DUMBING DOWN THE BIBLE

Revelation

Summer is here that means that everyone is advertising their church’s Vacation Bible School. I have never liked VBS, even as a kid growing up.  I always felt like it was too cheesy.  It was the same stories, year after year.  Or at least, that’s what it seemed like to me.  The VBS curriculum has changed a lot over the years but has it gotten better?

What occurred to me as I was thinking about this is that the authors of the VBS curriculum probably create their material to appeal to those children who do not attend church regularly, so they make it as simple as possible.  But, I think that does a disservice to the children who attend church on a regular basis.  They’re getting the same watered down, milky lessons they have heard over and over and over again.

We have seen a trend in American education that has a lot of people upset and concerned and that is how the educational system has restructured how children learn and now we’re dealing with schools that are dumbing down its students because they don’t want to make those who don’t learn as quickly as others feel like they’re stupid.  So, instead of the teachers working to pull those students up and encouraging them to work harder so that they can catch up, they dumb down the curriculum thus causing those students who are quicker learners to become stagnant.

Unfortunately, over the past several decades, even the past century or so, the Church has been guilty of doing the same thing the educational system has done, and that is dumb down the Bible.  I, for one, like being challenged especially when it comes to the Bible.  The milky VBS curriculum that I was exposed to bored me to death!  I truly believe that pastors and other church leaders short-change the kids in their churches.  They probably feel like they don’t have the capability to know or understand deeper Biblical doctrine.  Granted, you can’t go in and start feeding a child who hasn’t been exposed to the Bible some of the “meatier” parts of the Bible at the beginning.  You WILL need to start with the easy stuff.  But, to continue on feeding them the easy stuff and never moving up to the solid doctrine just stunts their growth and they end up getting bored and either go looking elsewhere for more solid Biblical teaching or they quit altogether.  It’s not for a pastor or teacher to decide what the kids can or can’t understand.  They are to just teach and preach what the Bible says and let the Holy Spirit give understanding as He sees fit.  Isn’t that where we gain our understanding from as adults?  So, why should it be any different with children.  Back during the times of the Puritans, the children were taught the heavy stuff of doctrine as part of their upbringing.  I have no doubt that children back in those days had a more deeper knowledge and understanding of Biblical doctrine than some adults do these days.  And it’s all because the Church felt it necessary to dumb down the Bible.

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WHO ARE THE ELECT?

The Bible teaches that those who are truly saved are called The Elect.  Now, for someone to be called Elect, that means that someone had to CHOOSE them for something.  Right now, we’re in the midst of our presidential election season and millions of Americans are going to the polls to choose which person they want to see in the White House.  So, the person that makes it to that position will be called an ELECTED official because someone other than themselves put them there.  We call the person who governs over a city the “mayor-elect” because that was who the majority wanted to see take that position.  Then you have Governor-Elect, President-Elect, and so on.  All these officials were CHOSEN by the people to take office.  They did not assert authority and put themselves there.  It was done by someone else.

Ephesians 1:4 states that God chose us (Believers) in Christ Jesus “before the foundation of the world.”  This means that before one star, one planet, and one living creature were EVER brought into existence, God already had in mind whom He would save.  The idea that God choosing specific people for salvation and not others doesn’t set well with some and the arguments against this teaching are many.

Some argue that if God already knows who will be saved, why bother preaching and, certainly, why bother praying for the lost?  It’s called the Great Commission.  Just before Jesus ascended into heaven He gave the command that we are to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  Why is this so important?  Well, because we have no clue who the Elect are.  God’s Chosen doesn’t have a specific physical “birth mark” that we can see that tells us, “here is one of God’s Elect.  Witness to him/her.”  Another reason why their argument is invalid is because God called some to be pastors, teachers, and evangelists (Ephesians 4:11).  Why?  So that the gospel can go out to everyone.  The gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), so if there is no one to witness and preach and teach, how can the gospel go out?

When Jesus called His disciples, He told them that He would make them “fishers of men”.  Some of his disciples were actually fishermen by trade, and back in that time, they would go out in their boat and cast their nets into the water.  At times they caught a few, at times they caught many, and at other times they came up empty.  But, I say this because I want to use the analogy of the fisherman and his nets.  As I stated previously, we don’t know who the Elect of God are until they are truly converted.  It is only after they respond to the gospel and surrender their lives to Christ that we see that they ARE the Elect.  Imagine a pastor/teacher/evangelist standing in front of a crowd of unbelievers sharing the gospel of Christ.  Now imagine him in the context of a fisherman.  He has cast his net (preached the gospel) into the water (congregation) and as he’s pulling in his net (making a plea for them to surrender to Christ), he finds several “fish” in that net (they surrender their lives to Christ).  Why did they respond?  Because the Holy Spirit illuminated their hearts and minds to understand.  He opened their eyes and ears to receive the gospel and their cold, dead, stony heart was replaced with a soft heart of flesh.  They went from being dead in spirit, to being made alive in Christ.

God doesn’t make us privy to who the Elect are before conversion.  He commands us to go out into all the world and preach the gospel.  Only when someone is truly saved and believes on Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin can we know that they are God’s Elect.

 

THE REFINER’S FIRE

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1 Peter 1:6-7…..”In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

One of the tests of genuine faith in Jesus Christ is how we respond to the trials and sufferings we go through in this life.  Popular tele-evangelists stand before their congregations, whether they’re sitting in the pews of their church, or sitting on their living room couch watching them on TV, and declare with boldness that “if you just have the right amount of faith, you can experience God’s blessings on your life” in the form of material/monetary wealth, a life free of sickness, and everything will go YOUR way from getting that dream job, or, as Joel Osteen once said, getting that prime parking space close to the door at the shopping mall.  Seriously.  He said that.  He claimed that it was God’s favor upon your life if you were able to get that first parking space near the shopping mall door.  Unfortunately, a vast number of people have fallen for this crap that these so-called “Christian” preachers spew from their mouths and now we have a Christian religion that bases their standing with God or measures the amount of love that God has for them on whether they’re experiencing “worldly” wealth.  They view trials, struggles, and pain as things God uses to punish them because they think their faith is weak.  This is not so.  First of all, trials and adversities are tools God uses to test to see if our faith is REAL.  Not that HE doesn’t know if our faith is real.  He knows who has true genuine faith, but these tests show to US who are true believers and who aren’t.  Another reason God allows us to experience them is so that we will rely on HIM and Him alone for our strength.  Many people boast of how “strong” they are having come through a certain trial, when in reality, it wasn’t their strength, but God’s that got them through.  Thirdly, these trials are designed to get rid of anything within us that prevents us from becoming more like Christ.

In regards to the first point, we have to understand that the faith required for our salvation does NOT come from us.  Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that genuine faith is a “gift from God.”  Our faith to believe is given to us by God Himself.  It is not something we try to pull up from within our own selves.  Those with true, genuine faith that comes from God, will endure whatever pain and suffering they go through, finding out that their faith is that much stronger.  Those who go through trials and at the end declare that they have “lost their faith” in God, never had true faith anyway.  They were relying on their own “faith” which withers under adversity.  It is here that we can know who the true believers are from those who were imposters.

As for the second point, God never intended for us to be dependent upon ourselves to get through this life on our own.  Our strength is frail and, just as with our human faith, it withers when we face hardships that come our way.  God puts people in our lives to help us so that we won’t feel alone and burdened under the weight of our trials, but we have to be willing to open up and expose our frailty.  It’s good to know that when we admit our weaknesses and failures, there are others who know and understand what we’re going through because THEY have gone through it, also.

Third, trials help rid us of those things in our life that prevent us from being more like Christ.  Just as with gold and silver in a refiner’s fire, the impurities are separated from the precious metal and removed so that once it comes out of the fire, it is in it’s purest form.  We are like the gold and silver.  God puts us into the fire (trials and struggles) so that He can remove those impurities within us so that when we come out of the fire, we have been rid of them and we can be more like Christ.

American Christianity has been sold a bill of goods.  Many Christians are taught that trials and sufferings are signs of God’s displeasure with us and that it reveals just how weak our faith is.  But, in reality, it shows how REAL and TRUE and GENUINE our faith is because we were able to persevere under those trials.  If we can’t say that, then our faith is false and our profession of salvation is false.  True faith cannot be lost because it is secured by God.  Anyone who ever says they lost their faith, never had it to begin with.

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DEAD OR JUST SICK?

The centuries old debate between free will (Arminianism) and Election (Doctrines of Grace) is still alive and well.  Free willers contend that salvation depends upon their decision to choose Christ, while those who hold to the Doctrine of Election (aka Calvinists) say that God has chosen those whom will be saved before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).  The problem with the Arminian, or free will, teaching is that it contradicts the Bible’s teaching of a person’s state before conversion.  I will show this to you in the following analogies:

To hold to the Arminian view, a person would have to believe that, before conversion, the lost sinner is only suffering from a disease and there is only one physician who has the cure for said disease.  They seek out this physician and he offers them the cure for their disease, but ultimately it is their choice to take that cure.  In essence, they can choose whether to be cured or stay sick.

To hold to the Doctrine of Election, you understand what the Bible says in Ephesians 2:1, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”  The fourth word in that verse is important…..DEAD!!!!  A dead person has no way of making any decisions.  If we are dead in our trespasses and sins, as the Bible says we are, we cannot do anything of our own free will because we ARE spiritually dead.  It’s like being a corpse lying on a slab.  Jesus, being the Great Physician wouldn’t just stand there and say, “Here is the cure for your deadness” and then wait for us to respond.  We can’t respond because we’re dead.  No, Jesus would remove our old, dead, stoney heart and replace it with a new, soft heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).  It’s at this point that we are regenerated….born again…..made alive in Christ.

Some people may then point to the verse about Jesus’ comment concerning the sick needing a physician, not the healthy.  In three of the gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, there is an account of Jesus speaking with the Scribes and Pharisees.  Once again, they are questioning Jesus’ actions because he was eating with the tax collectors and sinners.  They asked his disciples why he was eating with them.  Upon hearing their question, Jesus replied, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.”  Then he says afterwards, “For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  In this instance, the healthy/righteous are those who THINK they are fine.  They believe they don’t need a physician.  Their righteousness is SELF-righteousness (like that of the Scribes and Pharisees).  The sick/sinners are those who have come to realize that they are sick and need healing from a physician and that there is nothing good within them that will save them.

It’s important to understand and interpret Scripture properly.  The Bible plainly states that before regeneration, that we are dead in our trespasses and sins and not just merely sick.  The dead cannot heal themselves.  It takes the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit to open our hearts and minds to the understanding of the gospel and that we contribute not one iota to our salvation.