but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. – 1Thessalonians 5: 21 (NLT) The year was 1989 when the now classic movie, Dead Poets Society, was released. This comedic drama starring Robin Williams tugged at heart strings of America for years and was one of my personal favorites in my early 20’s. Williams was at his unreserved best, funny yet convincing and controlled while irreverent. As the vacuous 1980’s were expiring, it was the kind of movie that made you feel good about going to the movies again. The resounding closing chorus of “oh captain my captain” as the kids showed their support for their departing teacher or the classic line that sucking the marrow out of life does not mean choking on the bone still resonate nearly 25 years later. Williams’ character, John Keating imploring his students – “Carpe diem! Seize the day!” is a point still lost on many youth today. I thought then and still feel today that it is just one of those movies that whenever it is on, I am compelled to watch it again for the lessons it teaches, the performances it contains, and the generations it transcends. Not everyone agreed though: "It is, of course, inevitable that the brilliant teacher will eventually be fired from the school, and when his students stood on their desks to protest his dismissal, I was so moved, I wanted to throw up." Such were the words of famed movie critic Roger Ebert about Dead Poets Society. A resounding thumbs down indeed. Mr. Ebert passed away last night after losing his battle with cancer. Hollywood and celebrities have started to send out words of condolences and affirmation for the man Ebert was and the role he played in our modern cinematic experience. I remember watching his classic show with Gene Siskel. I remember the agreements and disagreements. Ebert became part of Americana – a larger than life figure in the realm he practiced in – critique. I write about him today because he has passed away and bring up Dead Poets Society to highlight that what Roger Ebert engaged in is opinion. An educated opinion to be sure. An opinion that was respected – no doubt. But at the end of the day everyone has an opinion and not everyone is going to agree. Sometimes in the realm of Christianity folks get confused. Things that are established by the Bible, people sometimes treat as if they are allowed their own opinion on. The Bible is not a thumbs up or down movie review. It is the infallible and inerrant Word of God. How serious does God take this? And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. – Revelation 22: 18-19 (NLT) Beloved we are living in the end times Jesus warned us about. The increase in wickedness is evident for all to see. The love of most growing cold has begun. The birth pains are coming together closer and closer. As such the correct dissemination of the Gospel is absolutely critical for those still on the outside of salvation looking in. The eternal destinations of men are at stake. Paul recognized this when he charged his protégé Timothy: Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. – 1Timothy 4: 16 (NIV) Doctrine is what we believe in. It is not the dirty word the likes of Oprah and Osteen have tried to turn it into. It is so important that the very salvation of the listeners hangs in the balance. Preachers of the Word of God have the enormous responsibility of the blood of those that hear them preach. It is not some casual exercise that is not consequential. People have asked me why sometimes I might seem harsh on one teaching or another – this is why! It is not a simple matter of giving a thumbs up or down opinion. It is a matter of Scripture. It is a matter of the truth and it is important because salvations hang in the balance. I hear the calls for kumbya. I hear the calls for false unity. Yes, the New Testament speaks often about unity but not as often as it warns about false teaching. A unity not centered in Christ is unifying behind something that has no power to save. Preaching material prosperity in this world saves no one. Preaching this is your best life now saves no one. Preaching petulant prayer and circle drawing saves no one. But here is the real point – all of these can cost someone a chance at salvation. If you draw your circles deep and the sovereign Lord still says no – how many people will fall away because of unmet expectations? If you are taught that this is your best life now and God wants to supernaturally bless you – what will you do when it turns out to NOT be your year of favor? What if you “tithed” your whole paycheck like the preacher man said to and the windows of heaven never seemed to open for you? Will you want to believe in God when you are evicted? I speak against the seeker-friendly, purpose driven, emergent church movements because they are leading people to believe they are saved when they are not. Guilt driven altar calls does not make someone saved. Quick and dirty salvations do not make someone saved. Only the realization of the weight of our sin will result in a life turned over to Christ. When you strip out of the Gospel all of the things that result in salvation for the sake of being relevant to people – your quest for relevance consigns them to hell. Because in the end we are not engaging in matters of opinion. I do not dabble in shades of grey. It is not about a thumbs up or a thumbs down. It is simply about whether what is being taught lines up with what God says – period. Believe me, it would be a lot easier to simply agree with everyone, say God will sort it out, and hold hands down the broad path to destruction. But one day we all stand before God and answer for everything we have done, said, and chosen to look the other way on. Roger Ebert dealt in opinions for a living. They were educated opinions, based upon a lifetime of experience but in the end they were still his opinions. To some, “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is their Citizen Kane – or what Dead Poets Society meant to me. Robin William’s character, John Keating, said “No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world." In the realm of Christianity words and ideas can alter someone’s salvation. That is how important they are. That is why the key verse implores us to test everything that is said and hold onto what is good. As the noble Bereans before us did, we are to hold everything up to the light of Scripture to determine if what we are being told is truth. We are to test everything. Regardless of how painful it is. Regardless of how much we might like the source. From our favorite pastor to the most obvious charlatan. We are to only hold onto what is good. What lines up with the Word of God. Not what tickles our ears and makes us feel good. Not what is highly endorsed by the churches. Only that which is good as determined by the truth found in the light of Scripture are we to give to thumbs way up to. Rest in peace Mr. Ebert. I enjoyed your opinions, even if we disagreed on Dead Poets Society. Disagreements on matters of opinion are part of the human experience and should be embraced. Disagreements on matters of doctrine are already settled by God in His Word. We need to be able to discern the difference. Rev. Anthony.