On a flight from Phoenix, Arizona, a passenger was randomly selected to have her palms swabbed by the TSA (Transportation Security Administration). To her dismay, the test came back positive for explosives, and she was taken to a private room and questioned. The positive reading was a mistake—a false positive—the result of too much Lubriderm hand lotion, which contained small amounts of glycerin, a component of nitroglycerin, used in explosives.
If there’s anything worse than a “false positive,” it’s a “false negative.” That’s when your medical tests come back with good news but only because the results failed to discover a deadly disease, one that could have been cured if discovered in time. Experts around the world —in medicine, law enforcement, drug testing, and in a variety of fields—are working to minimize “false positives” and “false negatives.”
False Positives in Doctrine
In the realm of Bible teaching, we also have to guard against false positives and faulty teachings. I believe every Christian should devote themselves to studying biblical doctrine in depth. Doctrine is systemized truth. Doctrine is the truth of the Word of God organized and categorized so that we can think clearly about the issues of life. If our beliefs are flawed, our behavior will be skewed. This is why Jude wrote, “I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed … ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness” (Jude 1:3-4).
In His great priestly prayer, Jesus said, “Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Truth is objective, absolute, and grounded in Scripture. Truth is true whether anyone believes it or not. Truth is not touched by our emotions, opinions, or perceptions. Two plus two equals four whether anyone believes it or not. This is being lost in our culture today as society rejects the objective nature of God-given truth.
We’re living in the days predicted by Scripture: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
The Danger of Distorting God’s Word
We need to be sensitive to false doctrine that distorts God’s Word. God certainly wants us to have joyful and positive attitudes. He wants to meet our needs. He wants to prosper us with every spiritual blessing. However, our spirituality and happiness does not reside in our location on the economic spectrum or on where we live in this world but on our location in the realm of God’s grace. Our hope and joy isn’t based on circumstances. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).
The Joy of Abiding in God’s Word
Christians who abide in God’s Word are great truth-detectors who are not easily fooled by the false positives of the devil. To be an effective truth detective, every Christian needs to seek a regular regimen of Bible study. Our mind must be braced by doctrine. Our heart must be filled with truth. Our soul must be strengthened by biblical knowledge. God’s Word mustn’t be perverted and peddled; it should be followed, rightly divided, and proclaimed. In John 8:31, Jesus said, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed”—and that’s a sure thing. That’s the positive truth.
Dr. Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of
Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, California.
For more information on Turning Point, go to
Ellen Creager, “Hand Cream Can Set Off Airport Security,” Detroit Free Press, November 14, 2013. http://www.freep.com/article/20131110/COL21/311100139/creager-travel-q-a. (accessed November 22, 2013).
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