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HOW TO AVOID SERIOUS ERROR: THE BELIEVERS STAND



THERE ARE AREAS OF CHRISTIAN THOUGHT, and because of thought then also of life, where likenesses and differences are so difficult to distinguish that we are often hard put to it to escape complete deception. 

Throughout the whole world error and truth travel the same highways, work in the same fields and factories, attend the same churches, fly in the same planes and shop in the same stores. So skilled is error at imitating truth that the two are constantly being mistaken for each other. It takes a sharp eye these days to know which brother is Cain and which Abel. 

 We must never take for granted anything that touches our soul’s welfare. Isaac felt Jacob’s arms and thought they were the arms of Esau. Even the disciples failed to spot the traitor among them; the only one of them who knew who he was was Judas himself. That soft-spoken companion with whom we walk so comfortably and in whose company we take such delight may be an angel of Satan, whereas that rough, plain-spoken man whom we shun may be God’s very prophet sent to warn us against danger and eternal loss.   It is therefore critically important that the Christian take full advantage of every provision God has made to save  him from delusion. These are prayer, faith, constant meditation on the Scriptures, obedience, humility, hard, serious thought and the illumination of the Holy Spirit. 

 1. Prayer is not a sure fire protection against error for the reason that there are many kinds of prayer and some of  them are worse than useless. The prophets of Baal leaped upon the altar in a frenzy of prayer, but their cries went unregarded because they prayed to a god that did not exist. The God the Pharisees prayed to did exist, but He refused to listen to them because of their self-righteousness and pride. From them we may well learn a profitable lesson in reverse. 

 In spite of the difficulties we encounter when we pray, prayer is a powerful and effective way to get right, stay right and stay free from error. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5). All things else being equal, the praying man is less likely to think wrong than the man who neglects to pray. “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1) . 

 2. The apostle Paul calls faith a shield. The man of faith can walk at ease, protected by his simple confidence in God. God loves to be trusted, and He puts all heaven at the disposal of the trusting soul. 
But when we talk of faith let us know what we mean. Faith is not optimism, though it may breed optimism; it is not cheerfulness, though the man of faith is likely to be reasonably cheerful; it is not a vague sense of well-being or a tender appreciation for the beauty of human togetherness. Faith is confidence in God’s self-revelation as found in the Holy Scriptures. 
 3. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” The Scriptures purify, instruct, strengthen, enlighten and inform. The blessed man will meditate in them day and night. 

 4. To be entirely safe from the devil’s snares the man of God must be completely obedient to the Word of the Lord. The driver on the highway is safe, not when he reads the signs but when he obeys them. So it is with the Scriptures. 
To be effective they must be obeyed. 

 5. Again, there is a close relation between humility and the perception of truth. “The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way” (Psa. 25:9). In the Scriptures I find no shred of encouragement for the proud.  Only the tame sheep can be led; only the humble child need expect the guidance of the Father’s hand. When all the evidence is in it may well be found that none but the proud ever strayed from the truth and that self-trust was behind every heresy that ever afflicted the church. 

 6. Then we must think. Human thought has its limitations, but where there is no thinking there is not likely to be any large deposit of truth in the mind. Evangelicals at the moment appear to be divided into two camps—those who trust the human intellect to the point of sheer rationalism, and those who are shy of everything intellectual and are convinced that thinking is a waste of the Christian’s time. 

 Surely both are wrong. Self-conscious intellectualism is offensive to man and, I am convinced, to God also but it is significant that every major revelation in the Scriptures was made to a man of superior intellect. It would be easy to marshal an imposing list of Biblical quotations exhorting us to think, but a more convincing argument is the whole drift of the Bible itself. The Scriptures simply take for granted that the saints of the Most High will be serious-minded, thoughtful persons. They never leave the impression that it is sinful to think. 

 7. But thinking apart from the inward illumination of the Holy Spirit is not only futile, it is likely to be dangerous as well. The human intellect is fallen and can no more find its way through the broad expanse of truth, half-truth and  downright error than a ship can find its way over the ocean alone. God has given us the Holy Spirit to illuminate our minds. He is eyes and understanding to us. We dare not try to get on without Him.


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