As children, many of us played "the gossip game." After forming a line, the child at the beginning would tell his neighbor a story. Then, the narrative would be passed down, with each child having the opportunity to hear and relay the message.
The point to the game was to see how the story had changed by the time it reached the end of the line. Interestingly enough, the final tale was rarely similar to what was said at the beginning.
Sadly, the Gospel can be distorted in the same manner. When Jesus ascended into heaven, He commanded the disciples to spread His Word throughout a lost and sinful world. His message of truth was untainted, one hundred percent pure.
They followed Jesus' command, but, as the Gospel spread, the opportunity for error arose. Wherever the apostles preached, false teachers would quickly follow, instructing the early church to obey legalistic rules and regulations that God Himself did not require.
Two thousand years have passed since Jesus walked the earth. With this inevitable passage of time comes more opportunity for God's truth to be distorted. Teachers from all faiths are prepared to tell you whatever you want to hear. Paul warned Timothy about this when he wrote:
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 4:3-4)
False doctrine is rampant in our world. We are surrounded by beliefs and guidelines that fail to match up with the litmus test that is the Word of God. The Lord not only wants us to come to know Him as Savior, He also desires that all men "come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
In the Great Commission, Jesus commands His followers to reach the world with His Gospel. But how are we as Christians to spread His Word if we do not understand what we believe?
The Apostle Peter tells Christians to:
Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. (1 Peter 3:15-16)
Even as false doctrine was widespread in Peter's day, he realized that believers would always be tempted with the lure of doctrinal error. In 2 Peter 2:1-3, he says:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
In order to defend our faith from false doctrine, we must first examine our beliefs. We shouldn't read through the Bible only to pull out verses that confirm what we already hold true. Instead, we should take all of what we believe and examine it against the entirety of truth found in the Bible. Are your beliefs firmly set in the Word of God?
If someone asked you, "tell me about the Bible," what would you say? If they asked you why baptism is important, what would you tell them? If you were asked to explain the Trinity, how would you answer?
We should be entrenched and deeply rooted in God's Word, formulating a mental grid of beliefs in our minds. If we understand the Bible's truth, false teaching will not infiltrate this mental grid. God will alert us to error, allowing us to eliminate untruths from our understanding of His Word.
Why should you want to defend your beliefs? The world may tell you that as long as you believe something, then you will be okay. This is not true. When we believe the truth-the Bible-we are:
· Prevented from being misled by false doctrine
· Protected from those who attack our faith
· Prepared to answer those who are honestly seeking truth
· Persuasive in our expression and presentation of what we believe
· Prosperous in our personal relationship with Christ
We are surrounded by those who are eager to tell us that salvation is based on works and legalistic rules, that Christ was a "great teacher" but not the Son of God, that Jesus is not coming again, and that baptism is the only requirement to being saved.
Rarely will we find someone that believes exactly as we do. However, if their values are not rooted in the Word of God, then they are adhering to false doctrine.
Jude tells us that false teachers are like "clouds without water, carried along by the 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).
There are thousands of teachers that are attempting to sell us something that sounds good and appeals to our "sensuality." However, when we are grounded in the principles of the Bible, we can wisely discern the difference between truth and error.
In a world saturated with untruth, let God guide you to all the answers that you seek. Know what you believe!