Spiritual success is not bred in isolation. Counsel from like-minded spiritual people is not our only resource. In fact, at times it can actually be devastating.
When the Judaizers went down from Jerusalem, the church faced its first theological challenge. The people of God was not fully appreciative of the nature of the church as God’s work in this dispensation:
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
As we examine Acts 15:5-7 we learn a principle of spiritual success as we notice how they handled this controversy: they took counsel together
6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
Acts 15:25-26 25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
They came together, they argued together, they came to a conclusion together, and they acted together.
Who are your counselors?
It is important to choose good counsel. This is the problem that Rehoboam had.
7 And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.
8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
9 And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?
10 And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.
11 And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
Beware of intellectual inbreeding and living in an echo chamber.
In inbreeding, genetic information gets lost, negative traits dominate, mutations emerge. Likewise in intellectual inbreeding, factual information gets lost, negative thoughts and arguments are perceived as more important than they are, errors and wrong perceptions creep in and dominate.
Living in an echo chamber refers to how your counselors only repeat back to you what you have said yourself. They provide no new information and your ideas only get amplified as you hear them, reinforcing what you already think.
Self – Living in negativity, you become consumed by the toxins of bitterness.
Like minded – Taking counsel from people who couldn’t see outside the box and only reinforce their view. Of course you want to appreciate like-minded people. The problem is when you do so to the exclusion of others; when you live in an echo chamber of self-congratulating yes-men.
Choose your counselors wisely
Wise counselors – who can increase your information by virtue of having been around more, exposed to more problems, discovered more solutions.
Prov 15:22 Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established.
Prov 20:18 Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
Prov 11:14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.
Opposition – We also need people who came to different conclusions. Why did they? Certainly they would have come to the same conclusions as your like-minded friends if they had seen the same information your like-minded friends had seen. They must have seen something different that drew them to different conclusions. Now, almost all the time you will find fatal flaws in what the opposition is seeing – but not all the time. At least you might know the mistakes that their audience will be drawn into. But sometimes, you discover your own weak arguments and how to strengthen them. And then sometimes you realize that they are right. They got there because they looked at things differently. Don’t dismiss the opposition, but hear them out.
13 He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
The Word of God – Our greatest counsel should always include the Word of God. If you can’t find a direct command, then look for a Biblical principle. Next, counselors who know the Word of God. Always consider how any decision advances the Kingdom of God.
A word of caution to counselors – The temptation of a counselor is to become a controller.
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.