There are times as I am in my own personal Bible study time when I make connections that I feel an urgent need to share on the blog. This post is being written in one of those moments. I know there is someone who will read this, who needs to hear it and I hope these thoughts can speak to your heart in a similar manner to how they've spoken to mine.
Society has become increasingly, openly opinionated in the last 50 years. Some people view this as a negative thing, but I want to focus on a benefit that this trend brings. While it is true that a lack of boundaries and tact can cause unnecessary drama, being allowed and encouraged to form our own thoughts and opinions about things is a luxury. It is at the very foundation of the development of the United States. "Freedom" is a staple word in our American vocabulary. We are encouraged to do our own research, make our own conclusions, and speak our own truths. I am very grateful to live in a place where I am encouraged to learn and grow my own thoughts and insights.
It has been interesting to me as I interact with many sincere and dedicated people who label themselves as Christians, how many of them do not hold a strong opinion on what they believe. What really shocks me is this idea that the less we define about our relationship with God or our studying of the Bible, the better. As our opinions about the world around us are growing more detailed, our thoughts on our spiritual life are becoming more vague. We have no problems openly defining what we think of gay marriage, women's rights, our political stance, the environment, or an endless amount of other hot topics. So why are we afraid to delve into the realm of spiritual discussion and Biblical studying?
I think for many people, it is a matter of what is comfortable. If no one ever challenges you on what you believe, why do you ever need to define it? When we fall into the habit of using blanket statements such as, "I believe in Jesus" or "I think God loves everyone." Who is really going to argue with that? Sure, there are atheists and agnostics who might take issue with even those broad phrases, but overall in the Christian community, everyone will happily agree with you. I would even dare to say that we are encouraged to make those types of statements. As long as Jesus is welcoming, loving, and relatable in our lives and in the lives of those around us, what more do we need? See, even you are reading that and thinking it sounds pretty prefect.
The problem is, Christianity isn't preparing us for any sort of challenge anymore. It's become all about feeling good and being marketable.
I'm not here to fight against the incredible ministry initiatives I am seeing rising up in this time period. I am so incredibly grateful and in awe of the leaders and organizations that are sharing Jesus in his true form of being welcoming, loving, and relatable. I would never argue with that stance. I would never say we shouldn't share Jesus in that manner. But there is so much more going on in our lives, in the world, and in the Bible than just the story of salvation.
Every day we are forced to make decisions, and many of those choices even if we do not realize it, are based on our values. Beyond accepting and believing in Jesus, we as believers must know what our lifestyles should look like. Once again I am reminded of how churches take a vague approach to this issue. We tell people to love Jesus and then we leave them to figure out the rest of the stuff in the Bible for themselves. It is like being handed a subway pass on your first visit to New York City, and someone simply saying, "best of luck!" There is so much more for us to navigate in our lives as Christians than just the bare basics.
I am not here to promote legalism. I really hate that legalism has become such a barricade for any discussion on this matter. I am not saying you need to do a list of things to earn God's love for you- I am saying that you need to know what you believe in beyond knowing that you love Jesus.
I'm really trying to accomplish two things here- first off I am trying to convince all of my readers that they have a need for personal Bible study. Secondly, I am putting religious leaders on the hot seat, because if ever there was a time for accountability it is now.
The Bible does not end it's ministry or message with the decapitation of Paul or the crucifixion of Peter. The Bible continues into the book of Revelation, tying in previously stated themes from Hosea, Isaiah, and Daniel. These are the books that speak about the future. These are the books that speak about end times. Prophecy has lost its popularity. It is hard to understand and for years we have thought that the world was going to end... only to see it continue. This is discouraging and confusing for everyone. Regardless of the challenges of deciphering prophecy, one thing is very clear- it is the Bible and our willingness to follow it that will help us find our way through whatever the future holds.
I am not a scholar or a theologian, so perhaps you are taking this all with a grain of salt (and I hope you do!). However, the sad reality is that even theologians and scholars do not have a great grasp of their beliefs. Somewhere along the way, all of us as people have stopped looking to the Bible for our truths and instead accepted whatever is preached at us from our parents, our teachers, or our pastors. Think about it. When someone asks you a question about Jesus or religion, do you think of what you've read for yourself in God's word or do you think of what your denominational stance is? Do you recall what you read in scripture or do you reference a really good sermon you heard? Our reasoning for what we believe in must always be found solely in the Bible. It must be found in what we have read with our own eyes and thought about with our own brains.
I know there are many gifted speakers and writers who God is absolutely using as a vessel for his ministry. I myself greatly benefit from listening to sermons and considering the viewpoints of other believers. But at the end of the day, there is nothing anyone can say that is more enlightened or inspired than the Bible. It is certainly useful for people to expound upon what God says, but we still need to see what his actual words are.
Maybe you agree with everything I am saying but you don't know what to do with it. It can be very hard to read the Bible on your own and trust that you have any sort of feasible understanding of it. It can be very tempting to just put your Bible aside and watch a sermon or read a devotional book instead. Surely that is the same thing. Surely that brings glory to God. The problem is, when we expect people to explain the Bible for us, we limit the Holy Sprit's work in our own personal lives. There may be something that God wants to place on your heart or mind, but instead of giving Him that opportunity, you cling to other people's studying of the scripture and not your own. I have had friends tell me that they listen to their pastor because they know he is, "anointed by God". I would argue that even us as the average churchgoer and Christ-follower may become anointed and inspired by God. A degree on someone's wall, a job title, or a public following does not equate God's anointing. Acts 2:38 plainly says, "And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
That means you. That means the Holy Spirit wants to reveal Bible truth to you, personally.
I am not trying to imply that you will become a Bible scholar overnight. I am not even saying that you will suddenly be able to read the Bible every day with no setbacks or moments of forgetfulness. I try very hard to read the Bible every day, but I definitely have days where it doesn't happen. I am also not saying that when you start reading the Bible every passage or verse will be clear. There are many things in the Bible that are not clear! But just like any other hobby or profession you might take on- don't give up just because it isn't easy.
Start small. I have dedicated an entire post to studying the Bible which you can read here: https://www.thebiblegirl.com/post/how-to-actually-start-reading-the-bible
Do not be afraid to embrace the entire Bible. When you study the Bible on a personal level, you will likely learn things that you haven't been taught in church. You might even find things that go against what you learned in church. That is a tough thing to experience... but at that moment you must choose- are you a believer in God or a believer in the people who established your church denomination? There are so many things going on in the world that almost perfectly align with the Bible. There are so many amazing speakers who almost share all the truth we see in God's word.... but to quote the lyrics of famous pop star Ariana Grande- almost is never enough.
I believe it is time for us to live our lives with a sense of urgency. Instead of coasting along feeling at ease because no one has challenged our faith walk, we need to prepare for the time when they might. Someday someone might ask you what you believe in, and at that moment you will wish that you'd taken the time to decide before they asked. Someday someone you love may ask you for help understanding the Bible, and you will want to be a resource for them. Someday the spiritual leaders you looked up to may fail you. We cannot put our faith in people or worldly things, no matter how enticing or pure they seem.
We have recently seen the all-too-real reminder of how quickly our lives can end through the tragic death of Kobe Bryant. Do not let the end of your life creep up on you without you knowing what you were actually about. There is a ministry that only you can carry out. You were born in your country, town, and family for a reason. It is not a coincidence that you speak a certain language or feel drawn to a certain group of people. God is calling you to further his gospel. You can't further something you don't have a grasp on. You do not need to go back to college or enroll in seminary to fulfill the ministry of Jesus through your life. You simply need to determine what you believe in and be willing to share it, no matter what other people do or say.