July 13, 2014

What’s worse than following a false teacher . . . ?

I was telling a seminary professor about a class I was taking and he asked what textbook the professor was teaching from. I said none; this professor was teaching what God had taught him, not what God had taught someone else.

This is what Jesus did. The religious people of His day always cited this rabbi or that, but Jesus was a breath of fresh air. He didn’t need to quote someone else to back up what He said. Those who heard Him often said there was no teacher like Him.

As I listen to teachers, good and not so good, I am noticing that the Holy Spirit is my greatest and most accurate teacher, but He does use a textbook. Like all others, I need Him to interpret Scripture, but I also need Scripture to make certain that I’m not merely getting my instructions from voices in my head.

I also need the Holy Spirit to help me with false teaching. John says, “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:26–27)

The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God as His text and life as His classroom. He instills truth and gives purpose to His students. I am in the same school as the psalmist who said, “O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71:17–18)

Some of us come into this school without any skills at all. Others have abilities, but even the most gifted need the Holy Spirit to round out their talent and make of them what He wants them to be . . .

Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. (Acts 18:24–26)

Apollos needed help because everyone comes into the kingdom from darkness. We may be with or without skills, but all of us need the Spirit to teach us and give us light. God tells us to learn from Him, and even after we do, to beware of falling back into that old way of thinking. I can avoid it by keeping my heart soft toward God and by continually relying on the Teacher that He has given me . . .

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17–24)

In other words, life is not a mere classroom to walk in and out of without the lessons making a difference. If I do not put into practice the truths God is teaching me, then my old self will continue to rule. For that new life that Jesus has given me to be evident and effective, I have to obey what I learn.

Following false teachers is a sad and terrible danger, but it is just as sad and terrible to not pay any attention to the Holy Spirit who is teaching me truth each day.

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