believe in the right Jesus. We have to adhere to certain biblical truths. Since the early centuries of Christian history, the key doctrines of the faith have been best described by the ancient creeds: The Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed are the most familiar. While these creeds do not include every important teaching of Scripture, they are an important starting point. Any church that disagrees with these core teachings cannot truly be considered “Christian.” (I know some believers take offense at the statement, “I believe in … the holy catholic church.” However, the word “catholic” here should be taken in its original meaning of “universal,” indicating that there is one true worldwide body of Christ.)

The “flip side” of teaching would be correction. If teaching is the presentation and definition of truth, correction is exposing error. Again, we need to avoid the temptation to mark everybody as a false believer if they do not share all of our beliefs. Yet, there are some core teachings. If Jesus is truly God in human flesh, and the “fullness of deity dwells bodily in Him” (Colossians 2:9), then He is not merely a nice guy and great teacher who showed us that we can all be gods (He is not some sort of New Age guru). If He was tempted in every way that we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), we cannot claim that He sinned. If He died on the cross and rose on the third day, we cannot claim that He just swooned during the crucifixion and awoke from a long nap on Sunday morning. If the Bible tells us that we are appointed to die once, and then face a final judgment (Hebrews 9:27), a Christian cannot believe in reincarnation.

In addition to instruction about correct and incorrect belief, the Bible gives us instruction about correct and incorrect behavior. It has to reprove us when we sin. Passages like Ephesians 5:3-20 point out a plethora of sins: adultery, fornication, covetousness, etc. The list can go on and on. God forgives our sins, but He does not shrug about them. He cares deeply that we do His will. That means, we have to avoid doing things contrary to His will.

Along with the negative (what not to do), the Bible gives us specific instruction about things we should do as children of God. This does not mean we do these things to become Christians, or to become children of God. Rather, because we are His children, God gives us training in righteousness. He shows us how to resist temptation, pray, worship. He gives countless examples of ways that we can tell others about Jesus or serve others.

I realize every one of these items could be addressed in greater detail. I made no attempt to give an exhaustive teaching on correct and incorrect doctrine (this would require an in-depth systematic theology textbook, which usually runs about 1500 or more pages). Nor could I cover all examples of godly and sinful living.

However, as we read the Bible, we should look at it from this perspective. What is God trying to tell me? What is He trying to teach me about Himself, or myself, or the world He created? What sinful behaviors or bad habits is He pointing out in my life? What false beliefs is He seeking to correct? What should I be doing as a beloved child of God? Ask these questions whenever you approach God’s Word, and He will reveal His truth to you.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

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