Feeding Sheep or Feeding on Sheep?
Author: Carol Brooks
Too Many Christians Are Biblically Illiterate
Unfortunately, our entertainment oriented, anti-intellectual, often lazy and superficial culture, that wants everything, including their religion, in pre-digested, convenient little packages, is giving less and less heed to in-depth Biblical study and understanding, which leads to right doctrine. We have substituted entertainment for solid Biblical study. Which is why, as said by Eric Schumacher:
” … books like Experiencing God are so popular, as opposed to “Knowing God”. This is demonstrated in our Christian book stores which sell so many collections of inspirational stories, how-to-books, novels, and Christian-entertainment, instead of profound, concentrated doctrinal teachings!
This is why the depth of so many church-goer’s theology goes no further than a collection of Biblical sounding, pop-Christian slogans and catch-phrases. Their theology is summed up in ‘Let go and let God!’, ‘Do your best and God will do the rest’, ‘You need to expect to meet God when you…’ and ‘What Would Jesus Do?’, instead of “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart”(Ps. 37:4) or “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). Too many are content to read devotionals of familiar passages of Scripture linked together with a few inspirational stories and jokes, instead of studying Romans 9, the Trinity, God’s wrath, grace and sovereignty, or what Christ did when He died.” (1)
Not only is the contemporary American culture doing all it can to dissuade us from using our minds, but that trend has, unfortunately, carried over into the church. Even many evangelical Christians, who maintain certain doctrines to be true, only go so far and no further, paying little attention to doctrine beyond a bare minimum. They coast along, never maturing in their faith, never digging any deeper than they absolutely have to. As said by William Lane Craig, in his book Reasonable Faith:
“Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith. People who simply ride the roller coaster of emotional experience are cheating themselves out of a deeper and richer Christian faith by neglecting the intellectual side of that faith. They know little of the riches of deep understanding of Christian truth, of the confidence inspired by the discovery that one’s faith is objectively true.” (2)
The more Biblically illiterate any Christian is, the easier it is for him, or her, to be influenced, or even brainwashed, by the plethora of anti-Biblical beliefs, prevalent in the world and the church today. [See Theology and Doctrine]
Often Going No Further Than ‘Bumper Sticker’ Theology
For example, take the most common of all Christian phrases being “saved”. Since the Bible is centered around the doctrine of salvation, the words “saved” and “salvation” appear many, many, times. However, while Christians know who saved them, I am not sure how many can clearly articulate what it is they are saved from, and how it was accomplished? If you cannot then, you may be simply repeating what you have read or been told without a full understanding of what the word “salvation” means.
Additionally, there are no end of well meaning Christians who, in answer to the life and death question of what a person must do to be saved, will tell them that they have to ask Jesus into their heart. In fact, you will find this phrase liberally sprinkled through the Christian world… found in Christian tracts, preached from pulpits, and taught by evangelists. However, if you had never read any Christian material, talked to another Christian, or attended a Christian service or evangelistic crusade, but had simply read the Bible from cover to cover half a dozen times, you would never have known that you had to ask Jesus into your heart to be saved…. Why?
Quite simply because it isn’t there.
God has directed believers to proclaim the Gospel to others, but doing so in a vague, non-Biblical way that not only obscures, but actually alters the message, is not exactly what He had in mind.
Anyone one, young or old, can ask Jesus into their hearts without the faintest idea that salvation is by God’s grace, and accomplished by on Christ’s death on the cross, and received through faith in Christ alone. They could ask Jesus into their hearts without any knowledge of who exactly He is, and what exactly He has done. Nor does this popular phrase say a word about the need for Holiness.
How exactly then can this popular phrase be construed as the Gospel?
When speaking to a non-believer the only issue is sin, and the need for forgiveness. “Repent” and “believe” are the only two Biblical instructions given to any non Christian. [See Repentance and Salvation]
They Tend to Believe Anything Their Leadership Says
I cannot even begin to imagine why so many Christians fail to take Paul seriously when he said:
“Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. [Acts 20:28-31 NASB. Emphasis Added]
When a message comes from the pulpit, “Christian” programming, or “Christian” Books/Magazines/Articles/Blogs etc., Christians are very disinclined to accept that the author of that message may be one of the wolves that Paul spoke about, although he was very clear that the wolves would arise from among the flock.
In some cases people’s judgment are clouded by emotion… they cannot believe that such a “nice man” could possibly be leading others astray, or that such “wonderful, warm people” could be deceived. In fact, one of the four most dangerous mistakes any Christian can make is to believe that we, or our pastor/denomination/spiritual leader, cannot be fooled. [Details]
Similarly, it is hard for us to believe that so many ‘wonderful’ ministries are rotten at their core, that slick magazines such as Charisma could be peddling deception, and that “Christian” bookstores sell an enormous amount of material that can be termed anything but Christian, including books which stem from, and teach about, the occult. [See A Course in Miracles]
It is never easy to believe that someone who has risen from your own ranks, and whom you may know personally, could have fangs. There was a time when I went through considerable disappointment when I discovered that many of the authors whose books I had devoured as a young and immature Christian, turned out to have feet of clay. However, blindly believing everything someone says, no matter how much you may have liked and respected them, is the height of folly. We must be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and test all messages against Scripture.
Besides which, we need to, at all times, strongly bear in mind that some 2000 years ago, the Scriptures predicted there would be a departure from the faith because people would pay attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons. They would not endure sound doctrine, but would opt for myths that tickled their ears, and find teachers that would teach according to what they, themselves, wanted to hear. [See The Real Signs of The Times]
“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron,” [1 Timothy 4:1-2 NASB. Emphasis Added]
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.” [2 Timothy 4:1-4 NASB]
If you have any remaining doubts, Jude, in talking about contending earnestly for the faith, which was once for all handed down to the saints [Jude 1:3] said there were “certain persons” who had crept in unnoticed and were:
“… hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.” [Jude 1:12-13 NASB]
Christians who think that theology is best left to the pastor, or other church leader, because they attended a seminary, and are thus “qualified”, are treading very dangerous ground. If you are one of these Christians, then you have placed your faith and your eternal destiny, not in the hands of the God of the universe, but in the hands of a so-called expert.
If you do not scour the Scriptures yourself to see if everything said pastor/leader is teaching is Biblical truth (note that a few out of context “proof texts don’t count), [See Context is CRUCIAL] then how will you know if, tomorrow, your church veers off course and starts teaching false doctrine? Where will you stand if, next week, that same pastor decides that his church needs to join the 21st century and become a seeker-sensitive or purpose driven church. How many others in the congregation, who are without the benefit of sound Biblical doctrine, will meekly go along with his ideas (after all, he “should know about such things” and he does quote best selling authors in his arguments for the changes).
It is not without very good reason, that the New Testament directs all Christians to exercise discernment:
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” [1 Corinthians 5:9-13 NASB]
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.”
[1 Corinthians 14:29 NASB]
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” [1 John 4:1 NASB]
Considering the astronomical stakes, are you willing to risk being “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming”?
[Ephesians 4:14 NASB]
Many Christians Are Reluctant To Believe They, Themselves, Could Be Wrong
The problem is that for many people, the longer they are involved in deceptive teachings and practices, the harder it seems to be to walk away. At the very least they have probably invested considerable time and, possibly, large sums of money, into a false system. Some may have gotten to the point where they are unable to remove the blinders, and only “see” whatever it is they want to “see”. Others may also be too proud, or even too stubborn, to admit they were duped. [One of The Most Dangerous Mistakes Any Christian Can Make is to Believe that WE, Or OUR Pastor/Denomination/Spiritual Leader, Cannot be Fooled]
Christians Do Not Want To Be Labeled “Heresy Hunters”
(Or any of the other derogatory terms given Christians who insist on checking everything by the Scriptures.)
Many liberals believe we must accept every belief out there, and regularly throw the ‘who are you to judge’ question at Christians who, not knowing how to answer them, often do little but squirm under their unrelenting gaze. Christians who question any doctrine or practice are often labeled “Heresy Hunters”, and accused of having a “Jezebel spirit”. This is a topic in itself and I highly recommend the reader very carefully read the article.
[Refers to the article Judge Not?]One of the four most dangerous things any Christian can do is believe the politically correct, liberal view that we, as Christians, are not to judge anything, or anyone. “Judge Not” is the one Bible verse that most people love to quote and a common cliché among liberals whose theology comes from liberalism instead of Scripture. They are not sure where it is found, but they do know that those were Jesus’ words. However, few seem to realize that this is not a stand alone statement that He pulled out of thin air, then went off to try his hand at fishing for his lunch on the Sea of Tiberias, saying no more on the matter. In fact it has been terribly wrested from it’s context. Perhaps we should allow the Lord to complete His thought AND His sentence. And, if we do, we will find that that Jesus wasn’t saying, or even implying, that we should never make judgments about anyone, at any time, but He was condemning a certain type of judging. Contrary to popular beliefs.. the Bible makes some very straight forward statements about judging and one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the the ability to judge or determine between two things as to which is right, and which is wrong.
Some Christians Are Afraid of Being Accused of Quenching The Spirit
Worse, many who have some doubts about some movement or practice are cowed by the possibility of “quenching” the Holy Spirit, which comes from the last chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. In closing his letter, Paul gave the Thessalonians a number of instructions, which included things like living in peace with one another, admonishing the unruly, encouraging the fainthearted, helping the weak, and being patient with everyone [1 Thessalonians 5:11-22]. In vs. 19 he tells them not to quench the Spirit, an instruction which has been taken completely out of context by false teachers, who use it to dissuade Christians from questioning their shenanigans. However, when Paul’s instruction not to quench the Spirit is read in context, he was actually telling his readers to develop Biblical discernment.
One has to remember that chapter and verse numbers were not in the original writings, but added later for convenience. Therefore, verses 19 through 21 are related. In other words, Paul was telling the Thessalonians it was not wise to suppress the Spirit’s ministry by rejecting all prophecy. They were neither to believe everything they heard, nor to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead they were to test everything carefully, and hold on the good. Read it for yourself:
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” [1 Thessalonians 5:18-22 NASB]
Remember that it was these same people that Paul unfavorably compared to the Bereans who checked everything by the Scriptures:
“Now these [the Bereans] were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, along with a number of prominent Greek women and men.” [Acts 17:11-12 NASB]
Some Christians Are Afraid of Being Found Guilty of ‘Touching’ the Lord’s Anointed
It would be difficult to find a charismatic/evangelical service/program/tract/book that is not liberally sprinkled with the word ‘Anointed’, which has arguably become the most overused, overworked, misunderstood, and misinterpreted, term in the Pentecostal and Charismatic arenas. The warning not to ‘touch the Lord’s anointed’ is part of the arsenal of numerous Charismatic celebrities today. It is a stern warning directed at anyone who opposes their unscriptural doctrines and practices, but these warnings do not go unheard, or unheeded by their devotees who become unwilling to risk God’s displeasure by ‘touching’ one of His favoured.
However, an examination of what, or whom, the Scriptures call “anointed” reveals a very different picture, which again reverts back to the fact that too many Christians are not aware of what the Bible really teaches, but blindly believe whatever spin their leadership puts on this, and many other subjects. [See Touch Not Mine Anointed]
Christians Believe they should be “United”
One concern many Christians have with those who insist on adherence to doctrine, is that it tends to divide Christians. And, of course, this is seen as the ultimate sin by a pluralistic society that bends over backward to accommodate every belief, regardless of how illogical, false, or simply stupid, it may be.
Although doctrine has often been allowed to divide people in disgraceful ways, and we should not segregate ourselves from other Christians over non-essential beliefs, division is not something that can be avoided. you could scour the Scriptures for the next ten years without finding a single word about being united at the expense of truth. On the contrary, since all too often what passes for “unity” is nothing but compromise, Christians are commanded to separate themselves from those that believe and teach false doctrine. They are to refuse to have fellowship with those who cross over the line. Unity grounded in false doctrine will do nothing but take every one of those “united” people down together. It is far better to be divided by truth than united in error.
When Christians obey the Bible and separate themselves from heretics, they are actually standing together in unity, against heresy, thereby promoting genuine Christian unity.
When Paul exhorting the Ephesians to be unified in the bond of peace, he never even once implied that they could believe whatever they wanted, but listed what they were to be unified around: one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.
“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” [Ephesians 4:1-6 NASB]
As said by commentator Adam Clarke:
“There can be no doubt that the Church at Ephesus was composed partly of converted Jews, as well as Gentiles. Now, from the different manner in which they had been brought up, there might be frequent causes of altercation. Indeed, the Jews, though converted, might be envious that the Gentiles were admitted to the same glorious privileges with themselves, without being initiated into them by bearing the yoke and burden of the Mosaic law. The apostle guards them against this, and shows them that they should intensely labor (for so the word implies) to promote and preserve peace and unity.”
Paul also called the Colossians to unity and holiness:
“But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him– a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” [Colossians 3:8-15 NASB]
But that did not mean that the Colossians were simply to love and be patient with each other, for his very next words were…
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing (noutheteo) one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” [Colossians 3:16 NASB]
The word translated admonish, is the Greek verb noutheteo, which means to reprove or warn, which Paul uses several times. He not only admonished many of the churches he was involved with, but instructed many of them to admonish each other.
“…and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish (noutheteo) each one with tears.” [Acts 20:30-31 NASB]
“And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish (noutheteo) one another.” [Romans 15:14 NASB]
“I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish (noutheteo) you as my beloved children.” [1 Corinthians 4:14 NASB]
“We proclaim Him, admonishing (noutheteo) every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.” [Colossians 1:28 NASB]
Paul told the Thessalonians to appreciate those that admonished them, and that they were to admonish the “unruly”, to the point that they were not to be associated with anyone who would not obey the instructions in his letter,
“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction (noutheteo).” [1 Thessalonians 5:12 NASB]
“We urge you, brethren, admonish (noutheteo) the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” [1 Thessalonians 5:14 NASB]
“If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish (noutheteo) him as a brother.” [2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 NASB]
Knowledge of Biblical doctrine is paramount in Christian unity. As Christians learn more and more of what the Bible actually says, and become more aware of which doctrines and practices are Biblical, and which are not, their thinking should become more in ‘sync’ with each other, and they should become more united, not less.
Some Christians Believe that “Love is All”
The problem is that genuine Agape love is often confused with secular humanistic values concerning sentimentalism and feelings. [Self-professing Christians use the “love is all” excuse to avoid speaking anything Biblical which may offend the world; the underlying motive here is possibly fear – the fear of man. However, the Bible specifically commands us to fear God, not man.SJ] Biblical love, which cannot be divorced from truth, looks for the highest good of the other person. This cannot be accomplished by agreeing with false teachings which, in the end, will destroy those who believe and follow these teachings.
True love is committed to the absolute truth of God’s Word, and and no one can claim to love if they are not concerned about that truth.
Christians Are Often More Conditioned by The Culture Than By the Bible
Not only are our senses so dangerously jaded by the endless parade of immorality, violence and materialism, that little shocks, or even causes us to blush, but we imitate the world in their adulation of celebrities. Evangelical heroes are treated like rock stars and given total allegiance. We hang on to every word that comes out of their mouths, buy their books, and pay to hear them speak.
We are a community without a smidgen of Biblical discernment, to say nothing of a total lack of common sense.
(1) Eric Schumacher, Theology and the Christian, ContendForTheFaith2.com
(2) William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, 2008 Crossway Books Edition. Pgs. 20-21