We all love a good book, movie (Hallmark), quote, or inspirational saying (meme). I mean, who doesn’t! But think about it, can’t our love of those things be a little dangerous? I’m with you in hesitating to read further. I mean, what if it is something really challenging that calls me to change my perspective!? That’s hard stuff. I’m with you there, but I think you can press on, take on this challenge with me.
What is the danger of getting our advice, help, suggestions, encouragement, inspiration, understanding, etc. from secular sources or even Christians who write without scriptural grounding in their literature? Since we are constantly being bombarded by messages that shape and distort our thinking, without us realizing it, the danger is that we end up confused in our thinking, and adopt something that is not biblical, simply because it speaks to our flesh or our deceitful hearts:
We must be careful what we read or believe
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men.
2 Timothy 3:1-9
Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
The scripture is clear that the heart is deceitful above all things:
Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
“I the Lord search the heart
and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.”
The heart is the seat from which our words and actions spring:
But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”
We also know that we are called to put the flesh to the death:
So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
We are called to deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus:
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
I want you to be cautious of worldly sources of wisdom like self-help books, secular books alleged to inspire or encourage, even books by Christian authors which are not devotional (purposed to lead us in a clearer understanding of God and the Gospel) in nature:
Worldly wisdom and Godly wisdom is different
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1 John 2:15-17
One example of the previously mentioned category is “Girl, Wash Your Face!” by Rachel Hollis. Although the author claims to be a believer, and the book is published by a Christian publisher, the book is not designed for the primary purpose of bringing glory or focus to God. The primary purpose is for Rachel to communicate testimony of her life and how she pushed through difficult times. Do people find it helpful? Yes, inspiring even. The problem is the lack of biblical grounding for how she got through those difficult times to the point of bordering on communicating a self sufficiency view that we don’t find in scripture (we’ll talk about the important distinction between self denial and self rejection in a separate post - be patient!). You might say that isn’t a problem because this book is not a devotional… but shouldn’t that be more of a concern than a benefit? Why would we want to get wisdom and inspiration from a book that is not explicitly designed to create a deeper devotion to God and point us more toward the Gospel message as the encouragement for our life? Rachel may be a great author and awesome story teller, but I want you to be cautious about taking in wisdom just because we might be charmed by the whimsy or charisma of the stories being told, even if it is me telling the story with whimsy and charm (although I am pretty sure charm is not in my repertoire)
I WANT all of you to be encouraged, but I don’t want you to get your encouragement from me, or any other human being for that matter. I want the seat and foundation of your encouragement to be from the Lord and any encouragement from man to only be encouraging because it echoes what God has made clear to us in the scriptures:
Be encouraged that the scripture is letter from God, to you, to encourage you that He loves and cares for you.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
2 Tim. 3:14-17
Why? Because I WILL FAIL YOU (all of you know this from direct personal experience when you need encouragement and don’t always find it from me) as will every other human being that you come in contact with in this world. In fact, you will even fail yourself! It is a guarantee that every single human being and their wisdom will fail you, especially compared to the wisdom offered by God in His word (remember Jer. 17:5-6 from earlier in the post).
This is a call of caution to you, out of love, as you grow in your spiritual maturity and experience in this world. I want you to always be directed back to the Gospel and the words of God in the Bible. Be careful what you read, accept, practice, or preach. We all stumble in many ways:
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.
Because this is true, we must be cautious of ourselves and attentive to Jesus. We must stop preaching positive self talk and the power of positive thinking to ourselves and continuously preach the gospel to ourselves in order to keep our eyes on things above where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
(The link above is a good way to understand how to preach the Gospel to ourselves rather than simply making ourselves feel good by saying good things about ourselves from our own understanding. )
Is this an easy thing to do? NO! Is this an easy thing to accept? Definitely not! However, we are tasked with communicating the truth of scripture, and this is the truth. We can only discern the good and perfect will of God when our minds have been transformed and renewed by Christ, no other will do:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord!
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
Where does your help come from?
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Bible Verses Used
2 Timothy 3:1-9
1 John 2:15-17
2 Timothy 3:14-17