This past Sunday we heard a wonderful message from Pastor Kevin Maloney on Doctrine.  As one of the leaders in our church I couldn’t be happier with the job he did.  Pastor Kevin took a topic that is often controversial in our church culture and he made it understandable and applicable.  When our community group in Lima got together on Monday to discuss this topic I realized something:  Christ has entrusted to believers His true, pure Gospel knowing in full that we will sometimes not understand it, and maybe even distort it when we preach or teach.  I was blown away by that thought and in that moment I prayed that the Holy Spirit would keep the Gospel true and pure in our hearts.

When we read Paul’s letters we see that doctrine was incredibly important to him.  Paul was constantly traveling and risking his life hoping to win lives to Christ (I Cor 9:19). We constantly see Paul writing to the believers in the cities he had visited warning them not to turn to a, “different gospel” (Gal. 1:6).  The reason doctrine was so important to Paul is because our doctrine represents what we believe and teach about Jesus.  Our doctrine is the truth we live our lives by and as Pastor Kevin pointed out directly effects our behavior as Christians.

Titus is an incredible little book in our Bibles.  I want to draw your attention to a few key thoughts here. Paul begins the letter, “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” (Titus 1:1).  Isn’t this incredible?!  Paul’s entire ministry was to serve Christ by building up the faith of other Christians, making sure they know and understand the truth.  I thank God for Paul’s letters because they still serve this purpose today.

Titus 2 begins with the heading “Teach Sound Doctrine.”  Paul writes to Titus, “…teach what accords with sound doctrine.  Older men are to be…older women likewise…train younger women…urge the younger men…” (vs 1-8).  Paul is talking about behavior and conduct and makes a direct connection between doctrine and behavior.  We need to see that what we believe about Christ and the teaching we subject ourselves to directly effects the way we live.  I do not have time to cover that whole section in Titus 2 now, but please read Titus 2 on your own.

Pastor Kevin pointed out that doctrine is simply translated “teaching.”  Whether we know it or not we have all experienced bad doctrine.  As we discussed this in our group I found we were all willing to throw these bad teachers under the bus (figuratively of course).  The Bible tells us that teachers will be judged with “greater strictness” (James 3:1).  We need to treat false teachers as Paul did in Galatians 5 because their teaching sometimes devours the precious faith of fellow believers and causes them to stumble.  I feel honored that Jesus has called each of us to be His “Junior Shepherds” if you will.  We need to keep the wolves away from our sheep, but I want us to be careful not to treat the sheep as wolves.

George Whitefield was a great theologian and teacher.  So was John Wesley.  Unfortunately these two had some disagreements.  At one point Wesley taught his audiences not to associate with Whitefield and to plug their ears if he tried to speak to them.  Today we can study Whitefield’s teaching and see that he, for the most part, taught and protected the truths of the Gospel.  I say “for the most part” because Jesus is the only true and perfect theologian and teacher.  What was Whitefield’s response to Wesley?  “I will love all those who love Christ.”

I pray that God would give us balance. I, along with Derek and Mark, desperately want you all to know the true Gospel purely, undefiled by any other teaching.  We want you to defend it well and expose false teaching.  But let us not harm fellow believers just because they did not phrase something the right way.  Let us be patient with other sheep that are in the process of learning sound doctrine.  Let us lovingly challenge each other with the truth of the Gospel.  For Paul writes in Titus 3, “to speak evil of no one…

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by other and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (vs. 2-5).

You see, doctrinal disputes are sometimes just prideful arguments.  Paul, whose ministry was to protect the truth of the Gospel, writes these words encouraging us in humility and love towards one another.  In that love we should challenge one another with the truth of the Gospel and defend against any and all false teaching.
Wherever you come from and whatever background you have I hope that this week’s focus on doctrine at GraceLife has helped you.  As a church family we need to understand and teach sound doctrine.  If you would like to hear Pastor Kevin’s message again it will be available for download on the website.  As we move on in our teaching series to other marks of a healthy church maintain that heart to encourage and build up fellow believers in the truth of the Gospel.  I pray that the Holy Spirit will establish and protect that true and pure Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ in all of us.

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own” (Titus 2:11-14).

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