My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me. Hosea 4:6 (NLT)
I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. Philippians 3:10a (NLT)
I have often said that the church today is getting itself into trouble when we are more concerned with knowing about Christ than with actually knowing Him. I think I first came to that conclusion while studying Philippians and Paul’s comment quoted above (Philippians 3:10). Apparently, this concern went back a ways before Paul. Hosea warned the people about it as well.
When I was in High School (back in the days of old), I knew a set of twins. Their names were Mike and Chris, and they went to a rival High School. I only knew them because I had played against them in basketball. They were as identical as any two twins I have ever seen. It was uncanny…a little creepy even. If you didn’t know them, it was impossible to tell them apart. I knew people who knew them, and I would ask them how they tell them apart. They would try to give me hints about their hair or their mouth or a certain behavior, but none of those hints really helped. The truth was, those friends couldn’t really tell me how they tell them apart. More times than not, when asked how, those friends would just say, “I don’t know…I just can, because I know them.”
That, it seems to me, is the difference between knowing God and knowing about God. I have, upon occasion, listened to teachers teaching about God or Jesus or the Bible and heard lots of great information from them but could not help but ask myself whether they really know God. There just was no familiarity in their …
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. James 3:17
Do you rememberMagic 8 Balls? I do…that awesome Mattel toy (wow, just the name Mattel conjures up so many exciting feelings for several generations of Americans…Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels, Matchbox cars, and all those games!) that would answer any question you have about anything! Ask it any “yes” or “no” question and then shake it and, voilà, the answer would magically appear in the little window. “It is decidedly so”, “signs point to yes”, “Don’t count on it”, “Ask again later”…it was all very simple, really. We liked that about it. We got to set the agenda, we got to ask the questions we wanted answered…and if we didn’t like the answer, we could just shake it and ask again!
We’ve grown up now and we no longer rely on Magic 8 Balls to answer all our pressing questions. We realize, of course, how silly we were when we did that. Now, we have something much more powerful, something much more completely accurate to answer all our questions. Now we have the internet. The process still works the same way, of course, because it is a process we like, one we get to control. We simply log on and Google whatever our question is and, voilà, the answer magically appears on our screen. We like getting wisdom that way. It appeals to us. We set the agenda, we ask the questions, and we get the answer. We are powerful.
It is this notion of being in control and powerful, I think, that makes it so difficult for us to embrace the Bible (or a walk with …
Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24
When installing an appliance or putting together a piece of furniture, it seems to me there are levels of understanding. The lowest level is when you know you don’t know anything at all, so you sit down with the instructions first, before you do anything. The next level is when you think you know something about it, so you start without the instructions and soon find that your are in fact an idiot and then sit down with the instructions. The third level of understanding is when you know enough about the task to know that each case is a little different, so you start by sitting down with the instructions.
If there are higher levels of understanding than this, I admit to being totally out of touch with them. I myself typically float back and forth between the first two levels. When my wife sees me walking through the house carrying a tool, she immediately drops what she’s doing and follows me as she grabs the phone and calls for help. I have learned (mostly the hard way) how helpful it is to read and follow the instructions from the beginning. In my case, it doesn’t guarantee success, but it at least prevents me from screwing my table top into the floor, or other such embarrassing results.
When asked how I can mediate congregational conflict in such a wide variety of denominations and churches, how it is possible to effectively navigate church conflict even with little understanding of the culture, the answer seems obvious to …
Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me. Job 38:2-3
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness… II Corinthians 3:18
Driving to work recently, I pulled up behind a truck literally covered in bumper stickers. I mean, there had to be 50 of them all over the truck. Many of them were Christian. Others were political. Some were rather personal. But the collective “message” was clear: this truck owner was screaming, “Look at me! Look at me!” This truck was like the vehicular version of a peacock, with its feathers spread wide, and its pride featured front and center. And I thought, there is something not quite right with that picture.
Do you know any professing Christians who seem to know a lot about God and the Bible and Jesus and who talk a lot about all that they know, but who just don’t seem to ring “true” for some reason? They wax eloquently all day long about this doctrine or that doctrine, or they can impress you with their stories of “conquest” from the mission field, or they can show you the sacrifices they have made on their church’s behalf. But when it comes right down to it, something about their attitude, something about the way they carry themselves just doesn’t add up. They simply do not exhibit the humility which naturally comes from being in the presence of God. And before you get too wrapped up accusing that person, let me ask you this: is it possible that person has ever been you? You see, having that “Jesus is the Answer” bumper sticker on the back of …
My South African friend, Frank, tells a great story about being in a motorcycle gang when he turned his life over to the Lord. A member of the gang confronted him: “So, I hear you’re a Christian now.” “That’s right,” said Frank. The gang member continued, “So, if I hit you, you have to turn the other cheek.” “That’s right,” said Frank, “That’s what the scripture tells me.” So the gang member belted Frank, right across the face. Frank obediently turned the other cheek. The gang member hit him again, maybe a little harder this time. Frank straightened himself out, looked back at the gang member…and flattened him. Then Frank told him, “Scripture gives no further instructions after that.”
It’s important to know the rules of engagement.
In the Christian church, the rules of engagement are all spelled out for us in God’s Word. The Bible, then, becomes the cultural guideline for all of our interaction with one another, whether in times of conflict or in times of agreement. In most Christian churches, the Bible is held among the very highest of values. Understanding that culture (i.e., the rules of engagement), then, requires understanding God’s Word. I think it is fair to say that, in the church today, one of the critical limiting factors to finding peace with one another is Biblical illiteracy. By the same token, all of the most effective peacemakers I know in the church, past or present, have had a pretty good working knowledge of scripture.
In the secular world, at least in our culture, the highest value in mediation is the agreement. In other words, that the parties agree is what matters most. It doesn’t matter so much whether the agreement is fair or unfair or good or bad. If the parties
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
My impression is that the church in America is getting LESS Biblically literate, not more. I don’t have any scientific data to support that impression. Maybe the Barna Group or someone like that has researched it. I’m just saying that, when we compare the evangelical church of today to the one that existed 50 or 100 years ago, I have a distinct impression that our understanding of the God of the Bible is not deepening–rather, it is getting shallower. I believe we are becoming a Biblically illiterate church. I would welcome your impression on that issue.
If I am right about that, then here is what is really mind-boggling: I suspect we are graduating more students from our theological institutions than ever before. I mean, I strongly suspect that there are actually more theologians among us today than we have ever had among us at any other time in the history of the church. Moreover, the church in America has groomed and perfected the art of preaching beyond measure. We have truly amazing, gifted teachers and preachers in the American church, and their lessons and sermons have never been more accessible than they are right now. Anytime I desire, I can go on line or tune into the radio and listen to Charles Stanley, Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, John MacArthur, Max Lucado, Chuck Swindoll or any of hundreds of other great preachers. You want choices? The church in America has choices galore!
So here is the critical question: how is that we have so much fantastic preaching and so many really smart theologians in the church today but we are actually less Biblically literate than ever?