I am a reader; as Christians, we should all be readers. I know people are busy, and life is hectic, but we need to make time for Bible reading and other good books. This post is not about that per se. It’s February, and I’ve switched Bible translations (I know, not a surprise to some). Stick with me, though; I’m going somewhere with this. When the Legacy Standard Bible came out, I was excited to get my hands on it. I’m in a Facebook group for the translation, and I keep seeing posts about how people were resonating and connecting with the translation. The truth is, I wasn’t. In my reading of other books and studying, I have referenced the Complete Jewish Bible and Tree of Life Version. I’ve connected with the TLV, so I switched.
I say all that to say this; we need to be willing to make changes in our spiritual life. I committed to reading through the LSB, but it wasn’t connecting with me. In the last couple of years, many Christians have found leaders they were once encouraged by were no longer encouraging or teaching them, but they had drifted. It has been hard, but many of us had to walk away from pastors whose books once ministered to us and podcasts we never missed because we’ve realized they had moved from what they once taught.
I am Charismatic in my background, but I always wondered why ministers I listened to didn’t emphasize the Scripture that much. Kenneth Copeland and Jerry Savelle constantly used Scripture; why not other guys? Why was so much of the teaching based on experiences of dreams, visions, and inner impressions? In 2020 and early 2021, I had to decide to walk away from so much of the charismatic and prophetic stuff I had known because much of it wasn’t in line with Scripture. I had to let go, but I still held on to Scripture and my relationship with the Lord.
It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in a favorite preacher, author, or podcast, but I’m a follower of Jesus, not a particular person at the end of the day. Many reformed and Calvinistic Christians have similarly had a shakeup in their circles because once faithful men have embraced the social gospel. As a result, many of us have had to evaluate many things in the last year or so, and that’s a good thing.
I will always be thankful that I listened to Rod Parsley, Jerry Savelle, and Kenneth Copeland as a kid. While I do not hold to some Word of Faith teachings, I recognize that I know the Scripture like I do because they constantly read Scripture. God is big enough to have straightened out a lot of specifics on those scriptures over the years and has kept me from holding particular beliefs those I listened to did.
I have never fit into any particular group, and many of you feel the same way. Many of you wonder what has happened to your church, pastor, and friends. My encouragement to you, as well as to myself, is to let go of wrong understandings but hold to the Word. You may have to walk away from certain friends and teachers you’ve listened to, but hold on to the Word.
I created a reading list for 2022, and I’m sticking with it, but as I’ve studied and read Scripture, other things are getting added into the mix. The structure is good, but we also have to allow for the leading of the Spirit. I have a Bible reading plan I’m using, however, with what I’m learning right now, I believe I would be better served reading through one book of the Bible at a time, so I’m making changes.
One thing I constantly have to remind myself of is that I am a follower of Jesus. You may be thinking, duh, but I have always felt the need to fit somewhere, to fit with a group. The thing is, because of the way God has worked in my life, it’s hard for me to fit within a traditional denomination. I’m not against denominations; I just know my beliefs don’t fit in any traditional denominations. I listened to the Word of Faith growing up, received ministry training in a Wesleyan and a Pentecostal denomination, and have been in the prophetic movement. There are parts of my theology that would be considered Calvinist, and others Wesleyan, and add to that I believe that God still has a Covenant with Israel and the Jewish roots of the faith should be embraced in the Church, and you see I am a very mixed pot of doctrine. You may have been in the prophetic circles, but after the 2020 debacles, you know you can’t follow certain leaders anymore. Maybe you came to faith during the Young, Restless, and Reformed surge or were encouraged and discovered theology through men like Piper, Chandler, and Driscoll, but you look at them now and think what happened?! Hold to the Word, stay on the narrow path, and don’t follow prophets or preachers into the ditch.
I’ve always gone where the Scriptures lead me. That’s what all of us should do. This year I’m reading about the Puritans and through Spurgeon’s sermons. To my surprise, reading Puritan theology has strengthened my view of God’s covenant with the Jewish people and has brought some Jewish books into my reading for the year.
Growing up, being led by the Spirit was central teaching. My reformed friends would call that providence. Whatever you want to call it, we need to be led by the Spirit. How does that happen? Jesus said the Holy Spirit would bring things to our remembrance that Jesus said. When you read books, a Scripture may come to mind; go look up the verse and read until the drive to read stops. I grew up with a lot of arbitrary ways of being told how to recognize the Spirits leading. The simple truth is the more we read the Word, the better we will recognize the work of the Spirit in our lives. We have been given pastors and teachers to help us in our growth. That does not mean that those people get to or should serve us indefinitely. The Scripture is our guide, and the moment a teacher is no longer in bounds, we should quit following them. It could be for a season, or it could be permanent.
We need to remember the plethora of warnings against false teachings, prophets, and miracles in the Scripture. We must test the spirits to see if they are of God. Let go of the wrong, let go of those things that constantly make you say something is off (that’s the Holy Spirit keeping you in Scriptural bounds), and hold tight to the Scripture.
We’ve all been surprised by statements of Christian leaders lately, and we’ve been more surprised by some who have deconstructed. Yet, no matter who in our lives may walk away from the truth or abandon Christ completely, we must be willing to let those influences go from our lives while we hold on to the unchanging Word of God. The enemy wants all of this to discourage us; he wants us to think that we have a faith crisis by asking questions about what is being taught. We are instructed to search and study the Scriptures. When things seem off, we should ask questions; we should open our Bibles and study and compare Scripture with Scripture. Don’t be discouraged as you watch leaders blow in the wind, hold fast to God’s Word, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and test every other spirit.