John 7:16-17 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.
This is another passage that needs to be taught and stressed at every Christian seminary on the planet! There are many things involved here. One of them is of course the question of by whom are we sent. Sadly, there are many people in seminaries and after who aren’t called and sent by God. Every believer is called to be a witness, (Acts 1:8) but the “ministry gifts” (Ephesians 4:11) are given for and through specific individuals, decided by God. I heard an expression while I was in seminary of “Mama called and Papa sent.” Of course, those who used it were never talking about themselves! For some, “being in the ministry” is some sort of romantic ideal, so they either aspire to it themselves or push their children into it. In point of fact, it is something no one can do correctly in their own strength. Based on my own experience, I tell people not to do it unless they can’t help it! That said, the question then becomes, what do we teach? This is the question Jesus is addressing most directly here. If what we teach is from the mind of man alone, it is worthless. God doesn’t want us to ignore our minds, but our responsibility is to communicate what He has said and is saying, not what we or anybody else thinks about it. Much damage has been done down through the centuries by people adhering to the teachings of men rather than the Word of God. Jesus here gives us a very important tool in distinguishing the difference: desiring to do the will of God. If that is our heart, even if we make some mistakes along the way, God will guide us aright.
Once again, I’m talking about myself here. Every time I get in the pulpit I pray that God would speak through me, because my own thoughts and ideas benefit no one. I remember my great frustration in seminary preaching class where I was required to quote various commentaries, rather than seeking God for what He was saying. Various commentaries can be enlightening and broaden our understanding, but they must never be more than peripheral to what we say. I had a pastor friend who had the complete works of Karl Barth in his study. I asked him if he was more familiar with Barth or with the Bible, and he very honestly replied, “Barth.” That’s tragic! I’m grateful that after a few years of friendship with me, his position changed on that, but his former situation is sadly not unusual. Add to that the fact that he was reading Barth in Japanese translation and you get a further remove from whatever God might actually have been saying. I am not to be so stupidly proud as to claim, or even think, that I have an exclusive line to heaven, but I must never overlook the glorious reality that I, like every other believer, can have a direct connection with my Creator. As I teach, I must remember that teaching puts me on a stricter plane of judgment. (James 3:1) As I do pray to do, I’ve got to be careful that I don’t spout off out of my own head, but rather humbly communicate what God has spoken to my heart. I also need to train the believers in discernment, so that as they desire to do God’s will they may distinguish between what is of Him and what is not.
Father, thank You for all that You are doing in me and in this church. Thank You for the brother in prayer meeting last night talking about why people have left this church over the years, and how we need to consider that as people are added to us from this point. Thank You that he was realizing that the problems were fundamentally with each individual, more than they were with the church. I pray that we would indeed be a gathering of true disciples, people who hear You clearly because we desire to do Your will above and before anything else, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!