Proverbs 19:27 NRSV
Cease straying, my child, from the words of knowledge,
in order that you may hear instruction.
“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NRSV).
“Hardly anything else reveals so well the fear and uncertainty among men as the length to which they will go to hide their true selves from each other and even from their own eyes. [And yet] self knowledge is so critically important to use in our pursuit of God and His righteousness that we lie under heavy obligation to do immediately whatever is necessary to remove the disguise and permit our real selves to be known” (A. W. Tozer, That Incredible Christian, p. 101).
There exist, in the Western World, a few brave souls who whisper or shout the truths of the gospel, but the numbers are, sadly enough, dwindling. Rather our pulpits are filled with men and women who would prefer to fill the pews rather than challenge the souls, who would prefer to apply psychology rather than God’s commandments, who would prefer to be known as famous rather than righteous. Many churches have become more social than spiritual, more self congratulatory than self deprecating, more fun than sorrowful.
Think back to a Sunday a month ago, a year ago, five years ago. What did you learn? What did your pastor teach? Did it change your life?
Western-world Christians tend to take a very defensive and proud view of themselves. Rather than adopting a humble attitude, we often tend to believe we’re right, we defend ourselves and our views, and we rarely search our the true nature of our souls, no less pour out our sins before a sinless God. A recent survey by the Barna Group (http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/21-transformation/252-barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years) revealed that only 9% of Americans possess a biblical worldview even though a far greater percentage claim to be “born again.” In fact, among those of us who claim to be born again, only 19% possessed a biblical worldview.
We are straying from the gospel and we likely don’t even realize it. Why? Because often we are getting our ideas from pastors, speakers, and authors who claim to be Christian!
“And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24: 11-13 NRSV).
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16a NRSV).
The proverb tells us to “cease straying from the words of knowledge.” What are the words of knowledge? The Bible, of course. When we look to gain our spiritual food from the words of others, we dilute the truth. If we fail, as the Lord Jesus commanded us, to judge prophets (teachers) by the Spirit fruit of their lives, we may be leading ourselves into false teaching. False teachers come clothed in gospel-speak, looking and sounding like the real thing, but actually teaching that which isn’t the truth.
What is Spirit fruit? “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Are we unable to discern whether or not these exist in the life of a teacher? Then, we should set those teachings aside. There are those teachers whose lives we can see. When we find a teacher whose soul is filled with the fruit of the Spirit, that is a teacher worth listening to.
Until then, we have the Greatest Teacher of all, the Holy Spirit. It is up to us to stop straying from the words of knowledge and immerse ourselves in the study of the Word.