[If I wasn't trying to swear off of starting open-ended series, I'd make this #1 of "Things I Will Die, Still Not Understanding."]
Think for a moment, if you will, Gentle Reader, of the distinctives of Christianity.
Ponder the Christian explanation for why man is such a mess, of how everything began and why, of what God has done to address the whole.
Or, think more specifically of who God is, of His oneness, of the Trinity, of His character, acts, decrees, will, and plan for the future.
Think of Jesus, of His divine nature and eternal goings-forth, of His incarnation and life and teachings, of His penal, substitutionary sacrifice, His bodily death, resurrection, and assumption into Heaven, His present activities from the right hand of God, and His future return.
Think of the Gospel plan in its eternal conception and historical fulfillment; think of God's terms for reconciliation to Himself, and His expressed will for how we think, make decisions, and live our lives.
Now, assuming you know any truth about any of those things — where did you get that?
Were you born knowing it? Did it simply come to you, through breast or bottle? Did you receive it by prayer and meditation, reflecting on a sunset, gazing at tea leaves? Did an emotional state communicate it to you?
No. If you know any truth about any of those things, you know it from the Bible. Period.
Now, maybe you've heard wonderful pastors preach, are blessed with marvelous godly friends, have read pithy and deep books, and are a lover of classical confessions. But insofar as any of those sources are worth anything to you, they are passing along truths gleaned straight from the Bible.
How many Christians couldn't demonstrate some of their most cherished notions directly from the Bible to save their lives — and don't care?
The first part of that statement troubles me some, of course. But it's the second part that absolutely thunderstruck slackjawed brain-itchingly baffles me.
We say God is the most important person in our life, and....
Well, wait. Should I even assume that much? Am I justified in assuming, today, that someone knows that when he identifies himself as a "Christian," he is, at the very least, saying that he believes, and believes in, Christ? And that he has some muzzy notion that Christ said (among many other things) that the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength is the most important thing in the universe (Matthew 22:36-37)?
Okay, so reason it through with me here:
- Christ says that we are supposed to love the Lord our God with everything we've got.
- If we say we're Christians, we necessarily say we believe that to be true.
- The only way we are going to know anything about who this God is who we're supposed to love, or what it means to love Him, or how He wishes to be loved, is by personally studying the Bible.
- ...but we don't...
- ...and we don't care...
- ...and we revile, despise, and destroy the character and name of anyone who tries to provoke us to care.
I wasn't a Christian. I hated Christians, I despised them. Then, by an act of God's sovereign grace, I became one. I wasn't all that bright, but I did know that I didn't know much. And I knew I needed to know. And I knew that the only way I could know was by (hel-lo?) studying the Bible.
Well, actually and honestly, no one needed to tell me. I wanted to. I believed because, well, I believed. So I wanted to know.
Now, I can understand some reasons why people who have been Christians for some time not knowing much. Maybe they're under pathetic teaching, or even positively discouraging teaching, and don't know any better. But not wanting to know? You start trying to talk to them about the Bible, and they shut you down? And then they're angry when challenged to know more?
I see myself saying, "Wait, wait — you're telling me you don't want to know God better? You don't want to know more of His person, His will, His plans? That if you're believing and telling lies about Him, you'd rather not know?"
Once, a fellow in a church I pastored got the idea of asking Christians to name the four Gospels. You know, just the four Gospels. Not the Minor Prophets or anything hard; just Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
He asked dozens of Christians. They were mostly mainstream Charismatics, but they included worship leaders, lay, all sorts, and all had been Christians for years.
His informal survey yielded two startling results:
- Either none, or only one, could name all four Gospels.
- They were, to a person, not upset with themselves for being so appallingly ignorant, but were upset with him for asking.
I've run into this countless times. Here's a man who wanted to do something. I showed him from Scripture that it was a course of action that was expressly forbidden in Scripture. What was his answering case, from Scripture? None, not even a try. No, his answer was, "I don't want to hear any more of that Bible stuff." (As far as I recall, that's an exact quotation.)
Was he saying he wasn't a Christian anymore? Nope, not to his mind. He thought, and as far as I know still thinks, that he's a Christian. He'd simply joined the thronging masses of Christians-who-don't-care-what-the-Bible-says.
"But that's a contradiction in terms," you say.
Should be, I respond.
Pyro readers probably could contribute horror stories of their own.
So how do these people get by? Well, I think most would tell you they "just know." The feel the truth in their hearts, and they follow their hearts. Christian vapors.
Now it really doesn't take a PhD in Bible to say, emphatically and pointedly, that while this is a religious position, it is not a Christian position. From Testament (Genesis 18:19) to Testament (John 8:31-32) God makes it plain that His people must be taught, instructed, informed. That is Christianity. Anything else is a fake.
What it actually is, is the Gospel of Hollywood. "Follow your heart." What scares and appalls me about that is not merely how many people believe it, but how many professedly evangelical Christians believe it.
But an actual, card-carrying, practicing Christian should be able to tell you that anyone who follows his heart, who believes that his deep and certain feelings communicated divine truth to him, is a FOOL. Period. Why?
Because God said so (Proverbs 28:26; Jeremiah 17:9).
And if we got our religion from the Bible instead of our culture, we'd know that — and a whole lot more.