September 20, 2013
By Skip Heitzig
In 1636, only 16 years after our Pilgrim forefathers landed on Plymouth Rock, the Massachusetts Bay Colony established Harvard University to train ministers of the gospel. The reason was stated in the charter: “Dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust.”
Knowing the Word is important; it matters. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
And there are consequences for neglecting the Word. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). Paul is referring to a time—and I certainly think we’re in it—when people will say “no” to God’s truth. They’ll turn away from hearing the truth of the Bible because they want something easier and more palatable.
It’s all around us today. Some churches and denominations that were founded by godly, Bible-believing people have turned away from sound doctrine. A survey of 3000 Protestant ministries once reported that 56% rejected the virgin birth, 71% rejected the idea of life after death, 54% rejected the bodily resurrection of Christ, and 98% rejected that there would be a personal return of Jesus Christ to this earth.
Why would this happen? Because sound doctrine rebukes ungodliness. Jesus said, “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (John 3:19). Anybody who lives contrary to sound doctrine will hate Bible teaching; they’ll resist it.
And that, in turn, opens them up to believing lies. Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:14 “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting.” The old King James says, “whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” What a picture! People waiting for you to turn away from the truth, so they can fill you with all sorts of ideas that are contrary to sound doctrine.
When you reject the nourishment of truth from the Word of God and feed on error, though you might not see it right away, it slowly creeps in, especially in the area of essential historic doctrine, and it’ll make you spiritually sick!
I hope that you will develop an appetite for the truth—for all of the Bible, for the whole counsel of God, not just a late night psalm or an early morning “snack” in Proverbs. I pray that you’ll become like Jeremiah, who said, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart” (Jeremiah 15:16).
But knowing the Word is just the first step, because once we know it and love it, then we’ve got to do it. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). So having an appetite for the truth in the word of God is more than just, “Give me a good sermon, preacher!”
It seems impossible to me, but the calendar proves it: I’ve been teaching the Word for 30 years! And if I have a legacy as a pastor, what I want is to leave a group of people who are spiritually literate, who love and know and do the truth. As John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4).
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