doctrine

Jeremiah was a voice for repentance and judgment 2500 years ago in Jerusalem. But Jeremiah was not a singular voice. Jerusalem was filled with a cacophony of voices. False prophets proclaimed over and over again that Judah would avoid judgment. They proclaimed, “Peace,” when God promised violence. They erred because they did not hear the voice of the Lord.

And the Lord said to me: “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I did not send them, nor did I command them or speak to them. They are prophesying to you a lying vision, worthless divination, and the deceit of their own minds.” 

Jeremiah 14:14

We are not all that different from Jeremiah’s day. False prophets build platforms and proclaim their own ideas. In the cacophony of voices and noise around us, how do we as followers of Jesus discern truth and avoid false doctrine?

Christian, it is your responsibility to know the Word of God. Jeremiah preached truth because he preached what God said. False prophets are those who proclaim what is not true according to Scripture. Discerning the difference is our responsibility.

The Secret Service carries a responsibility to investigate counterfeit currency. They don’t learn to identify counterfeit money by studying what is fake. They learn to identify the counterfeit by studying what is authentic. As followers of Jesus, we need to study and know the authentic and true (God’s Word) so we will be able to discern what is false.

Here are some ways that you can develop your knowledge of the Bible as authentic and true. I will link to resources at the bottom of the post.

  • Read and study the Bible daily. The single greatest thing you can do for your spiritual life is read the Bible.
  • Memorize and apply the Bible regularly. Knowing the Bible is good, but living the Bible is the goal.
  • Listen to biblical preaching weekly. Make sure you are attending, watching, listening at your local church and/or listening to solid biblical preaching on the radio or podcasts as often as you are able.
  • Avoid false teaching. If you become aware of a teacher or preacher who is unbiblical, avoid it.
  • Read commentaries and books that develop your biblical understanding. Strengthening our faith through learning will help us better understand and apply our Christian faith.

If you are concerned about family or friends who are listening to false teachers, pray for them. Don’t just yell at them or condemn them. Pray that God will give you an open door to have a fruitful conversation about their church or listening habits.

Sometimes our theological concerns with family and friends is not between false and true, but rather about areas of theological interpretation. Dr. Albert Mohler offers an insightful illustration for discerning theological differences in his Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity.

If you doubt there is false teaching out there, then let me commend to you the documentary, American Gospel: Christ Alone. The documentary reflects on the false doctrine that permeates the prosperity gospel movement. You can also find it on a number of streaming platforms.

Finally, here are some preaching and teaching resources and recommendations for solid biblical preaching and teaching that will strengthen your faith. These are some of my favorites.

Truth for Life, Allistair Begg

Gospel in Life, Timothy Keller

The Briefing, Albert Mohler

You can search and subscribe for any of these wherever podcasts are found. At Wilkesboro Baptist Church, we are making our Sunday sermons available in podcast format as well. Soon you will be able to download lessons in theology from our podcast channel as well. Be sure to search and subscribe “Wilkesboro Baptist Church” on the Apple Podcast App, Spotify, and wherever podcasts are found.

On Wednesday evening, November 19 at Mud Creek Baptist Church , we will ordain two men into the gospel ministry—Nathan Byrd and Brian Gordner. I have had the privilege of serving with them on multiple occasions. Most notably, we were in Kenya together earlier this year building homes, sharing the gospel, and experiencing God in powerful ways. I’m nearly as convinced of God’s call on their lives as I am of his call on my life.

In thinking about their ordination service, I was reminded of my own. My uncle, James Hefner preached and Todd Edmiston gave the charge. I’ll never forget being admonished by them both to take my calling seriously and to fulfill it faithfully. I’ve never forgotten the encouragement, challenge, and benefit of my ordination experience.

In some ways, being ordained, called, and set apart for the gospel ministry can be boiled down to Paul’s demand of Timothy in his first letter to the young pastor: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). In this clarified command Paul warns that ministry failing occurs with regard to one’s character or his doctrine. In the final part of the verse, Paul is not talking about spiritual salvation in the sense that good ministry will save ourselves or others, but rather he is making the point that preaching the saving gospel message is intricately connected to the minister’s life and message. A failure in character can result in a diminished gospel influence in our ministry. A serious flaw in our doctrine can dilute or distract from the message of the gospel.

Paul’s admonition is important. Character counts. Doctrine is vital. The basis for both is found in the Bible. As ministers, we should dissect our doctrine by the Word of God, but not just allow the Bible to be an academic or theological text. God also intended (and maybe more importantly), the Bible to reform and correct us. God’s Word is our guidebook, our manual for living that shows us our sin and the gospel solution to our sin.