Bible teachers and theologians generally talk about the lack of Bible knowledge among Christians today. There is clear evidence that supports this, as many Bible colleges have stopped giving Bible knowledge tests to incoming students (who were grew up attending church), assuming they have very little to no knowledge after years of increasingly poorer results on these tests. Usually when I talk with folks about this or a related subject, one of the most frequent responses I hear back, “But my pastor is a godly man and he knows the Word!” This always causes me to stop and pause. The question I want to ask, but often hold my tongue because I know it won’t do any good, is, “How do you know?” See, we are warned that as the days grower closer to Christ’s return, more and more folks will begin to lean towards “preachers” who tell them what they want to hear, rather than sharing from God’s Word:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. – 2 Timothy 4:3-4, NASB
I’m like anyone else and I like to hear when I’m doing things right, when things are going to be better, when the message is positive. We all like positive messages. However, the catch is our desire for a positive message should not outweigh our demand for the truth. The warning Paul was giving Timothy is there will be a time when within the Church folks will be more interested in hearing messages that make them feel good rather than listening to messages which clearly put forth God’s truth. The problem is made worse when folks inherently trust the person bringing the message but don’t have the knowledge to know that what the man or woman is saying does not match up with what the Bible teaches. Let me use an analogy to explain.
One time when I was schedule to go on a long flight, I happened to be sitting at a window where I could clearly see the mechanics working on or around one of the engines. I know a little more about aircraft engines now then when I took that flight, because I was a kid then. However, I still really don’t have much knowledge about aircraft engines. Sure, I’ve flown on quite a few planes, grew up as a Marine dependent with a dad who worked on military aircraft, spent four years in Air Force ROTC, graduated college with degrees in physics and mathematics, spent four more years in the US Air Force, and read some here and there, but I don’t know much about aircraft engines. That’s the truth. And if an aircraft mechanic said he fixed the issue and then went into detail about what he did, I wouldn’t have the slightest idea if he was telling the truth or not. I’ve been around aircraft all my life and I even have a close family member who has worked on aircraft. But that doesn’t make me knowledgeable about aircraft engines.
Similarly, without breaking out God’s Word and delving into it, we can’t know it, or at least we can’t know it well enough to tell when someone is “tickling our ears.” Case in point: I remember recently when someone asked, “Doesn’t the Bible say…?” and gave me a quote. It certainly sounded Biblical, but it wasn’t. It was a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. And while it was a fine quote and one we should try and honor, it wasn’t from the Bible. So just like I can’t be able to tell if an aircraft mechanic is fooling me and telling me what I want to hear unless I actively learn aircraft mechanics, we can’t tell if someone is fooling us with respect to anything related to the Bible or Bible teaching unless we take the time to know the Bible. Sound Bible knowledge is a must. A desire for sound Bible knowledge and teaching is a must. This is how seriously God takes it:
Now therefore hear the word of the LORD. “You say, ‘Do not prophesy against Israel,and do not preach against the house of Isaac.’ Therefore thus says the LORD: “‘Your wife shall be a prostitute in the city, and your sons and your daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line; you yourself shall die in an unclean land, and Israel shall surely go into exile away from its land.'” – Amos 7:16-17, ESV
God isn’t playing games about the message He has delivered to us. He has taken it upon Himself to pour out to us His special revelation. If we don’t take it seriously, if we don’t clamor for sound Bible teaching (that we know is sound because we have studied the Scriptures), the consequences are dire. The people had reached a point where they didn’t want to hear any bad news. They didn’t want to hear God’s warnings against Israel. Because they choose to have their ears “tickled” by positive messages telling them everything was okay, they missed the warnings. They missed the opportunity to correct the course. And they suffered accordingly. I don’t want that consequence in my life, nor in the lives of my children. Therefore, it is important not to have my ears tickled, but to hear the truth, whether I like it or not.