We live in a world of sound bytes.
On a continual basis, we are being fed bits and pieces of information and we have little or no knowledge of the topic matter being fed to us. The internet and web sites like YouTube and Facebook are quickly becoming the only ways we acquire information. It’s almost “hard-wired” into our brains now. At any time, we can go online and read a quote, listen to an audio file, or watch the latest 30-second video snippet to satisfy our ever-increasing desire for knowledge and entertainment. But the reality is that we have no comprehension of the complexity of what we’re being fed.
At best, our understanding is only partial and our attention span minimal.
Unfortunately, this lack of consideration for detail has also carried over into our spiritual walks as well as our comprehension of the Word of God.
We all want our own “sound byte salvation”
40,000 denominations (divisions) exist today, created by people (or groups of people) who have selected the attractive “bytes” of Scripture, assembled them together with other “bytes” taken out of context, and have formulated doctrines that are really nothing like what the Father originally intended to say.
As a fellow human being, I am no different than the people who created these denominations. When I read the Bible, certain Scriptures jump out at me and grab my attention.
Sometimes they leap off the page just because they sound good. At other times they sharpen my conviction on a certain truth. Many times God will draw my attention to a verse and reveal wisdom to me that I hadn’t grasped before.
I, too, have the same tendency to want to assemble MY favorite pieces of Scripture together, and create something that looks like a theological “Frankenstein’s monster.” When this happens, the temptation is always present within me to want to focus on a singular verse and give it “life” by applying my own understanding to it. But if I did that, I would be on my way to creating denomination number 40,001 and there would only be one member …. ME!
So I try to combat this tendency by employing the following strategy.
1 – Know the scriptural and historical context.
I am convinced that it is impossible to really understand a verse of Scripture unless you have a healthy knowledge of the setting in which it is written. That means getting in and doing the research for yourself, not taking what pastor so-and-so or prophet so-and-so says and applying it to your understanding, but really exercising your own brain and applying your own critical thinking to the subject matter.
Reading the Scriptures without any historical knowledge is also detrimental to understanding their context. This is especially true with the New Testament.
Once I began to grasp the cultural and historical backdrop of the land of Israel during the so-called “silent years” between the Old and New Testament, my view of the Gospels, Paul’s Epistles and the other New Testament writings were transformed and I saw things in a whole new light.
This study completely revolutionized my scriptural understanding and walk with God.
And I am certain that the church is crippled by this LACK of understanding.
2 – Learn the truth for yourself.
I’m not saying that other teachers are not useful to the Body, I’m just saying that we have surrendered our ability to think for ourselves in favor of letting other people spoon-feed us.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
It is true that as you hear the Word, your faith will increase, but it is also true that if you are hearing fallible preachers on a regular basis and not spending your own time in the Word, you will end up believing whatever you are taught.
It’s just a simple dynamic of human nature.
That is why I spend 85-95% of my study time reading the Bible, praying and listening for His voice.
Any extraneous teaching is treated as “icing on the cake” and I ALWAYS check what is said against the Word before I choose to incorporate it into what I believe.
3 – Question everything you’ve ever learned.
This is probably the most difficult thing to do because we are so prone to conformity. Thanks to most of the western churches (who are all-too-eager to produce their share of “cookie-cutter” followers), this tendency is ground into us from infancy.
It’s practically in our DNA.
If you don’t believe me, try politely disagreeing with your pastor.
An honest view of the modern-day, so-called “church” easily reveals that something is very, very wrong. No matter how badly you want to “think positive” about this situation, it has proven itself out time and time again.
Many people believe that the “turning point” was in the 60’s, when the hippie generation came on the scene, but I don’t think this is entirely accurate.
Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 2:7 that the “mystery of lawlessness” was “already at work” even in his day.
“Lawlessness” is still doing it’s work, ladies and gentlemen, and I am strongly inclined believe the “lawless one” has already been revealed, but that’s another study for another time.
For now, we really need to look at WHERE we are and HOW we got here, from a historical perspective.
I’ve already done this research, and it shook my faith to its very core.
In fact, be warned… do NOT do this research unless you are ready to have things shaken. Most christians will not be able to handle what they find.
To those of you who dare to take this on, rest assured that if something really is the “Absolute Truth,” it will bear up under ANY scrutiny.
4 – Question your “inner voice.”
As a result of this error, we have people running around trying to minister out of their inner impressions instead of a firm understanding of the Word of God.
You can thank the prophetic movement and other charismatic denominations for this error.
Nobody wants to even consider the possibility that they are wrong, so nobody bothers to check what they are “sensing” with the Word of God.
This is pride… plain and simple.
We must develop humility as we attempt to hear His voice, realizing that, no matter how strong our “impression” may be, we could very well be wrong.
On a personal note, I can usually gauge if someone is just “tooting their own horn” by how militantly they stand behind their so-called “Word from the Lord.” If there is no humility behind what they are saying, 9 times out of 10, I know it’s just a resounding gong. They are just regurgitating their own fleshly desires and impressions.
Of course, there is always that 1 time out of 10 that deserves consideration.
We must not walk out a sound byte salvation
I’m not above making a mistake – just ask my family (on second thought, please don’t), but I try to minimize my mistakes by applying the techniques outlined above. When I follow these, it helps me to listen to more than just the “sound bytes” of my Walk with Him.
This is not an art that I’ve perfected by any means, but I am getting better.
I hope this post has blessed you.