When I was in Bible school, I had a professor who recounted a story of a dream someone had that made an impact on him. Consequently, all these years later, I have to say that it had a profound impact on me as well. Here is the scene:
“The scene was the depths of hell. With minimal light, a man could be seen rushing through the dark corridors of hell in frantic search of someone. Amid the screams and cries for mercy, this man would plunge into the dark corners, grab a man from the shadows, pull him into whatever light he could find, and then throw him back into the shadows. From cell to cell and dark shadow to dark corner, this man was reaching, grabbing, and searching. The man who was having the dream and observing the behavior of the frantic man in hell, somehow asked the question, ‘who are you looking for?’ The man’s quick reply without pausing from his quest was this: ‘I am looking for the pastor who lied to me.'”
This scene can evoke a million questions which I will not address in this blog, as I want to focus on one: “Are there consequences for what we believe or disbelieve?”
3 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
In this age of information with authors, televangelists, radio personalities, bloggers, and even spiritual gurus at the public gym, I find that information about spiritual and eternal things becomes passed around so casual as one exchanging recipes. For much of the spiritual advice, I find there are no tangible or real consequences for belief or disbelief “just as long as you believe something.” Some of my “Christian” Facebook friends subscribe to horoscope posts, and talk about their karma, while my non-Christian friends post scriptures like “Judge not lest you be judged.”
Everyone dipping into the belief systems of another, choosing the things they “like”, and calling it their beliefs, makes for a flavorful stew, but sadly, has little to do with truth. Truth by definition is exclusive. If one thing is true, it has the ability to call other things false. Through the lens of truth we are able to see the things that are counterfeit. But it gets tricky when truth is extracted from context, mixed with myths, or taught only in part–leaving the consequences of belief or disbelief, obedience or disobedience out.
Here is some criteria I use when evaluating “spiritual truths” from authors and teachers who claim to be Christians:
1. If they have to discredit or re-make the Bible or Jesus, the Author of its message in order to make their truth work, they have walked away from the “truth” they espouse.
2 Timothy 4:1-4
4 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when people 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. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.
2. If there is a clear spiritual penalty for the disbelief of, or disobedience of a spiritual principle and they do not teach it, they are contributing to a dangerous lie.
3. If their teaching pads their wallets by emptying yours, they are likely insincere in their care for you.
8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
4. If they say they love you, but do not attempt to turn you from a known path of spiritual destruction, then they are double-minded and unstable, and you are not the better for it.
19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
5. If they do not lead you to scripture in search of your answers, but opinions instead, they are their own religion, borrowing only in part from the faith they claim.
1 Timothy 1:3-7
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer 4 or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work—which is by faith. 5 The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Some have departed from these and have turned to meaningless talk. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, but they do not know what they are talking about or what they so confidently affirm.
6. If their lifestyle and behavior, or the lifestyle and behavior they espouse wouldn’t look good on Jesus, then it likely isn’t the model for you.
16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.
1 John 1:5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
7. If they deny that Jesus is God’s Son, the Christ, then they are liars according to 1 John 2:22-23
22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.
There are consequences for beliefs, and consequences for disbelief. The Bible couldn’t be any more clear on this. So please, as much as you may read blogs or Christian books, or watch Christian television, please read that much more of God’s Word–the Bible. You and I need to have a personal relationship with God through His Son Jesus. Our lifestyles need to be lifestyles of repentance and humility before God and before one another.