I was in line at Starbucks the other day and ordered my standard latte that has a whole lot more milk, syrup, and whipped cream than it does coffee. I walked over to add some sugar to the already overly-sweetened drink, when I noticed they were temporarily out of sugar. #firstworldproblems
I looked for an alternative, but the options weren't that great. Instead of "real" sugar, there was Sweet 'N Low, Spenda, Truvia, and Equal. These aren't truly sugar, but are "substitutes". They mimic the "real" thing, but the differences are subtle enough to be absolutely (and sometimes diametrically) different. I wonder if we can apply this same idea to the teaching of God's Word.
Paul said in Titus 2:1: “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”
Why did he say that? Because in chapter 1 of Titus, the Apostle Paul reveals that there are many who are teaching something that is NOT in accordance with sound doctrine. He said:
10For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach.
I confess I'm a little shocked that Paul says "MANY" are teaching what they ought not to teach, because today it's no different. There’s a few things that indeed are substitutes, replacements, of good teaching. Here's 4:
1. Current Thinking
This causes you to stay “relevant” and entertain rather than proclaim the glory of God. If all a pastor/teacher is doing is sharing their opinion based on man’s wisdom then they really have nothing to say. But if instead we focus on the unchanging truths of God’s Word, which doesn’t return void, we always have the opportunity to be impacted and moved because God’s word is living and active.
2. Therapeutic Deism
This gives great “advice” that can be packaged as "Christian" but one will never learn the truth of the Scriptures, just someone’s counsel. Sermons begin to sound like magazine article titles at the checkout line: "5 ways to love your neighbor", "3 ways to stop being angry", etc. It isn't much different than "4 ways to be a better pet owner". And the worst part is that you can apply the advice to any religion or worldview. It is just therapy that you can insert into any religious belief or practice. It doesn’t need a suffering Servant on a cross, just good ideas, like the church is Pinterest. "Oh wow, that’s cute, let’s repost that."
3. Easy Belief-ism
This is the erroneous idea that Jesus is merely your Savior, so trust in Him and do whatever you want. But the Gospel isn't that Jesus is merely our Savior; the Gospel is that Jesus is Lord. We need to stop praying Jesus "into our hearts" and begin calling people to take up their cross, follow Him, and die to themselves (Luke 9:23). Jesus actually told us to do this daily.
4. Temporal Blessings
Sadly many people emphasize living for today without a regard to eternity. There's no talk about suffering or reward, just prosperity and ambition, success and happiness. I'm hard-pressed to read the New Testament clearly with this mindset without tip-toeing or flatly ignoring large passages including the book of Acts!
In the end, we must teach what accords with sound doctrine. That can't happen without a slow, methodical journey through all of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation. I'm so blessed to be a pastor of a church that models this and a movement that is known for it. May we "preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; 4and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. 5But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (2 Tim 4:2-6)
-Pastor Pilgrim Benham