“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” 1 Corinthians 1:10-13
Have you ever read or seen The Hobbit? If you have, recall that scene where the Dwarves and Bilbo have been caught by the trolls who are trying to eat them. The trolls are tricked by an outside voice (Bilbo) telling them opposing things about how to best cook Dwarves. They start to fight among themselves, arguing over seasoning and skinning techniques, all while forgetting the primary objective: to eat the Dwarves before the sun comes up! So what happens? They toil in vain, arguing, until the Light of Day reaches the sky and they turn to stone.
We Christians are the Trolls. We spend countless hours arguing over the “Right Way” to do baptism, prayer, evangelism, and every other aspect of Christianity. We have split up the earthly Church into sections, saying “I am a Baptist”, “I am a Presbyterian”, “I am of Wesley” or “I am of St. Augustine”. Are we not all of Christ? Do we not realize that these petty arguments are just devices to impair us from our true purpose: to unify ourselves against the powers of darkness and spread the glory of Christ to all nations.
In this apt analogy, Satan is the “outside voice” that causes the trolls to over think their goal of eating the Dwarves. One of Satan’s best tactics to destroy those who have faith in God is to get us to revisit what God said and distrust it by asking, “Did God really say that?” This is the device he uses against Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), and it is how he attempts to tempt Jesus in the Wilderness (Matthew 4). Jesus didn’t take the bait and combats Truth with Truth. I encourage you to read through those passages so you can see Satan’s strategy. He recites God’s Word, questions the intention of it, watches as we twist it just a little bit, and hands our doubt to us as a gift wrapped bomb from Hell. We spin in circles, trapped in our eagerness to please God. While we toil in vain arguing over doctrines, we ignore the very commandments of God. If we’re not careful, Christ will come back as the Light when we least expect it, and we will need to account for our distractions.
Beware of False Doctrines
There are false doctrines in the world. I am not suggesting that we mindlessly follow anyone who claims to be of Christ. There are some doctrines worth rejecting, some teachings that are blatantly unBiblical, and others that completely lack Christ as the only path to salvation.
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. 2 Timothy 4:1-5
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. 2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. 3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Peter 2:1-3
The point of my teaching today is not that we must accept everything taught to us; it is that we need to pick our battles and keep our eyes on God. There are battles worth having, and there are wolves in sheep’s clothing looking to destroy us any way they can.
The Dangers of Denominations
I don’t have an issue with churches that are part of a denomination. I am not telling you that you must reject your Methodist/Baptist/Presbyterian church and go join a non-denominational one. I am concerned that many churches and doctrines put God in a neatly packaged box, present themselves as having “all the answers” and “The RIGHT Way”. I fear that many well-meaning denominations are earnestly trying to promote Christ throughout the world, but they do it on their terms only. Instead of relying on Scripture and prayer, they rely on the doctrines of brilliant and pious theologians whose interpretations have become doctrines all on their own.
But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions. 1 Timothy 1:5-7
‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from Me.
9 And in vain they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” Matthew 15:8-9 (also Isaiah 29:13)
How many churches have split over “fruitless discussions” that have nothing to do with the fundamentals of the Gospel? Does the dunking technique of the one baptism really affect your salvation? Does which day you uphold the Sabbath really enough to judge another’s salvation by? Is instrumental music in church really something we need to have a convention over to decide whether it’s safe or not?
A lot of these “rules” were put in place to protect people’s intentions. I get that. But what has that turned into for the masses? It has turned into “confident assertions” that have caused churches to split, caused Christians to doubt the salvation and trustworthiness of other Christians, and it has nothing to do with the Truth that Jesus came on earth to preach.
Follow God, not men
We Christians spin our wheels in toil while Satan sits back and laughs at us. We don’t even need Satan to keep us from spreading the glory of God; we do it so well on our own! The church in pieces is as ineffective as arguing children. We were meant to be unified, a singular Body of Christ that goes out as one to be the hands and feet of Christ; to do His bidding and love others just as Christ loves us.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. Ephesians 1-6; 15-16
I know people will automatically throw out what I have to say because they disagree with me. They are too afraid to consider following a path that’s not theirs, a path that doesn’t fit in their boxed-in understanding of God. A servant is not above her Master. In no way am I saying that my way is better than yours, but I do want you to stop and think: when it comes down to it all, whose way is Sovereign? Do you act on what men tell you to act on, or do you act on what God says? Do you follow “rules” out of the pure intention of your heart to love God, or because men with degrees and robes tell you to follow them or you’ll go to Hell?
The only way to know what God says is to get into Scripture yourself. Stop blindly following people who tell you how to live your life based on their own interpretation of what God says. Don’t even take my word for it. I want to encourage you to forget doctrines created by men. Start following God, and do it with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. God will lead you where you need to go.