Here are nine ways to clearly explain to your church members why they need to learn doctrine.
1. Because knowing the truth about God helps me know God better.
“Listen carefully to wisdom; set your mind on understanding. Cry out for wisdom, and beg for understanding. Search for it like silver, and hunt for it like hidden treasure. Then you will understand respect for the Lord, and you will find that you know God” (Proverbs 2:2-5 NCV).
J. I. Packer once said, “We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place … for those who do not know about God.”
Living in this world without knowing God is like driving a car with the windows blacked out. It doesn’t matter how hard you step on the accelerator or what direction you steer, you keep running into things and you never get anywhere. If you’re going to get to know God, you have to know the truth about him. You cannot develop a relationship with God based on your guesses or wishes about what he is like. Relationships are built on the truth. You can’t know someone if you believe a lie about them.
2. Because knowledge is an essential foundation.
“Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction [doctrine] about washings [baptism] and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2 NAS).
We all build our lives on a foundation that guides the decisions we make and the direction we take.
But the only foundation that is strong enough to build on is knowledge of God. Just as you have to know your ABCs before you can read and write, you have to know the truth about G-O-D before you can live right.
The old phrase “ignorance is bliss” is not true! Ignorance can put us at risk. And ignorance of God’s truth is incredibly dangerous. Our joy is at stake. Our families are at risk. Our place in eternity is at risk.
3. Because doctrine feeds my soul.
“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following” (1 Timothy 4:6 NAS).
Have you ever gone on one of those liquid diets? What happens? In just a few days you would sell your firstborn child for a carrot?anything with some crunch to it. You hunger for solid food. That’s a sign of maturity; you need solid food to sustain you. Doctrine is solid food for our souls.
This nourishment of our souls is not automatic! We have to choose to eat this solid food. We have to chew for a while on some of the truths in the Bible in order to understand them. In Hebrews 5:12-14 we are warned very clearly that if we don’t decide to dig into God’s Word, we’ll remain baby Christians. Baby Christians are believers who always seem to have so many needs that they can never meet the needs of others.
You need solid food not only to keep growing in faith but also to sustain the spiritual life you already have. If you stop feeding on God’s Word, don’t think you’ll stay where you are. Without God’s Word, your spiritual life will weaken.
4. Because knowing the truth enables me to serve others.
“If you give these instructions to the believers, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, as you feed yourself spiritually on the words of faith and of the true teaching which you have followed” (1 Timothy 4:6 GNT).
Notice the order of the passage in 1 Timothy. First, you feed yourself, then you serve others by sharing with them what you have learned.
Would you like to encourage others? Look at Titus 1:9: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (NIV).
One of the keys to real encouragement is knowing the truth of God. Without God’s truth, your encouragement is just words?and that’s pretty weak encouragement.
Suppose a friend shows up on your doorstep one evening filled with discouragement over a tough situation at work?or maybe your friend is out of work. How are you going to provide comfort and encouragement? Invite your friend in to watch a video of Rocky? Make a banana split? Pat your friend on the back and say, “It’ll be okay?”
To which your friend probably would say, “How do you know it’ll be okay?” And that question pinpoints the difference between our saying that things will be okay and what God promises.
It’s entirely different to remind a friend that God says he will never fail us or forsake us?that’s encouragement your friend can bank on. Then you can make the banana split!
5. Because knowing the truth protects against error.
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:6–8 NIV).
Once you get rooted in God’s Word, it will be difficult for anyone to throw you off with a false doctrine.
Take cars, for example. In order to drive a car, you don’t have to know anything about an internal combustion engine. You just push the gas pedal and the car goes. Likewise, you don’t have to know all of the truths in the Bible to become a Christian. All you have to know and believe is that Jesus loves you, that he died for your sins and that he was resurrected to give you new life.
But let’s get back in your car. Let’s say you’re driving down the street and the car starts to make a horrible sound. You think the sound is coming from the engine but you’re not sure. Spotting an auto repair shop, you pull in and ask a mechanic what might be wrong.
The mechanic tells you, “You need to fill your gas tank with water. That will fix everything.” Obviously, at that point, even a little bit of knowledge about cars would be of great help to you.
The best way to protect yourself against errors of any kind is to know the truth. Agents at the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing are taught to recognize a counterfeit bill not by looking at counterfeits but by staring at new money eight hours a day, looking for flaws. Once you know the truth, you can spot a counterfeit every time.
6. Because how I think determines how I act.
“For as he thinks within himself, so he is” (Proverbs 23:7 NAS).
Beliefs determine behavior. Thoughts result in actions.
If you were sitting in front of me right now and I were to tell you that I had taped a $100 bill under your chair, you would almost certainly check the bottom of your chair. At least, if you believed me you would.
Let me stretch this illustration a little. We live in a world that tells us, “Here’s where to find the $100 bills.” So we spend our lives struggling to find fulfillment in our jobs or satisfaction in our vacations, and all we come up with is old bubble gum! The amazing thing is we often keep going back to the bottom of that chair again and again.
You’d think we’d have learned the first time, but our beliefs keep determining our actions.
You cannot change the way you act without changing the way you believe. God’s truth changes the way we act. It will change the way you parent. It will change the way you work and the way you handle your business. It will change the way you think about the future and the past. It will change you!
7. Because I am commanded to study the truth.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 NAS).
Knowing the truth enables you to better use the truth. Second Timothy 2:15 isn’t just for pastors; everyone is to learn how to accurately handle God’s Word. The Bible doesn’t tell us that all of us are to be teachers; that’s a gift some have and others do not. But the Bible does tell us that we are all responsible to know the truth for ourselves. We’re not to rely on just what others tell us. We are to study the truth for ourselves.
8. Because I am commanded to live the truth.
“I have been sent to bring faith to those God has chosen and to teach them to know the truth that shows them how to live godly lives” (Titus 1:1 NLT).
There are two important facts in Titus 1:1. First, to live the truth, you have to know the truth. Second, to know the truth, you must first learn the truth. You wouldn’t expect to pick up a trumpet and know how to play; you’d have to learn. It’s the same with God’s truth. You and I can’t keep God’s command to live the truth unless we take the time to learn the truth.
If we don’t give our hearts to learning the truth, we become like Sheila. Interviewed about her faith, she revealed the self-centered attitude that many struggle with. She said, “I believe in God, but I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheila-ism. Just my own little voice.”
That so-called faith might carry her a long way, but she has no idea what direction it will carry her! Depending on your spiritual instincts is not enough, not if you’ve never taken the time to learn the truth.
9. Because I am commanded to defend the truth.
“Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15 NAS).
The Bible demands that every one of us be ready and able to defend the truth of God’s Word. The Bible even tells us what attitude to have as we defend the truth.
A lot of people “DEFEND THE TRUTH!” in loud capital letters, with an overbearing and even angry attitude. The Bible tells us to be reverent toward God and to be gentle toward others as we defend the truth. You’ll discover that people who are confident about the truth, who have built a good foundation, are able to defend the truth with gentleness and a quiet reverence. It’s those who are unsure who have to yell the loudest.