I came to faith while reading the Bible. I was challenged to follow Jesus while reading Matt 7:13-14. I realized I’d been traveling through the wide gate on the easy road that leads to destruction.
Sitting in the 24 foot trailer I rented while living in the Mammoth Mountain area of California, I chose the narrow gate and hard road that leads to life.
I took this as a personal challenge that few go this way and find life. Since then, reading and studying the Scriptures has been an important foundation for my faith and my personal journey of faith.
Understanding why I believe what I believe
I am not a fundamentalist nor am I fond of the saying, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.” I want to understand why I believe what I believe. Anything less tends towards biblical ignorance and spiritual dullness.
As with most things in life, I approach the truth of God's Word with questions. This helps me process what I read so I can understand it. This was my learning process early in life and matched what I learned about Inductive Bible Study (IBS). I continue to be a proponent and teacher of IBS as a means of practical exegesis. When I don't understand something in God's written Word, I don't just accept it or reject it, I set it aside till the Lord gives me insight to understand it.
Questions were an important element of my spiritual search for truth as I as wandered through the maze of the psychedelic sixties. After asking many questions about the Christian faith and theology, I was sent packing out of a church in Southern California because I dared to challenge a so-called Bible expert.
I sought the truth but it was seen as a challenge and disruption. Each question was answered with a Bible quote but without any explanation. The use of such knee-jerk reaction tactics isn't defending the faith it's erecting a wall of ignorance. I found out later that the supposed Bible expert was asked to move on because he was a false teacher.
Knowledge isn’t understanding
Biblical knowledge is abundant in America but so is biblical ignorance. You might wonder, how can this happen when so many study resources are available online, in print, via podcasts and video, and various conferences? It's simple. We've mistaken Bible knowledge or knowledge about the Bible for biblical understanding.
Force-feeding people Bible knowledge doesn't produce biblically sound, well-grounded believers. Believers need to understand what they are taught to become spiritually healthy.
Believers need to learn how to discern the truth of God's Word for themselves so they can grow into spiritual maturity. Otherwise, they are dependent on whatever they are told, like baby birds waiting to be fed what is partially eaten and regurgitated into their mouths.
You can disagree with me about this but you'd be wrong. Not because I say it's so but research points this out. Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli put the problem squarely: “Americans revere the Bible–but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” (see links at bottom)
Integrity—walking the talk
This is further confirmed by a continuing decrease of the church's influence for good within our nation. A significant characteristic of the Jesus Movement in the late sixties and throughout the seventies was the moral and ethical counter influence it had upon American culture.
Counter-cultural influence doesn’t take place because of more knowledge or public protests, it requires something much deeper—integrity of character.
Integrity isn’t learned in a classroom or by hearing a message. It’s gained through life experience and the influence of others who have integrity. This is the impact of relational, intentional discipleship.
We need to “walk the talk” so those we teach and disciple can “walk the walk.” Our life needs to match what we teach and preach in the same way we see Jesus’ early disciples did.
When we teach and preach, we need to do it well so people are challenged with biblical truth and understand why and how they need to put it into practice in their life.
[this is the first in a series of posts on expositional teaching and preaching]