A commentor questioned my reference to emotion when we identify and correct false teachers. Jesus wept over the people of Jerusalem as they slid into apostasy. Doctrinal evaluation must be more than a dry analysis. It must have a measure of pathos, including a broken heart over the matters in which we ourselves fall short. Just because I am not Rob Bell is not a matter of favor before God, and it is so very easy to cull out the most egregious heretics and overtly or subliminally claim some spiritual superiority. Who we are before God has little to do with how orthodox we are in our theology and everything to do with who we are when no one is looking.
Every believer in Christ should be a discerner of false teachings and doctrinal heresies. This is actually not a ministry per se, but it should be a part of a believers Biblical life. Now there are preachers and blogs etc. that claim to be a ministry of discernment or a watchman ministry, and although I cannot characterize them as “ministries”, I do recognize their value to the body of Christ in general.
But it is very difficult to maintain a balance if you become consumed with heresies and the false teachings of others. Very quickly you tend to lose any perspective concerning your own spiritual depth, and almost immediately you can move ever so subtly into self righteousness. In fact, if you are going to spend time in examining and discerning the teachings of others, you should be held to a higher standard of humility, personal devotion, and love. Your responsibility toward God and His church will not be measured primarily by how many heresies you expose, or how many false teachers you uncover, but you must be measured by your personal devotion to Christ and how appreciable that devotion becomes in your own life of discipleship.
Just being doctrinally orthodox is a pitiful standard of measurement as it pertains to being a follower of Jesus. One can impute an orthodox systematic theology into an iPad and lock it in forever, but although that makes the iPad doctrinally orthodox, it does not make it a faithful and broken follower of the Lord Jesus. It is almost effortless to allow the discernment of others, as well as doctrinal orthodoxy, to become the criteria for our own depth of devotion and discipleship. But it is not.
II Cor.10:12 – For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
Our standard is Christ. And although we are constrained to stand for truth and correct error, we are also called to be conformed to His image. That, my friends, is infinitely more difficult than pointing out errors in others. I do from time to time read articles and visit blogs which have some pertinent information about the growing doctrinal scandal in western evangelicalism, however I am often grieved by their tone and lack of any personal discernment. Everyone has struggles and everyone falls short. And without humility and brokenness we all are nothing more than caustic judges, regardless of how accurate our discernments are about others.
As was recently noted by one “admiring” commenter, I am “all over the map”. Guilty as charged. When I enter the realm of measuring truth, I often lose some of my grace. And when I put on the glasses of grace, I often am tempted to compromise. What am I saying? That being a disciple of Christ is not becoming entrenched in some doctrinal fortress and peeping over the trench to see what others are doing and saying. Pursuing Christ must be founded upon Scripture, but it is also a journey of the Spirit.
If there are not seasons of personal contrition and brokenness, then we have lost the ministry of the Holy Spirit. If we can offer dry eyed evaluations of false teachers and their slide into apostasy, then we have lost the heart of the Great Shepherd. And if our primary evidence of being a believing follower of the Lord Jesus Christ is a statement of faith and doctrinal orthodoxy, then we are frauds.
A man points to a piece of ground and says to his friend, “Look at my wonderful tree!”.
The man’s friend looks around and says, “Where?”
“Right here,” says the man as he again points.
“I do not see a tree there,” his friend admits.
You see, the man was pointing to a very well established root system underneath the soil. That was the tree of which he was so proud. However, those roots never broke through the soil and grew and produced branches, leaves, and even fruit. You see, the man knew the root system was there but others could not see any real evidence of that tree. And so it is with some believers.
They have a very well established doctrinal root system, but sadly, that root system does not seem to produce leaves and fruit that would both substantiate the reality of their root system, as well as attract others who have no tree at all. To produce fruit a root system is absolutely necessary, however a root system itself must produce a trunk and branches and leaves for any fruit to come forth. The root system itself is not fruit.
An orthodox theology is not fruit, it is foundational. It can and should produce fruit, but it is not fruit in and of itself. The fruit that God is looking forth is not bound by ink upon paper. It is more than words, it is alive with actions that are self sacrificing, filled with unconditional love, and reach out to a fallen world of darkness. One time Jesus came across a fig tree which had produced no figs. It had a root system and a trunk and probably had some branches. But it had no fruit. Jesus cursed it and it died.
That is some serious stuff. Let us continue to look into the mirror much more than we look into a telescope.
Re-posted from Rick Freuh’s blog Judah’s Lion. A gigantic thank you to him for these thoughts. He read my email.