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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Respecting God's Word


A lack of respect for God's word causes false doctrine, decisions based on emotions, and division. We see examples of these problems in the Scriptures.

Jeremiah said, "O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). When people put themselves on the throne, they tend to make a mess out of their lives. This is because "there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).

We don't have to guess or stumble around in the dark trying to find our way. God has already revealed the way to us, as the Psalmist says: "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path" (119:105).

When we surrender our life to God, we must respect His word, which requires that we practice His word.


Many religious people claim that it does not matter what one believes. If that were true, there would be no such thing as false doctrine. But over and over again in the New Testament we see warnings about following false teachers and doctrine and encouragement to follow the pattern the Holy Spirit revealed to the apostles.

Paul warned Timothy that some would not "endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Timothy 4:3-4). False doctrine is created when men and women seek to justify their beliefs rather than search God's word for truth. We show a lack of respect for God's word when we seek out teachers to tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear.

I read of a woman who was considering having an abortion. She decided to consult various people for advice as to whether or not having an abortion is sinful. This woman admitted, however, that she did not want to talk to one particular person because she already knew he did not approve of abortion. The expectant mother didn't really want to hear whether or not abortion was right or wrong; she wanted to hear that abortion was the right thing to do because that is what she wanted.


"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). Pop and Gospel vocalist Amy Grant divorced her first husband and then married country singer Vince Gill. She said that although she knows the heart is deceitful, she felt that God had "released" her from her marriage. We do not have to "feel" a certain way in order to determine whether or not God approves of something we do; we can know by reading His word. And God's word permits divorce for one reason only - adultery.

Imagine boarding a plane and hearing the pilot announce that he will not be using any instruments but will instead rely on his gut feelings to navigate his way through the sky. How many passangers would remain on that flight? Feelings are not a reliable guide. When we toss God's word aside, we are left with no other choice than to "wing it" by heart.


Jesus prayed that His believers would be unified: "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20-21).

The most obvious example of division is the existence of all the various denominations. Each denomination has its own doctrine on a variety of issues. For example, the observance of the Lord's Supper is viewed and practiced differently among religious groups.

Church of Christ, Scientist: "The Mother Church of Christ, Scientist, shall observe no more Communion seasons" (Church Manual, 1980).

Lutheran Church: Frequency of observance varies from church to church. May be taken weekly, monthly, etc. and may be taken on days other than Sunday.

Catholic Church: Offered in Mass daily. The fruit of the vine is only for the clergy.

Baptist Church: Usually observed once a month; not always on Sunday.

Methodist Church: Usually observed once a quarter. Some congregations have used potato chips and Coke.

Presbyterian Church: Not necessary to observe weekly.

When the church at Corinth created factions based on their allegiance to various men, Paul condemned them: "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10). Some of the brethren claimed to be identified with Paul, others Apollos, or Cephas. Paul reminded the Corinthians that it was Jesus who died for them and that they were baptized into the name of Christ. The brethren were divided because they ignored the teaching about Christ and pledged their allegiance to men.


Respecting God's word calls for obedience. James writes, "But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was."

What do we typically do when we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the mirror and something is amiss - our hair is out of place or a smudge of food is on our cheek? We don't usually walk away. We fix the problem. James compares a man who doesn't do God's word to a man who sees himself in the mirror and walks away without making the needed adjustments. The mirror is useless if it doesn't help us take action. Likewise, we make God's word useless when we fail to put it into action.

God's will is not burdensome. As our Creator, He knows what's best for His creation. Doing God's will does not deprive of us the joys of life but rather protects us from its ills. We should have the same attitude the Psalmist expresses in Psalm 40:8 - "I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart."