How to Filter Everything with the Bible

Last Wednesday I had the privilege to preach at Ekklesia’s midweek service on the subject of the Christian mind, a subject I’m obviously passionate about. I ended the sermon talking about how we need to use the Bible to filter everything that comes our way, in order to find the truth and spit out the lies. I didn’t quite get to say everything I wanted to say on the matter, so I decided to discuss it here.

Elemaris_Cool_schwarz_300dpiI cannot overstate how important it is that believers try and filter everything through the lens of Scripture. Because the devil is constantly tempting us, the world is constantly preaching to us, and our flesh is constantly blinding us, we must use the Word of God to navigate through all of this. Our guide cannot be our intuition or our own logic. It cannot be our experiences. We are people of the Book and so all our arguments must come from the truth of this Book.

THE MARK OF MATURITY

We need to learn to discern between truth and error. Albert Mohler says, “The absence of consistent biblical worldview thinking is a key mark of spiritual immaturity.” What that means is that if you are unable to decipher through things happening around you and determine if it coincides with the Bible, then you are spiritually immature. Now, that doesn’t mean you are going to have all the answers, but that does mean you know how to find them, or at least the fact that you need one.

Hebrews 5:11-14 says:

“About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Who does he say is the spiritual child? The one who does not know how to handle the Word of God. The one who does not know how to discern between good and evil, right and wrong teaching. The one who does not know how to filter what they hear and see.

So it’s not only the super-Christian (as if they existed) who should know how to wade through the moral and ethical complexities of life. All Christians are called to grow up, just like all babies are called to become adults.

FILTER THE WORLD

We cannot be passive thinkers. If you’re watching TV, don’t just sit there and let your brains ooze out your ears. The world is constantly preaching sermons to us. Every movie, song, book, blog, and political speech, is preaching a message to you, inviting you to come and believe. If you’re not careful, you’ll end up agreeing with the lies and miss the truth.

As you go throughout your day, you shouldn’t just let any old thought pass in and out of your head. You have to be vigilant and aware, constantly. We are most vulnerable when we are most aloof.

I hate to break it to you but you’re actually going to have to work at this. I know this is hard. Sometimes I just want to zone out and let my mind wander. My mind can run off so badly that I sometimes don’t even realize what’s going on around me (which really annoys my wife). When that happens, I just have to remind myself, if you didn’t want to think hard then you should’ve never allowed yourself to graduate kindergarten.

FILTER BIBLE TEACHINGS

Along that same note, Ephesians 4:13-14 says:

“Until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

Once again, it’s the spiritually immature who’s tossed to and fro by every kind of teaching they hear. They are helpless. My daughter Madeline is only ten weeks old, and her head is so big compared to the rest of her body that when she tries to sit up she just falls over. Imagine a baby like that in a sailboat, with waves tossing to and fro. Helpless. The baby is not in control, the ocean is.

It’s the same with a spiritually immature person. They hear something that sounds slightly spiritual and they think it’s so awesome and they put it up on Facebook. They think, Well a pastor said it, so it must be true!

Most Christians put down their guards when they hear vaguely spiritual language or they see the label “Christian.” It must be good because they mentioned God! This is why if you look at most of the best-selling books in Christian bookstores, they are written by authors who are peddling false teachings. And the Christians gobble them up like they’re Olive Garden breadsticks.

Don’t take in anything blindly. I don’t care if it’s a sermon, a song, or a book endorsed by Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. It may make you feel good, but is it true? Search the Scriptures.

In Acts 17, Luke writes about the Bereans and their reactions to Paul’s teachings about Jesus. Instead of just accepting his word blindly, they searched the Scriptures to see if such things could be true. Luke says that they were more noble than the Thessalonians for their diligence.

I can’t do the thinking for you. Mark Driscoll, John Piper, or Tim Keller can’t do the thinking for you. You are free, no encouraged, to check everything we say with the Scriptures. You don’t have to agree everything said or written. If you’re confused or don’t understand, that’s okay. Search for the truth.

FILTER YOUR EXPERIENCES

Don’t even interpret your own experiences with a passive mind.

You may think that a certain worship experience was so mind-melting and heart-stopping, but 1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

If it does not coincide with Scripture and if it does not affirm Christ, then I don’t care if it gave you the biggest spiritual high you’ve ever experienced. False teachers don’t come from outside the church but inside, and they are deceiving many.

As I’ve written earlier  spiritual highs and experiences are not unique to Christianity. You can get the same high at a Coldplay concert. What’s unique to Christianity is the truth of the Gospel. Stick with that.

FILTER WITH QUESTIONS

You may say, but I’m not a theologian. I don’t think I am able to filter all this. What’s the point?

Everyone is a theologian. Theology literally means “words about God.” Everyone has some sort of idea about God, even atheists.

Everyone is a theologian. The question is whether or not you are a good one. A good one searches for the truth—for how God wants to be represented.

I want to encourage you to ask questions. When someone comes your way, don’t accept it blindly. Also, don’t reject it right away. Ask questions. Is this true? What does the Bible say about this? Are there actual verses (taken in context, of course) that would support this?

I don’t necessarily think questioning is a bad thing. Questions are good and fine if you have the right attitude. The best place to ask a serious question or voice a doubt should be church (sadly it’s often not). Where questions can go wrong is where you don’t like the answer you find in Scripture, so you go looking for something else to tickle your ears. That shows you are not concerned with the truth but with yourself.

The mark of a Christian is that they will uphold and defend the truth. 1 Timothy 3 calls the church the “pillar of the truth.” If we don’t stand for the truth of the Gospel, that Jesus is God who became a man to save sinners like you and me, that He died on a cross to take the punishment we deserved, and that He rose again to give us new life if we trust in His work, then no one will stand for it.

Let’s take back our minds and use them for Christ.

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Blockbuster Sermons

anchorman-2-sequel-image-will-ferrellMovies and sermons have always had an awkward marriage. Preachers want to look cool, but they also want to help people—and they also want to look cool.

What’s cooler and more helpful than a movie? I’ll tell you: a preacher who knows about movies.

Back in the day, “Braveheart” was co-opted by many a preacher as a picture of heroism, masculinity, and sacrifice. “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises” are heralded as a parable of the cosmic battle between good and evil. And recently “Man of Steel,” starring Superman as the Christ-figure, garnered its own sermon notes from Warner Bros, aptly titled, “Jesus: The Original Superhero.” Some churches have even created multiple sermon series based off popular Hollywood films.

With a slew of big blockbusters heading our way this year, I thought I’d get a jump on it and help all the preachers gain relevancy capital by lending them a few mind-blowing sermon ideas for upcoming movies.

The Wolverine
Plot*: Wolverine makes a voyage to modern-day Japan, where he encounters an enemy from his past that will impact on his future.
Sermon: Samson, Wolverine without claws and better hair.

jOBS
Plot: The story of Steve Jobs’ ascension from college dropout into one of the most revered creative entrepreneurs of the 20th century.
Sermon: iAM: How the existence of Apple is proof God loves us.

One Direction: This Is Us
Plot (Can you call it that?): Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry and Louis’ meteoric rise to fame, from their humble hometown beginnings and competing on the X-Factor, to world domination, and performing at London’s famed O2 Arena.
Sermon: Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young, undiscovered, and in a boy-band.

Paranormal Activity V
Plot: Some crazy “paranormal activity” gets caught on camera and everyone freaks out, again (these movies are legion).
Sermon: Exorcism 101. Special song by Demon Hunter.

Thor: The Dark World
Plot: When Jane Foster (Thor’s human lady-love) is targeted by the denizens of the dark world of Svartalfheim (don’t ask me to pronounce it for you), Thor sets out on a quest to protect her at all costs.
Sermon: The Hammer of God. Note to the preacher: The “hammer” can be customized to what your church needs to hear (hell, purity, vegan food—whatever you like).

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Plot: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem.
Sermon: Deborah, the original Mockingjay.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
Plot: The Dwarves, Bilbo, and Gandalf have successfully escaped the Misty Mountains, and Bilbo has gained the One Ring. They all continue their journey to get their gold back from the Dragon, Smaug.
Sermon: How to slay the dragons of life and take all the plunder for yourself (A 12 part series).

Anchorman: The Legend Continues
Plot: The continuing on-set adventures of San Diego’s top-rated newsman.
Sermon: As a dog returns to its vomit, so do producers with sequels.

This idea could make millions, not that it’s about the money. Don’t worry. It’ll all go towards a good cause: my petition to block Nicholas Cage’s “Left Behind” re-make.

*Plot summaries are somewhat from IMDB, peppered with my flair.