You Can’t Have Jesus Without Doctrine

I’ve noticed a dangerous anti-doctrinal pattern lately. There is an idea that’s becoming more and more familiar among my generation of professing believers. It’s the idea of simplicity; to not get bogged down with doctrine, and just keep it simple by only focusing on Jesus.

On the surface, the notion sounds biblically harmonious. What could be wrong with simply focusing on Jesus? It most certainly seems liberating to be free from the dividing lines of doctrine, but I believe there is a soul-threatening danger cloaked within it. And I believe that’s exactly where satan wants you to blindly stay.

The reason that biblical-sound doctrine is so vital to the believer is because without it, we are at the mercy of our feelings and our own instincts about who Jesus really is. If we don’t search the scriptures to know Him more, we simply won’t know who we’re following, or even how to follow Him. Here are a few examples of the Jesus that is followed when doctrine is removed:

  • It could be the Jesus that you’ve created in your mind that strangely resembles you. This Jesus never offends you because He overwhelmingly and passively agrees with everything you think. The only biblical quote from this Jesus is “Judge Not!”. This Jesus never divides, and He never offends. He is only love; but not the biblical love. No, this type of love never calls out sin and never calls for repentance. It is the type of love that unconditionally accepts everyone the way they are without change. And because doctrinal truth to stand on is given up, the standard of truth for this Jesus is at the whim of cultural influences. This Jesus is restricted and bound only to how you believe He should be. Sadly, this is the Jesus that most people will believe in. 
  • It could be the Jesus that was created by God. This Jesus isn’t part of the Triune God, He is a creation. Better yet, He’s actually the Archangel, Michael, personified. This Jesus is believed in by over 8 million professing Christians worldwide. But Because sound doctrine is of no concern, there is no standard of truth to stand on to know that this is not the biblical Jesus. 
  • It could be the Jesus that turned out not to be the Son of God, but only a good prophet. This Jesus, while certainly performing miracles and signs, did not atone for anyone’s sin. He was a created man, in time, dying a natural death, according to the will of allah. Sound too farfetched? 24% of the world’s population believe in this Jesus. Thats 1.8 billion (and growing) people blindly following this false Jesus. 

These are just a few examples of the many ways satan can deceive you if you are not grounded in scripture. Matt Chandler says it best: “If you’re not confident in the authority of the Scriptures, you will be a slave to what sounds right.” I believe that’s where many fall today. 

Don’t despise doctrine 

While biblical doctrine isn’t required for salvation, it is required for spiritual growth. You will never spiritually outgrow the Word of God. The Bible can be as shallow as needed for the new believer, and the theological depths can ascend far below what is needed for the battle-scarred saint. 

You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5:13

The more you immerse yourself in scripture, creating a sound-doctrinal truth to stand firm on, the more you can discern who Jesus really is—and who He isn’t. Remember, the enemy wants you to keep it simple; not wanting you to know who the biblical Jesus really is. Don’t buy into it. 

How much do you have to hate someone?

Divine moments are one of my favorite things. I love seeing God’s sovereign hand in the mundane parts of my life. I’m learning to live for the epiphanic moments when God reveals how He’s using me to impact someone’s life. And I’m just referring to the ones I’m aware of—Who knows how many of these moments I’ve missed because of distractions or lack of attention to others. 

How many times have I neglected to pray for someone because of something happening on the screen in front of my face? I’ve probably missed countless opportunities to share my testimony with someone who truly needed to hear something encouraging. As Christians, we should always be seeking someone to interact with and share the Gospel of Christ. 

Because we live in a fallen world, we are all born into narcissism. It’s the way we are naturally wired. We are lovers of self (2 Timothy 3:2), and our self-centeredness reveals itself in the way we treat and interact with others. It’s only when Christ regenerates us and reveals this sin do we repent and become truly compassionate to others. 

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26-27

As Christians, we are to be a light to the world. We are to seek out and engage others. We were never called to simply live privately. We are called to proclaim His name. I don’t believe there are any exceptions to the great commission. 

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

I find that if I get up in the morning to pray, and if I intentionally ask God to use me that day to share the Gospel with someone, He is gracious enough to grant that request. This can be a scary and intimidating prayer for an immoderate introvert like myself, because it requires me to travel well outside of the near Fort Knox-like walls that surround my comfort zone. But when I engage with someone who He sovereignly places in my path to talk to, the payoff is infinitely better than retreating back to my fort. 

The more you practice this, the more you will be emboldened to share the Gospel. There is such a unique joy in being obedient to the Father; a joy that isn’t found anywhere else. Pray for God to use you today and watch Him work. 

This doesn’t mean you have to be prepared to recite a Jonathan Owens’ sermon to a complete stranger. It means start conversations with people. Most people, just beneath the surface, are dying for someone to reach out to them. Be that person. Show them Jesus. Ask a stranger how you can pray for them. Ask them how their day is going and if there’s anything you can do for them. You’ll be surprised how God opens doors in the conversation to point them to Christ.

A quote from self-proclaimed atheist, Penn Jillette, has lingered in my mind for years: “How Much Do You Have to Hate Somebody to Not Proselytize?” That resonates. How much DO we have to hate someone not to tell them about Christ? It’s like watching someone walking towards the edge of a cliff, and not telling them because you’re uncomfortable talking about it.

Pray for a self-sacrificing love of people from the Spirit. After all, that’s the reason we are sojourning. 

God doesn’t get tired of your prayers

When my wife and I got married last year, we basically had two of everything. Because we were both single parents with separate established homes, we had to sell one of the houses. We placed the home on the market and began to pray for it to sell. Month after month we cycled through frustration over the financial difficulty of paying two mortgages, praying for the house to sell, and resting in His sovereignty over our finances as well as the sale.

Almost every morning during my commute to work I would pray for the house to sell. Sometimes praying with thanksgiving for the future sale, but sometimes bitterly praying due to the lack of a sale. I think there was even a time when my wife anointed the house with oil and prayed for it to be a blessing to the future owners. Her faith blows me away sometimes.

Day after day, showing after showing, prayer after prayer; the house finally sold. Was this because we prayed so much? Yes.

God wasn’t spending this past year and a half, while the house was on the market, trying to figure out how to sell it — He wanted me to trust in Him. God wasn’t pestered by my constant petitioning, He delighted in me coming to Him and asking every day (Proverbs 15:8). It’s child-like faith; the kind of faith that is necessary to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:3). It means totally trusting the Father for everything in our lives.

There were times when we considered that the answer might be no, and that God had other plans for the house. Even then, I am still to trust Him. What I mean is, if you’re praying for something for years, that doesn’t necessarily mean the answer will be yes. It also doesn’t mean that those prayers were in vain. By praying, you’re declaring to the Father that you are not in control, He is. Pray daily to desire only Him and His will. Rest assured, He will never grow tired of it.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

Jesus addressed our biggest problem

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:1-2)

I’ve been thinking about these two verses all week. These people carry their paralyzed friend to see Jesus in the hopes that he will walk back home with them. Instead of simply healing this man’s body, Jesus addresses the bigger problem—his soul. He forgives the man’s sins against the Father before ever addressing his sickness. 

At first glance, it may seem like Jesus should have healed his body first, and then told him that his sins are forgiven. Maybe that’s because we have a small view of sin. This could be compared to a homeless man asking for fifty cents, but instead being given an endless supply of money. 

Jesus eventually heals the man of his paralysis a few verses later. But I wonder if I were in the paralytic man’s shoes, which would I be more grateful for— Forgiveness or healing? 

Out of compassion, Jesus healed many sick people during His time on earth (Matthew 14:14). But forgiveness of sins is the greatest gift we could ever receive. Jesus’ mission to reconcile His people to the Father was his ultimate purpose and plan (Luke 19:10). Our need of justification before God through the atoning blood of Christ is far greater than our need of healing in our earthly bodies.

Not to imply God doesn’t take joy in the miraculous healing of sick people among us today. He absolutely does. But Jesus addresses the terminal cancer of sin before healing the bruised fingertip, so to speak. 

When I look back and consider what God has done for me and my family, I want the forgiveness of sins to be at the very top of the list. Everything else is just a bonus. 

How not to love your wife

This past weekend, my wife and I celebrated our one year anniversary. It doesn’t seem like much of a milestone, but both of us have been through the wringer when it comes to marriage. This was my second marriage, as well as hers. My first marriage ended pretty terribly, as did hers. We were both exhausted from single-parenting our two beautiful daughters. Neither one of us were too naive about how difficult marriage can be. Nevertheless, we dove in head first and trusted Jesus. 

During my post-divorce singleness, when I wasn’t burning dinner, I spent a good bit of my downtime reading books on Christ-centered marriages. I deeply desired a Godly and battle-tested spouse. I wanted to be involved in the ministry of cultivating a family. I thought I had it all pretty much figured out (cue narrator stating I didn’t have it figured out).

Obviously, books can only prepare you so much for sharing your life with someone. I agree with Matt Chandler when he says marriage is the fast lane to sanctification. What that means is that your deepest flaws are revealed when you become one flesh. So looking back on the past year, I wanted to lend a piece of advice for fellow husbands.

Love your wife the way God made her.

I found myself subtly trying to manipulate my wife and create a version of her that was more compatible with me. I wanted her to like the things I liked, and think the way I thought. I simply didn’t trust God’s design for her. He knew exactly what we both needed, and in His sovereignty, brought us together for the sole purpose of delighting in each other and glorifying Him. 

What this behavior did to her was constantly make her feel like she wasn’t measuring up. Although I never expressed any ultimatum, constant pushing for change from me made her feel as though she had to adapt and change, or she would never make me happy. 

I certainly didn’t say I Do with a conscious plan to treat her this way. It was my sin, and a part of satan’s plan to divide and destroy us. It had to be revealed to me through conviction from the Holy Spirit. 

If this resonates with you, I urge you learn to trust God’s design for your wife. Cultivate, not condemn. Only He is the author of her heart. He leads her, sanctifying her through the His Spirit. He doesn’t need your help convicting her. He wants you to love her unconditionally and sacrificially, the very same way Christ loves you (Ephesians 5:25). 

Don’t trust your gut about God

I’ve recently found myself in a string of conversations about theology. Writing about the things that I write about, the subject of God naturally comes up during everyday conversations. Some good, some bad. Some fruitful, some…not so much. While I’ve had my fair share of heated conversations about the Father, even if I disagree with the other person, most of them prove to be beneficial to growing closer to Christ.

I have found that, when discussing God, the conversation can quickly turn into presuppositions about Him. This is where it can turn ugly pretty fast. People will naturally insert their own ideas about the attributes of God. But the truth is, our human mind just can’t comprehend the unimaginable holiness of God. And that’s ok. That’s how He designed us. 

The Holy Spirit indwelling in His people creates the ability and desire to know Him more, and to do His will (Philippians 2:13). One of the ways that satan can deceive, is to encourage you to trust your gut about God. If the Bible makes God seem cruel or unrighteous in certain ways, we have to bring that to Him. It’s tempting to try and contrast and compare God to our own sense of what we feel is right and good, but that will always fall short. 

The Bible must always be our compass on the journey to knowing God more. It’s perfectly ok to wrestle with scripture. We all do. The problem arises when we trust ourselves more than we trust His Word. When it comes to reading and interpreting the Bible, the only thing to compare our interpretation of the Bible to, is the Bible itself; never our own presuppositions. 

Pray for a greater understanding of Him and He is faithful to reveal His ways through His Word. 

Make me to know your ways, O Lord;

teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25:4-5

Who do you boast in?

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10

When I read this text, I can’t help but notice the essence of what Paul is describing: God’s deep ocean of grace. Even before the beginning, there was grace (Ephesians 1:4). While we were dead in sin, slaves to our passions for this world, hating everything that is righteous, He chose to extend grace to His people.

So when we think about our salvation, who do we boast in? If you’re like me, you have the tendency to boast in yourself. I mean, look at all the work I’m doing for Him! I serve my church, help lead worship, serve the homeless, help a men’s weekly Bible study, share the gospel, shepherd my family, tithe, read my bible daily, pray daily, write a christian blog, and even find time for a catechism or two. Surely I’ve earned His grace right?

In Philippians 3:4-7, Paul has a similar list of credentials that far surpasses mine. If there was a man in his time that could boast about his self-righteousness, it was Paul, a self-described Hebrew of Hebrews. Killing it at keeping the law. But even with all of his achievements, he counts it all as complete rubbish (v8).

Our righteousness can’t be found in ourselves. For those who place their trust in Christ, it is only found in Him. His righteousness is imputed to us. We didn’t earn it. The debt has been paid in full. There is nothing that we could ever do to earn more grace, or even less grace. The second we turn faith into a work produced, we take away grace. We see in Ephesians 2:8 that faith is a gift from God. Not because of anything we did, or anything we will do, but because of the immeasurable riches of his grace.

The word grace is used repeatedly in this post because that’s because it’s the word I want you to focus on when you think about your relationship with God. It’s easy for us to default to our list of good works when we size up where we stand with the Father. We all do it. But our works, while produced by faith, are good and should be walked in. Not boasted in. We are only able to do these things because of God’s grace, so boast in Him.