These are incredibly exciting days to be living in, and they are also times of great challenge. One of the things I find exciting is the amount and scope of revelation that God is releasing to the Body of Christ. A challenge I’ve seen that accompanies that revelation is to know how to evaluate and process what you are hearing and seeing.
In part 1 of this blog I want to focus specifically on how we process teaching and revelation for ourselves, and in part 2 how we process it with others in the Body of Christ - in a way that maintains and builds unity among us.
Judgement vs Evaluation
What should be our attitude to things being taught that we are hearing for the first time?
In pondering this myself, I believe that we need to recognize the difference between being 'judgmental' and being 'evaluative'.
We are told in Scripture to avoid being judgemental.
Rom 14:10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. 13 Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother's way.
1 Cor 4:5 Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men's hearts; and then each man's praise will come to him from God.
“God is not asking us to be gullible and to automatically accept everything that we hear. We must develop the ability to be evaluative.”
While we are told not to move in unrighteous judgment in our dealings with each other, it is important for us to understand that God is not asking us to be gullible and to automatically accept everything that we hear. We are told to test things that we are hearing; we must develop the ability to be evaluative.
1 Thes 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit; 20 do not despise prophetic utterances 21 But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good;
1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God;
So if you are to evaluate the things that you hear, what is to be the basis of your evaluation?
The basis for evaluation
One of the first and most important things to evaluate teaching by is the Word of God.
In saying that, however, there are some important things that we should be aware of.
1. All of the Bible is true, but not all truth is in the Bible.
The Bible does not contain all truth about life - there is nothing in there about motor vehicles, the law of gravity, radio or television. Jesus Himself said to the disciples... John 16:12 "I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 "But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.”
The Bible is not the sum of all truth about life; it is, however, a template of truth that God has given us to help us know Him, His character and nature, and His plan for us - a plumb line that we can line up alongside what we are hearing or seeing.
There are 3 broad categories of teaching or revelation that we can receive:
Biblical - ie the teaching or revelation is found in Scripture
a-Biblical - it is not specifically found in Scripture, but it does not contradict the principles of scripture or the truth about God, His character, His nature and His plan for us.
anti-Biblical - it does contradict the principles of Scripture or the truth about God, His character, nature and His plan for us.
2. We will only see in Scripture what is within our current theological understanding.
This means that some aspects of truth can be hidden in plain sight in Scripture and you still not see them. Have you ever had the experience of reading a scripture that you've read 50 times before, and then on the 51st time reading it you see something in it that you never saw before? That happens because God has just stretched your understanding and given you fresh revelation.
In order for you to evaluate teaching by the Word of God you must first evaluate whether or not the teaching is actually anti-Biblical. If it clearly is anti-Biblical, e.g. teaching that says that Jesus did not die for us, then it must be discarded.
It is here that the evaluation process becomes really interesting. Because of the fact that we will only see in Scripture what is within our current theological understanding, it is entirely possible for us to label a teaching that actually is found in Scripture as a-Biblical, simply because we haven't yet seen it in Scripture. Equally so, we could label it as anti-Biblical, because it conflicts with our current understanding of what Scripture teaches.
“In evaluating what you are hearing you do need to ask Holy Spirit for clarification and more revelation.”
In evaluating what you are hearing you do need to ask Holy Spirit for clarification and more revelation. It is really important for you to remember that Holy Spirit is your personal coach. You can ask Him questions like "Is this from You?", "Will You please give me more understanding about this?", "Will You please show me where it talks about this in Scripture?", "Is this something that You are wanting me to pursue right now?"
If the teaching is clearly opposed to the fundamental truth of what is revealed in Scripture, that should be easily recognised as such, and is anti-Biblical.
If the teaching conflicts with your current understanding of what Scripture teaches, then processing with Holy Spirit and with others in the Body of Christ should help you see if it's your understanding that needs to change, or if it's the teaching that needs to change.
If, after processing with Holy Spirit and others, you can't find the teaching mentioned in Scripture yet it doesn't conflict with what you understand Scripture to teach, then you can recognise it as a-Biblical teaching.
The Interesting Box
In my mind I have a rather large 'Interesting Box'. If there's something that I hear that I either don't understand, or don't agree with, I will mentally say, "That's interesting" and put it in the Interesting Box in my mind. I don't dismiss it straight away, but neither do I take it on board straight away. I let it stay there while I am processing with Holy Spirit and with others.
Differences of Perspective
I believe it is important that we recognise that whenever a person is teaching, they are sharing from their current understanding at that point in their journey. We all see as through a glass darkly - in other words, on our best day we are still looking at a partial picture.
Look at the picture above. Can you see how the shadow of the same object can be described as being either a circle or a rectangle, depending on which perspective you are viewing it from? No one has total revelation or all truth about anything. 5 years down the track, the person you are listening to may be more convinced of what they are now teaching, or they may be less convinced about it. Why? Because they've had further light or revelation since they taught what they're teaching now.
If in your current perspective you are looking at a partial picture, is it appropriate, then, for you to have firm convictions about what you believe? Yes, totally. But I believe that it is wise to hold those convictions lightly; we must still be open to further revelation on what we now understand. A most dangerous attitude for any of us to have is to think that we have all the light or revelation that we will ever need. We must always be open for God to stretch our understanding.
I will leave this here for now, I hope this has helped you, challenged you and encouraged you. In part 2 of this blog we will be talking about processing with each other, the importance of your own revelation, and more. I look forward to seeing you there!
Rob ministers powerfully in the areas of teaching and worship. He is an author and a widely respected mentor of many worship leaders and teams in New Zealand. He is also a well-respected song-writer and worship leader and has produced many ministry resources over the years, including books, worship and soaking CD’s , DVD’s and training manuals.
Rob and his wife Lyn have now been part of the Living Waters family for just under 2 years. And we are privileged to have them among our church family.