Friday, March 20, 2009



Yesterday I shared a few concerns on preconceived ideas and how they can easily get in the way of hearing and seeing Jesus clearly. Preconceived ideas tend to become a set of "doctrines." The problem with "doctrines" is that they tend to be man-made and not God-made.

You see, depending upon your upbringing, religiously, or where you have received your spiritual teaching, you will have embraced a certain set of beliefs. Surely there is nothing wrong with this in itself. The problem comes when you are taught or believe that your set of teachings is the only right set of teachings to be believed. In other words, you are right and all others are wrong or, at least, not quite right. This is what is known as "doctrine"-a certain set of teachings. The word "doctrine" is a set of beliefs or teachings. Now, here is the problem! What makes your doctrinal position or belief system the right one? What makes you right and others wrong? Can it be that you and what you have been taught are the only ones in the world who have it right? I call this the WE-FOUR-AND-NO-MORE way of thinking. We know and you don't!

When I had the privilege of serving as a faculty member of a highly respected graduate seminary, I had an interesting experience that is applicable here. I was the main speaker for a local church family retreat over the weekend. At a question and answer session at the retreat I was asked a question by one of the Board members of the seminary. I answered the question with, "I don't know, but I will look into that further."

On Tuesday I found a note on my desk from the chairman of the department that he wanted to see me ASAP. He referenced the retreat and then said, "I understand that Dr. so-and-so asked a question and that your response was to say that 'I don't know'." I agreed with what had happened and then he leaned across the desk and said, "A man who graduates from this school knows!" When he asked me why I answered that way, I said, "Because I didn't know." Wow! I went away from that experience feeling that it was my calling to know and that was the most important thing of all. The truth is I didn't know and no one can know everything all the time.

Since our tendency is to want to be right and want everyone else to buy into our way of seeing things, this feeds into our way of thinking about the teachings of Jesus. There are only a few things that really matter with respect to our relationship with the Lord. Where we disagree is about what does really matter.

I have struggled with this for years! In my youth I was taught that the only Bible to use-the only one that was truly inspired-was the King James version. The thinking was, "If it was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for us." It doesn't matter that it was first translated 1600 years after Jesus!

Then there is the constant division over prophecy. Some believe Jesus is coming again just prior to a seven-year period of tribulation. This is called the pre-tribulation rapture theory. Others believe Jesus will be returning in the middle of the seven-year tribulation-the mid-tribulation rapture theory. And then many more believe Jesus will not return until the end of the seven-year tribulation period, known as a post-tribulation rapture theory. People actually fight over these differing teachings. Early on I came to a new position. I believe in the pre-tribulation return, UNTIL the seven-year tribulation here on earth begins and Jesus hasn't returned yet. Then I move immediately to the mid-tribulation return of Jesus. Then after 3 ½ years into the tribulation (just after mid-night), if Jesus hasn't shown up yet, I change my belief system to the post-tribulation return of Jesus. I call it the pan-tribulation rapture theory of the return of Jesus. It will all pan out in the end anyway, no matter what I believe!

Here's the truth! Jesus doesn't even know the time of His return, so why should I think that I could have the prophetic plan all figured out. Even worse, people teach this plan (as I have done most of my life) to others as the absolute way the end of time will occur and the timing of Jesus' second coming to earth.

This same kind of thinking that you can be absolutely right about God and His teachings permeates so many areas of Christianity. From the importance of baptism to the activity of demons to how to do church to the definition of the Kingdom to the articulation of the Gospel, there are so many divisive teachings that go against Jesus' prayer in John 17 that all who are followers of Jesus might walk through life in unity.

When groups teach a set of beliefs or doctrines as THE doctrines to believe and practice, you can count on it; there will be several of them that are man-made. Doctrines or a set of teachings can easily turn into cultic or cult-like teachings. There is a term used to describe people who are horribly in error. It is heresy or heretic! But do you know what the word actually means? It's used primarily in the book of Acts and is used of sects or cultic groups that have developed a set of beliefs or doctrines that are off track with the teachings of Jesus. Heresy denotes "a choosing, a choice", then, "that which is chosen." It's an opinion-a self-willed opinion. Peter warns: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies (or self-willed opinions-man-made doctrines) even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. (II Peter 2:1)

Simply put, Jesus just wasn't into man-made "doctrines" and "opinions". He saw them as empty and destructive. He saw them as divisive and a subtle distraction away from walking the relational walk with Him and with one another. Instead of filling your mind with your many doctrines and self-willed opinions, just learn to hang out with Jesus and His people. The only doctrine worth fighting for and the only opinion that has merit to it is this-JESUS PLUS NOTHING!