CHRISTIAN WAY OF LIFE (30)

There are SIX major contributing factors as to why some Christians gave taken to deeper studies while others have not.

The FIRST contributing factor that contributed to the wave of interest in such fields as hermeneutics (Biblical Interpretation), textual criticism of the Old and New testament (TC), Bible translation process and philosophy, church history, apologetics, among many others? Several factors have contributed to the rehabilitated awareness of such an important subject areas. The internet has allowed such tools like Facebook groups, Yahoo and Google discussion boards, where scholars and laypersons alike can discuss the science and art of textual criticism and other academic areas. The internet has given the layperson many free websites that offer comprehensive information about these areas of study.

The SECOND contributing factor is evangelism, which has created a resurgence of this deeper studies for churchgoers. Evangelism is the work of a Christian evangelist, of which all true Christians are obligated to partake to some extent, which seeks to persuade other people to become Christian, especially by sharing the basics of the Gospel, but also the deeper message of biblical truths. Today the Gospel is almost an unknown, so what does the Christian evangelist do? Preevangelism is laying a foundation for those who have no knowledge of the Gospel, giving them background information, so that they are able to grasp what they are hearing. The Christian evangelist is preparing their mind and heart so that they will be receptive to the biblical truths. In many ways, this is known as apologetics.

Christian apologetics [Greek: apologia, “verbal defense, speech in defense”] is a field of Christian theology which endeavors to offer a reasonable and sensible basis for the Christian faith, defending the faith against objections. It is reasoning from the Scriptures, explaining and proving, as one instructs in sound doctrine, many times having to overturn false reasoning before he can plant the seeds of truth. It can also be earnestly contending for the faith and saving one from losing their faith, as they have begun to doubt. Moreover, it can involve rebuking those who contradict the truth. It is being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks the Christian evangelist for a reason for the hope that is in him or her. – Jude 1.3, 21-23; 1 Pet 3.15; Acts 17:2-3; Titus 1:9.

What do we mean by obligated and what we mean by evangelism are at the heart of the matter and are indeed related to each other?

EVANGELISM: An evangelist is a proclaimer of the gospel or good news, as well as all biblical truths. There are levels of evangelism, which is pictured in first-century Christianity. All Christians evangelized in the first century, but a select few fit the role of a full-time evangelist (Ephesians 4:8, 11-12), as was true of Philip and Timothy.

Both Philip and Timothy are specifically mentioned as evangelizers. (Ac 21:8; 2 Tim. 4:5) Philip was a full-time evangelist after Pentecost, who was sent to the city of Samaria, having great success. An angel even directed Philip to an Ethiopian Eunuch, to share the good news about Christ with him. Because of the Eunuch’s already having knowledge of God by way of the Old Testament, Philip was able to help him understand that the Hebrew Scriptures pointed to Christ as the long-awaited Messiah. In the end, Philip baptized the Eunuch. Thereafter, the Spirit again sent Philip on a mission, this time to Azotus and all the cities on the way to Caesarea. (Ac 8:5, 12, 14, 26-40) Paul evangelized in many lands, setting up one congregation after another. (2 Cor. 10:13-16) Timothy was an evangelizer or missionary, and Paul placed distinct importance on evangelizing when he gave his parting encouragement to Timothy. –2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Timothy 1:3.

The office of apostle and evangelist seem to overlap in some areas, but could be distinguished in that apostles traveled and set up congregations, which took evangelizing skills, but also developed the congregations after they were established. The evangelists were more of a missionary, being stationed in certain areas to grow and develop congregations. In addition, if we look at all of the apostles and the evangelists, plus Paul’s more than one hundred traveling companions, it seems very unlikely that they could have had Christianity at over one million by the 125 C.E. This was accomplished because all Christians were obligated to carry out some level of evangelism.

OBLIGATED: In the broadest sense of the term for evangelizer, all Christians are obligated to play some role as an evangelist.

  • Basic Evangelism is planting seeds of truth and watering any seeds that have been planted. [In the basic sense of this word (euaggelistes), this would involve all Christians.] In some cases, it may be that one Christian planted the seed, which was initially rejected, so he was left in a good way because the planter did not try to force the truth down his throat. However, later he faces something in life that moves him to reconsider those seeds and another Christian waters what had already been planted by the first Christian. This evangelism can be carried out in all of the methods that are available: informal, house-to-house, street, phone, the internet, and the like. What amount of time is invested in the evangelism work is up to each Christian to decide for themselves?
  • Making Disciples is having any role in the process of getting an unbeliever from his unbelief state to the point of accepting Christ as his Savior and being baptized. Once the unbeliever has become a believer, he is still developed until he has become strong. Any Christian could potentially carry this one person through all of the developmental stages. On the other hand, it may be that several have some part. It is like a person that specializes in a certain aspect of a job, but all are aware of the other aspects, in case they are called on to carry out that phase. Again, each Christian must decide for themselves what role they are to have, and how much of a role, but should be prepared to fill any role if needed.
  • Part-Time or Full-Time Evangelist is one who sees this as their calling and chooses to be very involved as an evangelist in their local church and community. They may work part-time to supplement their work as an evangelist. They may be married with children, but they realize their gift is in the field of evangelism. If it were the wife, the husband would work toward supporting her work as an evangelist and vice-versa. If it were a single person, he or she would supplement their work by being employed part-time, but also the church would help as well. This person is well trained in every aspect of bringing one to Christ.
  • Congregation Evangelists should be very involved in evangelizing their communities and helping the church members play their role at the basic levels of evangelism. There is nothing to say that one church could not have many within, who take on part-time or full-time evangelism within the congregation, which would and should be cultivated.

The THIRD contributing factor for the renewed interest is the New Atheist, Agnostic, and Skeptic, who seeks to cast doubt on the existence of God and his Word. These new critics of God and the Bible are different from those of say 60-years ago, as they are far more evangelistic than even Christianity. These new critics pen many books, magazine articles, advertise on billboards, news, and radio shows, and publicly debate Bible scholars. They seem to be everywhere and are contributing to the spiritual shipwreck of tens of thousands of Christians.

The adult Christian came on the internet in a burst (1993-2003), ready to share their faith based on decades of studying children’s books about the Bible. You know, those booklets about 120 pages long that cover as doctrine or the whole of a Bible book like Romans, written on a 6th-7th-grade level, and some even having cartoon illustrations. This coupled with dumbed-down Bible translations like the GNT, CEV, NLT, even the NIV.

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? The Christians by the hundreds of thousands were terribly defeated by the atheists and Bible critics who were far more informed. It was an absolute slaughter. Some tucked their tail and ran. A handful stayed and decided the only way to overcome this mountain like obstacle was to take on a personal deeper Bible study program. Apologetic books, textual criticism books, Hermeneutic books, Bible translation books, Bible Difficulty books, began to become best sellers. They developed their own personal Bible study program where they studied for 30-60 minutes each day of the week. They prepared for the Christian meeting by studying what was going to be covered. They commented and participated in meetings that allowed such.

Defending God's Word_Ehrman

THEN came Dr. Agnostic Bart. D. Ehrman in 2005 with his New York Times Bestseller Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

Over the past eleven plus years, it has taken a boatload of scholars just to contain this Michael Jordan of textual criticism. Some were initially mad at him for writing on a popular level, but that was the conduit, which opened the floodwaters. His book and others like them became the bullets in the gun of the atheist who was decimating the average Christian. Then we had Daniel Wallace, Timothy Paul Jones, Randall Price, Craig A. Evans, Darrel Bock, M. James Sawyer, and others trying to deal with this onslaught. All the while, textual scholars were moving from the goal of getting back to the original to the earliest possible text.

EHRMAN has been a blessing and a curse. He has been a blessing because he has woken the Christians to the idea of real Bible study, real in-depth research. He has also stirred some publishers at the thought of taking highly technical subjects and making them available to the average Christian. He has been a curse in that he has unseated the weak faith of so many. Those, whose faith had never been tested, either fought their way back or threw their hands up and became apostate cheerleaders for Ehrman. Of course, he already had the liberal-moderate scholar and student all along.

MISREPRESENTING VS MISQUOTING

The FOURTH contributor to this renewed interest is scholarly books written for the layperson, which has enabled the churchgoer to enter the conversation. We now have a plethora of books dealing with numerous biblical fields, which enable the Christian to avoid falling into the trap of doubting, that what they have is, in fact, the Word of God, inspired and fully inerrant. There is absolutely no one to be blamed if we end up in repeated conversations that cast doubt on our beliefs and the Word of God, but ourselves.

The FIFTH contributor to this renewed interest is the words of Jesus Christ and the apostle John.

Matthew 7:21-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 “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. 22 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?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

What is the first and foremost question we should ask? What is the will of the Father? Jesus brings up those who wrongly believed that they were doing the will of the Father in verse 22. “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?’” However, Jesus has some very bad news for these ones in verse 23. “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’” The apostle John tells us at 1 John 2:17, “The world is passing away, and its lusts; but the one who does the will of God remains forever.” Who will live forever? Oh, yeah, “whoever does the will of God.” There it is again, the will of the Father. We already noted that the will of the Father is the key. Thus, the second most important question is, what is the only way of knowing the will of the Father? Yes, the only way to know is by a deep study of God’s Word.

If the average Christian is going to truly know the will of the Father, it will be by knowing the Word of God. We may think that we know the will of the Father but the apostle Paul has some very important advice for us. If we heed any of the words in this book, it should be these next one in the section that discusses the SIXTH contributing factor, which is one of the most important pieces of counsel that Paul ever gave.

EVIDENCE THAT YOU ARE TRULY CHRISTIAN

2 Corinthians 13:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

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[1] 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 on 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.

How to Study Your Bible

Paul founded the Corinthian congregation in about 50 C.E.[2] 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. The words were important, so again, 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?

Keep Testing Yourselves

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)

The law of Jehovah is perfect,
restoring the soul;
the testimony of Jehovah is sure,
making wise the simple.
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 __________.

Keep Examining Yourselves

The phrase keep examining yourselves is self-explanatory, but 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).

YOUR WORD IS TRUTH

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 into bad behaviors. (4) Moreover, there is the world of Satan and his demons that cater 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 become 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 function, 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 bad 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 distinguish 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[3] 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. Here are some questions to ponder. What are the SIX factors that have contributed to a renewed interest in deeper Bible study? Which of these five factors motivates you to do the same? 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?

[1] 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)

[2] 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.”

[3] Lit the face of his birth

SEE

Motivation for Deeper Bible Study

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