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Not Whether, but Which

You're always listening to doctrine.

The Mind of Christ in His Word: Part 2 (2)

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.” Matthew 12.43-45

No spiritual vacuum
Jesus taught about a man afflicted with an unclean spirit, who, having been cleansed of that spirit, failed to refortify his soul with true teaching, that is, sound doctrine, and so he became even more vulnerable to falsehood and danger than he was before his healing.

This happens to a lot of believers. They hear sound doctrine, the plain teaching of the Bible about the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the Kingdom. They are convicted and persuaded, and they believe, sweeping their souls clear of years of falsehoods and lies to make room for the Gospel and the Spirit of God.

They may even make progress for a while – reading, studying, and learning sound doctrine, so that they can strengthen their souls – minds, hearts, and consciences – to help them live the Christian life day by day.

But then they begin to neglect sound teaching. Going to church becomes just something they do to be with their Christian friends, and to enjoy themselves “in the Lord.” Participation in Bible study or Sunday school becomes simply more of the same. Personal reading and study of the Word of God decline or drop off altogether. Neglect of sound doctrine – the first stage of doctrinal revulsion – begins to set in.

There’s no such thing as a spiritual vacuum in the cosmos. Whatever of our time, attention, interest, or strength is not devoted to the Lord, and His Kingdom and glory, will become susceptible to being taken over by contrary interests. These often take the form of false teachers who appeal to our selfish interests and encourage us to make of the faith of Jesus Christ a kind of spiritual smorgasbord for whatever we think we need. We leave off the solid food of sound doctrine and dabble in the sweets and crunchies of mere self-interest – if we spend any time in the Word of God at all. Our mind enters a period of arrested development which will become permanent atrophy unless serious measures are engaged.

Still feeding
Just because people seem no longer interested in the sound doctrine of God’s Word doesn’t mean they aren’t feeding on somedoctrine. After all, doctrine of any sort is merely teaching, ideas presented for consideration which exert powerful effects on how we think, feel, value, and live. If we’re not feeding our minds on the sound doctrine of Scripture, because we have become infected with a form of doctrinal revulsion, we’re still going to feed our minds. But the food we will give them will be merely the vain hopes and speculations of human minds, whether of persuasive friends or charismatic authorities, or simply our own best thinking.

Rather than continue toward the renewing of our minds in the mind of Christ, we will revert to dulling our minds around a focal point of mere self-interest.

Neglecting or even rejecting sound doctrine – the teaching of Scripture that leads to a life of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit and good works in service to God and men – doesn’t mean that we necessarily reject all doctrine. The question is not whether we will be informed and shaped by some teaching – some doctrine – or other; the question is which doctrine will fill our soul, and what will it bring along with it to inhabit and direct our mind, heart, and conscience?

The fruit of sound doctrine
Sound doctrine brings a renewed mind, the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, love for God and neighbors, wisdom, a servant’s heart, a desire to be transformed increasingly into the image of our Lord and Savior, and increasing peace and joy in the Lord. If such fruit is not showing in your life, you may be feeding on the wrong doctrine.

You may be saying, “Well, I’ve never heard doctrine taught like that! All I’ve ever heard is a kind of pompous parading of pseudo-spiritual knowledge that has nothing to do with where I live!” If that’s the case, then you haven’t been listening to sound doctrine, but false doctrine, or at best, true doctrine poorly communicated. For sound doctrine goes beyond mere talk and focuses on a transformed soul, expressed as love, as Paul makes clear in 1 Timothy 1.5.

And if you haven’t been listening to and studying sound doctrine, then you’ve been listening to the teaching of men – which promotes self-love, pride, sham righteousness, and a sense of superiority over those who “just don’t get it.” False doctrine doesn’t encourage growth in the mind of Christ; rather, by diverting our focus to ourselves, it creates a mindset of always seeking to justify oneself and indulge whatever interest or view may be fashionable.

Throw out sound doctrine and you don’t escape doctrine. You simply open your soul to false doctrine. The question, where embracing doctrine is concerned, is not whether, but which. You will fill the sails of your soul with sound doctrine, or they will fill with the self-serving winds of doctrine that blow us off course in our journey with the Lord. 

For reflection or discussion
1.  Do you agree that some form of doctrine is inescapable? Give some examples of the kinds of doctrines people embrace who do not accept Biblical doctrine.

2.  What would you say are some of the main doctrines of Scripture? List them below, and give a brief definition of each.

3.  How important are these doctrines? Can Christians afford to neglect them? Why or why not?

Next step – Preparations: Spend extended time in prayer, looking to God to reveal the various ideas and aspirations – doctrines – that shape your life and guide your day. Repent of any that are merely self-serving, and devote yourself afresh to growing into the mind of Christ.

T. M. Moore

This might be a good time to review our ReVision series on “Winds of Doctrine.” You can download all the studies in that series by clicking here.

All the installments in this “Strong Souls” series are available in PDF by clicking here. Check out our newest feature, Readings from the Celtic Revival (click here).

Thanks for your prayers and support
If you find ReVision helpful in your walk with the Lord, please seek the Lord, asking Him whether you should contribute to the support of this ministry with your financial gifts. As the Lord leads, you can use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card, or you can send your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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