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“We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!  Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:11-14). 

What I’m about to write will not be well received (some will call it satirical but I’m sadly serious). But, glory to God, so be it! I write this with a broken heart – the writer of Hebrews is speaking to us. The contemporary American evangelical church (and that most certainly includes the home church movement) has forsaken its calling to teach doctrine. Instead we have chosen to leave our people in spiritual infancy. We have misguidedly (and I pray not intentionally and deliberately) chosen to grow churches rather than people. We have deserted our commission to be doctrinally objective and embraced the experiential, emotional, and practical (including that deceptive thing called “cultural relevancy”) while becoming meaninglessly subjective. We have become a religious version of Postmodernism.

So what do we have?  Ignorant and immature church “members” that teeter on the edge of apostasy. And who is primarily to blame? Preachers, teachers, and authors (and I have been all three, by the way). We may claim to be “conservative”, or “biblical inerrantists”, or even “orthodox” but we have modeled our ministries, preaching, and teaching on a 3rd grade reading level (when an analysis of The Andy Griffith Show, Wild at Heart, and The Shack become the basis for our teaching curriculum I’m genuinely concerned). We have “worn out” many beautiful Biblical truths (like John 3:16) while leaving many believers undiscipled and scripturally unlearned by shunning the riches of “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). I’m afraid that we have become more interested in our budgets, building programs, and baptismal statistics. As one preacher said, “Just get ‘em baptized and tithing. The rest isn’t really all that important”. It seems as if the “ignorance is bliss’ church growth methodology is rampant. Plus, after all, it is a lot easier to lead people where you want them to go when the clergy/laity dichotomy is more pronounced. Just ask the Roman Catholic Church. 

And this is the exact reason that the Protestant Reformers such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, and John Wycliffe (and when have you last heard them mentioned or discussed in your church?) faced martyrdom to get the Word of God into the common language. They wanted all of God’s chosen to know and understand the deep truths of God’s word and not just “indoctrinated” by the salesmanship of institutional church “CEO types”. They believed that all followers of Christ should be theologically educated and mature in the faith. I ask you, when was the last time you heard a sermon on doctrines such as justification by faith, substitutionary atonement, original sin, the priesthood of the believer, the wrath of God, and sovereign grace that these protestant forefathers we willing to (and, in some cases, did) die for? 

Digest these scriptural admonitions: 

  • “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).
  •  “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9). 
  • “You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). 

But we haven’t followed these commands so Paul’s prophecy has come true – “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). 

I pray with all that I am that our leaders – preachers, teachers, and authors – will return to the true proclamation of God’s Word and sound doctrine. This is our calling and our ministry. Jesus’ last words were a command to make disciples and teach them “to observe all things” . (Matthew 28:19). I pray that we are committed to boldly proclaiming the powerful, profound, stabilizing, and transforming doctrines of His word for the glory of Christ and the sake of His Kingdom, His church, and His people. Why? So that we may all “grow up into Him”. Absorb Paul’s compelling synopsis of these thoughts: 

“It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-15).

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“God created man in His own image and man returned the favor”. These sarcastic words are a quote from Voltaire, the famous French philosopher and agnostic. Are we stunned? We shouldn’t be. Paul saw this human tendency from a long way off and warned of the immanent dangers of exchanging the truth of God for a man-made lie:

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen” (Romans 1:21-23, 25).

In the contemporary church today there is a tragic dearth of Biblical study of the person and works of God. Pop-psychology and emotional subjectivism have replaced the Scripture’s paradigm of how God describes Himself. And this point is critical. God’s Word is what best defines who He is. No amount of man’s wisdom, clever language, or vivid imagination can do justice to the nature of God when compared to His self-revelation. A quick glimpse at the large portion of best-selling “Christian” books and DVDs shows them to be shockingly humanistic in their characterization of the sovereign Lord. When church members gobble up millions of books that portray the creator of the universe as an overweight African-American woman who likes to cook or describes God as “a risk taker” (which denies God’s omniscience) we have an obligation to be alarmed and sound a warming siren.

This is juxtaposed against the exalted view of God and the proper study of His nature and character that was expressed (at age 20 nonetheless) by C. H. Spurgeon “It has been said that “the proper study of mankind is man.” I believe it is equally true that the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy, which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father”. Spurgeon eloquently defines the knowledge of God to be a worthwhile and necessary pursuit but only when conducted through “proper study”.

Tragically today many within the “church” today view God through the lens of self, fiction, humanistic psychology, or popular thinking. Often little of our definition of Him relies upon God’s own objective statements of His attributes and character. If it is uncomfortable, seemingly “unfair”, doesn’t “feel right”, or promotes God in all of His otherness (His holy and infinitely superior distinctiveness from His creation) then we prefer to redefine Him in more comfortable and man-friendly terms. In this process we can so modernize, rationalize, humanize, homogenize, anthropomorphize and domesticate Him that we altogether de-deify the Creator. And in doing so we have created God in our own image thereby endangering ourselves to the judgment of God that Paul spoke of in Romans 1.

I believe that God is incomprehensible, absolutely self-sufficient, and inherently sovereign in His supremacy over all things, ideas, and perceptions. Yet His word commands us to pursue knowledge and understanding of Him. This is not a contradiction. The Word that decrees that we pursue Him also helps us to understand Him. Solomon captures this thought when he states, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:1-5).

The prophet Jeremiah declares, “ This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24). Therefore we are to seek to know God, as He is, for who He is, based upon His own revelation of Himself. So let’s be careful as to what means we use to understand and conceptualize God – if it is not based upon His Word it is not really Him or from Him. Let’s not succumb to the fleshly temptation to humanize our transcendent Lord and attempt to create God in our own image.

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