A sad commentary on our way of life today is that theological debate among professing Christians is rare. The run-of-the-mill Christian is not concerned with doctrine, but more in line with the chimerical--indulging in unrealistic fancies. In this Age of Me, religion today appears to be reduced to entertainment, mass hysteria, or sometimes a kind of Hitlerism--very bad entertainment, indeed. What does this un-doctrinal religion do for us? It insures a wonderful life, promotions, good things happening all around us. Those not taken in by these shenanigans prefer to get their emotional highs and entertainment from secular pursuits, such as the theater, opera, golf, maybe. Established churches offer a denatured Christianity: salvation without the fall, a sort of pick-and-choose religion that combines Christian-like principles with humanism.
This viewpoint puts God on terms, and also explains why so many are irreligious. What’s happening here is that man is making God in the image of man. A telling example of this fallacy is seen in the story of Namaan, the leper, a Captain in the Syrian army, who sought a cure from the king of Israel. (2Kings 5. 9 – 14). Given instructions by God’s messenger, Elisha, to wash in the river Jordon, Namaan balked. Wash himself in Jordan? Aren’t the rivers of Damascus better than all the waters of Israel? But his servants persuaded him to obey God; he succumbed to God’s instruction—did as he was told-- and was made clean. To Namaan, and those like him, God must be democratic or it does not suit. This is an assumption that reveals how blind we are to the fact that everything in nature is selective. We fail to acknowledge the subtlety in God’s word when we look at 2Peter 3, and read of the change that will come on earth when the Lord returns. It’s time to re-evaluate the dogged theory of uniformitarianism which denies the possibility of another outcome that varies from the norm. The point I’m trying to get across is this: proselytizing in today’s world no longer begins with Christian theological debate. We must first start by trying to establish the very existence of God and then give credence to what is regarded to be the Christian myth. A difficult assignment to be sure. We are left with the given that doctrinal biblical knowledge is no longer relevant. However, we are after all, guided here by Christian principles. The gross immorality we see all around us can hardly be attributed to us. Though provoked, we must still try to love our enemies. We understand the Sermon on the Mount. We’ll give to charity. Though provoked with one another, we’ll try to love one another.
Hold everything. Let’s go back to basics. The Bible is not studied solely for the purpose of proselytizing. The Bible is not studied for the primary purpose of making converts. In fact, if the Bible is the word of God, it behooves us to read it carefully, and for selfish reasons. It’s apparent that many people don’t believe with great conviction that it is the word of God. If you did, you’d study it, even if its truth is only scattered like seed throughout and therefore difficult to ferret out. As the Bible says of itself, ‘here a little, there a little’. But that’s not the real reason to search into it; it is the answer of a good conscience toward God. (2Pet 3. 21). In short, it’s good for us.
God’s blessing requires a response, not by obligation or debt, but by involuntary gratitude as a part of a new creation. Look into the eyes of someone you’ve helped. What you see there is what I am talking about. Sometimes we obsess about good works. We don’t do enough and so obsess about doing more. Why don’t we do more? May I suggest we’re concerned more about externals—appearance? And we’re easily disillusioned, but there is a cure. Do something you don’t like—and repeat it often. If you do this difficult deed enough times—you may even come to enjoy it. But this the wrong way around, don’t you see? Isn’t it more likely that our love of God will precede our love for neighbor? This arrangement is a natural by-product of your adoration and thanksgiving toward God; it emanates from the inner man and will lead you in the right way when you have assumed the faithful habit of reading and studying the Bible. Herein lies the answer of a good conscience toward God. No way out of it. He who would be a Christian must be reflective. Not intellectual, not imaginative. Remember, we are not called to conform to this world, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewal takes place by diligent study --by rightly dividing the word of truth. This is your gift to God. Polish yourself like a gem so that you may grow in grace, not works.
The peace and happiness of the here and now for most of us will deceive us because they will desert us as we each suffer loss: parents, husband, wife, children, brothers, sisters, friends, and ultimately self. Expectations will not be realized, or if so turn to ashes. The reality is that we’re not gonna die with a smile on our lips, like they do in the movies. Our best answer is to redound to God’s glory, so when trouble comes we can endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ. It is no accident these words appear in the same chapter where we read that we ought to Study to show ourselves approved unto God, (2Tim 2.15). We can show our love to God in this way and improve our character-- for Him. By due diligence we will gain the wisdom we need to endure to the end, at last purified after having been tried in the refiner’s fire.
Whosoever shall endure to the end, the same shall be saved.