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Some Christians say as long as they do the right things, they don't need to worry much about understanding doctrines. For them, doctrines are only for theologians to discuss but ordinary people need not waste time getting into them. Is this true?
'Doctrine' means 'teaching' in simple terms. Christian doctrines teach us about God, His nature and character, His relationship with people, His expectations from us and what He has planned for us. Is our Christian life merely about doing what is right, or does it include becoming what God wants us to be and doing what He wants? I hope it is clear now how we need to pay attention to doctrine in order to live our life properly and to the full!
But immediately we face the challenge of knowing which the right doctrine is, because there are so many wrong doctrines out there! When God has revealed His truths in the Bible, Satan keeps trying to deceive us and lead us away from God and His truths (Mt.24:11;1Ti.4:1). Many 'leaders' are also deceived and they lead many astray, and none of us can claim that what we know is fully right in every way. So, we need to become more desirous to learn more and to discern what is right and wrong or good and evil (He.5:14).
We need to learn how to 'rightly divide' (interpret correctly) the written word of God (2Ti.2:15). Sometimes, things are written plainly for us to understand, but in many cases we have to make special efforts to understand the correct teaching by comparing with other parts of the Bible and looking at the big picture. We realise the Bible hasn't been written in a textbook form, and this forces us to study it deeply in order to search out the meanings from all over the Bible. There are concordances that show us all the places in the Bible where a particular word is used in the Bible and cross-references to connect verses with related verses in other places. There are also commentaries by godly people which we can refer in order to get what different people have already concluded. Such resources are available even on smartphones!
Jesus mentioned about the need for an honest and good heart (Lk.8:15) which is necessary to be able to bear fruit. If we can get out of personal and denominational biases and look at the word with an open heart, we can find the truth more easily. If we study the Bible out of intellectual curiosity or with the intention of producing an article, sermon or thesis in order to impress people, without an intention to submit to and obey whatever the Lord reveals to us, that is one sure way of going astray (Jn.7:17).
It is only when we understand the way clearly that we will be able to help others to find the truth and to walk in the right way (1Ti.4:16).
Sad to say, many depend on testimonies of others, personal experiences and what 'prophets' tell them, without knowing the word of God themselves and hearing from the Lord personally. True experience will follow right doctrine, not vice versa!