In my very short 39 years on this earth I have discovered a simple truth; That common sense, facts and reasoning have no place in a belief held by emotion. A mentor of mine early in my professional career repeatedly told me, “What you believe with emotion is reality regardless of whether or not it actually is.” If you have been made to, or conditioned yourself to believe something absolutely, no amount of evidence will change your mind, and only because you don’t want it to.
Another example is how you can tell a childhood story so many times that in your mind you can see the scenario play out with perfect remembrance – but at the family reunion your sister tells you that’s not what happened at all! We’ve probably all experienced that but it teaches a valuable lesson – what you believe with emotion becomes reality.
As someone with a 3 year minor degree in Theology I kind of figured I knew a few things…in reality, I discovered I believed more things that I knew. In reading the book Bible Doctrines by Wayne Grudem and discussing the topic of Systematic Theology, a small nugget jumped out of Matthew 28:19 at me; a Scripture I’m very familiar with but for entirely different reasons…
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:…” – Matthew 28:19,20a, KJV
The question was posed, What is the value of systematic theology? and the answer was so that we can obey God’s commandment. Well, I know the Bible teaches that we should study to shew thyself approved unto God, but I’ve known a lot of people that just study to show themselves. But in the book it referenced 28:19 as the answer to the question, and the nugget was this: Go ye therefore, and teach…Teaching them to observe all things…
How can we go and teach people to observe God’s commandments if we don’t really understand His commandments? Have you ever had that famous conversation with someone about something Scriptural or spiritual, and you just knew they were swinging from left field, but in the end your conversations just boil down to … “I think it means…“, “well…” you respond, “I think it actually means….” Tensions flare, arguments arise…
This we know is just vain babbling, using much words for the sake of self righteousness rather than furthering God’s kingdom. Yet…this sparked a desire in me to really know what I believe. Let me make a an observation. If you have followed my writing at all, you’ll know that I left what I now believe (no pun intended here) to be dangerous religion. This denomination had some very hard beliefs that were skimming the surface of Scripture. Nearly impossible to justify in Scripture without some stretching, but again, what you believe with emotion becomes reality regardless of whether or not it really is.
I believed and could argue, attempt to prove or justify endlessly that it was wrong (sin, a true heaven or hell issue) for children of God (Christians) to wear short sleeve shirts, or for men/women to wear shorts – or furthermore, for women to wear anything but dresses and skirts, jewelry of any sort, make up, hair dye…you name it.
Did you seriously just make that face at me??
In all seriousness, this was a belief that I would have argued for 15 years. This was what was deemed as part of Holiness. Now, let me ask a converse question; Is there anything wrong with holding that conviction for yourself? I would answer no, there is nothing wrong with that. Where things went wrong is that we would play Judge for God, and say any so called “Christian” who wear t-shirts and shorts, makeup or jewelry are not Holy, and since Scripture teaches that without holiness, you will not see the Lord, (Hebrews 12:14) we condemned them as fake; ourselves more righteous – them lost, we saved.
I’m pretty sure that type of attitude was condemned in Scripture, but after hearing this taught repeatedly, it became reality – to me. I remember a man (still in that Church) whom I respect as a fair, intelligent man telling me some time ago that he was doing a Bible Study to explain to some new converts why the dress code is required for Salvation. He said he could only find one mention in scripture about a mans robes going to or past his knee (this was for a priest entering the Tabernacle only) but could find no other evidence in Scripture for these beliefs. That makes that particular Bible Study pretty challenging I would think! (Read my article on Men’s and Women’s Apparel)
So – as a Christian, do you know what you believe, or do you believe what you’ve been told?
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” – I John 4:1, KJV
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit [speaking through a self-proclaimed prophet]; instead test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets and teachers have gone out into the world.” – I John 4:1, AMP
Adam Clarke’s Commentary expounded on this eloquently I believe.
Beloved, believe not every spirit – Do not be forward to believe every teacher to be a man sent of God. As in those early times every teacher professed to be inspired by the Spirit of God, because all the prophets had come thus accredited, the term spirit was used to express the man who pretended to be and teach under the Spirit’s influence. See 1Co_12:1-12; 1Ti_4:1.
Try the Spirits – Δοκιμαζετε τα πνευματα· Put these teachers to the proof. Try them by that testimony which is known to have come from the Spirit of God, the word of revelation already given.
Many false prophets – Teachers not inspired by the Spirit of God, are gone out into the world – among the Jewish people particularly, and among them who are carnal and have not the Spirit.
Just some food for my own thoughts,