Tag Archives: Truth

Getting to the Truth — The Holy Spirit and You (Part 1)

But when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth  — John 16:13

I love John, Chapters 14 and 16, where Jesus tells us about the Holy Spirit, Who has now come to live in the heart of every believer. In Old Testament times, the prophets experienced the indwelling of the Spirit (1 Peter 1:11), but the rest of God’s people did not. They depended on the prophets to give them the Word of the Lord. How different it is today, when every believer can hear God personally and sense His Presence within. What a blessing!

The Spirit is our ever-present friend, comforter, guide, and teacher. He continually points us to Jesus. We can come to know Him even more deeply through the Baptism in the Spirit, which is not an end in itself, but an entrance into a satisfying adventure of intimate fellowship and partnership with Him.

I so appreciate knowing Him as the Spirit of Truth. I frequently pray that He will expose portions of my thinking which are not in alignment with truth. I pray this often for my loved ones as well — especially if I see areas of their thinking, speaking, or actions which don’t line up with God’s heart.

It could be a self image issue which needs to change — because, unfortunately, we tend to believe negative things about ourselves due to past hurts, unkind words which have been spoken to us, or lies that spirits of darkness have injected into our minds. It could be a perception of God’s nature which needs to change (again because people say wrong things which take root, or because the devil whispers slanderous thoughts to us about the Lord). Often, deception enters in through all the stuff we encounter in everyday life in a sinful, God-opposed world.

Sometimes the Spirit needs to correct doctrinal error in us — teachings which are generally believed and taken for granted within our particular church circles. We have a habit of passing around various ideas which become accepted over time because we hear them so often. If a prominent pastor or teacher says something, pretty soon other pastors and teachers are also saying the same thing. After we hear the same idea from several different sources, we start believing it as gospel truth. Sometimes it isn’t, and it takes the Holy Spirit ministering His truth to us to reveal that and reorder our thinking.

Generally, He guides us away from error and into truth by making a particular Bible verse stand out to us. Suddenly, the light bulb goes on that the Bible doesn’t really say what we were told for so many years that it said!

He may also use a solid Bible teacher to point out truths we had never seen in the Word before — but it is up to us to be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11. They received the apostles’ teaching eagerly, but also searched the Scriptures to make sure what they were being told was really so!

The Spirit also guides us into truth by prompting us in our spirit that some idea we’ve been harboring isn’t quite right. He may cause us to feel uneasy about something we hear said. We must listen to these subtle warnings and not dismiss them just because our rational minds can’t identify any problem. The Spirit knows what we cannot discern through our natural senses.

The Holy Spirit’s work of bringing us into truth is a lifelong process. We rise to ever-greater truth as we fellowship with Him in prayer and the Scriptures, until that day when we are with the Lord and all darkness is purged from us. The Spirit is continually cleaning up error in us and enlightening us to real truth. Deception comes off in layers. Sometimes we inadvertently allow new layers of it to become attached to us, so He patiently removes those as well.

I believe one of the best ways we can accelerate the work of truth in our lives is by actively inviting the Spirit of Truth to guide us into all truth. James 4:2 tells us, “You have not, because you ask not” — so let’s ask! Then we stay open-hearted to Him and let Him do what we’ve invited Him to do.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). All thanks and praise to Him for sending the precious Holy Spirit to us, so that we can experience the reality of this promise!

Do you have thoughts or a testimony on how the Spirit is guiding you into all truth? Perhaps you would like to share by leaving a comment.

understanding Holy Spirit


For more on the work of the Holy Spirit, see Lee Ann’s book, Before Whom We Stand: The Everyman’s Guide to the Nature of God.


The Season of Sifting (Part 2)

sifterIn 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 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.

Holding the Line on Truth (Part 6)

In this post, we’re going to touch on a few popular erroneous teachings to beware of. But before we do that, I’d like to review one last time the three steps to staying clear of deception:

Step #1 — Read the Bible cover to cover, over and over.
Step #2 — Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit.
Step #3 — Know, and hold fast to, the core doctrines of the Christian faith.

Now, on to the yucky stuff! Watch out for:

“Christian” Universalism — Teaches that because Jesus died for all people, everyone gets to go to heaven. It takes various forms. Some say that as long as you are sincere in what you believe, you’re eligible for heaven (the “all roads lead to God” theory). Some universalist teachers deny there is a hell. Some say that there is a hell, but that wicked people go there long enough to burn off their sins and then get out (sort of an evangelical version of purgatory). Some say even the devil will be forgiven and eventually be restored to heaven. Ewww!!!

Gnosticism — This was the main heresy that the New Testament apostles dealt with. Among other complicated notions, Gnostics believed that Jesus came spiritually, not in the flesh, and that therefore He did not bodily rise from the dead. Unfortunately, Gnosticism has never really died out, and is currently enjoying a tremendous comeback in popularity. A modern twist in some Christian circles says that Jesus will not physically return to earth, as promised in the Scriptures, but that His return will only be spiritual, as He manifests Himself perfectly through His Body, the Church, which will bring the earth into perfection for Him.

So-called grace (which is not) — Some are teaching that we no longer have to repent when we sin, intercessory prayer is unnecessary because Jesus’ finished work at the cross means every need is taken care of already, and we are free to indulge in sinful lifestyles, because Jesus paid the full price for past, present, and future sin. Both Paul and Jude had to deal with false grace teaching back in their day, and it is a problem yet today. Jude said, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness [lewdness] …” (Jude 4). 

Be careful not to conclude that all grace teaching is bad. Some, because of their dismay over the extremes preached by several so-called grace teachers, are bringing confusion to the Body of Christ by condemning the whole grace movement. I personally believe that God is raising up a fresh awareness of grace in His church, and there are genuine grace teachers out there. We need them! It’s just that we’ve got some wolves among the sheep, too. Study the epistles of Paul, the apostle who had the most detailed revelation of grace, and you will see that true grace understanding brings about a pure and holy lifestyle in God’s people. (And Paul, the grace teacher, speaks over and over of the need for intercessory prayer.) 

Preoccupation with angels — It is good to know about the angels’ function. The Word speaks much of them. But we must be careful not to exalt or overemphasize angels and visions of angels, rather than focusing on the Lord. Of course there is nothing wrong with having visions of angels. The New Testament  records many instances of angelic visitations, particularly those received by the apostles. But, if our services and conversation continually center around angels, angelic activity, and supernatural manifestations, or if teachings are circulating which are based solely on visions which prophets claim to have had, something is off-kilter. Colossians 2:18 (NIV) warns us, “Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.”

Balancing our need to be careful of false teaching, we must also avoid the opposite extreme. Some once well-meaning believers, in the process of trying to warn about deviant teaching, have slipped into the terrible muck of becoming continual heresy hunters. Their focus has shifted from exalting the Lord of Truth to being accusers of the brethren — “exposing” many  preachers and teachers as heretics, who are not anything of the sort. In most cases, they willfully misunderstand what has been said and are disseminating misinformation about those whom they seek to tear down. The lack of grace and love in the heresy hunters is often worse than the occasional errant teaching of those whom they are attacking. Truly, most of the men and women coming under fire ARE anointed by God. They are God’s instruments to swing the Church back to a place of showing the world the power of God, they are loving and compassionate, and yes, they are real believers — NOT the apostate people they are accused of being.

Because errant teaching abounds today, wise Christians must continually, actively, ask the Spirit of Truth to teach and guard us in truth. As we do that, He will be faithful to help us stay on His straight and narrow path.

(This concludes this series.)

Holding the Line on Truth (Part 1)  
Previous: Part 5 

Holding the Line on Truth (Part 5)

merging trafficSo far, we’ve mentioned two simple, effective steps we can take to keep free of being deceived by wrong teaching:

Step #1 — Read the Bible cover to cover, over and over.
Step #2 — Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit.

Here is Step #3:

Know, and hold fast to, the core doctrines of the Christian faith. 

Some Scriptures are hard to understand, and the best of Bible scholars disagree on how to interpret them. Really, there are not multiple meanings. Scripture says what God meant it to say, but people still don’t always agree on what they think He was saying! 

However, some beliefs are non-negotiable — God’s eternally perfect nature; the deity of Christ; Jesus’ virgin birth; His perfect and complete atonement for our sins at the cross; salvation by grace, not works; Jesus’ bodily resurrection; our future bodily resurrection; and the physical return of Christ. There are others. If you are fuzzy on the core doctrines of Christianity, a place to start educating yourself quickly is the Apostles’ Creed. Denominational statements of faith, while not always perfect, are usually based around core doctrine as well. But do go on to see what the Bible says for yourself. The basic teachings of the universal Church are repeated throughout the Scriptures, and are especially clarified in the New Testament.

Core doctrines were considered by the first apostles to be of the utmost importance. Paul exhorted his young protégée Timothy to teach the main beliefs of the faith: “And the things which you have heard of me among many witnesses, commit the same to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). John made a similar statement: “Let that therefore abide in you, which you have heard from the beginning. If that which you have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, you also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father” (1 John 2:24).

Paul further warned Timothy to beware of those who wished to teach “fables”: 

… Charge some that they teach no other doctrine, neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith. — 1 Timothy 1:3, 4 

But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself rather unto godliness. — 1 Timothy 4:7

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned to fables. — 2 Timothy 4:3, 4 

I rather think some of the teaching circulating today which draws on Jewish legend, apocryphal books, and extra-biblical phenomena could easily fall into this category of fables which bring more questions than edifying. 

Basic tenets of the Church since the days of the first apostles must never be subtracted from or added to. This is why belief in the “catching away” of the Church (commonly called “the Rapture”), revealed in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-58, must never be discarded, no matter who says otherwise. 

A repeated exhortation of the first apostles and Jesus Himself was to hold fast to sound doctrine: 

Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. — 1 Thessalonians 5:21 

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word or our epistle. — 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Hold fast the form of sound words, which you have heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. — 2 Timothy 1:13 

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for He Who promised is faithful. — Hebrews 10:23 

Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which you have, so that no man takes your crown. — Revelation 3:11 

If we will return to the basic teaching laid down by the original apostles of the New Testament Church, we can be confident of standing in truth. 

Next time, we’ll talk briefly about some current popular erroneous teaching.

Holding the Line on Truth (Part 1)  
Previous: Part 4 
Next: Part 6

Holding the Line on Truth (Part 4)

deafchildLast time, we said that there are three uncomplicated, effective steps to keeping free, or getting free, of erroneous teaching. The first step was to read the Bible cover to cover, over and over. Here is Step #2:

Learn to listen to the Holy Spirit.

As you set aside time to listen for His voice, you will become more adept at hearing His checks and promptings. You will develop the ability to discern moment-by-moment what is from Him and what is not. (However, Step #2, listening to the Spirit, is not going to work if you ignore Step #1, reading the Word — because the Bible is still the primary, infallible way that the Holy Spirit speaks to us. Reading the Bible familiarizes us with how the Lord’s voice sounds, too.) When something makes you uneasy, learn to ask Him, “Lord, why am I feeling uncomfortable?”

A consistent, passionate prayer of mine is that the Spirit of Truth would continually adjust my beliefs and the beliefs of my loved ones, so that we increasingly come into perfect alignment with His doctrinal truth. John 16:13 promises, “When He, the Spirit of Truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.” One of the Holy Spirit’s great ministries to the Church is found in John 14:26: “But the Comforter, Who is the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name, shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatever I have said to you.”

When we are troubled by a “new” teaching, if we will take the time to ask the Holy Spirit to show us in the Word whether it is true or not, He will be faithful to do that. Sometimes He will immediately bring a verse to mind that settles the issue for us. Sometimes He will do it over a period of months, during our regular course of Bible reading, drawing our attention to particular verses which answer our questions.

I’ve had it work both ways — God either revealing the truth of a teaching or the falseness of it. He has shown me verses that refuted certain teachings that troubled me. He has also revealed to me truth that I was resisting because it was contrary to incorrect teachings I had grown up with and had never questioned. The point is, if we ask Him to impart truth to us, He will be faithful to do so. However, many of us are secretly afraid of the truth He might reveal, so we never ask.

The two steps we’ve looked at thus far — continually staying in the Word and listening for the Spirit — will take you a long way toward keeping free of false teaching. In addition, the two work harmoniously together: we cannot accurately understand the counsel of God’s Word without the Spirit’s enlightenment, while measuring everything we are hearing from the Lord by the infallible written Word ensures that we do not hear incorrectly.

Isaiah 8:16-17, 19-20 addresses the importance of the Bible as a measuring stick to detect false teachers and also the importance of waiting on the Lord to hear Him speak to us:

Bind up the testimony, seal the law [the Word] among my disciples. And I will wait upon the LORD … and I will look for Him.

And when they shall say to you, “Seek to them that have familiar spirits, and to wizards which peep and mutter: shouldn’t a people seek to their God? For the living to the dead?

To the law and to the testimony [the Word]: if they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them

Next time, we will look at our final step for keeping free of false teaching.

Holding the Line on Truth (Part 1) 
Previous: Part 3 
Next: Part 5