You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:43-44)
The instruction “love your neighbor” is found in Leviticus 19:18, but “hate your enemy” is found nowhere in the Old Testament. Obviously someone was teaching it, because Jesus knew that people would have heard it taught. Perhaps someone assumed that if “love your neighbor” was a necessity, the opposite statement was true as well. And that’s how twisted teaching begins.
It’s easy to twist truth. Anytime we don’t remain attentive, we can make assumptions that aren’t truth. We’re surrounded by clashing messages, and those that have a little truth mixed with a lot of falsehoods are particularly dangerous. In order to cultivate truth growing in our lives, it must be firmly planted. We can get lazy among the busyness and not take the time and effort to dig deep. God’s Word is deep, and He longs for you to fully experience Him. Only knowing God’s truth helps you recognize what doesn’t fit in. It can sound good and look good—just good enough to fit in, but if God doesn’t fit it in, it doesn’t fit well and could be a distortion that leads to false teaching.
The truth of God’s Word is essential to ridding our lives of lies. God’s Word will not lie to us. We can twist it to make it sound like something it’s not, and we can ignore the truths we don’t want to hear or apply to our lives, but we can’t change truth. God reveals His absolute truth to us as we become familiar with Him. We live within the boundaries of God’s truth, even when we’re rebellious. God’s truth exists no matter what we do. In order to live by it, we must engage with God’s Word to intentionally seek familiarity, answers, and guidance. We have to be still enough to hear, patient enough to discern, and bold enough to obey. God will speak His truth into you. Are you listening?
God desires for you to listen, because He wants you to know Him. He wants you to purposefully walk through life. He wants you to reflect Him to others. He wants your life—your words, responses, and actions—to point others to Him. When you listen to God’s truths, you glorify God. As you fully accept God’s Word, you have the full assurance of God. You can’t help but to listen and obey, because the ever-deepening relationship you have with Him requires nothing less.
But you have to be familiar with His Word. That means reading, studying, and praying. There will always be more to learn. No matter how much time you spend in God’s Word, you will have moments of “When did God put that in here? How did I miss that?” God speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, serving as a highlighter for the teachings we need for each moment and season of our lives. We might not even recognize or understand why a particular verse stands out to us. We might not know what the application is, but God can still use it.
The only way not to know God’s Word is to not come in contact with it. You’re going to have some misunderstandings. You’ll sit under some twisted teachings, and you’ll pass some along. Be willing to continually yield. Ask questions. No one has all the answers (except God) so even when someone seems to know a lot more than you do, trust that God meets us each right where we are and takes us on a personalized journey. Just because your pastor studies and preaches God’s Word like a polished expert each week doesn’t mean God speaks to him and not you. Just because your small group leader studied Hebrew and Greek doesn’t mean he has the corner market on God’s revelation. God pours into each of us. Our understanding is limited, but His teaching ability isn’t.
Dear God, take away all the false teachings in my life. Highlight truth, not twisted truth, half-truths, or distorted truths. Convict me when I am about to pass along a twisted or misunderstood teaching. I don’t want to dishonor You by taking a small bit of truth and building onto it what you never intended to be added. I want Your truth and nothing but Your truth.