The Holy Bible --
Woe to the One Who Believes It!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.|
It's sort of the final salvo after all the other shots have been fired -- if the foe hasn't been put down by the previous blasts, this one will be the coup de grace -- the ultimate in execution! It is a favorite among those who have an intense resentment toward those persons who go record that they actually do believe the Bible and what it reveals about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, us humans and our basic problem, the future and eternal destiny!
Bible believers are accused of many things. The accusations do not erupt so much from the unbelieving world as they do from those who profess to be "Christian" themselves and whose emphasis is on being "mature," "diverse," "tolerant," "sophisticated," and "scholarly" in their faith and view of the Scriptures.
Among the growing vocabulary of labels which are hung around the necks of Bible believers are such terms as "intolerant," "narrow-minded," "fanatic," "bigoted," "right-wing extremist," "homophobe," "fundamentalist," "Bible literalist," "prejudiced," "racist," "hate-monger," "unchristian," and anything else that may be in the same arena as the aforementioned terms.
But the ultimate shot is when a Bible believer is labeled a "Bible idolater" -- that is, one who is a literal worshipper of the Bible!
The "Bible idolatry" label, while being in regular use for quite some time, was employed recently during a fracas involving United Methodist Bishop Joe Sprague. Joe was in hot water due to remarks made in an address at Iliff School of Theology. It was his statements relative to the Person and work of Jesus Christ in particular that aroused the wrath of some pastors and lay persons alike.
A complaint was filed and the process began. After a bit of time had passed an announcement was made to the effect that there were no grounds to the complaint and so again, for the second time, Joe was home free. (Links on this debacle will be found at the end of these comments.)
Joe is considered by a number of pastors and lay persons to be a great church leader, a witness to the "faith," and a noble example of one who goes on the offensive for social justice. As could be expected from among the ranks of Joe's supporters came a written broadside aimed at any and all who would dare to question St. Joe and who refuse to think and believe as he does -- very similar to a Roman Catholic challenging the Pope regarding his view of things -- it simply is not a very nice or acceptable thing to do -- one just doesn't question church officials on matters of faith, or at least you don't do it publicly!
Here is the content of the letter:"When so many of our members have made the Bible an idol, read its words literally, selectively used its passages as proof text to promote exclusivity and privilege within the church, substituted the beliefs of antiquity for sophisticated, honest and profound truth seeking, Bishop Sprague spurs us to encounter the Jesus of history, woefully overlooked by the creeds, so that through this incarnated liberator and Savior, we might embrace the very ground of all being. I am saddened that a leader with the heart, courage and vision of Bishop Sprague rarely surfaces within the institutional church."
So there you have it -- you United Methodists who still believe that the Bible actually means what it says -- you've got to change your ways and quit bowing down and worshipping that Book -- and quit that repetitive "Hail Bible" ritual every day, and stop repeating those creeds. Don't you know these are symptoms of a pre-school mentality? To get back on the right track, consult such persons as the letter writer and his hero, Joe Sprague. Let them tell you how to think and believe, adopt that other "Jesus" referred to by Paul (2 Corinthians 11), and then go and throw a big party celebrating our diversity in the UMC!
Actually, I choose to pass on that and just go on believing that special Book -- and in so doing I'm willing to wear all those labels they want to put on me, including the one that says, "Bible idolater!"
Here are a few things to keep in mind about those who might talk about "Jesus" but who at the same time accuse you of being a "Bible idolater:"
"Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many."
A common interpretation is that these persons actually claim to be Christ Himself, but there is the more than an outside possibility that there are those who refer to Jesus and say He is Christ but at the same time deny the reality of Who and What He actually is -- starting with the miraculous virgin birth by means of which He was born into the world, His many miracles which He performed while here, His sinless life, His perfect atonement for the sins of every human being upon a cross, His literal resurrection following crucifixion, His ascension back to heaven, and His promised return to earth again as King of kings and Lord of lords. To question and to deny these recorded facts regarding Jesus is to present another "Jesus" as mentioned by Paul in 2 Corinthians 11! Be assured, you want nothing to do with that other "Jesus" and it is not wise to give a serious hearing to the person presenting such a "Jesus!"
2. Jesus clearly indicated there will be those who claim to have done things in His name, represented Him, etc. but He rejects them by saying,
"I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!"You can read all the unpleasant details of those who claimed to be "Christian" but really were not at Matthew 7:13-27. The critical statement here is Jesus' response in saying that He doesn't know them and they have been guilty of practicing lawlessness -- in these days that certainly includes sanctioning the abomination of sodomy and lesbianism among other things!
How do you get to know Jesus personally? He spelled out the conditions which must be met if we are going to intimately know Him on a personal basis rather than just know some information about Him much the same as we absorb some historical information about Abraham Lincoln. Those conditions are stated at John 3:3; Matthew 18:3; Luke 13:3; and John 6:53.
One very precise statement made by Jesus helps us to see where the dividing line is between the "sheep" and the "goats." That statement was,
"For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him." (John 5:22, 23).
This requires nothing less than humble acknowledgement of all that Jesus is as stated in the inspired record given to us by Almighty God. Refusal to accept that revelation by the grace and help of the Holy Spirit, and to launch into the sea of confusion through the outrageous claims and misinterpretations of "scholars" is to end up with a form of religion but not the power and spiritual reality thereof! (2 Timothy 3:7)
The Holy Spirit revealed through Paul that we are to be on guard constantly because of the possibility of being led astray from the simple faith which is in Jesus Christ. We are plainly informed in these words:
"As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:6-8).
We are given a most sober warning by John in his second letter regarding the discipline of continuing in the "doctrine of Christ" -- failure to do so is to be avoided at all cost and one is to be wary of those who have abandoned that doctrine. Says John:
"Look to yourselves, that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward. Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds." (2 John 8-11)
And then there is the challenge by Jude to contend for the faith once delivered to the saints because of those who deny Christ (not necessarily His existence, but denials of Who He really is, why He came to earth, what He did, and what He is going to do in the future). Jude spells it out plainly by saying:
"Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ."
It is our committed response to Jude's challenge that makes the apostates squirm like worms on the surface of a hot skillet, resulting in the hurling of those "labels" -- one of their favorites being "Bible idolaters!" But keep on contending anyway, you who do indeed believe that the Bible means precisely what it says -- and particularly about its revealed truth concerning Jesus.
To all you "Bible idolaters" out there, and especially those of you who are United Methodists, take heart -- let them hurl their labels at you as they grind their teeth in frustration because you dare to challenge their apostasy. They only have a few years at most in which to do this. Then comes death -- and the end of accusing us of worshipping the Bible. They on the other hand will find out within a second or so after death that Jesus Christ is all that the Bible has reported Him to be -- eternal living Savior of all who have truly repented of all sin and accepted Him as Savior, Lord over all, Judge of all and the One Who determines the eternal destiny of all, King of kings and Lord of lords Who will reign forever and ever!
And always remember this -- it is not an absolute requirement that we have to consult "scholars" in order to know what our faith is all about, or Who Jesus is. Just who is a "scholar" anyway? Nothing more than an individual who has invested a lot of time and effort to research a lot of writings, past and present. Then all this stuff is sifted, sorted, organized, and usually published with the result being that he quotes someone who quotes someone who also has quoted a few someones. And in the end he/she is regarded as an authoritative "scholar" and we are expected to listen and absorb all this stuff so that we become "mature" in our faith!
It still remains that the unbeatable combination is always this: a hungry heart sensitive to the Holy Spirit, an inquiring mind, an open Bible, a generous amount of prayerful time allotted to the searching of the Scriptures, and a resolve to pursue holiness of life as the minimal standard of conduct while walking in obedient fellowship with Jesus Christ! And did not Jesus promise that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all truth and teach us all things? You can review that in the gospel of John -- some interesting things revealed by Jesus on this matter of experiencing truth from chapters 14 through 16.
Now then, how about putting yourself to sleep tonight with these words of Jesus on your mind and heart -- it helps a lot when you have to deal with those who berate you for believing the Bible in "simplistic" fashion -- and that you truly believe Jesus to be all that the Bible has declared about Him. Are you willing to be a child each day in your faith journey -- after all, Jesus put quite a priority on it when He said:
"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:3-6).
It is time for You to act, O LORD, for they have regarded Your law as void. Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold! Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way. Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them.
March 3, 2003 For further reference see:
by Clayton D. Harriger
Elder in Full Connection
W. PA Annual Conference
The United Methodist Church
and presently pastor of
Gipsy Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
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