Life is going well for us, we are in perfect health; and then, suddenly we fall ill. Unexpectedly, we have no strength or vitality. Then, as suddenly, we have intense headaches and our entire body is afflicted with pain. What is going on, we might be asking? The dangerous bacterium, virus, or other microorganisms that can cause disease have infiltrated our body’s defenses and are attacking our vital organs. If we ignore these symptoms, hoping everything will get better; these invading pathogens could destroy our good health permanently, even causing death.
Certainly, if we had not been in good health, to begin with, we would have been even more helpless and defenseless. Suppose we ate poorly, suffering from malnutrition. In other words, we are lacking healthy foods in our diet, or just not taking in enough calories each day, which can lead to poor health all by itself. Suffering from malnutrition can lower or resistance to infectious pathogens, it could be fatal, even if we seek medical help.
When we pause to consider, who would choose to live in a famine like condition? If we knew what was happening to our body, slowly, over time, we would take appropriate actions to avoid exposing ourselves to a dangerous bacterium, virus, or any other microorganisms. Of course, this was all leading to the importance of being and remaining “healthy in faith.” (Titus 2:2) Are we like the young person, who believes nothing bad physically can happen to them, so they eat poorly, and similarly we think our faith is so strong, we would never stumble spiritually, or we would never doubt? Are we, for example, alert to all of the misleading information by Bible critics today? If we take these in without being healthy spiritually, prepared, they can invade our minds and hearts, ruining our relationship with God. Sadly, many Christians are unaware of this danger; others, ignore warning signs while some even seek this kind of information out. Some actually believe they are not susceptible to doubts, not realizing they have been starving themselves spiritually because they have only been snacking on the Word of God.
Most of us can conclude that not all doubts are bad. If we were considering something where we did not have all of the facts, we would want to hold off on accepting it, until we are sure. We hear the mantra in the different Christian denominations today, “Don’t be afraid – just believe.” (Mark 5:36) Some feel that faith is merely believing and doubting nothing at all. This is very naïve, dangerous, and deceptive. Yes, it is true that certain Bible verses can be used to suggest that all we need to do is, ‘just believe,’ like “Love … believes all things,” at 1 Corinthians 13:7. Even the demons believe, and yet they shudder. (Jam. 2:19) A genuine Christian, who has the love of Christ in their heart, should believe those who have proved trustworthy over the years. However, God’s Word also warns against ‘believing every word.’ (Pro. 14:15, LEB) Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt 7:15, ESV) Does this not suggest there will be some who appear as innocent as sheep, but really are false prophets to the point of being ravenous wolves?
The apostle John warns Christians against believing things blindly. He wrote, “Beloved ones, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) John Stott notes, “Neither Christian believing nor Christian loving is to be indiscriminate. In particular, Christian faith is not to be mistaken for credulity [i.e., gullibility]. True faith examines its object before reposing confidence in it.” (Stott 2009, p. 156) Daniel L. Akin writes, “His [John’s] warning is clear: behind every statement is a spirit, a pneuma, but not every spirit is the Spirit of God.” (Akin 2001, p. 170) This spirit, i.e., statement or teaching, may seem as though it has come from God; then, in fact, it has come from a deceiver, and to be generous, someone who is simply mistaken or misinformed. We need to have some doubt, or let us say a level of cautiousness, which will serve as a protection, as the apostle John wrote, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world.” – 2 John 7, ESV.
Certainly, we are on the safe side of things, if we honestly, humbly examine the facts of any situation, to arrive at the truth. However, this is not the same as, allowing unfounded, destructive doubts to grow in our mind and heart, doubts that can ruin our firmly established beliefs and relationships. Nevertheless, the objective way of believing certain Bible doctrines as being the truth is as follows. The biblical view of the doctrine __________ is ___________, and it is the truth, unless, enough evidence comes along to say otherwise. If we grow in knowledge and understanding, our conclusions based on previous knowledge may need to be revised. For increased knowledge can require adjustments in one’s thinking. We must remember the Apostle Paul studied under the renowned Pharisee Gamaliel, who was the grandson of Hillel, the Elder (110 B.C.E. – 10 C.E.), the founder of one of the two schools within Judaism. Paul describes himself as “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” (Phil 3:5-6) He also states, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil. 3:7-8) Thus, we know that the Israelites were God’s chosen people and the only way to God for some 1,500 years. However, Jesus brought a new way, Christianity. Saul/Paul was slow to accept this because he could not see Jesus Christ as the long-awaited Messiah. Nevertheless, after Jesus visited Paul on the road to Damascus and Ananias, a Christian disciple of Damascus, visited Paul, he saw the Old Testament Scriptures pointing to the Messiah accurately, he was able to humble himself and accept a different belief, i.e., Christianity was the truth and the way.
To believe without enough support, to believe in the face of contrary evidence is irrational. Therefore, we must humbly examine the facts behind what we believe, to establish the truth continually. Just as the apostle Paul exhorted the Christians at Corinth to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5), we could say the very same thing about our beliefs. We could say, ‘examine our beliefs, to see whether they are the truth, test our beliefs.’ Now, this is not to suggest that our beliefs are to be ever changing, but that they should be able to stand up to scrutiny when they are challenged by something we have heard or read. However, this refinement of our beliefs should not be confused with allowing unfounded, damaging doubts to grow in our hearts and minds, doubts that can destroy our confidently established beliefs and our relationship with our heavenly Father. Unfounded doubt is defined as something that is not supported by any evidence or a minuscule amount of evidence, to cause uncertainty of belief or opinion that often interferes with our decision-making skills.
Let us go back to the first unfounded doubt in human history, Adam and Eve. Satan the Devil by way of the serpent caused Eve to question her beliefs, i.e., by planting unfounded doubt in her mind. Satan said to Eve through the serpent, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen. 3:1) Without saying it, the insinuation here was that God was withholding something from Adam and Eve, and this was unbelievable that he would do such a thing. Satan placed uncertainty in the mind of Eve with this innocent-appearing question, which influenced her decision-making. This is similar to a poison pen letter, which contains unpleasant, abusive or malicious statements or accusations about the recipient or a third party. It is usually sent anonymously. Poison pen letters are usually composed and sent to upset the recipient. They differ from blackmail, which is intended to obtain something, in that they are purely malicious. Saran is the father of the lie. (John 8:44) He will deceive with outright lies, half-truths, hint or an indirect remark or gesture that usually carries a suggestion. Now, we can recognize that the doubt placed in the mind of Eve is unfounded when we go back to what God really said. “God commanded the man, saying, “From every tree of the garden you may freely eat, 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17) What Satan did was take Eve’s mind off the fact she had tens of thousands of fruit trees to eat from, meaning she lacked nothing, and place her focus on a supposed negative, God prohibiting one tree. Satan was asking an inferential question, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” First, he is overstating what he knows to be true, not “any tree,” just one tree. Second, Satan is inferring, ‘I can’t believe that God would say … how dare he say such a thing.’
How did Eve respond? She said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat, but from the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God said, ‘You shall not eat from it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” (Gen. 3:2) Notice that Eve has been told so thoroughly about the tree that she even goes beyond what Adam told her, not just that you ‘do not eat from it,’ no, ‘you do not even touch it!’ Then, Satan out and out lied and slandered God as a liar, saying that ‘they would not die.’ To make matters much worse, he infers that God is withholding good from them, and by rebelling they would be better off, being like God, ‘knowing good and bad.’ This knowing good and bad was the ability to choose for themselves what was good and what was bad, i.e., independence from God, rejecting his sovereignty.
The Issues at Hand
(1) Satan called God a liar and said he was not to be trusted, as to the life or death issue.
(2) Satan’s challenge, therefore, took into question the right and legitimacy of God’s rightful place as the Universal Sovereign.
(3) Satan also suggested that people would remain obedient to God only as long as their submitting to God was to their benefit.
(4) Satan all but said that humankind was able to walk on his own, there being no need for dependence on God.
(5) Satan argued that man could be like God, choosing for himself what is right and wrong.
(6) Satan claimed that God’s way of ruling was not in the best interests of humans, and they could do better without God.
We can turn to the disciple James to understand how Eve, a perfect human could choose to sin. How she could be so easily influenced. James warns, “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” One who doubts is “a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Jam. 1:6-8) How did this doubt come about in the perfect woman’s mind? Satan offered her unfounded doubt, by suggesting, inferring, supposing certain things, which were not supported by any evidence, and it caused uncertainty of belief or opinion that interfered with our decision-making skills. James goes on to write, “each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Jam. 1:14-15) Just as it happened to Eve, a perfect human, with her uncertainty of belief, we can become vulnerable to all sorts of false teachings and empty, deceitful philosophy that is according to human traditions and the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?
When was the last time that we truly took a good look at ourselves? How did we feel about what we saw? When we ponder over our personality, what are we actually projecting to others? Most of us are very complex people when it comes to our thoughts, feeling and beliefs, so it might be difficult to lock down what kind of personality that we have. As a man, are we faithful like Abraham one moment and then blown back and forth like doubting Thomas the next? As a female, are we submissive like Sarah when we are in public and then like domineering Jezebel in private? As a Christian, are we devoted and energetic for the truth on Christian meeting days and then loving the world like Demas the other days out of the week? As a Christian, have we entirely taken off the old person with its practices and clothed ourselves with the new person? – Colossians 3:9-10; Ephesians 4:20-24.
Some women are known to spend much time every morning, ‘putting on their face,’ as it is commonly expressed. So much so, it has been commonly joked about, and men know not to interfere until the project is over. However, truth be told, men are very much concerned with how they look when going out into public. Thus, all of us are conscious of whether our hair is out of place, if we have a pimple or a cold sore, or if there is something about us that is unkempt, ruffled, scruffy, or messy. We want to look our best. What we may have not considered is, our personality, is always showing as well. The deeper question though is “are we putting on our personality to cover over before we go out in public while our real personality is on display in private?” Is what the public sees, who we really are? Does our real personality bring honor to God?
A man walking the roads of the countryside in a small European country comes to a fork in the road. He is uncertain as to which way he should go. Therefore, he asks several who are passing by for directions, but some told him to take the left fork, and others said to make the right. After receiving contradictory information, he simply did not know what to do, how was he to go on, without knowing for certain which path led to the destination. He was unable to move on until he knew what the right path was. Having doubts about our faith, our walk with God, his Word can influence us similarly. It can actually cause severe emotional turmoil as we go about our Christian life.
There was a similar situation in the first-century Corinthian congregation. Some known as “super-apostles” were actually taking the apostle Paul to task, as to Paul’s walk with God, saying, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.” (2 Cor. 10:7-12; 11:5-6, ESV) Certainly, we can see how a Christian in that congregation could wonder if they were truly walking with God when the apostle Paul himself was being called into question.
Paul founded the Corinthian congregation in about 50 C.E. on his second missionary journey. “When Silas and Timothy arrived from Macedonia, Paul was occupied with the word, testifying to the Jews that the Christ was Jesus. And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’ And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” (Acts 18:5-11, ESV) The apostle Paul was deeply interested in the spiritual well-being of the brothers and sisters in Corinth. Moreover, the Corinthian Christians were interested in their spiritual welfare as well, so they wrote Paul for his counsel on certain matters. (1 Cor. 7:1-40) Therefore, Paul, under inspiration offered them inspired counsel in what would be his second letter to them.
“Keep testing yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining yourselves! Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail to meet the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5) If these brothers in the days of having Paul found their congregation, who spent sixteen months under the guidance of the greatest, inspired Christian, needed to self-examine themselves, how much more should we need to do so, as we are 2,000-years removed. If these brothers followed this advice to examine themselves, it would have offered them direction on how to walk with God and let them know if they were on the right path.
Remember, Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 7:21, ESV) In other words, not every Christian was going to enter into the kingdom, even though they felt that they were walking with God. Jesus spoke of their mindset in the next verse, “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’” (Matt. 7:22, ESV) Yes, these ones, who felt that they were walking with God, on that day they were supposing that they were truly Christian, were in for a rude awakening. What is Jesus going to say to these ones, “And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matt. 7:23) What were and are these ones lacking?
Jesus said they were not doing the will of the Father, even though they believed they were. Notice that in 98 C.E., the apostle John, the last surviving apostle, in one of his letters offered that same warning too. He wrote, “The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17) Thus, we can see the wisdom of the apostle Paul’s counsel to ‘Keep testing ourselves to see if you are in the faith. Keep examining ourselves!’ Thus, the next question is, what do we need to do to follow this advice? How does one test whether or not they are in the faith? In addition, what does it mean to ‘keep examining ourselves after we have tested ourselves?
In a test, there is an examination of a person or an object to find something out, e.g. whether it is functioning properly or not. In this test, there must be a standard by which the person or object is measured. For example, the “normal” human body temperature is 98.6°F (37°C). Therefore, if we were testing our temperature, it would be measured against the normal body temperature. Anything above or below that would be considered high or low. Another example is the normal resting heart rate for adults, which ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. However, our test in this publication is to see if we are truly Christian. However, what we are looking for when we ‘test ourselves, to see if we are in the faith,’ is not the faith, that is the basic Bible doctrines. In our test, we are the subject. What we are testing is, if we are truly walking with God. If we are to test our walk as a Christian, we need to have a perfect standard. Our perfect standard by which to measure ourselves is,
Psalm 19:7-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
7 The law of Jehovah is perfect,
restoring the soul;
the testimony of Jehovah is sure,
making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of Jehovah are right,
rejoicing the heart;
Yes, the Word of God, the Bible is the standard by which we can measure our walk with God. On this, the author of Hebrews wrote, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb. 4:12) Thus, we must test our walk with God by examining our life course as outlined by Scripture, to find his favor, to be in an approved standing, to be declared righteous before him. Herein, each of the twenty chapters will have a text that they will be built around, a text that defines what we should be in the eyes of God. For example, several times Jesus says ‘if we are doing __________, we are truly his disciples.’ Well, the objective would be to discover what all is involved in doing __________.
While the phrase to keep examining yourselves is self-explanatory, but to spell it out, it involves a self-examination. We may have been a Christian for a number of years, but how many times have we had a spiritual checkup. Every six months we are to go in for a dental cleaning, and unless there is a problem, we should get a health screening once a year. The problem with our spirituality is it is far more susceptible to injury than we are physically. The author of Hebrews warns us, “We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (2:1) One chapter later, we are told, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (3:12-13) This same author warns us about falling away (6:6), becoming sluggish (6:12), and growing weary or fainthearted (12:25).
Why would this be the case? If we are saved, why is it necessary that we keep examining ourselves? Why would we still be susceptible to bad behaviors to the point of drifting away, to the point of having an unbelieving heart, falling away, becoming sluggish, growing weary or fainthearted?
There are four reasons. (1) First and foremost, we have inherited sin, which means that we are missing the mark of perfection. (2) In addition, our environment can condition us into the bad thinking and behavior. (3) We have our human weaknesses, which include inborn tendencies that we naturally lean toward evil, leading us to bad behaviors. (4) Moreover, there is the world of Satan and his demons that caters to these human weaknesses, which also leads us down the path of bad thinking and behaviors. After our self-examination, what is needed if we are to overcome any bad thinking or behaviors and how are we to avoid developing them in the future? We will offer more on this in each chapter as well as two appendices at the end, but we offer this for now. It is paramount that we fully understand what all is involved in our human imperfection and never believe that we are so strong spiritually that we would never fall away, slow down, or becoming sluggish in our walk with God.
Obviously, this should be of the greatest concern to each one of us. We may be a person of good character, and believe that in any situation, we will make the right decisions. However, the moment that innocent appearing situation arises, we are plagued with the inner desire toward wrong. We need to address more than what our friends, or our workmates or our spouse may see. We need to look into our inner self, in the hopes of determining, who we really are, and what do we need to do to have a good heart (i.e., inner person).
As we know, we could not function with half a heart. However, we can operate, albeit dysfunctional, with a heart that is divided. Yes, we have things outside of us that can contribute to bad thinking, which if left unchecked will lead to bad behavior, but we also have some things within. The apostle Paul bewailed about himself, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:19-20) This is because all of us are mentally bent toward the doing of wrong, instead of the doing of good. (Gen 6:5; 8:21; Rom 5:12; Eph. 4:20-24; Col 3:5-11) Jeremiah the prophet informs us of the condition of our heart (our inner person), “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?” These factors contribute to our being more vulnerable to the worldly desires and the weak human flesh than we may have thought. One needs to understand just how serious human imperfection is before they can fully implement the right Christian Living Skills.
Returning to the book of Hebrews, we are told, “solid food belongs to the mature, to those who through practice have their discernment trained to distinguish between good and evil.” (5:14) We will have evidence that we are one of the mature ones by training ourselves to make a distinction between good and evil. We likely believe that we are already spiritually mature, which may very well be the case. Nevertheless, we are told by Paul to carry out this self-examination and to keep on examining ourselves, to remain that way, and even to improve upon what we currently have by way of maturity. Just as a man or woman in a marathon must continually train their muscles to surpass others in the sport, our discernment (perception) needs to be trained through regularly and rightly applying the Word of God. Throughout this publication, we will apply the inspired words of James, Jesus’ half-brother.
James 1:22-25 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.
24 for he looks at himself and goes away, and immediately forgets what sort of man he was. 25 But he that looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, being no hearer who forgets but a doer of a work, he will be blessed in his doing.
When we are inundated in the Word of God, it serves as the voice of God, telling us the way in which to walk. On Hebrews 5:14, Thomas D. Lea writes, “The readers did not know and understand these truths because they had not applied themselves to them. The solution to this dilemma [becoming and remaining a mature Christian] lay in developing their spiritual senses through practice. The training they needed involved a steady application of spiritual discipline. Spiritual maturity would not develop primarily from a sudden burst of insight. It would come from dogged usage of spiritual resources. God has given believers faculties to make spiritual judgments and to develop understanding. God gives Christians training in understanding (Heb. 12:11) so that it can produce a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11). Christians are able to distinguish between good and evil. The terms good and evil may have both a moral sense and a theological sense. Christians are those who can spot moral evil and avoid it. They can see moral good and attach themselves to it. Christians also can distinguish between true and false doctrine. They will turn aside from the false and faithfully follow the true. Living the Christian life demands the spiritual skills of stamina seen physically in a long-distance runner. Unswerving, relentless applications of Christian truth and practice will equip us for a lifetime of usefulness, which will continue into eternity.”
1 Peter 5:8-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself will restore, support, strengthen and establish you.
Peter helps us to see how we can protect ourselves from damaging doubts. He gives the simple way out of the downward spiral of doubts, which lead to spiritual shipwreck. We simply prepare our mind for the stannic propaganda that is out there. Yes, some Christian leaders might suggest that Christians never listen to or read what the Bible critics say or write. Well, how can we save those who doubt, if we are unaware of what the critic is saying or writing? Is the truth so frail that it cannot stand up to the lie? Peter says that we are to resist Satan, which will make us firm in the faith. We can resist Satan’s minions, i.e., Bible critics, by knowing the lie and overshadowing it with the truth.
If we are to continue to grow spiritually, minimizing the number of stumbles along the way, we need to feed our mind and heart spiritual food. Returning to the analogy of our physical body, even when are sleeping at night, it requires a continuous supply of energy to maintain the organs and bodily functions. This holds true of our spiritual health as well. We are supposed to be continuously taking in spiritual food, not just when we are at Christian meetings. Sadly, many Christians
- they do not have any personal Bible study,
- they do not have a family Bible study,
- they do not prepare for the Christian meetings,
- they do not participate in the Christian meetings,
- they barely pay attention at the Christian meetings, and
- they do not have any avenue for regularly sharing the Christian faith.
Can we even imagine if we ate food to nourish our bodies this way? Why do they fail to take care of their spiritual health? One reason is, they do not truly believe in the things they profess to believe. Look, if we absolutely knew that on January 07, 2037, Armageddon was coming, Jesus was returning, and we was going to be receiving eternal life, we would not waste a moment, we would prepare like it was the spiritual Olympics, and we certainly would spend more time trying to save as many lives as we can. Without taking in constant spiritual food throughout every day, our faith will eventually grow weakened, and we will likely die out before we finish our life course, or before the return of Christ. Jesus said, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matt. 4:4, ESV) Let us return to the analogy of our physical health once more.
“If you don’t take in enough calories every day, you may not be as fast and as strong as you could be, and may even break down rather than build up your muscles. If you are a healthy weight (in other words you don’t need to gain or lose weight), here are some general guidelines to help you eat enough:”
- Do not skip meals. It is too hard to make up the lost food later.
- Add a healthy snack between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and right before bed.
- Make higher calorie healthy foods part of your daily routine (nuts and nut butters, bananas, granola and other cereals, whole grain breads and muffins, dried fruit, juices, and smoothies).
Let us repeat everything this health expert said but turn it into spiritual health.
If you do not take in enough biblical food every day, you may not be as fast at making life decisions based on God’s Word and as spiritually strong as you could be, and may even stumble spiritually rather than grow into spiritual maturity. If you are an average Christian (in other words doing the fundamentals in Christian service), here are some general guidelines to help you take in enough spiritual food:
- Do not skip taking in Bible knowledge daily. It is too hard to make up the spiritual food later when you need the strength to survive a tribulation.
- Add a daily personal Bible study between weekly Christian meetings, prepare for each Christian meeting so you can fully participate, share your faith with others, and right before bed pray to God that you may faithfully take in his Word as vigorously the tomorrow.
- Make deeper Bible study tools part of your daily, personal Bible study (commentary volumes, Bible dictionaries, word study books, Bible encyclopedias, Bible background), and read books that are designed to help you earnestly fight for the faith.
Whether we are relatively new to the faith, or we have been a Christian for decades, we all can remember when we first became a Christian. The apostle Paul, speaking of bringing new ones into the faith said, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom 10:17, ESV) What Paul meant was that the new person builds his faith and confidence in God by feeding his mind on the Word of God. I hope that we had a healthy doubt and did not just blindly accept everything we heard. I also hope that we were like the people from the first century, living in the city of Beroea. They “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Ac 17:11, ESV) I hope that we were ‘transformed by the renewal of our mind, that by testing we may have discerned what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.’ (Rom. 12:2, ESV) This renewal of our mind takes place over time as we feed on the Word of God. On 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, Knute Larson writes,
Paul advised the Thessalonians to Test everything. The word everything is universal; it leaves nothing free from examination by spiritual standards and understanding. Paul did not explain how to carry out this testing. But certainly the fire of the Spirit (his convicting, guidance, and illumination), the instructions from the apostles and missionaries, and the written revelation of God are the lenses through which we must scrutinize everything. The clear purpose of this testing was to hold on to the good, and to avoid every kind of evil. The good has its origin in God; evil is a distortion of that good. Evil is twisting and destructive. We must not flirt with evil. (Larson 2000, p. 76)
From this moment forward, whether we are new to the faith or have been walking with God for years, let us reinforce our faith as we come to know ever more precisely what the Word of God means and how we might better defend it and our faith. The Word of God will never fail us; it is we alone, who will let us down. Joshua was a general in the Israelite fighting forces and a man of great faith. Joshua replaced Moses as the leader of the Israelite nation and he led them well, saying to them just before his death,
Joshua 23:14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
14 “Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which Jehovah your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have come to pass for you; not one word of them has failed.
Isaiah 55:10-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater;
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Regardless of what his creation, spirit or human, may have done or will do, his will and purposes will be accomplished; God’s word will not return to him empty.
The objective of every Christian should be to grow his faith and to maintain that growth, avoiding any uncertainty of belief that can weaken our assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. If we are to accomplish this, we must with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily. The apostle Paul warns those who may even have strong faith, “the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines [or teachings] of demons.” (1 Tim. 4:1) Larson writes, “Paul predicted that some will abandon the faith. Apostasy has been around as long as human history. Paul dealt with it in his own day (1 Tim. 1:19; 2 Tim. 2:17–18), and the casualty list is high in our time.” (Larson 2000, p. 203) These deceitful spirits and doctrines form doubts in the minds of some, which cause them to draw away from God, as opposed to drawing close to God. (Jam. 4:8) How are we to protect against this? Paul says we should be continuously “nourished on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed closely.” – 1 Timothy 4:6.
Sadly, what we have today is anything but Christians being “nourished on the words of the faith and of the good teaching,” as many are too busy making a name for themselves in this world that has Satan as its ruler. There has never been a time when so much Bible study literature has been available, much of it freely or at least very affordable. At Proverbs 19:24 and 26:15, “we find a tongue-in-cheek portrait of the lazy man. He refuses to be hurried, and though he buries his hand in a dish of food, he is too lazy to bring it back up to his mouth! If this description were literally true, the person would soon starve.” How can we be surrounded by so much spiritual food and yet be starving spiritually?
If we believe that we can survive off of the basic Bible knowledge that we acquired in the beginning and the simple snacks we receive at each Christian meeting, we are sadly mistaken because our spiritual health with deteriorate. If we neglect to have our regular personal Bible study daily, prepare for and participate in our Christian meetings, as well as share our faith, we will grow spiritually weak. Paul wrote, “For in view of the time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the words of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” (Heb. 5:12) He had warned the Hebrew Christians about neglect earlier in the letter, “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to the things that have been heard so that we do not drift away from it.” Paul was well aware of how easy it is to drift away from the faith, if “we neglect so great a salvation.” – Hebrews 2:1, 3
Many Christians sitting in the pews of the church may not look like they are suffering from spiritual malnutrition. It may be that the person themselves may not feel that they are starving spiritually. It is not until we are challenged physically that we realize we are suffering from physical malnutrition. The same is true with us spiritually. All may seem well until a great tribulation falls upon us and then it is too late, for we crash and burn spiritually because we do not have the strength to overcome the unfounded doubts. Imagine the family that has had some difficulties in life but, for the most part, no real serious tragedies. Then, one day, the father and the mother come home to find that some criminal broke in the home, where he raped, tortured and killed their three daughters (16, 13, and 9). This is a great tribulation like no other, and if they had never fully grasped why an all-loving God, who is also all-powerful, would allow pain, suffering and death to continue, they are going to end up blaming him for this evil act.
“On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adult staff members in a mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in the village of Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut. Before driving to the school, Lanza shot and killed his mother Nancy at their Newtown home. As first responders arrived, he committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.” Life is full of these type of accounts the world over. We have social depravities everywhere we look. In the United States, there are hundreds of thousands living in homeless shelters, under bridges, eating at soup kitchens, and many have young children with them as well. On the other hand, the United States throws away more food than any other country. Sadly, the hungry in the United States, while truly unfair, is not very serious, when we consider the inhumane conditions of other countries. In some countries, like Mexico, you have a millionaire living in a mansion, with a poor person living in a shack next door, and a person living in a car, living next door to him. Almost two billion people live in such hopeless poverty and inhuman conditions that those in the Western part of the world could never relate.
Should we understand that the Scriptures teach that because we are wisely walking with God that he will miraculously step in to protect each servant personally from difficult times, diseases, mental disorders, injury or death? No. These sorts of miracles are the extreme exception to the rule. Of the 4,000 plus years of Bible history, from Adam to Jesus, with tens of millions of people living and dying, we have but a few dozen miracles that we know of in Scripture. Even in Bible times, miracles were not typical, far from it. Hundreds of years may pass with no historical record of a miracle happening at all.
If we are wisely walking with God, we can be confident that bodily disease, mental disorders, injury or early death is far less likely than if we were not. Moreover, we can draw on the resurrection hope. Does God miraculously move events to save us out of difficult times or miraculously heal us? Yes, he certainly can, but it is an extreme exception to the rule. He miraculously heals those who are going to play a significant role in his settling of the issues that were raised in the Garden of Eden.
What God’s Word teaches us is this, that if we walk by using discernment and exercising sound judgment from Scripture unless unexpected events befall us, we can be sure that we will not stumble into the difficulties that the world of humankind alienated from God faces every day. Conversely, the wicked do not have this protection as they reject the Word of God as foolish. In other words, Christians live by the moral values of Scripture, which gives them an advantage over those who do not. Therefore, God answers our prayers by our faithfully acting on behalf of those prayers, by applying Scripture in a balanced manner. If we have not taken in a deep understanding of God’s Word, how can we have the Spirit-inspired wisdom, the very knowledge of God to guide and direct us in our ways? Just because we are not being rescued when we feel that we should, this does not mean that we have lost faith, or that God is displeased. Even though we have no doubt that God is coming to our aid, be it by his Word, by a miracle because we are one play an intricate role in his will and purposes, or by a resurrection, we still experience grief.
If we ever find ourselves in tough times, we need to follow the pattern set by the Psalmist. We need to remember that God is well aware of our circumstances, and he will not forsake us. We must realize that the issues that were raised by Satan in the Garden of Eden, the sovereignty of God, the rightfulness of his rulership, and the issues raised by Satan to God in the book of Job, the loyalty of God’s creatures, are greater than we are.
If we are to remain rational in our thinking, we need to grasp the fact that God does not always step in when we believe he should, nor is he obligated to do so. God has larger issues that need resolving, which have permanent effects for the whole of humankind. There are far more times that when God does not step in, meaning that our relief may come in the hope of the resurrection. However, for his servants that apply his Word in a balanced manner, fully, God is acting in their best interest by way of his inspired, inerrant Word. If we are not regularly feeding our mind and heart on the Word of God, we will become susceptible to unfounded doubts, leaving us unable to “contend earnestly for the faith.” (Jude 1:3, NASB) Each of us is personally responsible for our own personal spiritual feeding program.
We cannot repeat the need for regular, daily, personal Bible study, which of focused on the right subject areas; it will defeat doubts before they can even arise. Returning to the analogy of our physical health, would we ever ignore a minor infection from a cut or scrape? A minor infection can become an acute infectious disease that causes severe muscular spasms and contractions, especially around the neck and jaw, i.e., tetanus. This is why we receive a tetanus vaccine as a child. Now, carry this over to our spiritual health, would we ever want to ignore nagging doubts, as it too could lead to disastrous consequences. (2 Cor. 11:3) How can a person be sure that the Bible, the basis for knowing the future, truly is from God? Is the Genesis account of creation fact or fiction? Was there an earth-wide flood? Can you expect secular history always to agree with the Bible? Are the miracles of the Bible true? Does the Bible contradict itself? Is the Bible practical for our day? Can you believe everything the Bible says? Questions by the thousands exist about the Bible and God, and if we ignore one that is nagging us, soon it will become two; then, ten, which Satan would love to fester until it becomes a spiritual infection. This author can offer the reader this comfort, of the tens of thousands of questions that could cause doubt almost everyone has an answer, and for the handful that have not, follow R. A. Torrey’s advice. “Do not be discouraged because you do not solve every problem in a day. If some difficulty persistently defies your very best efforts at a solution, lay it aside for a while. Later it will likely be resolved, and you will wonder how you were ever perplexed by it.”
When we consider Abraham and Sarah, we might feel like he had good reasons for doubting. God had said he was to be the father of many nations, and things were certainly not going as planned. However, Abraham “did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” (Rom. 4:18-21, ESV) Abraham had a long history of trusting God that went back decades before he was ever called out of Ur of the Chaldeans at the age of seventy-five. He dismissed any doubts that may have weakened his relationship with God. Moreover, he Grew his faith.
We can do the same if we “Follow the pattern of the sound words … in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 1:13) We must never take doubts lightly and realize that none of us is beyond having them. We must understand that Satan is very real as are his demons, and they are very powerful spirit creatures. They enemies have the world under their control so that it caters to the fallen flesh, which includes the weakness of doubts. We must understand and appreciate that spiritual warfare is very real. If we fail to take in the Word of God in by personal Bible study daily, regularly prepare for and attend Christian meetings, and shared and defended our faith, we are susceptible to having unbelief to cause us to waver. We must realize that the depth of our studies will dictate the state of our spiritual strength. If all we do is take in spiritual milk, which is for babes and not solid food that belongs to the spiritually mature, we will be blown back and forth, wavering in our faith. (Heb. 5:13-6:2; Jam. 1:5-8) Sadly, churches have small Bible study groups that are studying booklets, written on a 6th-7th-grade level, leaving their members spiritual babes.
“Deep study is no guarantee that mature faith will result, but shallow study guarantees that immaturity continues.” – Dr. Lee M. Field
SPIRITUAL MILK (Shallow Study):
- Discovering the Joy of Jesus: A Guide to Philippians (2013, 160 pages)
- Who Is Jesus? A Guide to Jesus (2012, 144 pages)
- Connecting With God: A Guide To Prayer (2012, 144 pages)
- Growing in the Christian Life: A Guide to James (2013, 144 pages)
SOLID FOOD (Deep Study)
- Fool’s Gold?: Discerning Truth in an Age of Error (2005, 224 pages)
- Knowing God (1993, 286 pages)
- Searching for the Original Bible (2007, 293 pages)
- Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus” (2007, 176 pages)
- Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (2008, 290 pages)
- Basic Bible Interpretation (1991, 324 pages)
It is just not that the depth of the book is of paramount importance; it is that we must avoid “anyone [who] teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness.” (1 Tim. 6:3, ESV) Do not believe that deeper books have to mean necessarily difficult to understand because many of those books are now written in easy to understand language. In addition, a babe, i.e., young child has the vocabulary that is indicative of their age. The same is true of the spiritual babe. Thus, these ones will simply have to grow their vocabulary, so that some of these deeper books can be easily understood. For example, before reading Searching for the Original Bible or Misquoting Truth or Fabricating Jesus above, the reader may want to read Introduction to New Testament Textual Criticism (1993, 174 pages) or the Text of the New Testament, From Manuscript to Modern Edition (2008, 144 pages) because our book recommendations are on that subject matter. Which do we think to be better: (1) having faith that the Bible is the Word of God and is trustworthy, or (2) knowing that the Bible is the Word of God and is trustworthy?
Our three book recommendations Searching for the Original Bible (2007), Misquoting Truth (2007), and Fabricating Jesus (2008) are the direct result of New York Times Bestselling author Dr. Bart D. Ehrman and his book Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (2007, 242 pages). Misquoting Jesus is an incredibly easy to understand book on the Greek text of the New Testament that lies behind our English translation. Ehrman in a very misleading way casts extreme doubt on the trustworthiness of the Greek text, which would mean that we could not trust the English translation of that text, regardless of the translation we choose. Over ten very good books deal with Misquoting Jesus. Misquoting Jesus is just one of over twenty Ehrman books, and it is a New York Times Bestseller, meaning that it is getting into the hands of hundreds of thousands of Christians, creating doubt in the trustworthiness of God’s Word. In addition, Misquoting Jesus is getting in the hands of hundreds of thousands of Bible critics, who are bent on tearing down the faith of as many Christians as possible.
If the reader of this book were to read Searching for the Original Bible (2007), Misquoting Truth (2007), and Fabricating Jesus (2008), followed by Misquoting Jesus (2007), what would be the benefit? First, by reading the recommended books before reading the lies of Ehrman, the reader would be able to identify the misleading information in Misquoting Jesus. Why is that important? Second, they would grow their faith. Third, they would be able to defend their faith in God and his Word. Fourth, they would be able to assist God in saving some who have begun to doubt. We do not want doubts to destroy our faith. Moreover, we do not want doubts to destroy our spiritual brothers and sisters’ faith. Thus, it is imperative that we grow our faith with books such as those listed above.
- How can our human immune system be compared to our spiritual health? What questions should we ask ourselves?
- Are doubts always bad? Explain.
- What are unfounded doubts?
- How did Satan place unfounded doubt in the mind of Eve?
- What issues did Satan raise with his inferential, suggestive, supposing comments and questions?
- How can we test whether we are truly Christian?
- What warning did Jesus and the apostle John give to those who believed they were doing the right things?
- What is involved in examining what we ourselves are?
- Why must we keep testing ourselves?
- Why must we keep examining ourselves?
- Why do we need to understand just how bad human imperfection is before we can fully implement the right Christian Living Skills?
- What is it that will make us spiritually strong and will help us to maintain that strength?
- How can we escape spiritual hunger?
- How can we make sure that no unbelief ever makes us waver?
 B.C.E. years ran down toward zero, although the Romans had no zero, and C.E. years ran up from zero. (100, 10, 3, 2, 1 ◄B.C.E. | C.E.► 1, 2, 3, 10, and 100)
 As we can see from most English translations at Genesis 3:16, the plain sense of the text is, Adam was with her, which creates a real Bible difficulty. The reason for the difficulty is this; they are taking it as though Adam and Eve are standing before the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and the serpent, Satan, starts to speak to Eve. They carry on a conversation, with Adam simply passively listening. Satan deceives Eve, but Adam is not deceived, yet he does not argue with the serpent, snatch the fruit from Eve, but rather just stands there letting Eve eat the fruit, knowing she will die. Really? I just cannot see how that can rationally be the case. I would argue that Eve was alone before Adam joined her.
Was Adam standing beside Eve when she had the conversation with the serpent, was deceived and chose to rebel against God? The Bible shows no indication that this is the case. The translations above make it appear as though that is the case, “she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”
The Hebrew verb translated “gave” is in the imperfect waw consecutive, as a result, it points to a temporal or logical sequence (usually called an “imperfect sequential”). Hence, a Bible translator or committee can translate the several occurrences of the waw, which tie together the chain of events in verse 6, with “and” as well as other transitional words, such as “subsequently,” “then,” “after that,” afterward,” and “so.”
Genesis 3:6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desirable to make one wise, and she took of its fruit and ate, then she also gave some to her husband when with her, and he ate.
 In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1–5
 Eve was the newest person to the Garden of Eden, which is why Satan chose her instead of Adam. Moreover, serpents could not talk, which is why Eve likely felt that what the serpent was saying might not be true. Imagine, she was walking by the tree of knowledge and a serpent that cannot speak is hanging from a limb, eating the fruit, and it turns its head and begins to speak to Eve. The fact Eve is not surprised makes some commentators believe the Serpent must have been able to speak. No, rather Eve is not surprised because it seems the fruit of the tree can give you special knowledge, for the snake is likely eating of the fruit from this tree of knowledge. Satan is actually using the serpent as a modern day ventriloquist uses a dummy when he projects his voice. Satan was and is a very powerful demon.
 Lit eat from it
 Lit., dying you [singular] shall die. Heb., moth tamuth; the first reference to death in the Scriptures
 This latter point is not knowledge of; it is the self-sovereignty of choosing good and bad for oneself and act of rebellion for created creatures. What was symbolized by the tree is well expressed in a footnote on Genesis 2:17, in The Jerusalem Bible (1966):
This knowledge is a privilege which God reserves to himself and which man, by sinning, is to lay hands on, 3:5, 22. Hence it does not mean omniscience, which fallen man does not possess; nor is it moral discrimination, for unfallen man already had it and God could not refuse it to a rational being. It is the power of deciding for himself what is good and what is evil and of acting accordingly, a claim to complete moral independence by which man refuses to recognize his status as a created being. The first sin was an attack on God’s sovereignty, a sin of pride.
 Or “indecisive,” i.e., wavering in mind
 “With no doubting. This refers to having one’s thinking divided within himself, not merely because of mental indecision but an inner moral conflict or distrust in God (see note on v. 8 ). Wave of the sea. The person who doubts God’s ability or willingness to provide this wisdom is like the billowing, restless sea, moving back and forth with its endless tides, never able to settle (cf. Josh. 24:15; 1 Kin. 18:21; Rev. 3:16). 1:8 double-minded man. A literal translation of the Greek expression that denotes having one’s mind or soul divided between God and the world (see note on 4:4 ). This man is a hypocrite who occasionally believes in God but fails to trust Him when trials come, and thus receives nothing. The use of this expression in 4:8 makes it clear that it refers to an unbeliever. unstable.” – MacArthur, John (2005-05-09). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 63042-63049). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
 Or “own lust”
 A “fellow worker” with Paul at Rome (Col. 4:14; Philem. 24), who eventually, “in love with this present world,” forsook the apostle and left for Thessalonica (2 Tim. 4:10). No other particulars are given concerning him. (ISBE, Volume 1, Page 918)
 B.C.E. means “before the Common Era,” which is more accurate than B.C. (“before Christ”). C.E. denotes “Common Era,” often called A.D., for anno Domini, meaning “in the year of our Lord.”
 Lit the face of his birth
 (T. D. Lea, Holman New Testament Commentary: Hebrews, James 1999, p. 97)
 What happens if I don’t eat enough? – Nutrition – Sharecare, https://www.sharecare.com/health/nutrition-diet/what-happens-dont-eat-enough (accessed November 11, 2015).
 “Moisture from heaven invariably accomplishes its intended purpose in helping meet human physical needs. The word of God will likewise produce its intended results in fulfilling God’s spiritual purposes, especially the establishment of the Davidic kingdom on earth (vv. 1–5).” – MacArthur, John (2005-05-09). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 29443-29445). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
 Anders, Max (2005-07-01). Holman Old Testament Commentary – Proverbs (p. 290). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
 Newtown Public Schools – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newtown_Public_Schools (accessed November 11, 2015).