With the growth of subjective truth in our world, people are increasingly flimsy and temporary in their own personal beliefs and convictions. While our culture doesn’t see it is a bad thing, this line of thinking has only negative consequences. When our world says that truth is subjective, it is saying that there is no universal truth for all people. Therefore every individual is entitled to their own moral and ethical ideas, and every idea is equal to the idea of the next person, whether contradictory or not. This makes for many short-term, convenient, convictions that people make until they see fit to believe something else, whatever the next thing to believe may be.
For Christians, the standard of truth is the complete opposite. While our culture says that truth is subjective, God and His Word say that truth is certainly objective. This means that what we believe and the principles that govern how we live come from a fixed and authoritative source. Jesus himself lived as this source in His own life and gave the same credibility to the written Word of God, the Bible (Jn. 1:14, 14:6, 17:17). This means that as our world goes through a phase of viewing truth as subjective (which it teaches as an objective truth); it views the church as stubborn and a century behind the times. Segments of the church have fallen for this somewhat deceptive lie but only to their own regret. The call for the church remains unmoved; to stand firm in the truth of the Bible.
In order to stand grounded in God’s truth, one must know God’s truth. Proper doctrine is a necessity, not only for the spiritual health of an individual but also for the collective strength of the church. The need for right thinking and beliefs shouldn’t surprise any Christian, but what may puzzle believers is how to discern what is proper doctrine and what isn’t. How do we know if our beliefs and theology are correct? Can we ever know?
I believe that we can know with certainty whether our beliefs are correct or not. I also believe that this assurance and confirmation can only come through what is written in God’s Word, our authority of objective truth. Simply, everyone’s theology is shaped by their interpretation of what the Bible is and what it says. Proper doctrine comes from a proper interpretation of Scripture. To keep it short, one of the biggest principles for understanding what the Bible says is to look at the verse, chapter and book in question and try to understand the most likely intention that the original author had in mind for the original audience. Quite often this means taking Scripture exactly for what it is saying. Yet on passages that are less clear, it takes digging and studying to get a proper idea of what the writer was truly saying. Confidence in doctrine should spring from rightly and accurately handling the Word of God.
To have proper doctrine is only part of what it takes to be grounded in truth. To be grounded means to be firm and convinced in what you believe. In order for any believer to be healthy over a long period of time, they need to be secure and steady in what they believe, and many of the truths that first amazed them will continue to sustain them years down the road. The illustration for being “grounded” is unsurprisingly an agricultural picture. For any crop, plant or tree to be successful it must have strong roots in healthy soil. If the roots are sturdy and firm, then the stalk or trunk has a much greater chance of surviving and thriving. Furthermore, the nutrients in these roots will continue to feed the plant, just as truth continually feeds Christians. The apostle Paul uses another analogy to display this same truth. In writing to the Ephesians, he urges them to be strong in truth.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Ephesians 4:11-15
The parallel Paul used was not to a tree but to a ship, yet the concept remains unchanged. Rather than having roots, a sturdy ship would have a ballast to keep it from capsizing. These ballasts were made of nothing great; they were simply heavy weights, sometimes rocks, which were placed as far down in the ship as possible. The ballast would stabilize the ship to face fierce winds and waves and also helped it to sail straight and on course better than if the ship had no ballast at all.
In having a desire for truth, and confidence in that truth, we also need to have humility. This requires us to honestly look at what the Bible says, and be open to its correction. If it reveals a truth that we hadn’t previously thought of or a truth that changes what we previously believed, we must accept the fact that we do not know all truth. We need this humility before God and before people.
It should also be noted that the Bible does not give us objective, direct and clear instructions for every specific detail of life. There will be situations when we don’t know what to do in light of what the Bible says. God’s Words does not turn every circumstance of life either black or white, this leaves us with the proverbial “grey areas.” Since God’s Word is sufficient, these grey areas only effect beliefs and decisions that are beyond what is primary and secondary in the Christian faith. The Bible does give believers sufficient direction in what to believe and how to live in all of the critical areas. This direction in the big things impacts everything else we do and believe. In less critical matters there will be decisions made based on conscience, prayer, and the principles that we gain from what the Bible does clearly say. The Bible doesn’t dictate truth for every precise detail of life, but it does give objective principles to help navigate our thinking and our actions when these situations do arise.
Being grounded in truth is essential for every believer, but yet sometimes it is easily overlooked. While many have stood firm in truth in the history of the church, many others have been either grounded in error or flimsy in truth. The call is for every believer to be truth-filled, not just those who preach or teach. God’s Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit are timeless, therefore our beliefs do not need to shift with the unsettled world around us. If you think back to one year ago, five years ago, and ten years ago; do you believe the same thing as you did then? Obviously, we continue to grow and learn, but in bigger areas of doctrine, has there been change? If so, that means that either you have not been grounded or you were lacking in your knowledge of biblical truth. Learn from what the past years tell you, and embrace the call to be like a steady ship in treacherous waters.