The boy and his best friend could track everything, but one wily coon always seemed to stay one trick ahead.
An old-timer suggested he try the Shiny Trick. Along a known racoon trail, the boy drilled a hole in a log and dropped a shiny coin to the bottom. He hammered three nails at an angle around the hole so that the points almost touched part way inside the hole. Then they waited.
As they headed out the next day on their regular wooded-life adventures, the boy’s trusted huntin’ dog began to howl. Sure enough, there was that huge, angry coon, with one hand stuffed into the hole. All he needed to do was drop the coin and run, but with fist clenched over his new treasure, he could not get past the nails. He refused to let go and finally met his match to the wit of the boy and his huntin’ dog.
Christians are often like that coon.
By God’s grace, we evade every temptation and fiery dart thrown at us by the evil one, until we spot something shiny that we just can’t let go of. Sin is too obvious a trick for many longtime believers, but what about good things? What about our doctrinal beliefs, church traditions, or personal interpretations?
Continuing with our series, our anchor can break loose, if our Christian beliefs and practices don’t remain embedded in trusted ground. Life is dynamic, the Lord is often on the move, and our harbor conditions can change, so reviewing our attachment onto the original teachings of those first apostles remains critical.
As we saw last time, there is only one Christian foundation for the gospel already established, and since the passing of those early eye-witnesses, no changes to that foundation are accepted. Each believer and church must build carefully upon that ground without altering or replacing that trusted ground.
However, as was rapidly occurring even in that first century of the Church, many believers were grabbing onto shiny beliefs and refusing to let go, even when faced with imminent danger. Their anchor had begun to slip. 2000 years later, many today have compounded that drift so far that they no longer remain in the same ocean, let alone safely anchored in a godly harbor.
But how do you know when your anchor is slipping? And, how can you help strengthen its mooring line?
The short answer is to measure each belief to what the Bible actually says and adjust our attachments accordingly.
The problem is that a building’s foundation is hidden below ground, just like the sea-bed remains below the reflective surface of the water. Setting your anchor on what you cannot see requires careful application of procedures—it requires biblical obedience without changes to how we connect to that original teaching.
So, look at your doctrines and beliefs and review their wording to that of Scripture. This is where that Shiny Trick deceives, because even when the truth reveals errors in beliefs or traditions, many refuse to let go of what they like, what they have become comfortable in believing, what they have taught and been taught for so long, and what allows them to fit into a desired group.
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…Let us fix our eyes on Jesus”. (Heb 12:1-2)
Consider the doctrine of the Trinity. Can you find anywhere in Scripture where that teaching was directly taught? I don’t mean, can it be supported by references, but did the original apostles teach believers to accept the concept of the Trinity? It may be an acceptable teaching “built” upon the foundation, but how many churches have turned it into something foundational to Christianity? Neither the Trinity word, nor the concept itself, can be found anywhere in Scripture as something specifically taught as a foundational part of the gospel. A later church council promoted this teaching to combat errors being taught about God, but the foundation had already been set, so everything thereafter must stay submissive to that original writing. Beware of shifting sand that can dislodge your anchor.
Consider the doctrine of Mother Mary. Does Scripture teach that believers are to view Mary as their mother? John was told to accept her as his mother, and in response he accepted her into his home to support her, but consider what was taught about her. Those who shouted, “blessed be the one” who gave birth to Jesus, the Lord corrected and said, “blessed rather are those who do the will of my Father”. And, as far as who is our “mother”, the Bible specifically directs Christians to view the “Jerusalem above”—the Church—as our mother. Beware of anchor slippage that can drift away from safety in Christ.
Consider the doctrine of speaking in Tongues. It remains very popular, as it was in old Corinth, to measure a believer as genuine according to dramatic, outward evidence, like speaking in tongues. When Paul taught that he would rather believers preach five words of truth, than speak in tongues, he made it clear that outward signs are not foundational to Christian identification. Beware of rope decay that can suddenly break loose from holding your anchored boat in position.
Consider the belief of “once saved, always saved”. Most Protestants automatically accept this, but did the original apostles specifically teach this? It may be something that can be extended from the gospel, but the way in which it is taught today, must remain submissive to everything in Scripture. When Paul wrote that “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus”, and then added, but “You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace”, it must be acknowledged that Calvin cannot override Paul. Beware of where you drop your anchor, for trusted ground can only be upon the foundation of the gospel and not on later interpretation.
Consider the doctrine of “faith alone”. Luther wanted a more convincing way to confront the error of religious indulgences, so he added the word “alone” to a key passage in Romans where it did not originally exist. He even wrote it into his German translation of Scripture. When confronted about his brash change, he retorted, “well, it should have been there”. Sola Scriptura and the other “Sola’s” all branch from this fundamental change that does not exist in the Bible. Teachings can build upon, if they remain submissive, but they are never to replace or change the gospel’s foundation. Beware of shiny anchors made with clay.
Consider the belief in infallibility. For generations, the Popes have hidden behind the teaching that they are all incapable of committing error or sin, yet their claimed decent extends down from Peter who was recorded by the Spirit to have committed the sin of hypocrisy while leading the Church. No decision of a Pope can ever be refuted or repented of, because that foundational belief defies God’s word that all have sinned and continue to need the covering blood of Jesus to heal and forgive. Beware of perfect anchors that never need to be checked.
Consider teachings on the importance of following the 10 Commandments or the Sabbath day or Tithing. Christians are grounded on a New Covenant and are no longer “under the Law”. Beware of those super-religious promoters of the fullness of Scripture, who defy the foundational changes to the sea-bed caused by the fulfillment of Jesus’ first coming. Anchors that remain attached to applying the Old Covenant cannot be Christian, for only in Christ is the veil of blindness taken away. The former was set aside in fulfillment in order that the new could be established as the foundation. Beware of the claims of tradition, of we were here first, of my degree is higher than yours, of my church is bigger and thus better, of that is the way it has always been, of I’m fine with what I believe, of my god would never do that.
Consider teachings on the imagined Rapture, on marriage redefinition, on the sexually immoral practice of divorce and remarriage, on the disgraceful practice of women preaching and leading men in church, on gender blending, on political engagement, on taking up arms to save our lives. What does the Bible actually teach on these subjects? Building our understandings and efforts carefully on that first, scripturally-defined gospel will keep our anchor solidly in place. Choosing to hang on to our shiny beliefs, may damage our anchor’s ability to hold us secure.
Remember, Satan can accurately quote scripture with the best of ministers. However, his agenda is always to twist the application away from the will of God. Beware of long lists of scriptural references that give the appearance of a solid foundation, but do not honorably uphold the full and original biblical teaching on a particular subject. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your church or denomination will rightly maintain your own anchor.
In the analogy, the anchor itself is not so much the problem; it is how, and on what, we set that anchor that can be an issue. It involves our response of attachment. Notice the boat-paraphrased wording to those believers who initially found their anchor in Christ, but then lost connection:
“He has lost connection with the Anchor, from whom the whole boat, supported and held by its rope and rode-chain, holds fast as God causes it to be moored.” (Col 2:19)
God causes the growth, but he does not force it, such that believers can lose their connection by their own disobedience. The context to this passage is toward believers who were mixing their claimed faith in Jesus with humanistic efforts at good religion. This was no small detail, because, it was eroding their anchor attachment to Christ. Their church and ministers were teaching them methods of worship that were “self-imposed” and “based on human commands”, rather than on what was specifically taught by the original apostles. Their denominational practices had begun to replace devotion to the original teaching of the Gospel.
Our hope, as Christians, must be in the Jesus described in Scripture and not a modernized interpretation of Jesus. He alone can keep us secure.
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Heb 6:19)
This hope, as defined in the above scriptural context, is offered to those who consistently keep their confidence in that first written gospel, which “was confirmed to us by those who heard him” (Heb 2:3):
“We have come to share in Christ, if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Heb 3:14)
There is a story in Scripture about a boat captain and crew that refused to listen to godly advice. They weighed anchor and set off when, and toward where, they wanted to go. A nor’easter of hurricane force descended upon them for two weeks. As depth soundings indicated, they recognized they were headed for a crash landing.
“Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight.” (Act 27:29)
The boat was a complete loss. They refused to adjust themselves to what God had revealed. The lives of the entire crew would have been lost, except: “God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you. So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” (v.25-26)
It doesn’t have to be that way. Your ship doesn’t need to be destroyed, nor your own lives threatened. But don’t assume that favorable winds will always carry you where you want to go. Don’t be deceived that your anchor will always hold you secure where you place it.
Drop your anchor on trusted ground as described in God’s holy and faithful word. Set it firmly into that ground per the biblical instructions on what God expects of Christians who say they believe in him. Do your part faithfully and rightly. “Examine yourselves”, as the Bible says, and regularly check your anchor for signs of needed adjustment.
Then trust the Lord to hang on firmly to his obedient followers through the night. He is faithful, and will lose none of those given to him by the Father!
Those who have experienced the delights of boat camping know the joy of being rocked to sleep surrounded by one of the most beautiful parts of Creation. My first night on the water was fitful, as I wrestled with my trust in the anchor, and as I tried to identify what I later was informed was chine-slap.
Learning how to rightly set your anchor on trusted ground, leads to peaceful slumber and hopeful expectation of a pleasant dawn over the diamond-studded ripples. Give it a go; it will forever change you.