“We shall not adjust our Bible to the age; but before we have done with it, by God’s grace, we shall adjust the age to the Bible.” Charles Spurgeon
Have you ever caught yourself saying, “I might have lied about that just a little bit?” We’ve all said it and we’ve all done it. The implication is that most of what we said was the truth, but a small portion of it was not. Unfortunately, that small portion tarnished the whole truth of what we said, because it is impossible for a lie to be a part of the truth. I recently watched a teaching series in which a well-known pastor attempted to do just that. He spoke just enough of the truth to keep you interested, with just a little bit of untruth skillfully mixed in. The central concern of the message was that due to the changing culture of our day, young people are leaving the faith, “opting out for a different world-view” and looking for a “different narrative through which to make sense of the world.” He believes many to be leaving the church because they no longer believe in the inerrancy of the Old Testament scriptures anymore, their life experiences are irreconcilable with their faith, and they are tired of getting faith based answers to fact based questions. In order to bring them back into the fold this pastor feels that we must “rethink our approach” in reaching them. His approach being that maybe, just possibly, we might concede just a little bit, for the benefit of the greater good, that everything in the Old Testament scriptures might not be completely true and accurate. Just to be clear on his stance, I directly quote, “Christianity does not rise and fall upon the integrity or the verifiability of the entire Bible.” He asserts that “the issue has never been “is the Bible true?” and believes the central issue to be “was Jesus who he said he was?” The half truth is that people don’t need to believe in the whole word of God, specifically the Old Testament, in order to believe in Jesus. The assertion being it is okay to question the accuracy of the of the Old Testament scriptures, but you can’t deny the eye-witness facts as presented in the New Testament gospels. One major problem with his assertion, is that even Jesus’s own teaching is centered on the historical events of Scripture and he himself declares that “the Scriptures cannot be broken.” (John 10:35). If Old Testament scripture is not reliable and can be broken, then neither can Jesus’s own words be reliable. Jesus’s prayer to his Father when he was about to leave this world was, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” He didn’t say most of your word is truth. I might not be able to explain or prove everything in the Bible, but if Jesus said “your word is truth,” I’ll take him at his word.
I get where this pastor is coming from, I just don’t like where he’s going. For the record, I think his motives were good but his method is flawed. I also found it a bit ironic that at the same time this pastor suggests we concede that the Bible might not be accurate about a few things, once challenged on his compromise of the inerrancy of God’s word, he insists that he, himself, believes wholeheartedly that the Bible is the inspired and infallible word of God. I’m sorry but you just can’t have it both ways. As James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all he does.” I agree, we need to try our best to bring those who have walked away from their faith back again, but I don’t think the church needs to coddle, compromise and accommodate the wants and needs of the natural man in order to do so. What people really need is less “puffed-up-with knowledge,” man-focused sermons and more preaching of the word, because solving all the complicated issues in the culture of our day rests entirely upon the preaching of the entirety of this one. My momma would say to this pastor, “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it” and the preaching of the gospel ain’t broke! Paul, in II Timothy 3:1-4 makes it very simple for ministers as to how to preach the word, even in this day and time. He charges Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” In other words, just preach the whole word of God and be consistent in doing so. Paul goes on to say, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine.” That time has arrived, hence the departing of so many from the faith. It is the conclusion of this verse, however, that should be of most concern to us in relation to this pastor’s message. “But after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables (falsehoods).” Hope you caught the “turn away their ears from the truth” part. The NIV Nelson Study Bible commentary observes, “A preacher or teacher who gives God’s true message will never contradict, dismiss, explain away, or do away with anything that is found in God’s word.” That’s sound advice.
The Apostle Paul warns that there will be people who will seek out pastors willing to support their beliefs and agendas and that there will be a great number of teachers willing to accommodate them and steer them away from “sound doctrine.” People who have “itching ears” decide for themselves what is right or wrong and seek out others to scratch their itch, so-to-speak, and support their beliefs. Itching ears is a figure of speech that refers to what people desire, want, or feel themselves to need. Having itching ears is to desire messages that please rather than preach, and offer accommodation in place of transformation. Messages that tickle ears might fill a lot of churches but won’t save any souls. St. Augustine of Hippo wisely said of these people, “If you believe in the gospel what you want to believe, and reject what you don’t want to believe, it is not the gospel you believe in, but yourself.” I John 2:21 tells us, “No lie is of the truth.” This is how we recognize truth from error. You can’t mix a little bit of a lie in with the truth. Whatever approach someone uses in reaching others, it should never compromise the truth of what God’s entire word says, in order to tickle the ears of what people want to hear. Paul said in II Corinthians 4:2, “We do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” If a pastor, or anyone else for that matter, distorts the word of God by not setting forth the truth plainly, you can be pretty sure they are scratching itching ears, even if they think they are doing it for the greater good.
When considering those who question the inerrancy of God’s word and “opt out for a different world-view,” I was reminded of the exchange between God and Job recorded in the Old Testament scriptures. After listening to all the back and forth between Job and his friends speculating on why God allowed Job’s sickness, God decided to have his say. He begins with saying, “Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” That certainly puts things in perspective, doesn’t it? God then reprimands Job’s friends saying, “Who is this who darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” In other words, Job’s friends spoke a lot of words, but they didn’t know what they were talking about. They spoke out of the resources of their own knowledge and reasoning and not God’s. Perhaps rather than looking for a different world-view, maybe people just need to look at things from God’s point of view. Job 38-39 gives a sobering account of God’s point of view toward man’s questioning of Him, and serves as a reminder that it is we who answer to him, not he who answers to us. I highly recommend reading it to all those who would compromise or question the inerrancy of God’s word. After enumerating in detail all the wonders that exist in the world by the creation of his own hand, God ends with asking, “Would you condemn me to justify yourself? I believe this to be the central issue and the question of the day for those who would leave the faith. Would you condemn God to justify what you want? Would you condemn God to justify your needs? Would you blame and judge God to be at fault, to justify yourself as innocent? All those who would do so very much need to know this God of the Old Testament, because he remains the same in both his love and his wrath. In Romans 11:22 Paul warns, “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.”
While we, with all our different approaches, try to bring people back to the faith, perhaps we might first try the old approach the writers of the God-inspired New Testament used. Just warn them! There are several warnings to choose from. Hebrews 3:12-14 gives us a good one: “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. For we are made partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” We need to heed the “if” in that warning. Though the world may have changed somewhat, the core problem with it has remained the same and remains the true reason why people walk away from God. People still desire to “do what is right in their own eyes.” People still want to be arbiters of their own morality. Looking for a different “narrative” or way to present the Bible by which to make sense of the world we live in won’t change that, especially if “different” means compromising the truth of the original narrative. Opting out for a “different world-view” will only serve to put you back in a sinking ship, because the world’s view of things is never going to be God’s view. I guess my “approach” to those who would choose to walk away from their faith is a little different from the pastor I have referenced. I think maybe we just need to remind people of what they are drawing back to. Hebrews 10:38 tells us, “But we are not of those who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” It seems to me the simple question to be asking those who would draw back is: “Which of these two categories do you want to be in; the saving of the soul category or the perdition one? ” (Perdition/Definition: “The loss of the soul, same as hell.”)
NO LIE IS OF THE TRUTH
When I was a child, I lied every now and then
I told the truth in part but would mix a little lie in
I didn’t see the harm telling a little lie would do
After all everybody else tells a little lie or two
But when my mom would catch me she would always say,
“You will have to lie tomorrow for the lie you tell today”
Because once a lie is spoken it never goes away
It buries itself within the heart and in the heart it stays
And truth spoken in part can never the truth remain
Because the truth and a lie can never be the same
And truth will always offer this undeniable absolute
That the fact of the matter is “No lie is of the truth.”
(Psalm 34:13 – Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.”)