Thursday, December 6, 2012

Why Doctrine is so Important to Me

Some people think that I overly emphasize doctrine when talking about the church and so today I want to explain why doctrine is so important to me.  I realize and accept that many other things are important in our faith such as worship, prayer, fellowship, witnessing, and ministry, but I also believe that all of those things spring forth from sound doctrine.  Even more, I believe that sound doctrine is the foundation for how our faith plays out in our lives.  First of all, let me give the definition of "doctrine:"

A principle or body of principles presented for acceptance or belief, as by a religious, political, scientific, or philosophic group; dogma. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Doctrine, in a general sense, is simply what we believe and what we believe really defines not only how we live our lives, but how we walk with God.  In fact, it is exactly how we do those things that reveals what we truly believe.  That said, doctrine can be said to be even the very foundation of the Christian faith.  I say that because if you believe that there is a Hell and that is your eternal destination based on how you are living your life, and you believe that Jesus came to die for your sins and that faith in Him will grant you eternal life, then the natural expression of that rudimentary doctrine is to accept that free gift of grace offered through Jesus Christ.  As we will see in the following passage from Scripture, that doctrine is the very foundation of not just our individual faith, but the doctrinal rock upon which the entire church was built.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some [say] John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed [this] to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. "  Matthew 16:13-18 NKJV

I know that our relationship with Jesus is the center of our lives, but without the right belief as to who Jesus is then there can be no right relationship.  You can not accept Jesus as Lord and Savior without believing He actually is Lord and Savior.  We see even in this exchange that many people believed that Jesus was someone.  In those times when He was living among the people it would have been hard not to believe He was someone.  The problem is that most people believed in something wrong.  They believed Jesus was a prophet or a reincarnation of someone who died, but only Peter answered the question correctly.  Even today, many people believe in Jesus but not many people believe rightly in Jesus.  Many believe he was a prophet or a great teacher and some even believe him to have been insane or evil.  They all believe in Jesus in terms of being someone, but it is only those who believe in Him as Lord and Savior who will be saved. 

At this point, many will say that is enough.  While that is true in terms of being saved and being a new born believer in Jesus Christ, it is not true if you expect to have a successful walk with Jesus Christ. 

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need [someone] to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  For everyone who partakes [only] of milk [is] unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.  But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, [that is], those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.   Hebrews 5:12-14 NKJV

We are not called to remain babes in Christ.  We are called to grow and that growth comes by teaching.  This is where many churches go awry.  Some churches like to stay on the first principles of "Jesus saves" and raise up an army of unskilled babies in terms of their walk with God.  Other churches teach doctrine, but their doctrine goes off on bizarre tangents and bring in many of the heresies we see in our churches today.  There is only one source that should be used for teaching doctrine, and that source is the Word of God. 

All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

This passage in 2 Timothy is clearly the solution to the problem presented on Hebrews regarding someone staying on the rudimentary doctrine of "Jesus saves."  The solution is teaching from the Word of God, which is profitable for doctrine (among other things related to doctrine) and a steady practice of teaching and studying leads to a man of "complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." 

Right doctrine is of the utmost importance in the life of a Christian and right doctrine comes from the Word of God, which is the entire point of this whole blog.  I firmly believe that it is a departure from the Word taking on a central role in how we live our lives that has lead to the current condition of the church today.  There are so many wicked and deceitful doctrines tearing the church apart.  While these doctrines are cleverly wrapped in Biblical-sounding salesmanship, they are all based on the flesh.  This idea of experiential Christianity where are faith is based on experience or emotion and nothing on what the Word of God says has taken the church into dangerous waters.  When experience and emotion trump the Word of God and doctrine, there remains no mooring as to where your faith can go. 

And He Himself gave some [to be] apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ;that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting Ephesians 4:11-14 NKJV

Is this not where we are today?  Just look at what winds of doctrine blow through the church today.  We have had things like holy laughter, slaying people in the spirit, being drunk in the spirit, the prosperity gospel, the perpetual health gospel, the Emerging Church, Dominionist Theology, and that is just what I can think of off the top of my head.  Each of these doctrines departed Scripture for experience at some point in their development and have led much of the church astray.  There is nothing in Scripture about falling flat because someone touched your forehead, threw the spirit at you, or beat you with an "anointed" suit jacket.  There is nothing in Scripture about laughing uncontrollably or acting "drunk" from being filled with the spirit.  There is nothing in Scripture promises great wealth or perpetual health for all Christians.  There is nothing in Scripture saying that we are to treat our world like a military campaign against evil spirits and curses.  There is nothing in Scripture about gold dust falling from the ceiling during a worship service.  Yet all of these things have been the basis of or a large part of many large movements in the church today.  Sure for many of these you can take a Scripture out of context, twist it a little bit, and create a new doctrine, but to do so you must ignore the inevitable other parts of Scripture that clearly teach against the very things being lifted up as truth.  Unfortunately, people tend to be carnal and would rather be led by a good experience that a sound teaching.  In fact, when you confront them with Scripture, they almost always respond with experience proving that how they feel trumps truth they should know. 

There are many things that people take into account when looking for a church.  Personally, I believe that doctrine should always be the most important factor.  Some people choose a church because of the "entertaining" and "inspirational" worship.  However music style is no substitute for sound doctrine. Music affects moods and musicians manipulate moods through music and the same emotional effects happen to unbelievers at secular concerts as it does to Christians in worship services.  Some like to choose a church because of its fellowship.  Friendship is great, but I used to have great "fellowship" drinking with my unsaved friends living my unsaved life before Jesus.  Some people look for encouraging messages.  Do not get me wrong, encouragement is great but encouragement is not always called for.  Read the Gospels, Jesus was not always "encouraging" to His disciples.  Along with encouragement we should also feel challenged to continue to grow in our walk and convicted for those areas of our lives that we have not submitted to God.  When our flesh leads our spirits in choosing a church, we usually choose very poorly.  When we allow our spirit to lead, we often find that all those other areas that are important to us work out and even better than we could have hoped and that is because the church will become the very expression of the true doctrine it believes.  That is the kind of church of which we should all want to belong. Otherwise...

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, [because] they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn [their] ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV

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