So how does one “eat the meat and spit out the bones” when it comes to spiritual things? (Click here to read “Chicken Wing Theology” in its entirety.)
Some exerpts from that post:
When the Holy Spirit Who is your Counselor nudges you or speaks to your heart or raises a red flag or pricks your spirit or does whatever He does to get your attention, LISTEN TO HIM.
. . . . it takes time and effort to sort truth from error; it can be time consuming and messy, but necessary for good spiritual health.
Pray for wisdom and discernment and direction. Be faithful to press on in that which the Holy Spirit is challenging you. Be willing and faithful to step away from things He shows you are not for you, even if they are attractive to you.
It’s your responsibility.
We are all called to leadership in some form, whether it be in our families, churches, Bible studies, work places, or just to lead our little old selves as we go through life. Where I think our impression of the role of leadership requires the skill of direction, it more accurately requires the skill of navigation. Navigation is the art of safely following a planned course.
To safely navigate a planned course, you need to know where you’re going . . .
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13
“Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:4,5
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8
“I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, Lord, but only with justice – not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing.” Jeremiah 10:23,24
Relationship with the Living, Loving God
That’s the first thing! Click here if you want to know the basics of the awesome plan of redemption God has gifted to you. Click here to read a really good testimony and a beautifully communicated picture of the restored life that God imparts to us through Jesus Christ. For those of you who already have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, remember that it is your relationship with God that will provide you with wisdom and discernment.
Your membership in a particular church or alignment with a particular belief system within the many streams of thought throughout Christianity will not guarantee you a discerning heart or the wisdom to sort truth from error. The Holy Spirit and the Word of God are the source of those things.
Ask God Specifically for Wisdom and Discernment
When God came to Solomon and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you”, Solomon recognized the enormity of that to which God was calling him, and also the reality of his inability in and of himself to carry out that calling. So Solomon asked for discernment.
“Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish right and wrong.” 1 Kings 3:7-9a
So God gave Solomon wisdom and discernment.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault.” James 1:5
Just ask God for wisdom. He said He will give it to you. Generously. And God is faithful to do what He says He will do.
You’re sitting in a church service, a Bible study, at a conference of some sort, talking with a friend or acquaintance, or surfing the web. When some new teaching, concept, or perspective comes your way, learn to filter it through healthy skepticism, and put in on the table for consideration, not taking action until after you’ve had a chance to pray specifically about that thing and test it against Scripture. Asking God for wisdom and discernment will give you that “filter”.
I’m not saying that you must become a cynic! Some things will come your way and you’ll know right away that they’re okay. Other things will immediately show themselves worthy of the trash heap. Then there are things that sound okay, look okay, and are intriguing in their content, but something seems just a bit off to you. Those are the things to put on the table and investigate further.
Pray about whether you’re just uncomfortable with a particular concept because of your background or baggage, or because there is truly error present. Maybe God is trying to get your attention in a certain area and wanting you to change a wrong attitude or shift your paradigm in a certain area. Be careful not to mistake the conviction of the Holy Spirit and slap a label of false teaching on something just because you don’t want to deal with an area of sin in your life. Or maybe you aren’t willing to go in a direction God is calling you to or away from ’cause, well, you just don’t want to go. In other words, don’t use the phrase “Well, I just don’t agree with ‘thus and so'” as an excuse for disobedience to God.
Once you’ve integrally purposed to get your personal “stuff” out of the way, if something still seems “off” to you, that’s where the work comes in.
If it’s a new philosophy or movement or organization that’s come across your path, research the statements of faith that the leadership has posted. Measure that statement of faith against the Word of God. Two immediate disqualifiers when I’m evaluating something are these two things, one or both of which are always present with false teaching:
1) False teaching will deny the deity of Christ – this may be as subtle as saying we are “all sons of God” or something more obvious like denial of the Trinity. Someone has to lose their Deity if the Trinity is denied . . . the Gospel falls apart if any of the Three are not God.
2) False teaching will in some way incorporate the Original Lie – “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4,5
Identifying false religion is fairly easy, using the criteria above. Identifying extra-Biblical teaching can be more difficult, because it usually sounds good, and will often use lots of Bible verses to support its point of view. Be cautious of philosophies that are formula based, philosophies that claim to have the only “right” way to do things, or philosophies that claim that their way is “God’s way”.
The New Testament is full of examples where the apostles were constantly pointing believers back to Christ and the Gospel – that is where redemption and life and wisdom and discernment and power and direction come from – from God Himself! We have His Word and His Holy Spirit. We have spiritual ears and eyes that have been opened. We need to remember to look and listen for God.
Learn to discern and navigate lest you find yourself in a place of bondage and commited to a way of life that will wound you or those around you. The Law of Love must be present for a teaching, movement, church, or organization to be good.
Paul addresses how there are different “parts” to and giftings in the Church (Body of Christ). God’s design is incredibly diverse in order to provide the Gospel and minister to all tongues, tribes, nations, cultures, castes, colors . . . you get the idea. Paul gives the wonderful metaphor of one body, many parts in his first epistle to the Corinthians . . .
“The body is a unit,though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body – whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:12,13
Then Paul goes on with the metaphor, talking about how each part is important and needed and “that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:25,26
Then Paul lists spiritual giftings (parts) in the Church designed to minister within the Body. And then the last last verse says:
“And now I will show you the most excellent way.” 1 Corinthians 12:31b
Then Paul seamlessly transistions straight into the “Love Chapter”.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophesies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13
There are many different facets and personalities and backgrounds in the Body of Christ, and I believe that God has taken that ALL into account as He has established His Church. He raises up Godly men and women and ministries all the time to minister to the diversity that is “us” collectively – to the Church and to the world at large.
Whatever you come across, measure it by the Word and listen to what the Holy Spirit is telling you. Love has to be the underpinnings and motivation for everything we as the Church do. Research the whatever it is until you feel like you have a good grasp of what is really being taught and the integrity of those who are teaching it (REALLY, REALLY IMPORTANT). If the integrity of the teacher is in serious question, or obviously lacking, chances are the teaching that they bring is deeply flawed as well.
Eat the meat and spit out the bones. And if it’s bad altogether, throw the whole thing out.
And every once in a while, God will provide you with a wonderful feast! With NO bones!