Acts 17:11 Archives

Solid or Fringe Teaching

Extracted from an email concerning the tendency for those with the gift of Teaching or Understanding to head for the fringe; written by Dean VanDruff.

Those who have the gift of Understanding and/or Teaching have a tendency to head for the shadows--the gray zones. This is where our gifts are most needed, after all. When things are clear as day, who needs us?

The problem is, this is not where people are, including us. It is also not the emphasis of Scripture or the Spirit. This is rather by definition: God has made the essential issues quite plain and lucid. Again, "If it is clear, then who needs us?" ...or so the carnal mind reasons. So off into esoterica we go, which is exactly where God does not want us. We turn into cryptographers, tracing out some fine point of doctrine when people are dying spiritually because they are not sure if God has the power to really save them.

Get the point?

Over the years, I have seen this trap over and again. A good gift gone into the ditch, and all so the teacher can strain out that last minuscule meaning or insight. And to whose benefit?

My advice to those with such tendencies to "roll back the clock" to what you blew past in the first few years of the Spirit's contact in your life. What did God show you then? What was it like to repent? What was it like to struggle against the flesh? What were the temptations to derail the grace of God that you have overcome? What were the pitfalls and the solutions God provided you? What of the joy of the Lord and the glory of His salvation? Scuttle the rest...

Col 4:5 (NIV) Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

What I am saying is this: Do not assume others have been given the same privilege of being on the Understanding fast-track. They are worried about what you blew right by in an hour, a day, a week! "Does God really love me?" "How can I access more of the Christ-life?" "Who is God, anyway?" This is the status of the "field" God has sent us to harvest in.

We might have liked a field of candy canes and cotton candy, or perhaps of caviar and fine wine that require a more discriminating palate. What we have is dirt and corn and weeds and cactus and a lot of other messy stuff that we would like to graduate out of.

Soon enough. In not but a little while, we will sit at the feet of our Savior and learn of Him.

Luke 24:25-25, 32 (NIV) He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself... They asked each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?"

In the meantime, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." And "Imitate me, as I imitate Christ".

This is the pressing need, not to chase after ghosts and exotic interpretations. People are being tempted to think they can earn God's approval! Or that Christianity is just another religion! Or that righteousness is not really possible!

Those with Understanding can answer these questions by the Spirit with certainty and authority, if they are not off chasing some superfluous rabbit somewhere. And this is our calling, "unto edification". Not of ourselves, or of how smart we are, but to use what God has given us to help those who are weaker in the faith. And by so doing, we ourselves are helped by the other gifts bestowed to those who may lack in Understanding.

"Among the wise, we speak a message of wisdom, but with you..." Paul said. So he--and I--are not condemning the use of the gift of Understanding in areas that are difficult, but just that we should be wise and sober in our emphasis of such things when more fundamental issues loom. "If it makes my brother stumble" . . then curb it. We should not be fiddling while Rome burns, even if fiddling is fine in another context.

If you follow me, Teachers need to be ever cautious not to miss why God has given them insight. It is not for primping, but for edification of ourselves and others in Christ.

What this means in practice is that we will end up stating the obvious (to us, anyway) again and again. But when we speak of such simple things, we will do so with a reservoir of strength and depth, with a ready answer to any rabbits running off to the left or right (because of our private meditations and conversations), but most importantly, because some are weak in the faith, and a sure and certain word from us could make the difference. Will we tell them? Or is it a lecture on some obscure point which makes no difference at the end of the day to someone who is not quite sure why Jesus went to the cross, or who is not quite certain that God ever really has taken the time to clearly communicate with His creation, etc.

How are we going to use the limited credibility we have left among men? To what end will we use the precious few moments people will spend with us on the Net, or in a church, or anywhere?

2 Pet 1:12-13 (NAS) Therefore, I shall always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. And I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder...

Jude 1:5 (NIV) Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that...

And let us have the same attitude. As it is, we have not learned (in experience) the basics as a body yet. Do you agree?

Allow the Spirit to skewer the instinct to run into the ditches. Cryptic, ambiguous, dubious... may be great fun, but do not waste your gift or people's time on enigmas when the vivid (to you) truth is still unclear to most.

Where are people really at? Let us help them there with the gifts God has imparted to us, and see if the Scripture comes true that there be "none needy among us" in the spiritual sense.

Consider the following statement by our Lord.

John 3:11 (NIV) "I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen..."

If this was our Lord's boast, then we too should avoid "useless speculations" and "vain imaginings" in our efforts. Beyond opinion, beyond what we have heard, beyond our traditions, just what do we know? Here's a good start:

2 Tim 1:12 (NAS) . . I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

So rather than head for the fringe, let us rather "teach what we know", stating with authority and depth the eternal truths we have not known as deeply as a Body as perhaps we should.

And we must learn with more than words, so that we can tell people how and what it is like to follow God, what the temptations are, the path of obedience, etc. via experience.

1 Cor 14:26 (NAS) ...Let all things be done for edification.

May God teach us through true obedience, so that we may teach what we have learned in the Council of the Holy One in the fear of the Lord.

Rom 15:15 (NIV) I have written to you quite boldly on some points, as if to remind you of them again, because of the grace God gave me.

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