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Carol and I know many people who are dissatisfied with church life. They want to go deeper into the word of God. They want to get into the mind of Christ so that they can know God's thoughts on every issue, and they consider what they hear in church services to be on the level of kindergarten. They eventually place themselves on a higher plane than the church and look down on others.

But when I look at many of their lives, the difference I note between them and other folk isn't always good. Many of them are spiritually arrogant. Many of them do weird things -- in the name of Christ, of course. I am reminded of Second Timothy 4:3-4 that says, "The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables."

One Sunday evening, I watched Pastor Frank tell a parishioner, "If you believe and stick your head out the church window and yell 'Jesus' three times as loud as you can, you will be healed." The woman obeyed and Frank victoriously pronounced her healed. When she died a month later, Pastor Frank merely intoned, "She didn't have faith."

I watched Pastor Carey announce to his congregation, "If you believe, and sign the book of life in the back of the church, you'll never die. No matter how long Jesus delays His return, you'll live until He comes back." With people lining up to sign his book, I asked my father, "When Brother Carey dies, that will disprove his theory, won't it?" Dad responded, "No, son. His followers will just think the pastor didn't have faith." Brother Carey died in 1993 and some people continue to propagate his fables.

One day while praying, Jack had an experience with the Lord that could have changed his life. Jack was excited and wrote down his experience so he would never forget it. Every time visitors came, Jack excitedly read the experience to them. One day Jack went to his room to get the document. The visiting minister was surprised to hear Jack yell, "Oh no! The rats ate my experience!"

Yes, the rodents found their way into the desk and destroyed the document. However, Jack had lost the reality of his experience to spiritual rats long before because he placed his affection on an experience rather than on the Lord of the experience.

Let's back up for a minute. I am from a Pentecostal background and have been affiliated with various denominations. I've also been dissatisfied at times. I always want to go deeper into the word of God and I want to know God's thoughts on every issue. So, what's the difference?

Many of the folk to whom I referred place their faith in spiritual experiences, spiritual knowledge, and spiritual gifts; and that emphasis tends to overshadow Jesus. But Scripture tells us to exalt Jesus, the resurrected Christ. That's where I am. There is a world of difference here. If we are devoted to or focused on Jesus as we study the Bible, He will help us gain the knowledge, experiences, and gifts as He sees appropriate.

Some friends remind me that First Corinthians 12:31 says "Earnestly desire the best gifts." They think that's an exhortation to go after gifts that appeal to them. But I respond, "You are seeking the gifts while side-stepping the Giver of the gifts. That's backwards. Instead, that verse encourages us to utilize the gift that is appropriate for the situation, for there is NO spiritual gift that is more important than any other. And if we seek God's input, He will grant us the wisdom we need as we respond to any and every situation."

I've seen people healed of terminal diseases and seen other miracles take place. But I understand the purpose of miracles and spiritual experiences: they are to honor and bring glory to God -- not man.

First Corinthians 2:16b tells us, "We have the mind of Christ." That is, Jesus will reveal His thoughts as we remain true to Scripture and turn away from those who exalt either themselves or their ideas.

"Itching ears" generates misplaced devotion and causes us to put our faith in miracles or in experiences. Instead, we should put our faith in the Scripture and on the Lord Jesus Christ.

• • •

Gene Linzey is a speaker, author, mentor and president of the Siloam Springs Writers Guild. Send comments and questions to The opinions expressed are those of the author.

Religion on 06/13/2018

Print Headline: Itching ears and misplaced devotion

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