People often ask us, “If all these religious organizations are false, who do we trust?” Many people are searching for a church or are wondering which commentaries or authors they can read. This question was recently asked to us by one of our readers. I would like to share part of our response to them for I think it will be beneficial to others who may have the same concerns.
Our ministry is dedicated to sharing the truth of the Scriptures and challenging the false teachings that are leading many people astray. Since our main focus is on encouraging people to read and study God’s Word on their own we do not align our ministry with any established church or organization. While we do offer helpful links on our website, we do not assure the reader that all doctrinal statements those people teach will be correct. Each person must strive to test everyone against the Scripture. Below we offer advice on how to determine if someone is or is not teaching the truth.
The most important thing you must do is study the Scriptures on your own. Learn what the Bible says before you allow any person to try to teach you what they think it means. God has given us all His Word and we are all able to read it on our own. Many people who go to church regularly have never read the Bible for themselves. They may read a small portion in a devotional here and there, but that cannot equate to reading the Bible in context. Each book should be read from the beginning to the end. Now, since the Bible is made up of 66 different books, it is not necessary to read the Bible in order, but each book within it should be read from start to finish.
Once we begin to read and study God’s Word, we can begin to identify which doctrines are false and which are true. When a person is seeking a church they should ask the pastor or leader for a statement of faith or a list of what they believe. That information should be carefully compared against the Word of God. This is where prior knowledge of the Bible is extremely important. A church will use Scripture to back up their beliefs, but unfortunately, many times these Scriptures are taken out of context and simply do not support what they are trying to say. False teachings are easily identified if a person already knows what the Bible says. That is why we encourage everyone to do what the Bereans did in Acts 17, when they analyzed the teachings of Paul. You must search the Scriptures daily to see if what they are teaching is or is not true. The same should go with any leader, counselor, author, etc. If there is some teacher you are following you should know what they believe and make certain what they are teaching is truth. It is important to remember this one fact, you cannot recognize error if you are not familiar with the truth.
It is essential that you know and understand the Bible for yourself. While it is helpful to have mature Christians to go to for advice and counsel when we are struggling with an issue, this should always be over and above our own personal study of God’s Word. Even then, we should take all counsel and advice back to God’s Word and make certain this is what the Bible actually says. Do not take anyone at their word, but test them according to God’s Word.
With all that said, let me offer a few pieces of advice. First of all, we recommend that a person read a Bible they can understand. We prefer versions that use modern day English. Again, we must caution a person against all modern day versions. While some versions interpret from the original languages, others are simply paraphrasing their view of the Bible. We highly recommend the following translations.
1. New International Version (NIV) http://www.ibs.org/niv/
2. New American Standard Bible (NASB)
3. The English Standard Version (ESV) http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/browse/
4. New English Translation (NET) http://www.netbible.com/netbible/index.htm
Your local retailer should have an economically priced modern Bible version. It is not necessary to go to a Bible bookstore or pay a lot of money for one, although there is nothing wrong with that if one chooses to do so. (Visit our link page to find where you can purchase Bibles online.)
If you have never read the Bible on your own we recommend starting with the book of John. The gospel of John teaches us so much about Jesus and His mercy and grace. From there maybe read Mark, Acts, and Romans. Continue reading the New Testament since that is what is most applicable to us today. Once you have read the New Testament you may want to start reading the Old Testament. Genesis will tell you about our beginning. The Psalms and Proverbs are very good for wisdom and instruction. Even when you begin to read the Old Testament, keep reading the New Testament. Do not stop reading the Bible once you are finished. You will find that as you continue to study you will continue to learn from each text. The Bible is God’s love letter to us. We never get to a point where we no longer need or desire to study, but we will get to a point where we can know and understand doctrine.
There is a really good book we recommend for any person just beginning to read their Bible. It offers some basic background and understanding of the format of Scripture and offers advice on where to start, how to study, and things to be careful of. The book is “Enjoy Your Bible” written by William MacDonald and Arthur Farstad. This is a very easy and enjoyable read and we believe it does a good job in helping new believers know where and how to start reading the Bible on their own. If you have trouble locating this book in your local bookstore, inquire to see if they can order it in. You can also order this book online here:
While many groups tell new believers that it is essential to join a church right away, we focus on getting new believers into the Word first. Going to the wrong church can do much more harm than good, and most new believers do not know which churches to trust. Our focus at Guided By Truth is to make sure that Christians understand that they are capable and responsible for learning about God and that the Bible alone provides the information we need to do so. Their decision to join or not join a church is a decision that they must make on their own. We simply counsel them to be familiar with God’s Word so they will be able to recognize if the church is teaching the truth.
We pray that everyone will turn to God’s Word and use that alone in making every important decision in their life.