PICK AND CHOOSE THEOLOGY

Catchy title, right? That’s the sad part: It’s true. Today, it’s not unusual for people to pick and choose what they think is true in the Bible. Let me share with you a recent example… My wife posted a passage of Scripture on Facebook, and almost immediately, a pastor wrote a response. He loved the passage but said it really doesn’t work, shouldn’t be taken literally. If it was true, he would not be struggling with the health issues he is going through.

At first thought, that seems to make sense – but that thinking is wrong…so totally wrong. The moment we interpret the Bible based on personal experience, we veer off-course and destroy the integrity of Scripture. That’s a big problem. When we use personal experience to interpret the Bible, we are not mixing the Word with faith. (Hebrews 4:2)

For example, if a verse or passage from the Bible doesn’t prove to be true in the “laboratory of personal experience,” how can I know for sure if any of the Bible is true? If our personal experience is the measuring rod to evaluate Biblical truth, would that not make the Bible completely subjective? In other words, if it works for you, then it must be true. If, on the other hand, it doesn’t work for me, then it must not be true…at least, for me. So, what is true for one is not necessarily true for all. Actually, this is a common mindset in the world – and even in some more “progressive Christians.” We each seem to have our own truth.

Do you see how dangerous that is? The moment we reduce the Bible to a book of “personal experience,” it loses all credibility. Think about it. If the Bible is only true when we can validate it through personal experience, then the Bible is simply a book of holy suggestions. And if that’s the case, is there any part of the Bible that is trustworthy and reliable?

A popular verse often used in preaching the gospel is Romans 10:9. It states, “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Let me break that down a bit… If you confess the Lord Jesus (that Jesus is your master, owner, and the supreme authority in your life), and believe in your heart that God has actually raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. That’s one the great promises of Scripture regarding salvation. Most of us will not hesitate to quote it. We tell people that if they do what it says in Romans 10:9, they will be saved. Why? Because we believe that verse is true – even though we may not always be able to prove it in the laboratory of personal experience.

Even so, I think we would agree that if there is no change in that person’s life, something is missing. When a person is truly born again, his/her life will change. Of course, some may die shortly after acting on that verse, like the thief on the cross, and never bear the fruit of salvation on earth. And yet, I have seen people respond to Romans 10:9 and not seem to change at all. I have even witnessed people come to the altar to be saved, again and again, and never change…

If there is no change over time, would it be correct to say that the verse must not be true? Might it be true in some cases, but not in others? No. Most would probably deduce that the verse is correct, but the conditions unfulfilled. Either the person failed to receive/submit to Jesus as their Lord and/or they do not really believe that He is God’s risen Savior. In this case, most of us would say that the problem is with the person’s response to the Word – not the Word, itself.

Paul Washer, a well-known evangelist, tells the story of a young woman who prayed to receive Christ may times – but nothing happened. So, she asked him to pray for her. His response was, “Why? What good do you think it will do? If it didn’t work the other times, why would it work if I pray for you?” Instead, he told her to go home and seek God as if her life depended on it. So, she did, until she was gloriously saved!

The fact of the matter is that Romans 10:9 was true the first time she tried to act upon it – but she wasn’t ready to make Jesus the Lord of her life. Thankfully, the Lord kept working on her, until she reached a point of desperation. When she sought Him with her whole heart, He was found by her! (Jeremiah 29:11-14a)

It’s easy to question the veracity of Scripture when it doesn’t seem to work. However, the problem is not with God and His Word; the problem is with us. “For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: “that you may be justified in your words, and may overcome when you are judged.” (Romans 3:3-4, quoting from Psalm 51:4)

Personal experience should never be our guide in validating Scripture. The moment we do that, we begin ripping pages out of the Bible. And once we start, where do we stop? If I can blot out parts of the Bible, I don’t think are true, how do I know if any of it is true? I can’t, and neither can you. Either the whole of Scripture is true, or it’s not. I’m pretty sure that’s the only choice we have…

If we mix truth with a lie, the truth becomes a lie. Even on a true/false test in school, the item has to be totally true to mark it with a “T.” So, if a statement is 99% truth and 1% lie, it is false. In the same way, if I start removing portions of the truth to make it say what I want it to say or what I can accept, have I not also made it a lie? Deleting portions of the Bible that we don’t understand or cannot prove through personal experience, is a dangerous thing to do.

Over the years, I have seen people blot out parts of the Bible they no longer believe to be true. For example, many will tell you that gifts of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 (prophesy, tongues, and divine healing, etc.) ended in the first century. That doctrine is called Cessationism, and yet, any serious student of church history will tell you otherwise. Supernatural, spiritual gifts have continued throughout the history of the church, although at times, were only evident through a small remnant of believers. However, here’s the point: When we reject any portion of the Bible, because it doesn’t line up with our personal experience, we destroy the integrity of God’s Word.

Let me say once again, when we start erasing God’s Word, how do we know where to stop? Did God give any of us the right to edit Him? Revelation 22:18-19 gives a stern warning to anyone who adds to or takes away from that book. Does that warning apply to all Scripture? That being said, it’s easy to fall into the trap of only believing the parts of the Bible we can understanding or have experienced. However, when we do, we turn the Bible into a book of myths, fairy tales, and holy suggestions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to stake my life on “pick and choose theology!”

So, how do we avoid doing that?

Ultimately, we need to realize that what Isaiah 55:8-9 says is true, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”’ Further, Psalm 138:2 tells us that God, whose Name is above all names, has even exalted His Word above all His Name! So, If I exalt what I think over what God says, I will always be in error – and guilty of exalting myself WAY beyond measure!

Pride always puts us on dangerous ground. That is why God warns us about our natural way of thinking, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12, also 16:25) Thankfully, He also gives us the solution: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7)

We each have a natural way of thinking that cannot process the things of God. Our natural (fallen) mind cannot understand spiritual things; so, don’t expect it to – and don’t rely on it! I’ve been walking with the Lord for almost 50 years, and I still find that my natural mind can keep me from recognizing and understanding the Word of God! Ultimately, understanding only seems to come by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, when I become humble and contrite. That’s why I have taken I Corinthians 2:14 to heart: “But the natural, nonspiritual man does not accept or welcome or admit into his heart the gifts and teachings and revelations of the Spirit of God, for they are folly (meaningless nonsense) to him; and he is incapable of knowing them [of progressively recognizing, understanding, and becoming better acquainted with them] because they are spiritually discerned and estimated and appreciated.” (AMPC)

As for me, I agree with Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, Your Word is settled in the heavens.”  I decided long ago that the Bible is true in its entirety, that it stands firm forever, and that we can stand on it. That’s why I don’t question its validity or integrity – even when I don’t understand or haven’t fully experienced it. It holds the answer to every question and every struggle we face in life. Because I know it’s true, I put my faith in its veracity and build my life on its integrity.

So, when I find a verse that doesn’t seem to work for me, I know the problem is not with the Bible; the problem is with me. The next time your experience doesn’t match up with the Word of God, ask the Author for help! Ask Him to renew your mind, so you might know and receive His perfect will. (Romans 12:2) I’m pretty sure the problem has more to do with you, than it does Him.

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