Here is a small analogy demonstrating a biblical truth. We need the written word of God but alongside that we need the inspiration and leading of the Holy Spirit. Both together develop understanding and discernment that avoids false teaching.
Like most people I have an anti-virus program on my computer. In fact I have more than one. The reason is, one of them does an excellent job of scanning my entire computer – when I choose to ask it to – and it takes a few hours but effectively comes up with anything that may be harmful.
The other program works interactively. It’s “always-on” in the background and runs silently while I work or browse the net. However, if there is anything dangerous that I try to download, view or use, up springs a big red alert box and it tells me to beware. It warns me of malware. It offers to remove the malware or virus for me, and of course I agree.
You will probably grasp what I’m going to say. The bible is like the first program. Fully-comprehensive, deep and packed with essential tools and information, the bible is the book we need every day. This is a manual procedure however. We have to “activate” the reading of the word of God, just as I have to manually activate my first anti-virus program, or else it won’t run. It will exist, be installed, but just sit there idle. Like a bible collecting dust on a shelf.
On the other hand, the instantaneous interactive program is with me every second of every day. It’s like the Holy Spirit with whom I fellowship and walk in daily life. He is the very presence of God in my life and activities, and is always active, even when my mind wanders and I’m not thinking about God.
Perhaps I may stumble upon some teaching either online or offline – no matter what. I might choose then to do my “manual scan” and read the bible for more insight. However I also may get that instant “alert”, the red flag from God that tells me something is off. That is the interactive Holy Spirit at work protecting me from harm.
He draws my attention to error – and sometimes error is not very discernible to the outward eye – and offers to protect me from it by revealing God’s truth, and inspiring further research from the bible.
BOTH the word and the Spirit are needful, especially in discerning good from evil.
Download Your Definitions Frequently
Here is another aspect of the analogy. If you have any kind of antivirus program on your computer you know how important it is to keep it up to date. There’s little point installing a professional program five years ago that you never updated. You need to regularly download the virus definitions to keep up with everything that’s going on, to spot the newer types of virus that criminals are always inventing.
Sometimes updates are automatic, sometimes not – you might have to find the place in the program to start an update manually. Either way, it’s vital and involves you taking responsibility for your own protection.
In terms of the Christian walk, we not only need the initial experience with God but an ongoing active walk with Him. There is little point accepting the truth of the gospel years ago but forgetting to ‘update’ it weekly or daily with a deepening experience of that truth.
As the book of Hebrews says, we need to “go on to maturity”. We have to stop drinking milk like children and learn how to chew the meat. We have to leave behind the basics of the faith and progress in our understanding, becoming able to discern because – as the text says – we have exercised our spiritual senses, given them a workout, used them and developed some muscles instead of weak flab.
Heb 5:12-14 and 6:1-3 …” ye are dull of hearing. For at the time when ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God, and have become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to those who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.Therefore, leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead and of eternal judgment. And this we will do, if God permit.”
All of this is just another way to say that we have to grow up as Christians and become more able to cope with the tremendous amount of spiritual “malware” there is on the Net and elsewhere.
I believe this situation will escalate alarmingly as we go on. Falsehood is becoming at the same time stronger but more subtle. It’s not one-dimensional any more. Without our God-given antivirus protection we are weak, prey to deceivers.