How can we know?

I came across an interesting verse this morning, and I’d like to share it.

But first, let me ask you a question. How many of you have sat in a church service, listening to someone who’s new to you, and wondering if you can trust what the speaker is saying? Or, have you ever been presented with a book that’s supposed to be phenomenal… the person who’s recommending it says it ministered to them, or changed their life… and for some reason, you can’t help being suspicious?

If you’re like me, that’s happened many times. Sometimes it’s followed by guilt for being so suspicious. Other times, I end up reflecting that I’d be in big trouble if I believed everything that came down the pike. That holds true whether you’re talking about church, school, the Internet, the news, or the home shopping network. Jesus warned that many would be deceived, so it’s vital that we always go to God and the Bible for confirmation of whatever we’re hearing.

But sometimes, if you’re like me, you still find yourself wishing you knew.

I’m reading in John right now. John, of course, was written by the man who would have been called Jesus’ best friend while He was on earth. John wrote his gospel to prove that Jesus was the Son of God… the long-promised Messiah, sent to earth to fulfill the law perfectly so that He could pay the price for the sins of the world and give us eternal life. Because that was John’s purpose, he shares much, much more of the private explanations and instructions that Jesus gave His closest disciples. I mean, here was Jesus, walking on earth among crowds of people who loved Him for His miracles, but who didn’t really know Him. Yet eleven men… eleven out of twelve that Jesus chose… those eleven did know Him for who He really was, and they went on to change the world. John’s goal in writing this book was to share that revelation with the world.

In John 7, Jesus is in Jerusalem for the Feast of Booths, and He ends up teaching in the temple. The people listening were having the same questions that I often have. “Can we trust what this guy is preaching? He’s never been to Bible College. How do we know that he knows what he’s talking about?” (That’s the New Katie Translation of John 7:14-15.)

And Jesus answers that question! I don’t know how or why I’ve never seen this, but here’s what He says.

First He states that He’s not teaching His own ideas, He’s teaching God’s, so His lack of Bible College training doesn’t really matter.

But He knows that their next question will be, “How do we know that it’s really from God, then? How do we know that You haven’t made it up… or that You’ve come to believe a lie yourself?” So He answers in verse 17.

“If anyone is willing to do the Father’s will, He will know whether the teaching is from God or not.” (This is my paraphrase of this verse in the NAS, but this verse is a REALLY good example of how the Message Bible, in my opinion, cannot be trusted. It says, “Anyone who wants to do his will can test this teaching and know whether it’s from God.” It totally leaves out what Jesus says is the important part, according to every other translation I’ve checked. Jesus didn’t say you could test it. He said IF… meaning everything hinges in this… anyone is willing to do the Father’s will, they will know.)

So Jesus says that they’ll know if they were willing to do the Father’s will. If this is also true today, then if I want to know whether someone’s teaching is from God or from man, I must be totally submitted to God’s will in my life.

That seems so odd. How would being willing to do God’s will make you able to see and know whether someone’s teaching is from God? There doesn’t seem to be a connection. Yet I don’t see any other way to interpret this verse.

All I can think is that the necessary revelation is God’s reward for my willing heart… perhaps because that teaching might guide my life, either for right or wrong. So when I’m willing… when I’m submitted to my Heavenly Father, He will protect my heart by showing me if someone’s teaching is wrong.

Would anyone like to share their thoughts on this? Do you think I’m seeing this interpretation correctly, or do you see a different meaning here than I do?

2 thoughts on “How can we know?”

  1. Hi, Katie.

    When I read your Essay, I thought of a verse in the NLT, which reads: "The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given."

    (Sorry I can't remember the exact Chapter/Verse, but I'm beat; it's in Matthew, I think.)

    I think the NIV version reads, "The measure you give will be the measure you receive."

    I'm pretty sure Jesus was referring to our willingness to seek God's will, His wisdom, His teaching, His understanding, &c.

    Because I think that when we don't, we lose "balance."

  2. That’s great, Katie!! I’m glad you’ve found this and looked it up! I think your conclusion is correct (as far as I can see). I think it ties in well with the verse, “Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.” That instruction took on a whole new meaning for me when I started eating healthy. See, when we eat food that is bad for us, we really can’t tell the difference between what it bad and what is good. All we have is the taste of the thing to go off of, and taste alone will not tell us if a food is healthy or unhealthy. However, when we dedicate ourselves to a particular course (like I did) to eat only those things which were healthy and beneficial … it becomes clearer and clearer how to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy. My body could literally feel the difference before I ate it, while I ate it, and after I ate it. In other words, my body became able to distinguish between good and bad food simply by what I fed it. Also, (in relation to that verse) when I did fill myself with healthy, nutritious food, the ‘bad’ food didn’t even look appealing. Literally! So … I know that God created the human body to display spiritual truths. So many times in Scripture He referred to His Word as food, and the things we feed ourselves spiritually (whether good or bad) also as food. Our physical body reacts to physical food almost exactly the way our spiritual body reacts to spiritual food. And it’s a strange thing … the more of the right things you feed yourself, the more discerning you become. The more bad things you feed yourself, the less discerning you become. It illustrates what you found rather perfectly, I think!

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