Number Six

While doing some online research I discovered an interesting fact. Each year the American Library Association compiles a list of the top ten most challenged books in America. Most are on the list because of offensive language, violent content, sexual explicitness, or for addressing controversial issues like homosexuality and transgender people.

I was somewhat surprised to learn that number six on the list of “the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2015” is the Bible. It is challenged because of its “religious viewpoint.”

That is probably because the Scriptures condemn much of what our current culture condones. Consider what Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God,” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

Paul’s warning covers most of our popular practices. It turns out the Bible is actually full of contradictions; it contradicts those sinful things we are so inclined to do. The Scriptures are unpalatable to our fallen nature and when we stubbornly “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” our dislike of the Scriptures turns to disdain, and eventually open animosity as we witness today.

The believer has a much different perspective of God’s Word. We see it as a “lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” That is, it can illuminate where we are at emotionally and spiritually and clearly guide us to the remedy for our spiritual plight. Just as all roads led to Rome in the Roman Empire, all Scriptures lead to Christ in the kingdom of God.

Those things we once chaffed under in our disbelief, we discover in coming to Christ are not confining at all, but liberating. We begin to see that obedience to God’s imperatives, whether it is something we should do or not do, is actually meant for our good. The life of the believer becomes productive, fulfilling, and enjoyable.

Solomon put it this way, “The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day,” Proverbs 4:18. When we walk in the light of God’s Word trusting He knows what is best, the night is increasingly dispelled to reveal the goodness of God.

The Bible being on the list of the top ten most challenged books in America is just a symptom of our nation’s drift away from the biblical principles it was founded upon. And while it may be one of the most challenged books in America, it remains the number one all-time bestseller in the world. It seems number six is the Book of books.

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever,” Isaiah 40:8.

It’s what we do

I do not watch Saturday Night Live. That is because for over forty years, since its inception, SNL has mocked biblical morality and whenever the opportunity arose made Christian values laughable. As a Christian it does not deserve my attention.

But SNL got many people’s attention recently when it lampooned the movie God’s Not Dead 2. Some within the Christian community were offended and have spoken out. I decided not to join the whining, in part, because SNL’s cast does not need to worry about offending me; their concerns lie with another.

Solomon tells us, “Fools mock at sin,” Proverbs 14:9. It is what people who do not know God do. For them God is not revered; he is a punch line. I am not surprised when unbelievers act like unbelievers. That’s their nature. It is like the GEICO commercial tagline, “It’s what they do.”

Rather than being offended, I am saddened. A jocular attitude towards sin removes the gravity of sin’s nature and effect, and blinds us to its consequences. That is why the Scriptures teach it is foolish to joke about it. With God sin is no joking matter, with SNL sin has been a joking matter for decades.

That’s what they do, what should we do? What should be the Christian response?

I like what David Siekbert wrote, “At first I was very upset, not necessarily that they ‘spoofed’ a movie that I’ve been personally involved with, but that they would blatantly make a mockery of God” he goes on to say “Here’s my take on the whole thing-SNL does skits on things that are making waves in our society (i.e. politics, social issues, etc…)…I believe they have just added attention to this film that might get people curious as to what this film is really about.”

I think that reflects a better attitude than some of what I have been reading. We certainly should not revile those who profane what we hold sacred. Peter enjoins us to follow Christ’s example who “while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously,” 1 Peter 2:23.

If Jesus did not speak ill of those who were in the very act of crucifying Him, should we speak ill of those who mock the things we believe? Haven’t we been commanded by Jesus Himself to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us? We only need to continue doing what is right and ignore what others think about what we do. Leave the whining to those who are confused about the truth.

Sometimes the greatest statement we can make is a silent resolve to continue to do what is right in the face of incessant ridicule, ignoring the taunts and trusting our Father. In this way we will “not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” It’s what we do.

Selling Your Soul

I came across an interesting story on the Internet. It seems that the popular game show Family Feud, hosted by Steve Harvey, posed this question to its contestants, “Name something you would consider selling if the price is right.” The top answers are on a board and contestants try to guess what the most popular answers are. The questions are provocative as are the answers.

When Cecilia, spokeswoman for the Patterson family, responded with “sell your soul” Harvey chided one of the Patterson family members for clapping in support of her answer because he was a pastor. Cecilia’s answer was not among the top responses on the board. No one took her answer seriously, but I can remember a time when such matters were viewed with greater gravity.

The character in the classic German fable known as Faust was said to have made a deal with the devil and though he was a successful scholar he exchanged his soul to gain vast knowledge and unlimited pleasures. But the idea of selling one’s soul for material gain did not originate with the fabled Faust.

It comes from the very words of Christ, “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Mark 8:36-37. Jesus considered the wealth of the whole world a fleeting and insignificant sum when compared with the eternal value of one’s soul.

Harvey asked Cecilia what she would be willing to sell her soul for and she laughingly responded “100 million dollars.” If such a transaction could be arranged I am sure Satan would readily pay her price, but she would eventually discover she sold herself too cheaply. Judas discovered that and he sold out for much less, thirty pieces of silver, a tidy sum to be sure but hardly a king’s ransom.

I wonder how often we as Christians sell out our convictions to make a profit, close a deal, secure another’s favor? Honestly, I know there have been times in my life when I have sold out, and almost every time it was for much less than thirty pieces of silver.

Thankfully Christians are subjects of a Kingdom where our King ransomed us. Earthly kings do not hesitate to ask their subjects to lay down their lives for them, but Christians are subjects of a Kingdom who’s King did not hesitate to lay down His life for us.

May we never forget that the grace and mercy extended to us from the Father so freely cost Christ everything. The truth is I cannot sell my soul, it is no longer mine. It was “bought with a price” and belongs to One who will never sell it.

“Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation,” Revelation 5:9.

It is unbecoming for Christians to complain

Lifeway Research recently released results of a survey on religious liberty. They surveyed a thousand Americans in September of 2013 and again in September of 2015.

Almost two-thirds, 63%, in 2015 believe there is increasing intolerance of Christians and that is up from half, 50%, from the survey in 2013. Similarly, 60% surveyed in 2015 believe there has been a decline in religious liberty, which is an increase from 54% of those reporting in 2013.

My sentiments on statistics echo that of Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain. “Facts are stubborn things. Statistics are much more pliable.” Statistics are based on a number of variables that can be manipulated or misconstrued and may not be a true reflection of public opinion. But I do a lot of reading to research the issues I write about and my gut opinion is there is some truth here; I believe there has been an increase of intolerance for Christians accompanied by a commensurate loss of religious liberty. Understandably, the two seem to go hand-in-hand.

But there was another finding in this poll that had a greater claim on my attention. Lifeway Research’s Ed Stetzer said, “Most people now believe Christians are facing intolerance, however, a surprising large minority perceives Christians to be complainers. Those who think Christians complain too much is up 43% from 34%. Sadly, I think there is some truth here also.

Paul told us “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” 2 Timothy 3:12. When Christians live an uncompromisingly godly life it is so out of step with manmade morality it makes others feel uncomfortable. Paul is merely warning us that unbelievers do not understand those who live differently and persecution of some kind is to be expected.

In his first letter Peter closes out the fourth chapter addressing the matter of persecution. He writes, “to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing…if you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed…if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.”

There is nothing in the words of Peter that suggest it is permissible for a Christian to engage in fruitless complaining, which is nothing more than petty whining. What Peter is getting at, and is found missing in so much of the feel good preaching of today, is that God is more concerned with our holiness than He is with our happiness, He is more concerned with our character than He is with our comfort.

“Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right,” 1 Peter 4:19. When we are persecuted for following Christ, it’s not a time to question God’s love for us; it’s a time to prove our love for Him. He proved His love for us two thousand years ago.

A Christian Believes the Bible

One of the issues that have arisen during the current political season is just what does it men to be an evangelical. Evangelicals are viewed as a voting block and using polls and other means of collecting demographic information the news media shapes our perspective of what being evangelical means.

The same is true when it comes to understanding what it means to be a Christian. Based on things we see in the news and what we read we can get a very skewed idea of what it means to be a Christian. I witness on a daily basis people who claim to be Christians, but are in the news doing things that are not consistent with a Christian lifestyle.

While there are many things that define what it means to be a Christian a hallmark of our faith is our confidence that the Christian Scriptures, the books of both the Old and New Testaments, are inspired by God. The best definition of biblical inspiration I have ever read was that of the late Dr. Charles C. Ryrie.

Dr. Ryrie wrote, “My own definition of biblical inspiration is that it is God’s superintendence of the human authors so that, using their own individual personalities, they composed and recorded without error His revelation to man in the words of the original autographs.” By the term autograph Dr. Ryrie is referring to the original texts written by the named authors, such as the Gospel manuscript that John actually wrote.

This has profound implications for the Christian. Throughout His earthly ministry our namesake, the Lord Jesus Christ, quoted the Scriptures as the basis for His teachings and by His example showed His complete confidence in the Scriptures as being the Word of God. To be a Christian means to do the same.

I trust the Scriptures more than my own feeble intellect, or the thoughts and beliefs of others. I do not believe the Scriptures contradict the discoveries of science, but I do believe science often contradicts itself and the Scriptures.

I think the Creator knows what is morally best for mankind’s flourishing and wellbeing regardless of what is currently acceptable in the moral climate of our culture.

I believe in social justice while recognizing that the real Supreme Court does not convene down here.

I will trust what the Scriptures teach despite what others believe, say, or do contrary to them. Why? Because the Word of God has infinitely more authority and influence in my life than what any man can say.

Paul wrote, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work,” Second Timothy 3:16-17.

Anyone who claims to be a Christian, but believes, says or does anything contrary to the clear, plain teaching in the Bible is a liar (1 John 2:4).