Christians have a duty to identify and avoid unbiblical doctrines and trends. Similarly, God commands us to identify and avoid false teachers. Obedience to these mandates should lead us into deep sorrow for people who fall prey to deceptive beliefs and practices. That same obedience should also challenge us to maintain our own purity of devotion to the Lord.
Often, however, Christians run the risk of distorting their own obedience into an idol. I can say that, regretfully because I’ve done it. I may, to be specific, have a calling to point out errors that permeate the visible church, but I periodically catch myself giving more attention to that task than I give to Christ Himself. As a result, I make myself guilty of the very sin I abhor in others.
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth— 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” ~~Romans 2:17-24 (ESV)
False doctrine obscures, distorts or calls into question the nature and work of God. In particular, it perverts Jesus Christ either by diverting attention away from Him or by challenging His authority. Therefore, I need to contend for the faith with the singular goal of honoring Him.
But I can become so engrossed in “discernment ministry” that I worship my discernment more than I worship the Lord Jesus Christ. At that point I commit almost the same sin as do the false teachers I purport to expose. I essentially forget about Him in my fascination with showing people all the false doctrines that keep them from worshiping Him correctly. I behave with the very hypocrisy that Paul addressed in Romans 2:17-24, don’t I?
I write about myself as an example, not to fulfill some cathartic need, but to encourage you to examine yourselves as I examine myself. You may not be called to “discernment ministry,” but God has called you to obedience in some area. That being the case, you could very easily focus on your task of obedience in a way that actually draws you into idolatry of your obedience. Believe me, it’s frighteningly easy to fall into that sin!
Thankfully, we serve a faithful and loving God Who sympathizes with our weaknesses. His Holy Spirit will always convict us when we idolize our own obedience and will graciously enable us to repent. He restores us to Himself so that we once again obey Him for His glory rather than ours.
So I don’t want to stop dealing with the various aberrations that evangelicals so eagerly embrace. But in so doing, I don’t want my vision so concentrated on correcting faulty theology that, like the Pharisees of His day, I lose sight of the very Lord I claim to love and worship. So I have to continually pull back from evaluating the various things that pollute evangelical culture by reminding myself of His worthiness to be praised.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. ~~Colossians 1:15-19 (ESV)
Jesus alone deserves my attention, precisely because of His preeminence, and I desire to remain faithful to Him. Certainly, honoring Him will include pointing out anything that deviates from Him, but pointing out those deviations must occur only for the purpose of glorifying Him.