By Maria Kneas
(author of How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution | Lighthouse Trails | 2015)
[C]hoose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)
Our human thinking is flawed, and we all have blind spots. Even pastors and seminary professors make mistakes in their thinking. That is why the Bible tells us:
Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Our understanding is valuable, but it has limitations. We are children of God. Our heavenly Father knows everything. However, since we are “children,” we are limited in our comprehension. We all make mistakes. The only man who ever got everything right was the Lord Jesus Christ.
Even the apostle Paul had limitations in his understanding. He wrote nearly a fourth of the New Testament, and much of our theology is based on his writings, but he said:
For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12, emphasis added)
Paul said he only knew “in part.” He didn’t fully comprehend everything. If Paul’s understanding was incomplete, then modern Christians (who depend on Paul’s writings) are even more limited in their understanding.
Therefore, we cannot have unquestioning confidence in any denomination, or church, or pastor, or teacher. We must test everything against what the Bible says. We need to do our own praying, and our own Bible studying, instead of relying on “experts” to do it for us.
Having a church and a pastor is valuable, and we should treasure them, but we need to be able to stand on our own if necessary. Even with a good church and a good pastor, we need to test everything we are taught against Scripture. Good pastors can change. Sometimes all it takes is attending one conference or reading one book. The Bible warns us:
Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. (Jeremiah 17:5)
When the disciples asked Jesus what the signs of His return would be, the very first thing He said was:
Take heed that no man deceive you. (Matthew 24:4)
Today, some pastors openly deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ. My city has a large Baptist church whose pastor denies the atonement (that Jesus died to save us from our sins). Some of these heretics have large, prosperous churches, so they probably have charismatic attention-getting personalities. Their preaching sounds good to people who don’t really think about what has been said or who haven’t read enough of the Bible to recognize when statements are contrary to Scripture.
Some pastors don’t believe in God, so many that they have an online support group. Their motto is “Moving beyond faith.”1
The fact that such men can be pastors is amazing. Why don’t the members of their churches recognize that something is seriously wrong and either get rid of those pastors or else leave those churches?
We need to be on guard, because the devil wants to undermine our faith. The Bible warns us:
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Will we take a stand for true Christian doctrine, even if our family and our friends mock us because of it? And even if our pastor says we are wrong?
Will we take a stand for biblical standards of morality, even if the world calls it “hate speech”? Or if it is called a “hate crime,” for which we can go to jail?
Where do our priorities lie? The Bible warns us against compromising our faith because of the fear of what men may do to us. Jesus told us not to be afraid of those who can kill our bodies, but “rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
This is where the “fear of the Lord” becomes important. Our actions and attitudes have eternal consequences. Therefore, we need to have a healthy fear of God.
These days, it is popular to say that the “fear of the Lord” just means reverence. Well, it includes reverence, but it means more than that. God is our Judge, and He can send us to Hell. Jesus warned us that some people who think they are good Christians will wind up in Hell. He said:
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23)
Jesus also warned us that following Him would result in suffering. Some people react to hardship by getting angry at God and turning away from Him. Jesus told us:
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me. (Luke 7:23)
Sometimes people become offended with God when they don’t understand what God is doing. The Bible gives us an example of that:
Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? . . . From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. (John 6:60-61, 66-68)
Persecution is increasing. “Unthinkable” things are happening in the world today. When the pain and the sorrow come, will we turn to God? Or will we turn away from Him?
If things happen that we cannot understand, will we become offended with God?
If things turn out differently than we expected, based on what our pastor or our Sunday school teacher told us, will we say the Bible isn’t true? Will we call God a liar? Or will we say our pastor or Sunday school teacher was mistaken?
Will we be like the disciples who became offended with Jesus and “walked no more with him”? Or will we be like Peter, who stuck with Jesus in spite of everything?
That’s the bottom line, and our eternal destiny depends on what we do then.
Heaven and Hell are very real. There is far more at stake than we can comprehend now. We won’t fully understand it until we see Jesus face to face.
(by Maria Kneas)
God sets before you life and death.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
The devil is a liar and a thief.
He wants to kill your hope and steal your joy
And fill your days with endless grief.
Jesus came to give unshakeable peace
And the only freedom that’s real.
He wants to fill your heart with everlasting joy.
He wants to love and bless and heal.
God sets before you life and death.
(This is an excerpt from How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution.)