How do we as Christians obey the command in Heb. 13.9 ‘not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings’?
Jesus, the Focus of the Bible
Since I became a believer in ’04, the thing that has continued to impress me is the one, towering, central focus of the entire Bible—66 books, 40+ authors, 3 languages, 3 continents, 1500 years total to complete all the writings; written to all kinds of different people in all kinds of circumstances for all kinds of different purposes; an extensive, highly-sophisticated moral code (the law of Moses) with 613 commands that govern every aspect of day-to-day life down to my very thoughts, feelings, and attitudes.
And in all of that, there is One Person to whom it all points, One Towering Figure who is at the center of all of it: Jesus.
Think of all the different problems that Christians face that are addressed in the New Testament letters: sexual immorality; selfishness in the church; runaway servants; luke-warm spirituality; laziness; false teachings; poverty; temptation to stop trusting in Jesus; persecution; you could go on and on.
In every single case, the solution is always the same: explaining and applying who Jesus is and what he did.
The Peripherality of Externals
The New Testament authors just wave aside all talk about alcohol, foods, ceremonial days, and all of those kinds of things (Rom. 14; 1 Cor. 10; Col. 3; Heb. 4; etc.). On the one hand, decisions to eat or not, to honor certain days or not, to drink alcohol or not—all those decisions honor the Lord, because—on the other hand—righteousness before God is not a matter of food, or days, or drink (cf. Romans 14).
The important thing is the person and work of Jesus. The better I understand who he is and what he did—and the more I see that he is to be the Object God wants at the center of my thinking (Heb. 3.1, 13.8)—the more I will live the way I should. And that is the entire pattern of the NT.
So, when someone wants to spend an hour talking about days of the week when Paul has already said ‘one man considers one day more holy than another while another man considers every day the same and both decisions honor the Lord’ (Rom. 14.1-9), and that ‘all these things are merely shadows of the reality which is found in Christ’ (Col. 2.17), and to ‘avoid foolish arguments about the law, which are unprofitable and useless’ (Tit. 3.9-11)—and more than that, when they want to make dozens of hours of videos debating about these kinds of peripheral issues, and who Jesus is and what Jesus did is nowhere near the center of their focus……I’m suspicious.
Be Wary of Peripheral-Issue Warriors
I would say to be extremely cautious about paying attention to people who want to ‘argue about the law’ and all these external things, like foods, or drink, or days—especially when those kinds of arguments make up the point of everything they have to say.
It always sounds good; their arguments always have ‘an appearance of wisdom,’ to be sure (Col. 2.23). And they always say things like, “We just want to take the Bible seriously; I’m just pursuing truth; let’s not divide over secondary issues, brother.” They *always* say things like that. I have seen so, so many of them over the years, and they will all waste *hours and hours* of your time talking about side issues that are so far from the center of the Bible’s message that they’re almost not on the Bible’s radar at all.
Meanwhile, we’re real people in the real world, struggling with all the same things that those first-century believers struggled with: dying family members; sexual immorality; destructive sins that we can’t break away from; bad attitudes in our homes toward our own spouses or children; laziness; dishonesty; drunkenness; financial ruin. And these guys want to talk about days, a discussion which Paul has waved aside a dozen times.
So How Do I Obey That Command?
I don’t mean to be harsh or to offend you, but I am trying to be clear and direct: I would say that videos like that, and so-called ‘ministries’ like that, focus on the strange teachings that we are to avoid. Not paying any attention to those kinds of people, and not allowing myself to be persuaded by their ‘fine-sounding arguments’ is how I obey that command.
What is God’s desire for us? Where does God want us to focus? “My goal is that [believers] may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments” (Col. 2.2-4, NIV).
The deep truths of God are found in Jesus. If we really want to know, see, and plumb the depths of God, we need to keep Christ in our headlights and not get sidetracked by what’s in the side-view mirror.