We need water. Without water, we will die.
This is a simple and straightforward truth. It’s not to be contested except by the very foolish. It’s also true that we need quite a bit of water each day and that most of us aren’t drinking enough of it.
But it is possible to drink too much water. An article in Men’s Health says “Drinking too much fluid can lead to hyponatremia, which is when sodium in blood becomes too diluted,” Sims says. Symptoms include confusion, headaches, nausea and bloating—stuff that’s easily confused with dehydration. In severe cases,hyponatremia can lead to seizures, organ failure and even death.” (Credit: Men’s Health)
So too little or no water will kill you, and too much water can kill you too.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing, and the same can be said of the good and perfect truths found in God’s Word.
Now before you think this preacher has gone insane, let me explain. I do not mean that we should moderate how much of God’s Word we intake, because we really can’t take too much of Him into us. However, what we can do is focus on intaking too much of one aspect of God and His Word, such as salvation by faith alone, to the point we neglect other equally important truths, such as faith without works is dead.
Therefore, it is possible to focus too much on the freedom we have in Christ to the expense of our mandate to love God and others and to spread the Gospel at all costs. It is possible to focus too much on God’s mercy and love to the expense of remembering His justice and holiness. It happens all the time, and it also happens in the pulpit.
There are great men of God who have taken one truth to such extremes that even when you find an equal truth that tempers it, that teacher or preacher will not accept it because he has overemphasised the truth he likes or clings to. For example, God loves mankind, but God is also just. God tempers one with the other and satisfies both in Christ, saving those who believe and punishing those who willingly disbelieve. Some people, however, will focus so much on God’s love they won’t even hear about His justice and reject the idea of Hell altogether.
It is important to embrace God and His Word for all that it is, Genesis to the Revelation, and not to cling to one teaching or truth at the expense of the other. It is this kind of error that leads to the many (often unnecessary) “isms” of the Church which serve more to divide us and weaken us rather than instructing and building up.
In short, when we emphasize one truth about God to the expense of others, we are no longer worshiping God, but an idol. When we pick and choose what we want to believe about God, we are no longer believing in God, but a “god” of our own design. What’s scary is that we probably don’t realize we are doing it.
The good John Piper recently did answered a question that I am sure was tough for him, “Is it possible to focus too much on Christian Hedonism?” If you don’t know what Christian Hedonism is, that’s something to study over the next week or century. It’s a term Piper created for reveling in the joy God brings. Piper loves his pet term and loves teaching about it, but he admits that yes, you can have too much of it. The full article is linked below, but the following list is a great checklist to keep an eye on whenever you get “gung-ho” about any particular doctrine or teaching of the Bible to ensure you are not creating an idol out of a particular doctrine or truth.
1) We are overemphasizing a truth when our emphasis is not in sync with the way the Scriptures emphasize the truth. And I do mean emphasize the truth, not emphasize the term. Lots of wonderful, historic, theological terms are not very often used in the Bible — like Trinity, substitutionary atonement, beatific vision, deity of Christ — but are pervasive in the Scriptures, even though the terms may not be used. So, the point is not, Does our use of a term occur at a frequency similar to the biblical use of a term? That is not the point. The point is, Does our emphasis on a truth, a reality, correspond to the prevalence of the truth and the reality in the Scriptures — not a frequently used term?
2) We are overemphasizing a truth when we are twisting the meaning of Scriptures to make them say a truth that they are not intended to say or imply. There are many glorious truths in Scripture which are not the point of dozens of texts in Scripture, and we shouldn’t force those texts to make a point that they are not intended to make.
3) We are overemphasizing a truth when our emphasis is causing us to ignore or silence other important biblical and theological truths.
4) We are overemphasizing a truth when it is pressing us to distort other truths so that we can make our point at the expense of other truth — by forcing them to fit in with our truth when they may not fit in. If the truth we are emphasizing does not fit with other clear truths in the Bible, we need to make some adjustments in what we think.
5) We are probably overemphasizing a truth when our people — those who are listening to us — are tempted to use our peculiar terminology in preference to more biblical terminology. So, for example, Christian Hedonism would be overemphasized if our people are inclined to constantly use this phrase instead of the biblical language of joy and contentment and peace and satisfaction and blessedness and reward. The Bible has a wonderfully rich vocabulary, and if we shrink it all down to our little pet phrase, John Piper’s little pet phrase, of Christian Hedonism, then we are probably overemphasizing that truth.
6) Finally, last one, we are probably overemphasizing a truth if we ourselves are becoming so fixated on the truth that we are losing our ability to revel in other glorious truths. This is a sign of something very dangerous happening; namely, we are really loving not the truth of Christian Hedonism — we are loving our possession of the truth of Christian Hedonism, which is a deadly reality.
(Credit: John Piper, Desiring God.)