There once was an old farmer who found an eagle’s egg and placed it in the nest of a chicken. Eventually the eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up right along with them. The eagle, thinking he was a chicken, did just exactly what the chickens did. He clucked and cackled. He flew in only a brief thrashing of wings and flurry of feathers no more than a few feet off the ground. After all, that’s how chickens were supposed to fly. He never knew what it was to taste the healthy, nourishing and satisfying kill of a duck, rabbit or a fresh salmon. Instead he scratched in the dirt for seeds and insects to eat. Naturally he was a bit thin and considerably malnourished. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird soaring far above him in the cloudless sky. Hanging with graceful majesty on the powerful cloudless sky, it soared with scarcely a beat of its strong healthy wings. “What a magnificent bird!” said the eagle. “What is it?” “Why, that’s an eagle – the king of the birds,” a chicken clucked. “But don’t give it a second thought. You could never be like him.” So the eagle never gave it another thought. And he died thinking he was a chicken.
How sad is it that there are many people just like that eagle. People who never really reach their full potential or purpose in life because of the negative environments that surround them. Brilliant children who truly believe that they are stupid and destined to fail because of the hurtful, insulting and damaging remarks of unwise parents. People who never dare to dream or achieve anything just because of the small thinking of nay-sayers that compass them daily. People who plan the course of their lives only according to the patterns of their immediate environments. What a vicious and dismal cycle of hopelessness that is created when people only believe what they are told to believe.
It is even more tragic in a spiritual parallel when we consider the untold thousands of souls who routinely believe whatever they are told. People who never take the time to inform themselves in detail of what Jesus and the apostles actually said.
The problem we observed in the previous chapter was essentially a lack of faith in God’s Word. The problem we’ll now observe is essentially centered on a lack of knowledge of God’s Word. An ignorance of what the Bible actually has to say about a few things. President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “Poverty has many roots, but the tap root is ignorance.” God put it this way:
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).
Notice a certain prophecy that was written some two thousand years ago that is now being fulfilled today:
For the time will come when they shall not endure sounds doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (II Timothy 4:3-4).
Obviously the Apostle Paul foresaw a day when “Christians” would not endure (remain with) sound doctrine. In other words they wouldn’t stick with the original doctrine. He foresaw a day when the teachings of the apostles would be mentally set aside in favor of “new and improved” teachings. The Apostle Peter also foresaw this coming trend:
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you and many shall follow their pernicious ways by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of (II Peter 2:1-2).
Peter foresaw a day when the truth would actually be called evil by certain teachers. While claiming to be Christians they would still have the bold audacity to teach and speak things that diametrically oppose the things that the apostles taught. By doing this they would in reality be denying Jesus Himself. Then they would go so far as to label the way of truth as evil. And not just a few but many would follow their foolish and destructive ways. The apostles foresaw a day when innumerable masses of individuals would be misled by the teachings of men. When people would be spiritually ruined through a lack of knowledge. This is a problem that we’ll just call “Doctrinal Malnutrition.”
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee (I Timothy 4:16).
Now this kind of teaching can also be referred to as “feeding” the flock of God.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grevious wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock (Acts 20:28-29).
The ministry is commanded to “feed” and nourish the flock of God (church). A continual application and adherence to the apostles’ doctrine is mandatory for a church’s spiritual heath and safety. Again, it is the only remedy to counter Doctrinal Malnutrition. Notice this event in the ministry of Jesus recorded in the Book of Mark:
In those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them come from far (Mark 8:1-3).
If Jesus was moved with compassion to see a crowd of people who were physically hungry, how much more concerned is He today to see people who are spiritually hungry? People who are doctrinally malnourished and underfed?
In I Peter 2:2 the Apostle Peter tells us to “desire the sincere milk of the word.” The Word of God is likened to a literal, healthy source of nourishment and strength. That word “sincere” means “pure,” “genuine” or “unmixed.” If one wishes to be spiritually strong, stable, mature and complete then one needs to feed upon the pure and first teachings of Jesus and His apostles. One doesn’t need the mixtures, dilutions and alterations of other men that have gradually infiltrated Christianity through the years. I am firmly convinced that there are thousands of souls sitting on pews across America spiritually undernourished and dying because of Doctrinal Malnutrition. Some precious and soul-saving promises that were once adamantly embraced and endorsed by the original founder(s) of Christianity have now been reduced to the status of secondary options and irrelevant rhetoric. I am also convinced that many good-hearted “Christians” are simply unaware of some of the primary and core commands of Christ and His apostles. It seems that Christianity today has gradually evolved into something that it was not at the beginning. It has in fact become infiltrated with so many different voices, ideas and philosophies that it is becoming ever more difficult for people to really know what to believe or which way to go. But I have some very good news. We do not have to be left in a state of confusion and despair. Fortunately we are left with a tool, a “compass” of sorts. We have been given a fool-proof method to help us distinguish between what is really true and what is not. And it’s quite simple to use:
We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (I John 4:6).
This is how to discern between truth and error: If any person tells you to ignore any teaching or commandment of the apostles, they are not of God. Period. It’s that simple. Now I know that this passage of scripture (I John4:6) isn’t very popular or well-known by many. But personally I think it would be a very good idea for us to commit this scripture to memory and lodge it deep within our hearts in order for it to serve as a constant compass or guide to assist us in moments of questioning.
I remember hearing the story of a scuba diver who became disoriented far beneath the surface of the sea. He suddenly noticed that the bubbles from his breathing apparatus were heading downward instead of up. Now he knew in his mind and because of his training that the bubbles always go upwards to the surface of the water. Now he didn’t feel disoriented at all. In his mind he believed that he need to go in the opposite direction of the bubbles in order to reach the surface. But he knew that couldn’t be right. So in spite of what he felt or what his mind perceived he began to follow the bubbles. The fear and sense of panic only increased as it seemed more and more that he was only going deeper in the wrong direction. But he forced himself to follow the bubbles in spite of his feelings. Suddenly he emerged safely at the surface of the water. Just as these bubbles led this man to natural safety, so will the words of Jesus and the apostles lead us to spiritual safety. Regardless of what we may feel like or what the majority of everyone else is believing and doing, we’ve got to make up our minds we’re going to follow the words of Jesus and the apostles all the way through this sometimes disorienting event called “Life.”
One of our greatest concerns should be to discover after it’s too late that we’ve been spiritually deceived or misled. Even Jesus and the apostles warned us to do all we can to avoid spiritual deception:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15).
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ (Colossians 2:8).
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction (II Peter 2:1).
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (I John 4:1).
Since spiritual deception is an awful and very real possibility it is ever so important that we consistently pray and endeavor to never become deceived or misled by any false way. There is nothing at all wrong with praying that way. We should regularly pray that we would always love truth, believe truth and obey truth. Now, call me crazy if you want to, but I have come to the conclusion that the safest and wisest thing to do is just stick with the original words and teachings of Jesus and the apostles no matter how unpopular they may ever become in society or among modern, twenty-first century Christianity. Let God be true but every man a liar (Romans 3:4).
Now let’s get ready for an excavation. An unearthing of sorts. Not an excavation in search of mineral wealth, but an excavation of Divine Truths. You see, far beneath all off the layers of unscriptural cliches, man-made traditions, partial truths and blatant lies there is vault. A vault of truth. And it is our privilege and responsibility to plummet the depths of this man-made quagmire, seize the treasure and plunder the “jewels” contained within. And who knows? You may discover some “nuggets” of truth that you never even knew existed!
The above article, “Doctrinal Malnutrition,” is written by Darin Bowler. The article was excerpted from the second chapter of Bowler’s book, The Intolerant Christ.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.