By Dr. John Greever
Battle for the Bible: In every generation the battle for the Bible rages. The battle has different moods, tones, and contexts, but make no mistake…the devil fights against the Bible and Bible-believing people in every generation. This battle will not end until Jesus Christ comes back. This is the environment in which Satan opposes God and the gospel in human history.
Accurate Biblical Knowledge and Submission to God: A vital component in this battle is “true knowledge of and submission to God’s Word, the Bible.” What I mean by this is that a Christian in discipleship seeks to submit himself to Christ by submitting himself to the Word of God. We show our obedience to Christ by being obedient to the Word of God. Obedience to the Word of God (the Scriptures) means submitting to Christ by and through obedience to the Word of God. The ingredients required for such obedient submission is true knowledge of the Word of God, a love for Christ that motivates us to obey, and the seeking of the glory of God through obedience. True knowledge comes from the combination of a proper interpretive approach and a regenerate heart. These are absolute necessities for rightly understanding the Bible and applying it to life.
Twisted Approach: The contextual challenge today in the evangelical church involves a reversal of biblical pursuit. Too often today people read about, think about, and embrace human thought and experience, and then they run to the Bible to see if this human idea and perspective is consistent with the Scriptures. If this is the model of obedience, then it will ALWAYS lead to disobedience through deception. The core difficulty in this model is that we begin with human perception rather than God’s Word. Even if we compare ideas with Scripture, the center of concern in this model is with human thinking and feeling about things. This leads to twisting the Scripture in order to make the human idea FIT into the biblical model. This is often garbed in the idea that our human context is the meaningful determinative factor for finding true meaning in the Scripture. This is tragic! The Scripture ends up being totally different than what God intended because it is being used as a validation for human thought. This is not what being biblical is about.
Start with the Bible: The correct approach of biblical discipleship and obedience to Christ is (and has ALWAYS BEEN) starting with the Scripture, and then applying the Scripture to human thought and life experience. This is akin to using the Scripture as a searchlight that helps us see things in the dark by the light of truth. In this way we are able to progress obediently, because we have the Scripture as our base, and we see other ideas and things through the biblical lens. We should never start with anecdotal stories that seek to establish human ethics and moral standards, nor should we seek to build our Christian lives and work on the teaching and ideologies of human thinkers, especially human utopian and human-centered messianic thinkers. We should seek as Christians to conform our thoughts, our viewpoints, our convictions, and our lives to Christ by obeying the clear, consistent, and certain teaching of the Scriptures.
Charles Spurgeon said something that really helps in this regard. He wrote, “Always stand to it that your creed must bend to the Bible, and not the Bible to your
creed, and dare to be a little inconsistent with yourselves, if need be, sooner than be
inconsistent with God’s revealed truth. If your creed and Scripture do not agree, cut your creed to pieces, but make it agree with this book. If there be anything in the church to which you belong which is contrary to the inspired Word, leave that church.”
Jesus makes this point plain in His teaching. He said in His high priestly prayer to the Father, “Sanctify them (His disciples) in truth; Your Word, O Lord, is truth (John 17:17).” The Word of God, His truth, will set us apart from the world, and this is a good thing! We are to be separated from the world by conforming to God’s truth, the Scriptures. In this way, Christians will be non-conformists to the world. This means that separation from the world and holy conformity go together. Jesus strongly connects our discipleship with obedience to the Word of God, the Scriptures, in Luke 6:46, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, and do not DO WHAT I SAY?” Our faithfulness to Christ is seen in our obedience to Christ, no matter what others do or believe.
Thoughts for Consideration: So, how might we seek to be more obedient in the Scriptures in our Christian discipleship, and how might this affect our connection to the world?
- Stop trying to be “cool” and “relevant”, conforming to the culture. No one was ever saved because they thought Christians were cool and relevant. This is nothing more than conforming to the culture’s way of thinking.
- Stop forming ethical frameworks and moral standards by unverified anecdotal “evidence.” I hear Christians state beliefs and convictions based on what they have heard is “going on.” There are so many ways that stories can be twisted. Never form opinions based on what you have heard. This is also true of historical research. Histories are often written with prejudice and bias preloaded in the historical record. History can only be truly understood when objective analysis occurs from all primary sources. We must learn again how to “test all things, and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).” We are losing quickly the ability and the freedom to put things to the test. We must never give in on this. The Scripture tests all things, not the other way around. The light of Scripture shows the quirkiness and mistakes of human thinking. Human thinking can never be authoritative for the Christian outside of biblical teaching. Even as we now feel the pressure to not talk about certain things, the courageous Christian will test all things by the Bible.
- Stop looking for biblical support for human ideologies. The problem with this is that it is the exact opposite of what God requires of us as His disciples. We must study the Bible using the Bible as our measurement for all ideas. Any moral idea that is not taught in Scripture must be discarded from moral and doctrinal standards in the church. The only instrument that has divine authority to bind the human conscience is the Scripture.
Let us learn to define and characterize Christian discipleship with obedience to Christ’s teaching by submitting ourselves to the Bible and its truth. Only then will Christians be safe from succumbing to human thought and unbiblical guidance. Are we as Christians willing to conform our doctrinal beliefs and moral convictions to the teaching of the Holy Scriptures? Are we while seeking to conform to the Scriptures also willing to be non-conformists to the world’s beliefs and standards? This is the critical question of Christian discipleship in this world. Only as we return to the Bible as our authoritative teacher, guide, and compass will we demonstrate true discipleship to Christ. Let us remember that every falsehood in the church began by neglecting or denying the Scripture, as God’s inerrant, authoritative, and all-sufficient revelation.
John Greever is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Fenton, MO and is a former professor of Bible at Missouri Baptist University . He is a part of the leadership team of Founders Midwest and has been a speaker at the Founders Midwest Conference on numerous occasions. If you would like to attend the upcoming Founders Midwest Conference be sure to check out our Facebook page or visit our website for more information.