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Friday, May 23, 2014

A Literal Literary Test

Someone recently commented to us that they knew that their pastor taught the truth - because he asked him. While we are not sure of the context of the conversation as a whole between this man and his pastor, we felt that his response was an excellent summary of the state of today’s church. In other words, this man must have had some concerns about what the pastor preached. And we are assuming that he must have asked a question, either about what the pastor preached specifically, maybe something more general in nature, or even a straight out “are you preaching the truth?” kind of question. We don’t know. But what we do know is that it appears that rather than checking the Bible for what it had to say and then comparing that to what the pastor preached, he instead chose to ask the pastor if he taught the truth.

Acts 17:11 tells us that, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” In other words, these people were being preached to by Peter; and rather than simply taking his word for what he was preaching, they searched the Scriptures to see for themselves whether or not what was being preached was true. Today’s church seems to be too lazy to search for themselves and when they have questions they actually trust a man over the Word of God. This is truly scary as it is this very practice that leads to the development of cults - like the Davidian branch in Waco, Texas and the Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid brigade.

So how does one determine if their pastor is preaching the truth? First, we need to follow the example of the Bereans and “receive the word with all readiness of mind.” This means that you need to be an active listener. Take notes on what the preacher is saying. What Bible verses is he referencing? In what context are the verses being used to support his position? Write down any questions that come unbidden to your mind - this could be the Holy Spirit giving you a “check” in your spirit that something is not right. Do not ignore any twinges of doubt, concern, or question that you may have during the course of the sermon. Simply write them down.

Secondly, you need to search “the Scriptures daily”. We recommend that you literally read through your notes and compare them against the Word of God. Look up each and every Bible verse and read the verses or chapters surrounding the verse referenced. Is the verse being used true to its context or is it being manipulated to support the personal position of the preacher? Review the questions that you wrote down and see if you can discern the answer for yourself Biblically. Write down your findings and any other additional information you discover while searching out the Scriptures.

Finally, if everything preached seems to line up with the Word of God, then consider how you may actually apply what was taught into your daily walk with God. We are not trying to claim that every single sermon ever preached is not Biblical or that you cannot learn something from them. We do believe that many pastors are and can be anointed of God; however, we also know that man is not infallible and is just as easily deceived today as he was in the Garden of Eden.

A second approach that you can take is more like the man we initially spoke of at the beginning of this article. You can, rather pointedly, ask questions of your pastor. Find out what he believes certain Scriptures actually mean. Again, take notes and compare his responses to the Word of God. Should you decide to take this approach, here are some Bible passages that we recommend you use to ferret out what your pastor really believes.

Matthew 24:15-22: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take anything out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the Sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.”

We believe that the above passage is a good one to ask pastors to explain because it covers a wide range of topics including the prophecies of Daniel, the end time tribulation, views on children and birth control, and the Sabbath. Talking about this passage can help you to determine whether or not the pastor believes the prophecies of Daniel are literal or metaphorical. He should be able to explain his position with Scriptures. Beware of any pastor that relies heavily on outside sources to support his position or strays continuously from the Bible.

There is a lot of debate about what is expected to happen during the tribulation. Will we be here for any of it? Will we be here for part of it? Will we be here for all of it? Pastors are allowed to have disagreeing points of view about the same subject - so long as their point of view is based on Scriptures, as they are written in their original context. We don’t mean to be redundant but the pastor should be able to explain his position with Scriptures. If he can’t, we would caution you to beware. And don’t blindly trust what he says - actually review the Scriptures that he references, to see if what he claims the Scriptures say is what the Scriptures really do say. We cannot stress the importance of this enough.

There are many Scriptures in the Bible that discuss how children are a blessing of the Lord, but in today’s day and age, many people believe that it is okay to attempt to prevent conception; to deny or reject these blessings from God. Using this one passage, you can find out your pastor’s position on tough issues, like abortion, birth control, family planning, and more. Beware of any pastor that simply tries to avoid the issue by saying “it’s a personal decision” or that it is a decision that should be made “between a husband and a wife”. Regardless of the answer that he provides, be sure to have him support his position scripturally. It does not matter what your pastor thinks, or what your pastor feels is right. What matters is what God think, feels, and expects.

Finally, this is also a good passage to use to determine your pastor’s beliefs regarding the Sabbath. We caution you though, that this is a slippery slope from which there is no return. Once you discover the position of the Sabbath, you might want to prepare yourself because once knowledge is gained, it is very hard to forget or ignore. Once a particular passage is explained in a way that you understand and is supported by Scripture, God seems to use that one Scripture to draw your attention to many more. The reason that this particular passage is a good one for asking about the Sabbath is: (1) it is an actual quote by Jesus, Himself; (2) He is specifically referencing the end time tribulation, which is obviously going to occur after his death, burial, and resurrection; (3) most churches no longer honor the Sabbath as it is written in the Scriptures; and (4) the pastor would have to explain why a commandment in Genesis and followed through the time of Christ somehow was done away with after Christ’s ascension, but is then somehow brought back around the time of the tribulation.

The following page includes additional Scriptural passages that you could use to ask very pointed questions. We have emphasized the key point of each passage.

Jeremiah 31:31-36: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Thus saith the LORD, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The LORD of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the LORD, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever.”

Matthew 5:19-20: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 22:35-40: “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Matthew 23:1-4: “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

Acts 2:38-39: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.”

Galatians 3:10: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”

Revelation 12:17: “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”

Revelation 14:12: “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”

Revelation 22:14: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

Many of the passages that we have listed here concern the Biblical covenants, the commandments, quotes from Jesus regarding the law, and revelation. These are all passages that can be used to gain a better understanding of your pastor’s position and, possibly, the doctrines of your denomination. Although, we do want to caution that while a pastor may be preaching under the guise of a particular denomination, he may not necessarily agree with the position of that particular denomination and may, in fact, be preaching from his own personal perspective. Second Timothy 4:3 warns us, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;” Do not be lulled by the soothing, charismatic personality of a preacher, especially one that seems to rely on other than the written Word of God. The only doctrines that believers should follow are those that are clearly written in the Word of God.

Do your part and literally test every word that comes out of the mouth of any professed man of God. As Philippians 2:12 exhorts, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” When it is your time to stand before the white throne of judgment, God will only care about how you measure up to His expectations; not how well you followed your pastor or your denomination. And this test is truly one with only a pass or fail result.

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