From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 1 – What it means to be a disciple and how Christian character is formed
When we become a Christian and set out on our life as a disciple we suddenly acquire a wide package of duties and responsibilities. It is as if we had joined the Army and become subject to military law and regulations. By that I do not mean that we should operate in a disciplined way and study diligently in order to be saved. We are to do so because we have been saved. In other words, we are not justified as a result of our works. We are called upon to do good works as a consequence of our having already been justified.
So, from the moment of conversion onwards, our greatest duty, and need, is to learn to understand and obey God’s written Word, the Bible. The true extent of your love for Him and your devotion to Him is shown by your devotion to reading, learning and abiding by the Bible. You do not love Jesus one gram more than you love and obey His Word. And you do not know Him any more than you know His Word. There is no use pretending otherwise. The Bible makes this very clear:
21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” 22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24 Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.John 14: 21-24 (ESV)
14 You are my friends if you do what I command you.John 15: 14 (ESV)
3 And by this we may be sure that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 He who says “I know him” but disobeys his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly love for God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: 6 he who says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.1 John 2:3-6 (RSV)
8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.Joshua 1:8 (ESV)
We are commanded to be obedient to Jesus and that means knowing and obeying His written Word. But how can we possibly do that unless we study it carefully? There is no other way. Therefore we are meant to become firmly rooted in the faith by knowing and obeying the whole Bible. That is also how we will avoid being led astray by false teaching and false prophets, of whom there are very many, especially in our own day:
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.Colossians 2:6-8 (NASB)
It is your duty therefore to obey all of Jesus’ commands, including those given to us via the prophets and apostles, because every one of those was writing under God’s instruction and guidance. Therefore, what they said is what God was saying. You are also responsible for making sure that you are not deceived by false doctrines. As Paul says above, we are to “see to it”. You might perhaps imagine that Jesus would hold us blameless if we are deceived by false teachers. But that is not necessarily so, because proper diligence on our part is able to prevent us from being deceived in the first place. Any person who sincerely and diligently studies God’s Word will not be led astray.
At any rate, even if they are deceived for a while, it will not be permanent, because diligent study of God’s Word will eventually identify and correct the error. But that will only be the case if you are devoted to the Word of God itself, rather than to your own favourite teacher or denomination. However good they may be, they are not authoritative and they can never be relied on. Only God’s written Word is totally reliable. Everyone and everything else is flawed, or potentially flawed. They can all lead you astray if you follow them and rely on them, rather than on what the Bible says.
Therefore, as Paul says, you must “see to it” that you know the whole Bible really well, so that nobody is capable of deceiving you, or at least not for long. Be like the people of Berea who checked everything that any teacher told them by looking to see whether it was in the Scriptures. They did so even if that teacher was Apostle Paul.
By contrast, there have always been, and still are, many people who don’t want to hear the real truth of what the Bible says. Such people prefer a pleasant, easy, reassuring message. They automatically reject anything which sounds critical of their lifestyles, or which calls upon them to repent. They prefer to believe comforting lies rather than an uncomfortable truth. Isaiah spoke of such people:
9 For they are a rebellious people,Isaiah 30:9-14 (RSV)
sons who will not hear
the instruction of the Lord;
10 who say to the seers, “See not”;
and to the prophets, “Prophesy not to us what is right;
speak to us smooth things,
11 leave the way, turn aside from the path,
let us hear no more of the Holy One of Israel.”
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel,
“Because you despise this word,
and trust in oppression and perverseness,
and rely on them;
13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you
like a break in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse,
whose crash comes suddenly, in an instant;
14 and its breaking is like that of a potter’s vessel
which is smashed so ruthlessly
that among its fragments not a sherd is found
with which to take fire from the hearth,
or to dip up water out of the cistern.”