An older preacher told the story of a young minister interviewing for his first pastorate. The Pulpit Committee had invited him to come over to their church for the interview. The committee chairman asked, "Son, do you know the Bible pretty good?"
The young minister said, "Yes, pretty good." The chairman asked, "Which part do you know best?" He responded saying, "I know the New Testament best." "Which part of the New Testament do you know best," asked the chairman. The young minister said, "Several parts." The chairman said, "Well, why don't you tell us the story of the Prodigal Son." The young man said, "Fine."
"There was a man of the Pharisees name Nicodemus, who went down to Jericho by night and he fell upon stony ground and the thorns choked him half to death.
The next morning Solomon and his wife, Gomorrah, came by, and carried him down to the ark for Moses to take care of. But, as he was going through the Eastern Gate into the Ark, he caught his hair in a limb and he hung there forty days and forty nights and he afterwards did hunger. And, the ravens came and fed him.
The next day, the three wise men came and carried him down to the boat dock and he caught a ship to Nineveh. And when he got there he found Delilah sitting on the wall. He said, "Throw her down, boys, throw her down." And, they said, "How many times shall we throw her down, till seven time seven?" And he said, "No, but seventy times seven." And they chucked her down four hundred and ninety times.
And, she burst asunder in their midst. And they picked up twelve baskets of the leftovers. And, in the resurrection whose wife shall she be?"
The above incident may not be true but the confusion of the Word of God is often true in Christians today. Believers everywhere today are ‘nibble nibble’ Christians rather than wholesome ones. Their Bible reading or hearing, most of the time on Sundays only, is like fine dining instead of continuous nutritious chewing and digesting. One well-known preacher in the United States went so far to say that the Americans have become illiterate in Bible knowledge.
The term ‘Crayon Christianity’ is aptly applied to this generation of believers. The maturity level in the Word stopped when they left Sunday School. The rest is just nibbling from every nook and corner, hardly able to distinguish right from wrong.
Today’s Christianity has been challenged with greater intensity. Atheists are slowly gaining mass appeal. The famous atheists used to be some nerdy, thick-spectacled professors having debates with high and mighty theologians concerning high and mighty issues of faith. This scenario has begun to change; young and old are now starting to be interested in hearing famous atheists challenging the Bible and its doctrines. Richard Dawkins wrote “God-Delusion” and sold about 2 million copies. Christopher Hitchens who wrote “God is not great” had a great following, young and old alike. People like television host, Bill Maher, actor Ricky Gervais and also singer Lady Gaga had mass appeal. These famous people are not only atheists (maybe Lady Gaga has a slight Roman Catholic background), they are incredibly intelligent and well-versed with today’s world.
There are hosts of others who are coming up to challenge the way Christians live for Christ and the biblical standard and if we are ill-equipped, then we may waver in our living for Christ. It is not enough to just nibble God’s Word on Sundays. We must chomp and gulp His precious Word every day, taking self initiative, self feeding your way to maturity.
God is preparing and equipping His army of believers who are able to stand firm on His Word and withstand every challenge against it. There is no excuse whatsoever for Christians today not to be equipped in God’s Word as God has provided more than enough resources for us.
Let us consider few things we need to do in order to be well-equipped…
1. We have to seriously think of learning apologetics (how to defend our faith).
Read books like “More than a Carpenter” and “Evidences that demand a verdict” by Josh Mc Dowell and “Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. (These three books are quite sufficient, not only to defend our faith, it will also strengthen our faith)
Below are a few quotes from two famous atheists challenging what the Word of God is saying,
“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.”
“Exceptional claims demand exceptional evidence.”
The Bible may, indeed does, contain a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre, but we are not bound by any of it because it was put together by crude, uncultured human mammals.”
Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.
I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.
Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.
Believers in the Lord must progress by the day, both in the Word and in spirituality. When we first became Christians, we were like babies naturally craving for milk. Often it is provided by mature believers in the church. After a certain time in the Lord, we will have to find truths for our own life, to satisfy a greater thirst for God. Although we still need teachers and professors to deliver deeper truths to us, all of us can connect to the Holy Spirit and learn from the Master Teacher. It is more about the attitude of learning rather than a matter of intelligence. Do you want to learn? Or do you still want to depend on the ‘bottle’ or ‘handouts’?
2. Read daily the Word of God, book by book.
While it is not wrong to nibble the Bible here and there every day, but to get a good wholesome picture of the text, we need to read it systematically. Many Christians today may not know the many connections between the Old Testament and the New. We must understand both Testaments in order to get a complete picture of what God is doing. Although the Bible is a library of sixty six books, they all present a same theme, “the world is fallen and God is the Saviour”. Since history began, there are no other writings or literatures which were compiled by more than forty writers who mostly didn’t know each other, spanning more than three thousand years and yet could arrive at the same theme. It is indeed a mind-blowing miracle.
When we read a novel, it is often completed within a day or two. Even remembering its plots and subplots. When it comes to the Bible, we jump from Exodus to Nehemiah, from Ephesians to Jeremiah. Worse, we flip randomly and viola! God has spoken!
3. Read to understand and not read to complete a Christian duty.
Jesus’ main idea of telling parables is that the people may understand the message of the kingdom, especially the parable of the soils. He wants to turn the religious mindset of the people upside down. The main point of God giving us the Bible is that we can understand a little about God yet enough to live an abundant, fulfilled life. Due to the frantic pace of life today, we rush through a passage of Scriptures or two, happy that we have done our duty. Thinking that would solve our life's woes!
This fallen world will never satisfy us. Only God’s Word is able to penetrate deep into the desires of our souls. That's why there are so much worries in our lives! We worry because we do not read His Word. We do not trust what God said because we read out of duty. Let us read to hear God’s voice. Only when we are absolutely clear, then we can able to move forward.
4. Apply what you read – Allign your heart and actions with the Word of God.
The more you do God’s Word, the greater you learn. Often times, Christians are ‘holy’ on Sunday but worldly on the other days. They wasted their God-given talents living carelessly. Jesus always challenges people to do His Word. The parable of the wise and foolish builders illustrates that clearly. The one who builds his house on the rock is the one who hears God’s Word and put it into practice. It will stand firm against the storms of life. Contrast to the one who hears God’s word and does not practice it, he builds his house on sand. The house will certainly collapse when the tide hits (Matthew 7:24-27).
Humans are wired to fulfil God’s purposes. If we don’t hit it, we feel awful. Material things, fame or glory will only satisfy us for a short while. In the end, we will always come back to this question, “What is my ultimate purpose in life?” “Have I done what I was created for?”
Therefore, serve God to the best of your ability, both inside and outside the church. It is more outside the church than inside where most of the Christians are working or studying. Devote your skills, finance, and intelligence to the purposes of God in your life. Do not be like the Israelites during the Exodus who wandered in the wilderness for forty wasted years! They knew what God had said but did not act on His Word. Every one of them died on the sand in the desert except Joshua, Caleb and the younger generation.
Understanding the Bible is not that we can outsmart people who don’t. It is about serving God’s purposes on earth. When we are confident and ready, God will then use us for His kingdom and His glory!