Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:12-14
The thing that worries me about Christianity is that some people don’t inquire of God themselves. They tend to let their pastors do that for them and blindly accept everything they hear from the pulpit. There obviously is no perfect church, no church has a completely correct interpretation of scripture because the lies and deception of sin occasionally creep in the Body. But that is where personal inquiry comes in. Each believer is subjected to the Sunday sermon and should take it very seriously. But taking a sermon seriously involves more than swallowing it the second you hear it. It involves discernment and research on your own part and time studying the Word.
And(A) he gave the(B) apostles, the prophets, the(C) evangelists, the(D) shepherds[a] and teachers,[b] 12(E) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for(F) building up(G) the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to(H) the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God,(I)to mature manhood,[c] to the measure of the stature of(J) the fullness of Christ, 14so that we may no longer be children,(K) tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in(L) deceitful schemes. 15Rather,(M) speaking the truth in love, we are to(N) grow up in every way into him who is(O) the head, into Christ –Ephesians 4:11-15
I love this passage from Ephesians because it describes in full the mission and purpose of pastoral ministry. Teaching and studying scripture is not just for the pastors, it is for the prophets, evangelists, the teachers, and the shepherds. Teachers and shepherds may sound like they mean the same thing, mainly pastors, but the way I see it, it has a double meaning. It surely does mean pastors and leaders, but every believer is a shepherd of his/her own soul by nature of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Hebrews 5:14 explains this well:
But solid food is for(A) the mature, for those who have their powers(B) of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
The writer of Hebrews is warning against apostasy in this verse and tells the Jewish believers that they need milk instead of solid food because their faith is wavering and they need to better understand the basics of the faith much like a baby needs milk in infancy. The solid food is reserved for those who can discern good from evil in teaching to guard their souls against false doctrine and apostasy. Therefore, we are called to be discerning for ourselves what we accept to be true and what is good or evil.
I’m not censuring acceptance of everything pastors say, but advocating a spirit of inquiry among the Body of Christ. The blind sheep approach to ministry is never a good idea and takes a great deal of discernment to each believer to determine what they personally believe. As long as a believer’s individual beliefs and convictions don’t compromise the essential truth of the Gospel, then why can’t we accept others beliefs? As long as you can say without conviction that “the Gospel… is of first importance” then, personal differences are fine. If we claim to have figured God out all the way and say we absolutely know everything about God, then we limit Him. Our God is infinite in all His attributes and our fallen human minds cannot fathom the characteristics of Almighty God.
Don’t limit God by blindly accepting everything you hear from the pulpit. Rather, prayerfully consider everything and study the Word with a spirit of discernment and love. Allow yourself to be led by the Holy Spirit to shape your own personal convictions and beliefs that allow you to experience God to the fullest extent and to fully experience the joy of salvation in this life while we eagerly await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ when everything will be laid bare and the truth of God proclaimed across the earth. Grace and Peace.