In terms of your spiritual well being, having the truth is important but it is not enough. Truth must be applied in order for it to accomplish its work. Error in spiritual teaching is dangerous. Subtle error is more dangerous than gross error because it fools more people. It seems to me that misapplied truth is the most dangerous because of the large number of people who are being fooled. It’s not that the truth is applied in the wrong manner. It’s that truth is very often applied to the wrong people. Second Samuel chapter 12 gives a terrific example.
God sent Nathan to King David with a story. “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom,
And was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” (2 Samuel 12:1-4 NASU)
David heard a healthy dose of the truth and he responded just like most us. David became very angry and told Nathan that this rich man must make fourfold restitution but really he deserved to be executed. Nathan had a surprise for David; he shouted, “You are the man!” This is the deception that haunts most of us. We can repeatedly hear solid Biblical truth and somehow believe that it is always for someone else. We sit in church pews week after week somehow convinced that the wonderful Biblical message that is coming our way is just what the “other guy” needs to hear.
The pastor can be aware of an issue in the church and deliver a message of clear Biblical truth that ought to cut many of the hearers to the quick. Those same people can be in absolute agreement with the message, affirming what a wonderful truth it is, all the while totally missing the fact that this truth needs to be applied to them. These people will amen this truth and tell the pastor what a great message it was and how they enjoyed it. It is a tragic thing that the message misses its mark. Biblical truth ought to be applied by the hearer to his or her own life. Biblical truth is not given to you to apply to someone else’s life. Biblical truth, all of it, is for YOU. In case you have some doubt about who I mean, I am speaking of you and me. You and I are just as guilty as anyone else. Biblical truth is meant to radically change our lives. Biblical truth is not so that I can judge someone else. Biblical truth is so that I can judge me. That self-judging should be followed by repentance and a change in my behavior. Biblical truth is a terrible thing to waste. So the next time you sit in church hearing Biblical truth expounded, resist the urge to believe that it is meant for someone else. God will do a wonderful work in you.
Ellison is interim pastor at First Baptist of Horatio, Ark. Contact Pastor Ellison at firstname.lastname@example.org