Know Your Bible

VOL. 10                           June 5, 2011                           NO. 22

 Faith "Lite" 
     When you say the word ‘diet’ or ‘lite’ nowadays, some people will almost instinctively wrinkle up their noses and they start conjuring up a picture of some bland, colorless blob of who-knows-what on a plate, or maybe just a picture of miniature portions of ‘regular’ food. Many times, when we think of something as ‘diet’ or ‘lite’, it doesn’t make our mouths water or make us run to the dinner table, and it usually isn’t the first thing we seek out when we hit the all-you-can-eat restaurants.
     The intent of most foods labeled as ‘diet’ or ‘lite’ is to reduce the amount of detrimental parts like calories, fat, and carbohydrates — which ends up being good for our health — but the side effect is that much of the foods end up with very little taste and are not very appetizing. We might try some every so often, but we often keep gravitating towards the foods that we think taste good — and contain all the calories, fat, and carbs that are bad for us.
     Strangely, though, when it comes to spiritual matters, people tend toward the ‘diet’ and ‘lite’ offerings more than the spiritual foods that have real ‘meat’ and substance. For many, they are satisfied with what we might call faith ‘lite’ — a watered down offering of spiritual things that really don’t contain much, and which might even leave a little aftertaste. Let’s consider a few ways in which this seems to be the case.
     Bible Study Lite. Peter urges us to “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). From this, we may know that our spiritual growth is directly tied to our desire for, and study of, the word of God, but it seems many are plainly content to starve themselves and hinder their own spiritual maturity because they simply do not have a desire for God’s word. For many, Bible study is a 15-minute ‘devotional’ they read that someone else put together from their Bible study and not much more than that. There is no actual Bible study involved, but a mere reading of someone else’s thoughts about what the Bible says. The dangerous part of this is, not only are they starving themselves spiritually, but many are led astray by false conclusions from these writings that are never checked against the word of God.
     I have a newborn in the house again; he was a little over six pounds at birth. What would you think if, six months from now when you asked about him, I told you he was still right about six pounds? Wouldn’t you think something was wrong? Why don’t we think that way when it comes to spiritual growth? Why is it we are satisfied with many of our converts remaining spiritual ‘babes’ — sometimes for years — and not helping them to grow in the word? Why are we content with putting so little time into our personal Bible study time, and not any more concerned about how little others put forth? Friends and brethren, if you want weak and helpless babies, feed them little; if you want weak and helpless disciples, feed them little, too. The results are guaranteed!
     Preaching Lite. Paul admonished the young evangelist Timothy, “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Tim. 4:2). Though Paul wrote that around the middle of the first century, it doesn’t seem so strange to hear those words because they sound like some much-needed warnings today!
     The sad fact is, there are many brethren whose faith is so shallow and whose spiritual maturity level is so stunted, they cannot handle the lessons from God’s word that contain real ‘meat’ and substance, and many others who could, but simply do not desire it. Many are content to hear 15-minute sermonettes that are based on the latest religious book store best-seller or ones that make little or no reference to God’s word at all. Sadly, there is an increasing number of brethren who do not want preachers to preach on certain topics for fear of ‘offending’ some members who are guilty of sin or who might not like plain Bible teaching and withhold their weekly contribution.
     With that as the desire of the majority of some congregations [or just the desire of an influential few], some church leaders are demanding sermons that have little substance, nothing offensive, and words that sound basically no different than the speech of some motivational speakers on the circuit. ‘Sin’ is not mentioned anymore; commands are now merely suggestions, and the only expectation seems to be an occasional appearance so someone will know to keep your name on the membership roll.
     The problem with this type of preaching, though, is that it convicts no one of sin, causes no one to repent and, ultimately, saves no one. Oh, those who hear might feel good about themselves and go home and talk about ‘what a good preacher’ they have, but they are often left without any knowledge to convict them of their sins, have been given no reason to repent, and know nothing of salvation and whether or not they could ever obtain eternal life.
     Worship Lite. It would be easy, at this point, to look at what a lot of the denominational churches are doing and the ‘liberal’ churches are doing, but we need to take a look at self on this one, brethren. Instead of worrying about what ‘they’ are doing, we need to take a good, hard, look at us.
     It is a constant battle to encourage some brethren to come to each of our assemblies; it is a struggle to get some to come to more than once every three or four months. Some never come to the Bible classes offered, and some simply do not see the value in studying with their brethren or offering up worship to God more than once a week or, for some, three or four times each year. Apparently [I don’t know what is in their hearts, obviously], some believe God is happy to hear from them so rarely, and is happy to accept ‘worship’ from someone who really doesn’t understand the meaning of what true worship is. Many, I am afraid, do not understand the simple definition of worship is ‘the reverent love shown to God’, but see ‘worship’ as a mere ritual or some kind of minimal requirement for entrance into heaven.
     Sometimes, when I have asked these brethren about their apparent lack of interest and my suspicion that it reflects a lack of love for God, they will get highly offended and retort, “Where does it say I have to go on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights?!?!?” — as if there is some command that God made as to how often we should show Him how much we love Him for what He has done for us! Friends and brethren, if you have to be commanded to show your love to God, is it really genuine? Is it really love at all if it has to be coerced out of you? Let me ask you a question for those of you who are married: Would your spouse be content with you showing him or her that amount of love? Would they be happy to hear from you only three or four times a year that you loved them, and even less a real demonstration of that love? I’m guessing not.
     Where does it say I have to go and worship God? Nowhere. But while it doesn’t say I have to go and worship Him, I have a few passage that makes me wonder why some do not willingly offer it up every chance they get. Consider:
     “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:6, 8). Is that not motivation enough to want to return that love?
     What about this? —
     “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). If He was so willing to give His life for me, should I not be willing to freely and faithfully give my life in service to Him, and to show Him, too, how much I love Him for what He has done for me?
     If you are trying to lose weight, go ahead and cut out those unnecessary calories and fat; but if you are trying to please God and get to heaven, don’t cut back on your spiritual intake. Add to your faith (2 Pet. 1:5-11), give your all and your best to the Lord (Matt. 22:37), and exercise towards godliness (1 Tim. 4:7,8).
---Steven Harper
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