The Gospel’s Legal Disclaimer

Lately I’ve been talking about self-denial and persecution. These are the “downsides” of Christianity, the stuff Joel Osteen wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. The stuff most pastors of any church that hopes to grow won’t touch.

Self-denial and persecution, when actually mentioned,  get tacked on to the end of the Gospel message as a sort of legal disclaimer. “Adherence to these beliefs may cause certain side effects including loss of self, persecution by former friends, loved ones and people you don’t even know. Other symptoms may include rocks to the head, saws to your neck, flames to your feet and projectile vomiting. Use as directed.”

Unfortunately, most Gospel presentations don’t even include the disclaimer, most just promise you happy, happy, joy, joy. Health and wealth. Power to fulfill your American Dream. Jesus is nothing more than a friend with a big bank account and free meds.

The Church seems content to teach this. It’s what people want to hear and people will pay big money to hear what they want to hear. There’s good money in the happy, happy, joy, joy gospel. Don’t expect it to go away.

Last week we looked at 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” “That will” is a Greek word that means “intend or resolve.” This same Greek word is used in another similar passage when Jesus says:

“For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?”

The word “intending” is the same word translated “that will” in 2 Timothy 3:12. When a person resolves or intends to do something, they should consider what the cost is in carrying out their resolution.

Christianity is no different from a construction project. Consider what you’re doing. When the Church, the sole possessor of the Gospel, doesn’t tell people the cost, they merely equip people to fail.

He becomes the seed sown in stony ground that fades away when tribulation or persecution come his way. He didn’t count the cost, didn’t even know there was a cost cuz no one told him. Then he gets blown away by tough stuff. He protests, “Hey, I thought you guys said everything was happy, happy, joy, joy?”

We never mention the cost. This is not just an error of Joel Osteen and TV preachers, this is common Christian behavior. “Don’t you know we’re saved by grace? We don’t have to suffer. Why are you telling people that?” Is the response from “good Christians.”

But that’s what the Bible says, so it’s kind of what I have to say.

Justifying Your Non-Persecuted Faith

OK, so 2 Timothy 3:12 is true, now what? What if we examine our life in light of this verse and see that we have no persecution? What do we do? I think you have three big options:

1) Justify your lack of persecution.
This can be done many ways. I mentioned a couple yesterday–You can say this was only true in Paul’s day or you can pretend that people treating you weird is persecution.

Some have even gone so far as to say there are two groups of people Paul is dealing with–the first group is the general mob of Christians and the second group are those who actually want to live godly. In other words, there are average Joe Christians and Superman Christians. Superman Christians can expect some kryptonite whereas average Joe Christians are off the hook. I find this to be ridiculous. All believers will have a desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, it’s kind of one of the main points of being saved.

In the end, you can justify your way out of this one all you want, I just wonder what God will say about your justification on Judgment Day. Whose word judges you: yours or God’s?

2) Go get persecuted.
This option seems logical. If all who live godly in Christ suffer persecution, then if I get persecution, I must be living godly. There are some who read this verse as a reason to go be a dork so that someone will hate them. Once they get their desired hatred, they call it a day, “Yup, I know I’m saved cuz I got persecuted.”

Seeking the end is not what Paul desires. Any old moron can get persecuted for any old reason. Every popular person has critics. Notice Paul never said, “All who are persecuted are living godly in Christ Jesus.”

3) Get a true desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.
The only proper application of this passage is to desire to live godly in Christ Jesus. If you do not currently have this desire, you may need to get saved first. Then you need to focus on Christ–That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.

This is where self-denial enters and the life of Christ takes over. Perhaps there’s some growing you need to do before anyone notices your desire to live godly. Paul doesn’t say “you will suffer persecution every minute of every day.” The persecution might be later, but if you have a desire to live godly, it will show up.

In the end, I really don’t think this is a verse you should freak yourself out about. I think this is a verse of consequences, not a verse of mode of operation.

The context shows this. Paul talks about the persecution he endured at Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra and then goes into 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea and all who will live godly. . .”

Paul is not telling us to pursue persecution, he is telling us that this is the inevitable result of doing Christianity right.

Paul’s main point on Christian living is that it’s about the life of Christ, not you. Do this and the results will take care of themselves.

Test Your Faith: Do You Suffer Persecution?

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” is one of the toughest verses to consider when examining to see whether you are in the faith.

The reason why is because of the use of the word ALL along with the harsh word “suffer persecution.” In order to combat the unfortunate conclusions drawn up by the non-sufferer of persecution, two main diversions will be employed:

1) Deny the truth of the verse. This is the most common tactic. People will say, “Well, yeah, in the days of the early church this was true, but it’s not true anymore.” This would be fine if Paul had said “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus in my day shall suffer persecution,” but he did not.

2) Invent persecution. Many will trivialize the notion of persecution and say, “Oh, dude, this one time? I wore this Jesus shirt to the mall? And, like, totally, this clerk would not help me find some jeans. I was like, ‘Dude, do you hate me cuz I love Jesus?’ And they were like, ‘sh-yah.'” And thus goes our persecution.

Again, as I said two days ago, the word means to actually pursue, to hunt down, to press toward. It’s not merely wearing a Jesus shirt into a hell-hole and getting a rise. They aren’t hunting you, you specifically went to them to annoy them.

Furthermore, the word also carries the idea of suffering, not being mildly inconvenienced.

Persecution is one of the greatest evidences of faith God could invent! Sure, Joel Osteen thinks being rich and happy are evidence, but that’s easy. God chooses what is foolish with man to prove things. God says, “Hey, want to know if you’re doing faith right? You’ll be in pain.” This makes total sense coming from the God who died on a cross for the remission of your sins.

Persecution accomplishes four things:

1) It shows the true threat that Jesus and Christianity are to the world system.
2) It proves that true faith leads to suffering, hardship, sacrifice and other tough things.
3) It embraces resurrection and other biblical promises (see Hebrews 11 about better countries to come!)
4) It keeps the riffraff out. Count the cost!

2 Timothy 3:12 says persecution should be expected by the faithful, godly follower of Jesus Christ. Paul is either lying or we got something wrong. As John Wesley said about 2 Timothy 3:12 and the use of the word “all”:

“There is no exception. Either the truth of scripture fails, or those that think they are religious, and are not persecuted, in some shape or other, on that very account, deceive themselves.”

Persecution Comes to All Who Do Christianity Right

American Christians suffer little to no actual persecution. Oh sure, a Ten Commandments monument is toppled here and there, but no Christians were actually hurt in the toppling. And, yes, I equate persecution with physical suffering.

I do so because the word “persecution” in Greek actually has the word “suffer” involved in its meaning.

The best verse in the Bible on persecution is 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

The English words “shall suffer persecution” are all from the one Greek word for “persecution.” It involves actual harm and suffering.

Now, if we examine this verse we see that ALL of a group of people, all is from a Greek word that means “all” by the way, will suffer persecution. ALL with no exceptions.

Who is this group who will ALL suffer persecution? They are “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus.”

Note it isn’t even all who are living godly, but all that will live godly. “That will” carries the idea of resolving, being determined to. Even having the intent of living godly in Christ will lead you to suffer.

Note also it’s not just living godly, but living godly in Christ Jesus. Earlier in 2 Timothy 3 Paul talked about people who had “a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” There is an outward show of what people think godliness is, but it lacks any spiritual power.

True godliness is only possible in Christ Jesus. You must be born again and walking in the Spirit, in the newness of life. Living godly truly means living the life of Christ–no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.

As Paul says in 1 Timothy 6:3-4 the person who obeys the words of Jesus Christ is the one who will live according to the doctrine of godliness.

If you have the life of Christ living through you, people will come after you to do you harm. The reason why is because that’s what people did to Jesus, it has to follow logically that it will happen to those whom the life of Christ is lived through.

2 Timothy 3:12 is one of the toughest verses Paul says about practical Christian living or about proof of salvation. It is rarely mentioned. It should be mentioned more.

Persecution of American Christians

Eighty-five people were killed in a church in Pakistan last Sunday. There are stories coming out of more and more countries concerning persecution of Christians.

People act as if this is some new thing, or that it’s never been this bad before. Sure it has. Christians have always been persecuted. Even in America.

Just the other day a Ten Commandments monument was toppled in DC.

Now, let me just say, it irritates me highly when people claim toppling a monument is persecution. It isn’t. It was probably some dumb kids acting like dumb kids.

“But, but, but” well-meaning Christians say, “This is how persecution starts. It starts small and if no one does anything it gets worse.”

Really? How many Ten Commandments monuments were toppled in Pakistan?

Christians very rarely get persecuted in America. One of the main reasons I know this is because we claim monument toppling and the banning of “Christmas trees” as persecution. If that’s the worst ya got, ya aint got persecution.

Eighty-five people bombed in a church, now that qualifies.

Now, is this just my theory or is this legit criticism?

The Greek word for persecution means to pursue, to follow, to press toward. Persecution is not some random monument toppling, it is actually being hunted.

Acts 9 gives the best account of what persecution looks like when Saul

“yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”

Saul’s persecution of believers made him actually leave where he was to go get them, to hunt them down. Persecution is when a hostile party is constantly nipping at your heels, trying to do you harm. Think religious leaders against Jesus.

Government bans of Christmas trees in capitol buildings is just silly, it’s not persecution. Frankly, I really don’t care about Christmas tree bans since they have pretty much nothing to do with anything Christian anyway.

American Christians are not persecuted like Saul persecuted or believers in Pakistan are persecuted. We aren’t.

Perhaps we can chalk it up to good luck, God’s hedge of protection or our military’s ability to hold back Muslims. Those would be possible reasons. Perhaps there’s another one.

“Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus
shall suffer persecution.”

The Misplaced Emphasis of Sola Fide

Because of things like Sola Fide, many believers think faith is the most important thing in the Christian life. That being the case, many believers view their own faith as their biggest concern.

Faith has come to mean a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Individuals then get busy being on an individual level with Jesus, as if no one else really matters. We take our “quiet time” and even teach young believers they will never grow without “quiet time, just time alone with you and God.”

This is the result of Sola Fide thinking. If it’s all by faith, I better get consumed with myself and my faith. It feeds our individualistic, narcissistic nature very well.

Is faith really the most important thing? Is faith really the Sola Sola?

Here’s another verse that really throws people for a loop, or at least would if they considered it for more than 8 seconds at weddings. From 1 Corinthians 13, Paul says

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three;
but the greatest of these is charity.”

Perhaps we should say it again to make sure we caught that

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three;
but the greatest of these is charity.”

Paul says love is greater than faith. Yet I have never heard anyone talk about Sola Amo.

As we fixate on our sola fide we ignore everyone else. Love is only possible when you begin thinking about someone other than you. Sola Fide can become individualistic and even hostile to others.

Again, the greatest commandment is not “believe the Lord your God” but is “Love the Lord your God.” Without love, faith is just a thing signifying nothing. Faith become cold, hard, stoney logical conclusions with no emotion.

But the Christian life is a life of love, a life of sacrifice and compassion. It is an emotional thing as well as an intellectual thing. Too often people flip from one to the other. But notice how often love and faith are linked together:

Galatians 5:6–faith works by love
Ephesians 1:15–I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints,
Ephesians 6:23–Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith
Colossians 1:4–your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints
1 Thessalonians 1:3–your work of faith, and labour of love
1 Thessalonians 3:6–good tidings of your faith and charity
1 Thessalonians 5:8–putting on the breastplate of faith and love
1 Timothy 1:14–exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus
1 Timothy 2:15–continue in faith and charity
2 Timothy 1:13–in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus
Philemon 1:5–Hearing of thy love and faith
Revelation 2:19–I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith
1 John 3:23–this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another

I’ll sum it up with the Beloved Disciple’s take on it all

“the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.”

Faith doesn’t fly solo and neither does love. Faith works by love. If we miss this, we miss pretty much the whole point of Christian life.

Sola Fide’s Weak Spot

One of the rallying cries of the Protestant Reformation was/is Sola Fide, Latin for faith alone. The concept seems to have originated with Martin Luther (or so Lutherans like to claim) based on such statements of his as “faith alone makes someone just and fulfills the law.”

Regardless of where it came from, it became a huge point in the Reformation. There are two main verses that seem to shoot it down, however, that I rarely hear mentioned in this context. Allow me to pontificate.

Verse One: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” Or as the Reformed people’s favorite new translation the ESV says, “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.”

So, what we see is that the only time the Bible mentions the phrase “faith alone” it inconveniently puts the words “NOT BY” in front of it. Why this has not caught anyone’s attention is beyond me.

Verse Two: “And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

Paul says if he has ALL FAITH it profits him nothing if he doesn’t have love. If faith without love is of no profit, can a man be justified by faith alone?

__________

My take on this is that love is a component of true faith. We love Him because He first loved us. Our love toward Him is demonstrated by faith in Him. As Paul says “faith worketh by love.”

Many claim to have faith, the Bible even claims that many have faith but still deny Christ. John 8 is a perfect example where a crowd said they believed in Jesus Christ and by the end of the chapter want to stone Him.

Even the demons believe, don’t forget. Faith must be mixed with love, it’s what love works by. A loveless faith is not saving faith, it is mere intellectual hoping or something.

I think Sola Fide is a tad misleading. I won’t go so far as to say it’s wrong based on how it is mostly used–we are saved by grace through faith. I merely point out that ignoring love in our talk of faith leads people astray.

The greatest commandment wasn’t “Believe the Lord your God” but rather “Love the Lord your God.”

Measuring Spiritual Growth

Spiritual growth is a hard thing to measure, it may even be impossible to measure to an outsider.

I think when we say “he/she has really grown” what we probably mean is “he/she sure sounds a lot more like me than he/she used to!”

People agreeing with you may not be the best indicator of spiritual growth! The only reason one would assume so is if one viewed themselves as spiritually mature, which undoubtedly most do.

On the other side of this is when we know a person who continually seems to disagree with us over things and we conclude they have “gone off the deep end.” In reality, they might be growing!

One of the things growing people do is go to weird extremes. I live with two junior high girls who say everything in extreme language.

I used to correct them. “EVERY one laughed at you?” “Really, you HATE pillows?” I used to correct all their extreme statements until my mouth grew weary and I never wanted to speak again.

It’s what people this age do, it’s part of growing, of getting an identity, it’s a start of thinking. They are beginning to process stuff for themselves. They often say things I disagree with, but I let it go because I know they are just talking about their thinking, which will be the exact opposite in about four minutes.

This is what spiritual growth can look like too. I know many a person who cannot abide by anyone ever sharing an opposing opinion on any subject. Sleep flees them until all agree with them.

Spiritual growth in a person should not be measured in similarity to you.
Spiritual growth is measured by how similar they become like Christ.
Spiritual growth is not measured by how similar the become like your idea of Christ either.

Judging spiritual growth by agreement with you is as meaningful as measuring your golf game by your comparative height to rival golfers.

Height has nothing to do with how good your golf game is; agreement with you has nothing to do with spiritual growth. If Christ were first and we denied self, I imagine we’d calm down a whole lot more about people’s opinions.

There are many heretical villages on the road to sound theology. Let people pass through them. I guarantee you went through many yourself. When you must correct, do it with humility, considering your own self lest you be led astray.

Remember, you might be the one who is wrong.

“if any man think that he knoweth any thing,
he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.”

Others May, You Cannot–Self-Denial and the Individual

A classic text on self-denial is from an old Christian tract entitled “Others May, You Cannot” written by G. D. Watson.

The point of the message is that many Christians around you are doing stuff you just can’t quite do. There may not be anything wrong with what they are doing, it’s just that you can’t do it yourself.

This raises a couple points:

1) You know this wasn’t written in the last 50 years don’t ya!? Modern Christianity is largely self-help based moralism. Any mention of self-denial and you’ll be labeled a legalist. But the Bible and Church Tradition hold strongly to the notion of self-denial, it is only in our modern self-esteem culture that we assume our self is too awesome to be denied, that this teaching has fallen out.

2) Self-denial looks different for every person. One of the tragedies of Christianity is our obsession with fitting in and being like everyone around us. But God is taking each of us through things to conform us to Christ. My battles aren’t your battles. The disaster comes when we make everyone else deny themselves the way I deny myself. How do I know what you need to deny? Paul said he kept his own body under subjection, he didn’t keep anyone else’s body under subjection!

Here is the text of the tract. It’s a beauty. One to read and re-read as you go through your years. They don’t write em like this anymore.

Others who seem to be very religious and useful, may push themselves, pull wires, and scheme to carry out their plans, but you cannot. If you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.

Others can brag about themselves, their work, their successes, their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing. If you begin to do so, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.

Others will be allowed to succeed in making great sums of money, or having a legacy left to them, or in having luxuries, but God may supply you only on a day-to-day basis, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, a helpless dependence on Him and His unseen treasury.

The Lord may let others be honored and put forward while keeping you hidden in obscurity because He wants to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade.

God may let others be great, but keep you small. He will let others do a work for Him and get the credit, but He will make you work and toil without knowing how much you are doing. Then, to make your work still more precious, He will let others get the credit for the work which you have done; this to teach you the message of the Cross, humility, and something of the value of being cloaked with His nature.

The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch on you, and with a jealous love rebuke you for careless words and feelings, or for wasting your time which other Christians never seem distressed over.

So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign and has a right to do as He pleases with His own, and that He may not explain to you a thousand things which may puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. God will take you at your word; if you absolutely sell yourself to be His slave, He will wrap you up in a jealous love and let other people say and do many things that you cannot. Settle it forever; you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue or chaining your hand or closing your eyes in ways which others are not dealt with.

However, know this great secret of the Kingdom: When you are so completely possessed with the Living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of heaven, the high calling of God.

Self-Denial Is Being Like Christ

When push comes to shove, I’d rather have someone go too far with self-denial than completely ignore it. To ignore self-denial is to miss the entire point of Christian living. To go too far with it merely means you got carried away, if at least you act on what you saw in the Word.

There is much talk about being like Jesus. What Would Jesus Do? as a fad has come and gone, as all fads do, but it raised a good point.

We talk about Christlikeness and talk about fellow believers who we praise for being a “Christ-like example.” However, many of these people I’ve heard praised this way look absolutely nothing like the Christ of the Bible, so I wonder what they even mean by that.

Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of self-denial. He humbled Himself in the form of a servant. He came to do His Father’s will. He came not to be served but to serve. He could have brought down 12 legions of angels to blow away the bad guys, but He denied all this. As Paul says, “He pleased not Himself.”

What a statement! He pleased not himself. Wow. That’s what Christlikeness is–self-denial.

So, Paul, who tells us to be like Christ, says in 1 Corinthians 10:24 “Let no man seek his own” and goes on to say “Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.”

Self-denial is not something Christ did so we don’t have to. This is something Christ did and Paul did and they both tell us to do the same thing. Why?

Because this is how people are awakened to the Gospel. They observe your selflessness, you are one of the few people in the world who isn’t trying to sell something, you’re not in it for your profit, you are in it for their profit.

The world can’t do this! The world finds this to be stupid, which is why most Christians find self-denial stupid and why the Church is so ineffectual at truly saving souls.

Want to be like Christ? Then deny yourself that others might find Christ.

Self-Denial is a Pillar of Christianity

Self-denial is huge in Christianity, or at least should be.

You would never guess this from the appearance of Christianity, but if you spend any time reading the Bible you’ll pick up on it.

Unfortunately, since most ignore self-denial and the other half goes to odd extremes with it, self-denial has a bad reputation.

One group is so busy in licentiousness and having a good time with Jesus, who just wants you to be rich and healthy don’t ya know, can’t even understand what self-denial has to do with anything! “I thought Jesus wanted me to be myself, isn’t that why He made me this way?”

Another group thinks that being miserable equals being spiritual. They pound themselves into the ground and assume God is pleased by their misery. This is done either out of penance, or to create some sort of feeling of spiritual awesomeness.

Both views of self-denial are destructive and not correct with the Bible’s teaching on the subject.

Lets define our term. To deny means to “disown, deny utterly, abstain, reject, abnegate, refuse.” Self-denial then is disowning yourself, refusing to give you what you want.

The other day I was at Wendy’s with my wife and they had the Baconator, a huge burger with bacon. Mmmmm. However, I used restraint, I denied myself and instead of ordering The Baconator, I instead got the slightly smaller Son of Baconator. Boom, I denied self!

Not really. I ate half my wife’s burger too.

The idea of merely refusing to get what you want still might not be the Bible’s idea of self-denial. Self-denial in the Bible has to do with putting off anything that is not helping you spiritually. It’s putting off what is bad (self) so that you might put on something better (Christ).

In other words, being miserable by denying yourself a pleasure is not spiritual, that might just be a diet. The point of biblical self-denial is to get rid of things that are not helping you grow into Christ. Observe the following list of biblical terms for self-denial:

Deny self–Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23
Deny worldly lusts–Titus 2:12
Mortify—Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5
Put off—Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:8,9
Lay aside—Hebrews 12:1,2
Not entangling—2 Timothy 2:4
Temperate—self-disciplined—1 Corinthians 9:25-27
Let not sin reign—Romans 6:12
Abstain—1 Peter 2:11
Not seeking own—1 Corinthians 10:24, 33; Philippians 2:4
Forsaking all—Luke 14:33
Taking up cross—Matthew 10:38;
Being crucified—Galatians 5:24; 6:14
Strangers and Pilgrims—Hebrews 11:13-15; 1 Peter 2:11
Lose life—Matthew 16:25-26
I die daily—1 Corinthians 15:31
sheep for slaughter—Romans 8:36

The point of these passages is to show you that in order to grow spiritually, to grow into Christ, you have to stop doing your junk that is hindering progress. Many of these have to do with putting off sin, but some of them are more generic, such as the affairs of this life or laying aside every weight.

Self-denial does not mean eating bread and drinking water in a hole in the ground for Jesus. Being miserable wins you no points.

Self-denial means nothing without love. Love for God, love for others, based on the love of Christ in the love of the Gospel. Love surrounds the whole thing.

To be one of those who doesn’t think self-denial has anything to do with faith, merely means you don’t love God, nor do you understand the love of the Gospel. To be one of those who bash themselves to bits to feel good spiritually is to entirely miss the point of everything.

Self-denial is a logical outcome of seeing your sin and having a desire to be like Christ. It is entirely necessary for going through narrow gates and finishing races.

Putting People in Heaven Might Lead You to Hell

Christians are weird. It’s amazing to me who we/they assume are in heaven.

I know many a scummy individual who had no good reputation in any one’s mind, who after death is suddenly in heaven. We’re all happy for them and we put them next to St. Peter watching the ballgames on the weekend.

What?

Obviously the reason people do this is because no one wants to imagine their family member or friend rotting away in the torments of hell. So we put them in heaven and go on feeling chipper.

The disaster of this mentality, however, is that since we “know” that all these scummy people are in heaven, I know I’m going there too, because I’m not as bad as they were and they’re “in.”

It’s amazing to me how many Christians can’t stop talking about how we’re not saved by works, and yet their number one proof that they are going to heaven is that their works are better than someone else’s.

Oh sure, they never put it that directly, but boy howdy is it there in how they talk and go about life.

We assume we know who is in heaven and since we’ve put worse people than us in there, we rest assured that we’ll end up there too. Never once, seemingly, has it dawned on people to look at the Bible and see who the Bible puts in heaven.

Hebrews 11 is a great place to start. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is another good one.

The Words in the Bible mean way more than the thoughts in your head.

This is a tough thing to deal with for us, but it is true nonetheless.

I don’t know if your mother, your grandpa, your bestest friend in the whole wide universe is in heaven. I do not know their eternal state and NEITHER DO YOU!

Another fan favorite in Christianity is to talk about how we can’t judge, and yet we feel pretty comfortable judging that everyone and their mother is in heaven.

Mind you, I am not saying if anyone is in heaven or they aren’t! What I am saying is, do not use other people as the gauge by which you determine where you are spending eternity.

We are judged by the Word of God. I suggest you take the Words of God seriously and examine yourself. Measure yourself against Christ, not your dear old grandpappy who you never really liked all that much when he was alive anyway.

Where the Church Can Beat the World

When it comes to entertainment, Christianity just can’t compete with the world. Oh, we keep trying, but we just can’t.

People bemoan all the youth who leave the church, but these youth have been raised in a church that has shown that life is all about having a good time with Jesus.

Kids aren’t dumb. They know where to find a good time. The world can put on a much better good time than the church can. And, if I can just take Jesus with me since I already “said the prayer,” I’ll just go to the world for the good time and call it a win-win.

Jesus Christ is not calling people to have a good time on earth. I know this isn’t what Joel Osteen and his ilk say, nor is it what most mainstream Christians promote, but it’s what the Bible clearly points out.

Let your laughter be turned to mourning means something. The Bible doesn’t say, “All who live godly will enjoy life,” it says all who live godly will suffer persecution. Don’t be surprised when the world hates you. The world loves its own but you are not of the world.

1 Corinthians 1-3 makes it clear that God does everything the exact opposite of the world. Man’s wisdom is foolishness with God. Yet the Church repeatedly goes after man’s wisdom, rejoices because we get man’s results (nice buildings, lots of followers, money, etc) but then gets discouraged that their kids turn out like heathen scum.

Go figure.

The world offers a real good time. If the Church wants to compete on this level the Church will lose every time. What the world will not ever truly promote, and where the Church can totally win, is in love and self-sacrifice.

Yeah, the world will celebrate these virtues occasionally when they remember fallen heroes, but for the most part, this virtue is buried in our media driven society that puts me first.

Christianity isn’t “all the world plus Jesus.” No, Christianity is Jesus and the world to come. We live for a better country.

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Submit Yourself or Defend Yourself. It’s Your Call

When Jesus was about to be betrayed, the mob came at Him, Peter swung His sword and Jesus told everyone to relax. In the midst of the confusion and the attempted arrest, Jesus says these words:

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?”

To me, this is the essence of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. At any point He could have skipped out of this. At any point He could have given in and decided to prove His power instead of being frustrated and humiliated constantly.

The pull had to be there. It’s what Satan’s temptation in the wilderness was all about, and I doubt heavily it ceased there.

I don’t know what people think when they hear talk about living the life of Christ. I think many have the idea that we just smile more, or that we get surrounded by miracles.

The life of Christ is hard. Remember that Christ was described as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

Living the life of Christ means when we are faced with the choice between defending ourselves, proving our wonderfulness, or taking a shot and being humiliated: we choose to get shot.

Yet so many who I see claim to be followers of Christ are upset about everything and constantly demanding their rights. It’s not even over big stuff. It’s the Christian whininess about what this person said to me or the dumb guy at the register who slowed me down because he doesn’t even know how to count change.

It’s amazing.

Every day you have multiple opportunities to give into defensiveness and proving you are better, or just taking the shot, being humiliated and let it go. If we can’t handle this waiting in line for our hamburger, I doubt highly we’ll withstand true persecution.

As Paul told believers in Corinth, instead of fighting, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”

This is the life of Christ: “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

If you’re a believer, go live this.

Do You Hate Your Life? It’s a Good Place to Start

Your self isn’t as great as you think it is! Consider:

The eternal God and Creator humbled Himself to become flesh, giving up heaven for a time, becoming a servant to die for you and your precious life that was so filled with sin there was no other way to redeem you than for your Creator to die for you so that you might die and be born again. God thinks you need to die. He’s not impressed. He thinks you need a re-do.

Yet, somehow or another, we continue to believe that we are special and to all appearances “good.” We honestly believe that with a little education and elbow grease we can actually turn into an upstanding individual.

We live as though there isn’t much wrong with us, nothing that we can’t fix anyway. Our lives are our priority and there aren’t many rivals for that top spot.

Then Jesus, the Son of God, comes along, you know that real nice, smiley guy from Sunday School? He comes along and drops this on you:

“He that hateth his life in this world shall keep it
unto life eternal.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Hang on now,” we protest. “I thought Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ In order to love others, I must first learn to love myself. How can I love others as myself if I hate myself?”

Yeah, I don’t know, you’ll have to ask Him.

No, even here, we see the futility of our lives on earth (Yes, Ecclesiastes is for today). After a while you begin to just hate life, the all-pervading stupid of it all. You see your own sin, your depravity, your total lack of virtue as you listen to your heart.

It’s disgusting. There’s no remedy. I cannot save myself from myself. There is no deliverance from my own stupid. I do indeed hate my life on this earth.

As I grow in my hatred for my stupid life on earth and how I mess everything up and nothing works and it’s all so dumb, I also grow in my love for Christ and setting my affection on things above.

The life of Christ becomes what I love to the extent I want His life in me, not my own life. Christ’s life is the only good life to live, which means I must get rid of mine.

As I get rid of mine I am then able to love others and show to them the love of Christ. If I live for me, it just won’t work.

Hating your life is not some depressed, suicidal moping. Oh no! It’s an intellectual understanding creating emotional responses that drive you to Christ, to the one thing that can bring redemption to your earthly life.

Hating your life in this way is the only way to live with hope!

Your Life is a Vapor

This week I have brought up some verses about how Believers are to view their lives.

You are dead and your life is hid with Christ
Take no thought for your life
You are not your own

I’ve got another one for you, a good one to keep you humble and yet on your toes.

“For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

This is the ultimate fallacy of the humanistic philosophy that we are to look out for number one and walk over all others to be all we can be. Your life is a vapor, a puff of smoke.

I’m amazed at how many people find this to be depressing!Think about it: we’re a wisp of smoke away from heaven!

Christians have all but cut Ecclesiastes out of their Bible. I once heard someone say that no New Testament believer could possibly hold to Ecclesiastes.

This is so frighteningly wrong! Scripture is clear that our life really isn’t all that great!

It is so easy to get sucked into the self-absorbed, narcissist way of life that puts self first. But the more you put self first the more angry, resentful and impatient you become. Christian virtue is not possible with a self-focused life.

When you reach the other side of life, glimpse God and eternity, you will see just how dumb all your fussing, feuding, worrying and fighting for you and your stuff really was.

It’s better to have that view now and save yourself some trouble.

C. S. Lewis on Denying Self

“Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life.

“Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead.

“Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

–C. S. Lewis
Mere Christianity

Your Life is Hid With Christ

Two real good phrases to grab to remind you what your life is in Colossians 3:3:

“For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

1) Ye are dead. That puts it plainly enough! When a believer is truly identified with Christ by faith, they are crucified with Him, buried with Him and raised up with Him. The new birth, the new life, takes over and the old life, the old man, is done away with. It is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.

2) Your life is hid. One of the applications I have heard of this is “When God looks at you, He only sees Christ, He doesn’t see you.” This is inherently false, He can very clearly see you. Usually this phrase is brought up to let Christians know that sin isn’t much of  a problem, God is wearing a Jesus blindfold, so you can get away with it.

Notice what the phrase says–your life is hid WITH Christ IN God. Your life is not hid IN Christ FROM God! Your life is hid IN God!

Christ is not hiding you from God, you are hiding in God! Obviously then, God knows what you are doing in your life because you are in Him. There is no part of God that God is not aware of!

Being hidden in God is a constant refrain of the Psalmists. God being a shield, or rock of defense, or perhaps even a rock of ages, cleft for me, let me hide myself in thee.

Being hidden in God doesn’t mean bad stuff won’t happen, nor does it mean we are invisible to Him. What it means is that we are with Christ and God has us covered.

There is security, peace, promise and hope in God, so we need never be afraid, never need worry, and never need give in to the temptations around us.

Again, if we only saw how transient, vain and short our fleshly life is on this earth and if we truly saw how long eternity is and how Great God is, life would look different.

We are not here to live out our dreams, chase our fancies or make much of self. Nope, self is pretty much the problem. We are here to be formed into Christ and let Him live through us to bring others to Him.

Take No Thought for Your Life

Our life is not our own. I imagine there are big time ramifications of such a thing. Here, I believe is one of them:

Take no thought for your life.”

There’s another beauty of a mission statement for life, except having a mission statement for your life might entail taking thought for your life.

“Thought” does not mean you can’t think about what you are going to do, or that you can’t plan or take precautions. “Thought” has more to do with being anxious, bogged down with cares and concerns. “Stressed” would be the word of today!

According to Thayer’s Definitions, it also has the meaning of “to seek to promote one’s interests; caring or providing for.”

Most people just leave it at “hey, don’t worry, be happy, mun.” But I do believe it goes further than not being worried. As the definition above demonstrates, it has a lot to do with putting self first and caring for you before anyone else.

Jesus Christ is trying to tell us to not be self-centered in our thinking. Try this some time! I think the only way this is truly possible is with the Holy Spirit’s intervention, a captivating love of the Gospel and possessing the new life of Christ in you.

This is not something you can manufacture out of will-power, as this would leave you in the sticking point of “I am going to put myself second today and not think about me, oh wait, how can I tell myself not to think about me if I can’t think about me?”

The Sermon on the Mount is not meant for flesh people; it is a spiritual life, only possible with Christ, as it is a definition of His life.

We must be born again! When new life takes over a person, their old life fades away, He must increase while we decrease. One sure sign you have the life of Christ is self-forgetfulness.

Take no thought for your life

You Are Not Your Own

1 Corinthians 6:19 and its environs are heard often:

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?”

Generally these verses are brought up to guilt young people in the church to not have sex, which is actually the context of the passage, so that’s at least encouraging.

Unfortunately, the context is broader and has more applications than to hormonal youths engaging in premarital sex. There is a phrase in that verse that would rock your world if you allowed it to.

It’s the five words at the end of the verse “ye are not your own.”

Let those words sink in a bit.

“Ye are not your own.”

You don’t belong to you! Want to know why Christianity is seldom actually lived? Because it means you don’t belong to yourself. Everything in our world tells you that you do belong to you.

You are the captain of your soul. At Subway you can “have it your way.” McDonalds used to tell you that “You deserve a break today,” apparently, with the economy the way it is these days they no longer think that, but they used to.

But imagine living life as though you belonged to someone else, as though you were property, as though you didn’t call the shots in your day. No, instead, you did what your owner told you.

Makes you feel like a slave doesn’t it? Ever wonder why Paul continually refers to himself as a bond-slave of Christ? Because Paul saw himself as that and he wants you to see that too.

You aren’t here for you. You don’t even belong to you. You are a steward of your own life, taking care of God’s property. As a believer in Jesus Christ, you now have Christ as your Master, your Lord, your Commanding Officer.

Ever listened to the words of Christ?! He says some pretty out there stuff. Paul, a slave of Christ’s, says that if any man consents “not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;He is proud, knowing nothing.”

People view the Sermon on the Mount as being impossible. It is–to your flesh. But when you have been indwelt by the Spirit of God Himself, the Sermon on the Mount sounds refreshingly wonderful as an alternative to the drivel the world is screaming.

Christian–you don’t belong to you. You have been bought. Do what your Master says.

Being Holy and Good Intentions

St. Augustine authored his Confessions many years ago. One of the things he talked about was his fast and loose life before his conversion. At a certain point he came to see his sin, his affront to God and saw the error of his way of life.

But he also enjoyed his women! At one point he says, “Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.”

I like the honesty, but fear this is where many are with the “Christian life.” We like the ideals, we like the notions of self-sacrifice, giving up the fleshly life for the spiritually minded life and all that goes with it. It sounds grand. A lofty ideal. Something to shoot for.

But not yet.

We’d rather enjoy sin for a season more. maybe next winter I’ll go for it.

Here’s another quote from my man William Law:

“The reason why you see no real mortification or self-denial, no eminent charity, no profound humility, no heavenly affection, no true contempt of the world, no Christian meekness, no sincere zeal, no eminent piety in the common lives of Christians, is this, because they do not so much as intend to be exact and exemplary in these virtues.”

His point is this: the reason so few Christians get anywhere in Christianity is because they really don’t want to.

We all know that good intentions don’t replace actual behavior. We know this perhaps so much that we have eliminated the idea of intentions altogether.

For fear of not meeting our intention, we decide not to intend anything anymore! When we hear the commands of Scripture to be holy and perfect as our Father in heaven, do we even desire that? More than likely we get busy justifying those statements away rather than believing they are actual and possible.

All Christians have “good intentions” that remain in the area of hopes and dreams. The word intention means “an act or instance of determining mentally upon some action or result.” It’s a mental determination, not just a dream or hope.

Do we intend to be holy, or do we just dream about it and then go watch football all day?

True Faith Results in True Life

The reason why we know so little of Jesus Christ, as our savior, atonement, and justification, why we are so destitute of that faith in him, which alone can change, rectify, and redeem our souls, why we live starving in the coldness and deadness of a formal, historical, hearsay-religion, is this; we are strangers to our own inward misery and wants, we know not that we lie in the jaws of death and hell; we keep all things quiet within us, partly by outward forms, and modes of religion and morality, and partly by the comforts, cares and delights of this world.

Hence it is that we consent to receive a savior, as we consent to admit of the four gospels, because only four are received by the church. We believe in a savior, not because we feel an absolute want of one, but because we have been told there is one, and that it would be a rebellion against God to reject him. We believe in Christ as our atonement, just as we believe, that he cast seven devils out of Mary Magdalene, and so are no more helped, delivered, and justified by believing that he is our atonement, than by believing that he cured Mary Magdalene.

“True faith, is a coming to Jesus Christ to be saved, and delivered from a sinful nature, as the Canaanitish woman came to him, and would not be denied. It is a faith of love, a faith of hunger, a faith of thirst, a faith of certainty and firm assurance, that in love and longing, and hunger, and thirst, and full assurance, will lay hold on Christ, as its loving, assured, certain and infallible savior and atonement.

“It is this faith, that breaks off all the bars and chains of death and hell in the soul; it is to this faith, that Christ always says, what he said in the gospel, “Thy faith hath saved thee, thy sins are forgiven thee; go in peace.” Nothing can be denied to this faith; all things are possible to it; and he that thus seeks Christ, must find him to be his salvation.

“On the other hand, all things will be dull and heavy, difficult and impossible to us, we shall toil all the night and take nothing, we shall be tired with resisting temptations, grow old and stiff in our sins and infirmities, if we do not with a strong, full, loving, and joyful assurance, seek and come to Christ for every kind, and degree of strength, salvation and redemption. We must come unto Christ, as the blind, the sick, and the leprous came to him, expecting all from him, and nothing from themselves. When we have this faith, then it is, that Christ can do all his mighty works in us.”

William Law
Characters & Characteristics, p.119-120

Cultural Christianity is Not Christianity

Yesterday I mentioned what I think to be a major misunderstanding of the Gospel in the church today. Your life is about Christ in you; it’s not about you. You are not your own.

When I explain that, most believers nod their head in agreement. “Of course, yes, amen brother.” But I keeps it real. I don’t just like to say pithy statements, I like to show people what pithy statements mean.

There were two phrases this past week I heard from people who would nod their head to my assertion that life is about Christ and not you, and yet both said something that defies this notion. Here’s what they said:

Example One: In a discussion about politics and what can be done to get rid of our current president a person said, “We need to spread the Gospel so people quit voting for guys like him.”

Example Two: In a discussion against gun control a person said, “We need to spread the Gospel to reform society and save our world.”

I am not going to debate either statement, they may or may not be true, whether they are or not is completely irrelevant to me, because here’s my point:

Do you share the Gospel out of love for a person, out of concern for their soul, out of fear of God’s judgment on the sinner OR do you share the Gospel to reform society, get better politicians so your tax rates go down so you can enjoy a more comfortable materialistic life with the right to shoot people who take your stuff?

I keeps it real.

The believer in Christ who is solely looking to heaven, to living Christlike rather than selfishly, doesn’t really care about fighting for this world. He embraces and shares the Gospel out of concern for his fellow-man and in fear of God and because of the seriousness of sin.

I don’t want sinners to reform so I can enjoy peace on earth; I want them to reform so they can have peace for eternity.

Any time our “spirituality” has an earthly motive we are missing the point. I know this is nearly heresy in our day when we are supposed to be socially conscious and whatnot, but we must be careful here.

Jesus told us to love our neighbor; He did not tell us to reform society. There’s a big difference. As H. L. Mencken once said, “The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.” I think that’s what most Christian want with evangelism–they want to rule the world.

Many reasons for evangelism sound more like a political party platform than they do a concern for eternity.

Christ is not running for office. He did not die so we could live our best life now. He died because this world is beyond saving. He died that the few, the remnant, would be saved.

Part of being saved is walking on the narrow road, not the broad road clogged with the majority. Do we believe this, or do we merely want to pretend our road is broader than Christ said it was?

I fear that many Christians want Christianity so they can have the earth now; when Christ told us to give up this life now so we might truly possess in the life to come.

Christian Living is Death, Burial and Resurrection

“And here may be plainly seen why the wisdom of this world always was, and always must be, foolishness with God. It is because the wisdom of this world, be it of what kind it will, in whatever form or shape it appears, has nothing of the process of Christ [death, burial, resurrection] in it, is not only without it, but contrary to it.

“Therefore let a man be doing what he will, no matter how great, wise or distinguishing it may seem to be, yet, since it has not its rise and growth in and from the one spirit of Christ’s process, it is but mere foolishness with God, and has all the loss and misery in it to man that can be the effect of any folly.

“For since the one great want, or the one thing needful to man, is to come out of the evil, the blindness and misery of his fallen nature, and nothing either in heaven or on earth can possibly do this for him but the one spirit of Christ’s whole process, nothing else can possibly be His wisdom

“This state of things is unalterable; it equally takes in every man and every age of the world. The law, the prophets, the Gospel, may be all embraced, honoured, and defended with zeal, in their respective times; but if the one spirit of Christ’s whole process is not the one thing sought, the one thing found and kept alive by them, law, prophets, and gospel, however holy, spiritual and good in themselves, will be made to set up a kingdom of that worldly wisdom which is foolishness with God.

For all the dispensations of God have but one wisdom and one meaning, they mean nothing, seek nothing, but to bring forth a real and true resurrection of the life, spirit and power of Christ in the fallen human nature. “

William Law
Character & Characteristics, p.104

What Christian Living Looks Like

We are alive for one reason–to decide where we spend eternity.

I heard from a guy once who thought this was ridiculous. He was a Christian and he fought against the notion that life was all about whether we go to heaven. He said it devalued everything else we did.

“Yeah, it does,” I said. “Ever read Ecclesiastes? ‘Vanity, vanity, saith the preacher, vanity, vanity, all is vanity.’ He repeats that for a reason.”

“I refuse to believe that what I do is vain.”

OK.

Our biggest problem in life is pride. We think life is about me, me, me.

But you were given life. God created you, granted you life and a body that is alive. What will you do with it?

Will you live life as if it were a gift, or will you live it as though you own it? Are you the captain of your soul, or a steward of your soul?

The way you answer that question will have huge ramifications in how you live.

If you believe your life is yours, that you are here to “leave a mark” or “leave a legacy,” if you think your life is yours and you can do what you want with it, or that God wants you to be the best you you can be, your life will look a certain way.

If you believe you were bought with a price and you are not your own, that your life is hid, that it is no longer you but Christ, that you were crucified with Christ, that you see your own flesh life as a hated thing, if you deny yourself, renounce all of you so that you decrease and Christ increases, your life will look a certain way.

I’ve heard Christians come down on both sides of this issue. I fear that one group is truly missing the entire point.

You aren’t here for you. If that truly sunk in, if we embraced that clear biblical truth, our lives would look different. They would look more like God taking the form of a servant to serve others, not to be served.

7 Signs You Learn the Bible Out of Pride

Yesterday I did two posts: the first was on knowing the Bible and the second was on why we use pride to teach. There is a connection.

I have seen in my years in the church the use of pride to teach the Bible. Classic illustration is when I was whipped up by my youth group leader to “memorize verses so we beat the other team.”

Now, I’m all for competition and some good was done by shoving verses in my head as a youth, but I think the vast majority of what passes for “Christian education” is merely using pride to accomplish the teacher’s goals and very little to do with the Holy Spirit’s teaching.

There are signs that pride is leading you to know the Bible, things that show your interest in Scripture is less than spiritual and way more about you. Here are a few leading indicators.

1) Bible Trivia. You learn the Bible so you can look like you know the Bible. You know the order of the books (even though you’ve never read most of them), you know names and battles and kingdoms and covenants, etc. Yeah, you’d do well in the annual Bible Bowl competition, but you have no clue.

2) Attention Grabbers. You learn the Bible to come up with some new thing, a new angle on an old subject. You learned something about sheep and you are dying to force it into your lesson. You study the Bible to get that weird thing you can impress people with and get some attention. Hey, you never know, you might even be able to start a new church!

3) Win Arguments. You go to Scripture to prove you are right and everyone else is a moron. You know all the proof texts for your issue (s) and that’s about it. No, you have no clue who God is, but you can sure make morons look moronic for not knowing your proof texts.

4) Peer Pressure. You learn the Bible because everyone around you is. This one isn’t all bad, but can be if your only motivation is to “fit in.” It’s better than dropping out, but honestly, there are better reasons to know the Bible than how well your neighbor does. What happens when you convince yourself you know more than everyone?

5) Receive Rewards. You learn the Bible to win points, get prizes or perhaps even a fancy degree you can hang on the wall to prove you know it. You learn to show you’re awesome. Look at my awards that prove it!

6) Sound Impressive. You learn the Bible to wow the crowd. How many hours of Sunday School classes and Bible Studies have been wasted by some blowhard pontificating about the three things in the Bible he’s aware of?

7) Us vs. Them. You learn exactly what you’re supposed to learn. You really don’t learn the Bible as much as learn what your group knows. Walking in lockstep with your Guy, your family, your church, your denomination, your lunch group is your main goal. Yeah, you can repeat what they know, but you have no personal knowledge of the Bible, no beliefs that veer from The Group, no new answers cuz you know not to ask those questions. It’s all about ME and how I am in US and WE are better than YOU!

How many people would take the time to learn the Bible if all of these reasons were eliminated? About four.

There is one main reason to know the Bible: to know God. Everything else fits into that. When you know God: you know what to believe, you know yourself, you know how to live and everything else. Know the Bible to know God.

If it helps, learn in your closet. One of my favoritest verses of all time is “hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God.” There is a time to pontificate and show what you know. But I pray that all believers, especially those who are pastors or teachers, know a whole lot of stuff they never share with anyone. The silent learning of life, the ongoing growth with Christ that no one else would understand anyway.

How much would you learn if pride was no factor?