Though I’m a Christian, why don’t I feel that “peace that surpasses understanding”?

(Answered on 10/10/2015 Program)

This believer in Christ who asks this question is referring to this passage:

Philippians 4:6-7 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

With stresses and real hardships in life, all people have a natural desire for peace. The hope of the Christian is that there is a peace they may have that is much greater than any if they did not believe in Christ. Let’s consider the context of this passage about the peace of God  to help understand what is associated with this peace. After Paul urges two Christians to work out a personal conflict they have in verses 2-3, he gives these instructions:

Philippians 4:4-9  4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

There is much to gain by thoroughly studying this passage, though we’ll just consider a few things that may answer the question at hand. First of all, the broader context of this passage is that Paul says a lot about rejoicing and peace in this letter even when he wrote it while in prison. This is key to his message that this peace and joy is not dependent on our circumstances. Consider some keywords in this passage:

Definitions:

  • Peace: from the Greek word eirēnē, meaning “A sense of security, safety, harmony;  tranquility associated with a soul who is assured of their salvation through Christ” (See Strong’s number G1515)
  • Comprehension: from the Greek word nous, meaning “The mind’s ability to fully perceive and understand” (See Strong’s number 3563)

The peace described as beyond our ability to understand is to distinguish it from any other sense of security or tranquility we can find in life. Many people in our world understand peace as merely the absence of trouble. But the peace that Jesus offers is not based on the absence of problems, but rather the presence of Christ in our life brings a peace that prevails in the face of adversity.

This peace of God (originating from Him as the source) will not just be transient but goes so deep it “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus“. The preposition “in Christ Jesus” links one’s relationship to Christ (God’s anointed One) with this protection of our heart and mind. From these observations we can know:

  1. God is the one providing this special peace, and
  2. It is when I am in Christ Jesus that I may experience this peace. Other translations use through Christ Jesus indicating it is only through His agency that those having a confident faith in Jesus may receive the security God offers

We see even more good things we are to have when we look at the preceding verses that give commands to “rejoice” and “be anxious for nothing” showing God expects a cheerful outlook and freedom from worry (See Matthew 6:25-34 about worrying). So what in this passage tells how we are to obtain these things?

My Part In Obtaining God’s Peace

In the Philippians passage we notice the exhortation to be constantly aware of the Lord.

  • Rejoice in the Lord always – In any circumstance the Christian has something eternally valuable to rejoice about: salvation in the Lord
  • The Lord is near – Knowing Jesus’ is near or anticipating His coming helps keep in mind the conduct the Lord might expect
  • The God of peace will be with you – God who gives peace is present with those who follow a walk of life Paul exemplified

So the assurance of this peace is associated with my constantly rejoicing about the salvation Jesus brought, being mindful of the Lord who I will give an account, and knowing the God who provides this peace will be with me. I see my part here is keeping the Lord in my thoughts which gives perspective on the daily toils of my life.

In the verse immediately precedes the obtainable peace, God requires an alternative activity and attitude to being anxious:

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Regarding everything, we are to pray to God and give supplication which is the call to God that arises out of deep need (See Strong’s number G1162). The instructions for us is to let God know about all our concerns if not simply to get it off our mind but so He may do something about our needs. I also see how I am to pray is to be done with an attitude of thankfulness. The discontent in the world often can be found to be ungrateful for what they have, whereas those who have a view of thankfulness will be outwardly more pleasant and inwardly experiencing contentment no matter what they have or don’t have.

Based On What We Dwell And Practice

These verses show that this peace from God will be ours if we follow His instructions. These are not complicated, but are challenging for us.

Definitions:

  • Dwell: from the Greek word logizomai, meaning “To reckon inward, to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on” (See Strong’s number G3049)
  • Practice: from the Greek word prassō, meaning “To do, exercise, practice, undertake, accomplish, perform, commit, perpetrate” (See Strong’s number G4238)

The instructions in verves 8 and 9 are to meditate on virtuous things and practice the godly ways they had learned. This meditation is not just wishful or positive thinking, but careful study to understand these things enough to put them in practice. Each of the terms listed are worthy of deep study since they encompass all aspects of life and are qualities God values. Beyond simply the activity of our mind, we are to perpetuate these as a way of life; just as Paul had in his life. A commitment to making these qualities part of who we are will result in bringing us close to the God of peace.

Connecting Peace With Faith

Central to all of the gospel is that God’s blessings come to those who embrace Jesus as the One who gave His life for all of mankind. Peace is a blessing, but the greatest blessing is salvation from the punishment due everyone who has broken God’s laws. The Old Testament foretold of Jesus suffering for us that results in a peace we have:

Isaiah 53:5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. (NKJV)

We may have a temporal form of peace when we feel good, have health, have wealth, and happiness. But true peace is when man is at peace with God. We learn in the New Testament this peace comes from faith in Jesus through whom our relationship with God is made right:

Romans 5:1-2  1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (NKJV)

Apparently, it takes faith to be justified in God’s eyes which is necessary to be at peace in our relationship with Him. By our breaking God’s laws (sin), we have been separated from God but can be viewed as innocent (justified) and brought into a peaceful relations by Jesus giving His life.

Ephesians 2:13-14 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, (NKJV)

When one comprehends the consequence of life knowing we will be held accountable to God, we can understand a more genuine peace comes from knowing our damaged relationship with God has been reconciled.

Colossians 1:19-22 19 For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister
(NASB)

The hope of the gospel is that we can have peace with God. God has graciously provided a way for this to be possible, but we must respond in faith in order to have this genuine peace that comes in knowing we are no longer alienated with God.

Obtainable Peace

For those seeking this special gift of peace, remember God is the source. He is called “the God of peace” (Romans 15:33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20) so is the fountainhead and the bringer of peace. Follow His command to rejoice and give thankful prayer to God who is the protector of your heart and mind. We can understand always keeping our mind aware of matters greater than our circumstance; such as our salvation from our sin, can bring peace and perspective.

The Philippians 4 passage gave action items for those wanting to obtain this peace that include dwelling on virtuous things and put them into practice. When we seek peace, talk to God about it, meditate on godly qualities and make them part of your walk. With this, God has assured us His peace will guard our hearts.

What does it mean for Jesus to be my Lord?

(Answered on 10/03/2015 Program)

His Rightful Place

The one asking this question is pondering the depths of what it means to call Jesus “Lord”.  More than just giving a proper title, to state Jesus is MY Lord says something about who He is and what my relationship is to Him. Some will state “Jesus is my Lord and Savior” which may be so (See Romans 10:9), but He is only your savior if He is truly the Lord of your life. That is, if my belief and life does not reflect Jesus has His appropriate place of honor in my life, I likely am not going to be a recipient of the salvation He offers.

Definitions

  • Lord: from the Greek kyrios, meaning “the owner; one who has control over other people” (See Strong’s number G2962). This conveys someone else is a master to us who has the power to decide what we do.

It is easy to say that “I’m a Christian” or “Jesus is my Lord”. Yet are we fully aware of what it means to say someone is the Lord over us? First, consider who the Bible states Jesus is as Lord:

1 Corinthians 8:6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him. (NASB)

Here Jesus is described as Creator (we exist through Him) which is reason enough for Him to be master or an authority over all things. He is called “Lord” in the ultimate sense of the word knowing Jesus is God:

John 20:28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

John 8:58 I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Definitions

  • I am: from the Greek words egō and eimi, meaning “a primary pronoun of the first person” with “to be, to exist” (See Strong’s number G1473 and Strong’s number G1510). This definition may seem intuitive, but to the Jewish audience it was clearly a reference to what God said of Himself to identify Him as being ever-present without respect to time (eternal). The Lord of the Old Testament (Yahweh) told Moses “I AM” was to be the name of the one who sent him in Exodus 3:14 (See also Isaiah 44:6 and Isaiah 47:8)

Regardless what I think or say Jesus is, if He is the one through whom we exist (God), He appropriately should have dominion over all things:

Matthew 28:18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

John 13:3 Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;

Mind And Heart

Perhaps the one asking this question intellectually believes in Jesus but wonders if they have fully committed their whole heart to putting the Lord’s interest before their own. Some may thoroughly know their scripture yet lack a heart willing to submit to Jesus as Lord. Jesus rebuked the Jew for lacking the heart to accept Jesus even while they took care to know the scriptures:

John 5:39-40 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life

Is there some reason why we would resist calling Him Lord? If it is true we are naturally self-interested, one’s heart might not want to fully yield their own will to someone else who would be their “master”. To call Him Lord means I will put His priorities (My Lord’s priorities) before my own. My impulsive when faced with making a choice that would please God instead of myself might not be much different from a child refusing to eat his vegetables; I don’t want to.

If it is not enough to acknowledge who He is (God) to do all for Him, what might motivate us to want to obey a Master? Love. He knows we are willing to surrender our will to His when we realize what a loving Master He is. Not only to we read about God as the source of love where we learn to love others (1 John 4:7-21), but God  as described in the Old Testament has always desired we obey Him out of love:

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. (NASB)

Deuteronomy 7:9 Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; (NASB)

Deuteronomy 10:12-13 12 “Now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to keep the Lord’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good? (NASB)

To obey these command means we must understand He is God and love Him. Love Him with all our heart. God requires things of us though He has qualities we can love such as His faithfulness and loving kindness toward His people. A loving God we can rely on eternally is one we can lovingly submit to; especially when we know these things He requires are “for (y)our good“.

Does He Know Me?

God wants His followers to have assurances of their salvation though Jesus gave a real warning to those who might call Him Lord but not do things according to His Father’s will:

Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness. (NASB)

Here are people actually calling Jesus “Lord” and doing things in the name of Jesus. Apparently, Jesus dismisses them because the things they were doing were not doing “the will of My Father”. From this we learn being a servant to the Lord means you must know and do what is expected in order to be approved. That is, do His will. Merely calling Him Lord is not enough. We must truly be His servants.

The outcome of not accepting Jesus as Lord is a serious matter for everyone since all will be held accountable to Him at some point. The special position of Jesus over all will be recognized by all; willing or not:

Philippians 2:9-11 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (NASB)

Claiming Jesus is Lord is more than a slogan on a bumper sticker but an acknowledgement of the ultimate power and authority Jesus has over all (in heaven/earth/buried). So when God eventually holds me accountable for my life, I want the Lord to say He knows me as one who has done His Father’s will. From 1st John, I understand I need to truly acknowledge Jesus as the son of God the Father.

1 John 2:23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also (NASB)

1 John 4:15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. (NASB)

1 John 5:20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (NASB)

God the Father has designated Jesus as His Son who must be acknowledged for who He is: True God and source of eternal life. Paul wanted believers to show the extent of our willingness to live or die as a servants of Christ knowing how Christ died for us:

Romans 14:8-9 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (NASB)

He Is Your Lord

Those truly asking the question if Jesus is their Lord, will show Him they love Him by keeping His commandments (John 14:15, 21, 23-24). By our walk of life that shows we are keeping His commands, we can know the love of God is mature in us and we abide in Him (See 1 John 2:3-6).

There will be times when we learn what Jesus expects of us and we reply: “this is a hard teaching” and choose not to follow Him any more as Jesus saw happen in John 6:60-66. Jesus illustrated the level of commitment He desired of His disciples when He said:

Matthew 16:24-28 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds.(NASB)

God has given us the opportunity to choose Him as our Lord. I can choose whether or not Jesus is my Lord; but if I do call Him Lord, then I intend to put myself in the role of servant. Jesus is Lord and it should be known in how I view Him, in my attitude to what He expects of me and in my willingness to yield to what He requires of me. May you truly call Him Lord and do as He tells you (Luke 6:46).

If I was baptized as an infant, do I have to be baptized again?

(Answered on 10/03/2015 Program)

Infant baptism has been a common practice among many Christian denominations for centuries. To answer this, let’s look at some passages and think about who is being baptized and what preceded it by the listener who was baptized:

Acts 8:12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.

From this passage we see those who were baptized heard Philip’s preaching, believed and then were baptized. In this case, it was men and women who were baptized.

Acts 2:36-38, 41 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.

Definitions

  • Pierced to the heart: from the Greek terms katanyssomai and kardia, meaning “to cause pain or metaphorically, emotional sorrow” and “the center of all physical and spiritual life” (See Strong’s number G2660 and Strong’s  number G2588).
  • Repentance: from the Greek word metanoeō, meaning “a change of mind, that leads amending sinful behavior (See Strong’s number G3340). Repentance always precedes baptism.

Here, these souls heard the message Peter preached (Acts 2:14-40) and were “pierced to the heart” suggesting their conscience was affected by what they heard. Then Peter instructed them what they must do to be forgive their sins and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: Repent and be baptized.

Acts 18:7-8 And he departed from there, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Titus Justus, one who worshipped God, whose house was next to the synagogue. And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized.

We see a pattern here for who was being baptized and what lead to the baptism. These people were old enough to hear the message and understand it. In believing the message, they responded by willingly being baptized. The times I’ve seen an infant being sprinkled with water; they’ve more often been tearful than a willing participant. So far with these Biblical examples, an infant would not be one who is able to hear, believe and respond to the command of baptism.

Considering the call to repentance, there is an appeal to a conscience that knows right from wrong. An infant who is not mature enough to have a trained conscience does not know right from wrong and could be considered innocent. They have no sin to repent of (yet) and no ability to comprehend what is “right”. It appears it takes enough maturity to choose to change your ways (repent) and also there is an element of the heart where the Bible describes as the place we hold things that are important to us. When a eunuch ask Philip about being baptized, Philip even puts a condition of belief “with all your heart”:

Acts 8:35-38 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. (NASB)

Whatever Philip was teaching the eunuch when he “preached Jesus to him”, it must have included a need to be baptized and believing that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. Notice the condition here: Philip makes it clear that if the eunuch believes with all his heart, then he can be baptized.

Sprinkled, Poured or Immersed

The questioner say they were baptized as an infant. Let’s look at the definition of the Greek word for baptism.

Definitions

  • Baptism: from the Greek word baptizō, meaning “to dip, to plant, to cover, to overwhelm, to immerse” (See Strong’s number G907). The term “baptism” used in the Bible is one of the few transliterated words (Mapping the characters of a word from one language to form a word in another language)

Note there are other Greek words that are not used when describing baptism:

It is dip (baptize) that Jesus used in Matthew 28:18-20 “teaching them and baptizing them

Listen for the reason why John the Baptism chose this place to baptize:

John 3:23 “Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.”

The baptism of the first century required “much water”. This was not a little sprinkling process; it was immersion. Listen to these passages that draw a picture of baptism as a “covering” or “planting”:

Romans 6:3-4 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. (NASB)

Colossians 2:12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. (NASB)

Baptism is a burial and a resurrection. Here also an indication of age: To be “raised up with Him through faith”, implies they were old enough to have faith. There is much more to learn about baptism from these passages that you should study further.

Households

An argument is sometimes made to suggest infants were baptized point out passages where there are “households” being baptized. Let’s look at the bible to see what we can observe. This is the account of Lydia who was merchant from Thyatira (Acts 16:11-15) selling in Macedonia where Paul was:

Acts 16:15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. (NASB)

And here is a passage that is a part of the story of the Philippian jailer.

Acts 16:31-34 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.

Acts 18:8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized

The first observation as we mentioned earlier was that the ability to hear and belief is a necessary part of this process (infants aren’t capable of this). Secondly, none of these instances mention infants which is necessary to assert infants should be baptized. A “household” does not necessarily include children. Many years ago there were infants in my household, but not now.

If you believe with all your heart…

If you were sprinkled with water as a infant and want to follow the pattern you read about in the Bible for those becoming Christians, you, as an adult who is able to hear the word, repent of your sins, and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, you should be baptized. There are several other passages that include baptism that you should study to better understand baptism and what it is for.

Who determines what I should believe?

(Answered on 09/26/2015 Program)

The short answer: God does; but let’s discuss how we may seek what we should believe.

Each of us has the choice to believe what we want and can look to any source for what to believe. Having discussed it does matter what we believe, it’s important to then consider where do we look to find what we should believe. While few stand up and tell us “this is what you should believe“, we willingly listen to some people for advice or guidance. For any topic, it is prudent to identify who is a reputable source for information we might believe. Regarding spiritual matters, we may trust the conclusions of a council of authorities or some knowledgeable teacher, but shouldn’t we be listening carefully to the Creator of life Himself? He designed life; He should know how we should live and what is worthy of belief. So what does God say one “must believe” who comes to Him wanting to please Him?

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him

God establishes a base-line of what He expects for belief:

  • At the very minimum, God says we must believe He exists
  • Faith is necessary to please God
  • Seeking God will be rewarded

Believing the Bible is God’s word, I can read my Bible and learn from this passage I need to trust God’s existence is actually truth and have full confidence in Him (faith) in order to please Him. Knowing part of God’s means of communicating His truths are through people teaching the gospel, I might have learned this from others. Here we’re back to asking who should I trust to help me determine what I should believe?

Why this is important is because even the respected authorities on religious matters may be wrong or have motives that distort the message they deliver. The Pharisees were religious leaders who claimed the law God gave to Moses was the source of their teaching. In John 9, the Pharisees even question the authority of Jesus who healed the blind man they were interrogating:

John 9:28-29  28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”(NASB)

Jesus had repeatedly rebuked these religious teachers for their hypocrisy (Matthew 23), improper motive and even corruption in their teaching others. Jesus had pointed out their failing to believe Jesus was the Messiah showed they didn’t actually know Moses’ writings that prophesied of Jesus:

John 5:46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. (NASB)

In Galatians 1:6-12, Paul also cautioned against teachers who would teach a perverted version of the gospel message about Jesus. Paul reasoned that standing for the message he truly knew was from God meant he would gain no favor from people:

Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (NASB)

Here, Paul makes a distinction about who a teacher is desiring to please that explains how the gospel message can become distorted. Even in the first century when Apostles like Paul received revelation from God (Galatians 1:11-12), there were religious teachers with a following who taught a message that did not please God.

So if even respected teachers may lead others astray, you might think it is safer to look to a source the majority of people are following. Recall how Jesus illustrated how only a disciplined few will find the way that results in eternal life:

Matthew 7:13-14 Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (NASB)

This metaphor depicts the masses following some way of life (guided by their belief) that leads the wrong way. The contrast indicates those making efforts to follow a certain path (based on some belief) enter a gate that ensures safety to their life. While this passage shows our personal responsibility to search to find the gate most will not find, in the passage just following this (Matthew 7:15-20) Jesus warns them to “beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”

Seeing we must take care in who we look as a reliable source of truth, fortunately you have access to the source of God’s word in the Bible. If we are looking to the sayings of any, consider the consequential words that we will be held accountable for:

John 12:48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day

These are the words of Jesus who puts the obligation on the listener to receive His teachings or choose to reject Him. He declares it is by His words that we will be judged.

If this has stimulated thought, let it move you to evaluate the sources for what you believe. When you decide in what you should believe, make sure it is founded on truth. You are capable of understanding the Bible when you read it. Read and digest God’s words and may it be the true source to determine what you should believe.