It's always surprising and saddening to me when people that look like they really love the Lord suddenly start talking or living in ways that are seriously contradictory to the Scripture.
Sometimes Christians get so passionate about a set of Scriptures, that they begin raising a few above, and at the expense of, the rest of the Bible. Essentially, they are picking and choosing what they like in Scripture, and they are leaving out other things God has said.
Augustine said, "If you believe what you like in the Gospel, and reject what you don't like, it is not the Gospel you believe, but yourself.”
Here are 12 important ways we can avoid this mistake, and dedicate ourselves to following God's Word fully:
1. Dedicate your life to the whole counsel of God
We are called to rightly divide Scripture (2 Timothy 2:15). We should be on a life-long pursuit to know God more through His Word, and to love God more.
We must follow the whole counsel of God. We cannot follow one Scripture at the expense of others. For example, yes you are saved by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, but God's Word also calls all those who believe to follow what Christ has commanded and to grow in holiness.
You have to consider the whole of Scripture to rightly interpret any single verse of Scripture.
Most Christians are not trained in understanding God's Word, and so their Pastor as well as books and teachings from Bible teachers who exhibit a love for the Lord and godly living can be helpful tools on this journey to follow the whole counsel of God.
2. There is wisdom in many counselors
I grew up in a charismatic denomination, but over the years have had the opportunity to see churches of many shapes and colors within Evangelical Christian circles. This has given me more of a balanced and wise understanding. I have learned so much from Christians who are different than me.
Don't hide in one circle of Christianity only. Learn to listen and understand other's perspectives. It will give you a broader, more balanced perspective on the Scripture. (Proverbs 11:14)
3. Greater understanding of God's Word leads to greater humility
I am always amazed how uneducated, untrained, inexperienced Christians will correct and rebuke leaders who have dedicated their lives to the preaching and teaching of the Word.
I grew up going to church every time the doors were open, I've been a Christian for nearly three decades, I've read the Bible cover to cover many times, I studied for years of Bible College training, I've also read nearly a thousand books on Christian living, and yet I would rarely consider correcting other Bible teachers, yet more than once, people who've never read through the Bible even one time feel compelled to one-up or challenge what I or other Bible teachers are saying. Several times, people have even corrected me when I shared directly from Scripture!
The truth is, the more you get into God's Word, the more you grow in humility. The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know.
Christians who are truly growing in God's Word are much slower to correct and rebuke other Christians, and are far more concerned about walking with Christ themselves, than trying to keep anyone else in line.
4. Greater understanding of God's Word leads to greater graciousness
James 3:17 nails it, "Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere."
I have seen many Christians online who are passionate about God's Word, except for when it comes to the verses about being gracious, kind, peaceful, gentle. And when you study Scripture for passages that call us to these character traits, it is surprising how many there are!
God's Word is good news! You share it, not shove it ... with a smile, never a scowl.
5. Do you love Jesus and the Church more?
David Santistevan has shared, "If your study of theology doesn't lead you to love Jesus Christ more, you're missing the main purpose of theology.”
You know you are really understanding God's Word when your heart cries out with the Apostle Paul to know Christ more than anything else in life! (Philippians 3:7-12) And likewise, you love the church more, which Scripture calls Christ's "bride." (Ephesians 5:25-27; 32)
6. It's not how much of the Bible you know, it's how much of the Bible you obey
True Christianity is not head knowledge, it's heart transformation. Don't get me wrong, we need a greater understanding of Scripture as the basis for obedience. To the degree we understand, and our hearts are opened to the truths of Scripture, is the degree we can walk and live according to the Scripture. But the blessing is in living it out. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22)
7. Biblical illiteracy is a real problem
The Bible is the greatest treasure on earth. It has come down to us at great cost, and been divinely kept to the original writings thousands of years ago, and yet some Christians are bored with it, or never read it at all.
While some in closed countries are smuggling Bibles in, too many believers in the Western world are not taking advantage of the Bible's they have.
You may call yourself a Christian, but are you ignorant of the Bible's teachings? Open the Book! Jesus calls us to follow him, not just pray a prayer of salvation while you run the other way.
8. Actually read your Bible, more than you read all the people who talk about the Bible
Charles Spurgeon said, "Visit many good books, but live in the Scriptures."
Familiarity with everyone's opinions about the Bible rather than actually reading the Bible for itself has often been a problem for seminary students who struggle with their faith. Too much head knowledge, and too little heart transformation.
9. You might need to shut out other voices for awhile
In the 1950's, my wife's Grandpa Denyes was in the early stages of his ministry and was prompted by the Lord to read only the Scriptures for 7 years.
He later learned that doctors are trained to listen to only a good heartbeat for the beginning of their studies. In this way, they immediately recognize a bad heartbeat when they hear it. In the same way, the more time we spend in the Scriptures, the more clearly we recognize what's truly from God. (John 10:27)
10. The Bible is God's main message to us. Other messengers must be in line with the bible.
Paul cuts it straight in Galatians 1:8, when he says, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!"
It doesn't matter if the most influential Christian leader starts to teach things that are out-of-line with the Bible. No matter who they are, they are dead wrong. It doesn't mean you should hate on them, it just means follow your Bible first and foremost.
Bible teachers are just paperboys. They don't write the news, they just deliver it. Christian leaders need to line up with the Word. We should be like the people of Berea in the Book of Acts, "The Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." (17:11)
11. Think - Are there Bible verses that directly contradict what I am believing or saying?
Before you go shouting on social media about your "pet theology," think, are there other parts of Scripture that directly contradict what I'm teaching?
Yes, God is more loving than we realize (1 John 4:8), but He is also more holy than we can imagine (1 Peter 1:16).
Yes, we are called to speak truth courageously (Ephesians 4:15), but we are called to do all things with loving kindness (1 Cor 16:14).
Yes, we are saved by grace alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), but we are also called to grow in holiness and lay down our lives to follow Jesus (Luke 9:23).
Yes, we are saved upon trusting in Christ, but we are also being saved (1 Cor 1:18), and will be ultimately saved in eternity (Matthew 24:13)
Yes, God works out sanctification in us (Philippians 1:6), but He also calls us to work towards it (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Timothy 6:11)
Yes, we are blameless before God (Colossians 1:22), but we are also the worst of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15)
Yes, God does amazing miracles for us (Psalm 77:14), but we must also endure great hardships (Acts 14:22)
It's often "both and" in the Scripture. To ignore this common theme in the Scriptures is to ignore the whole counsel of God
12. Let the Word dwell in you richly
Colossians 3:16 calls to us, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God."
Eric Geiger explains, "Paul writes this because he knew that regular elevation of God’s Word in both the individual and the community would result in the flourishing of life as God intended it. The word of Christ must dwell richly among us. Not scarcely among us. Not in small doses among us. But richly among us."