In our last post, we talked about a season when God allows us to be sifted, so that our character can be tried and refined. There is another kind of sifting season — a prolonged time in our lives when we are the ones doing the sifting, with the help of the Holy Spirit.
In this season, we examine in detail traditions, beliefs, or teaching which we have accepted, but which may not actually be true. As we’ve traveled through life, all of us have been told things which sounded valid, and we consequently swallowed them without a lot of thought.
Sound-good teaching, which actually is not, regularly goes on within the secular education system. Thus, without thinking twice, many of us have accepted portions of evolutionism without realizing it. For instance, even if we wholeheartedly believe in creation as it is recorded in the Bible, we might find “millions of years ago” suddenly popping out of our mouths — and then we suddenly step back and think, “Wait a minute. That’s not right!”
This goes on just as much with church teaching as it does with secular ideas which blatantly oppose the Bible. The difference is that ingrained, incorrect “Christian” teaching is often a lot more subtle, and therefore not as easily detected — until the Holy Spirit puts His finger on it, and starts to reveal genuine truth. John 16:13 calls Him “the Spirit of truth,” and tells us that one of His functions is to guide us into all truth. He is continually attempting to adjust our theology, and He may do it in a variety of ways, including through the reading of the Word, by whispering questions into our thoughts, or via another believer.
In addition to the gradual adjusting of our beliefs, we might also find ourselves in a prolonged season of examining teaching we have always taken for granted to be true. This is a time when the Lord deliberately slows us down or even puts us on the sidelines, when it comes to whatever ministry function we serve in. He does so to give us time to look long and hard at where we’ve been, what we have come to believe, and to examine bit-by-bit which parts of our thinking need to be preserved and which parts need to be discarded. It is like a spiritual house cleaning.
During this season, genuine truth, after being scrutinized thoroughly, is reinforced, while non-truth is exposed and thrown out. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, dismantles pet theological strongholds which we may have been holding onto for a very long time. I am not speaking of the foundational beliefs to which the Church as a whole adheres. I am referring to ideas which do not line up with the Bible, but because we’ve heard them so often, perhaps from trusted preachers or teachers, we’ve just accepted them. These beliefs usually started out with a kernel of truth, but human if/then logic caused additional assumptions to be tacked on, and after a while we ended up with set-in-stone dogma which is twisted.
The good news is that we will come out of the sifting season stronger and purer in what we believe than we have ever been before. We may also find that the attitude with which we approach serving the Lord and people matures during the process. For these reasons, the season of sifting for the gold of truth is often preparation for what God wants us to be doing next.
So, take courage as you work your way through a sifting season. God won’t leave you in it forever. It may be your launch pad into a new level of fruitful living for the Lord.