WHY DOES CHRISTIANITY SEEM SO HARD?
"MY THOUGHTS ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS, AND MY WAYS ARE NOT YOUR WAYS."
Many years ago, people thought that the earth was flat. They used the Bible to try to teach that error. One of the first men to teach that the earth was round--was branded a "heretic" by the church. In actuality, now we see within the Bible, that the Bible also taught that the earth was round. Why couldn't people see those verses then?
In Old Testament times, many could not see the verses which spoke of Jesus' first coming. They expected the Messiah to come with power as He will in the second coming. Why did they then, and many Jewish people still today, not recognize those prophecies? ? We can so easily find them, yet they could not.
Are these the extent of MISCONCEPTIONS ?
Have we finally managed to comprehend God's Word? Do we have no MISCONCEPTIONS today? Mankind is so naive that he has always thought he has it "all together." Many denominations and churches think they have perfected doctrine and teaching. They think mankind should beat a path to their door to find the complete truth.
No denomination, no church, no saint has completely understood and comprehended God's Word--for it was written by the Divine Mind. The Bible so transcends our minds that we must sit and marvel at its depth and unsearchable riches.
There is much we can understand. That is why we are told to "study to show yourself approved unto God." Even if we studied 24 hours a day, seven days a week--we could only comprehend a portion of God's Word. Usually the ones who study the Word of God the most, are the ones who know there is so much more to learn. Some who have had little in-depth training in the Bible, think they have it down pat. When we finally get to heaven, we will marvel at all we had not yet discovered in the Word of God.
God's Word is understandable, but it is so filled with truth that no one has yet searched out all the truth.
Consider what Paul said in Romans 11:33-34:
"O, the depth of the riches, both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out."
Don't think that you cannot learn much of the Word of God ! You can! But do not think that you have learned it all--already. You will never have searched out all that God's Word has for you. You can learn more and more each day.
Mankind still has many misconceptions about what the Word of God teaches. We all think of the misconceptions of others-- most of us can see the error of those who believe "once saved, always saved." We wonder how others can miss what we see so clearly. Yet, we too hold misconceptions about many parts of God's Word. The more in-depth study we do, the more we learn--that there's more to learn. Don't become smug in your knowledge. Many in Jesus' day did.
"For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest at any time, they should see...hear...and understand...be converted, and I should heal them."
There are still some who are "dull of hearing." Christians can develop misconceptions that can hinder their Christian walk. To the seven churches of the book of Revelation, Jesus speaks to several misconceptions. The "doctrine of Balaam" ( Rev. 2:14) created a "stumbling block" to God's people. The "doctrine of the Nicolaitanes" (mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3) has seen a return in these last days. People are again under that misconception that some Christians are greater than others. They want to "shepherd" and direct others. Some pastors think their job is to "lord" over others, instead of simply being "examples" to the flock (I Peter 5:3). The misconceptions of Christians have led to many false doctrines, and cults. The misconceptions result in: "the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." (II Peter 2:2)
We need to remove "stumbling blocks". The Christian walk is hard enough--We battle an enemy that wants to defeat us. One of his devices is to get us to believe our misconceptions so strongly that we cannot see the truth, even when it is strongly presented. We must be careful to avoid teaching new converts any "misconceptions" that may hurt their development into the kind of Christians who will remain true to the Lord, and to be effective witnesses for the Lord.
One of the things for which the Lord Jesus scolded the hypocrites in that day, was the making of proselytes, and then teaching them things that made them worse and more destined to hell than themselves.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves."
The tendency and common practice today is to not bother to train new converts. Some let the new converts flounder in the new environment of Christianity, and hope they survive and learn enough to keep from backsliding. Some others will attempt to train the new convert. Too often this training is in the particular dogma of the group, and does more to foster bigotry and "dullness of hearing the Word of God" than it does opening them to the manifold truths revealed to us in the Word. Misconceptions are taught in many of these new convert classes.
Let's not battle over misconceptions. Let's simply address the subject and teach the mechanics that will help the new converts to be able to distinguish the truth of the Word from the misconceptions of the church. Peter thought his job was to attack those who came for Jesus in Gethsemane. Had he listened on the Mt. of Transfiguration, he would not have cut off the ear of the servant. He would not have had the misconception that his job was to attack the soldiers. But he didn't listen to his Lord. We need to listen to the Word of the Lord, and to teach other converts to truly listen to God's Word - thereby these misconceptions can be dispelled. Have you cut off any "ears" lately? Peter thought he was doing right. Misconceptions of God's Word and message can lead to great error.
Let's get into the Word of God with a fresh thirst and hunger. Let's discover if we have some misconceptions. Let's lay aside our traditions and misconceptions, and grasp the truths we find in the Word of God. The Word of God is the one source that we must hold as the ultimate authority. It is not in any man, denomination, or church that we should adhere. It is to the Word of God that we must cling.
The first misconception that we will attempt to dispel, is the dispute (within certain Christian circles) over which version of the Word of God is the proper one to use. There are many versions and translations of the Bible. Many will choose their favorite one. Some Christians will teach that there is only one correct version. Some hold that the King James Version is the only valid one. They treat it as though Jesus Himself carried it. Yet, the King James Version was not translated until many hundreds of years after Christ.
I, myself, prefer to use the King James Version. This is because I am used to it. I was raised with it. I know where the difficulties are with it, and I know when it is better to check back with the original language to correct weak or poor translations. This does not mean that I do not use other translations. On occasion, I do.
The Word of God is inspired of God. It is infallible when it is properly translated. Its Author is the God of the universe. It will make us wise concerning God's plan for us. It explains our origin and destiny. The Bible will guide our steps. God has preserved it so it will be historically, verbally, and scientifically accurate. All books die, but the Bible is different than all other books. The Bible is the product of the Divine mind of our God. It does not only contain the Word of God, it is the Word of God. It is the written voice of God. It is as valid as the spoken voice of God. When you read it, or quote it, the Word of God is just as though God has just spoken it. It is the LIVING WORD OF GOD.
We are not to worship the translation of the Word of God. We are to worship God and seek to correctly understand the written Word that He has given us. A translation or version is only a human effort to put that Word of God into a language that the reader can understand. Some translations are closer to the original Word than others, and some are very poor.
The original language of most of the Old Testament is Hebrew. The New Testament was written in Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew. Down through the ages much care was given to preserving the original language of the Word. As the Word of God spread into areas where the original languages were not understood, it became necessary to translate the Bible into other languages.
The oldest version of the Old Testament is the Septuagint. It was translated from the Hebrew into the Greek in 250 B.C. It was translated by 72 translators (six from each of the twelve tribes). They worked 72 years on it. There was no paragraphing, no separation of words, and no punctuation. In 700 A.D. a group tried to add punctuation, etc. Their work found many inconsistencies and mistakes in the translation. Yet, it is this version which our Lord, and many disciples quoted in the New Testament. Jesus did not attack the version of the day for each, and every, poor translation. Yet, many will spend a good portion of their time arguing over which translation is the "only one" for us to use.
In today's versions and translations, we will find minor points of difficulty in all. The King James Version is called the "authorized version." Some mistake that to mean that the Lord Himself authorized it to be the one. No, it was King James that authorized some men to translate it. Some of the translators were not even saved. They translated it carefully. For the most part, they have done an admirable job. There are some slight errors, and some words that have over the period of time changed meaning since the translation that make it difficult to understand. The "thee" and "thou" type wording bothers some new converts who are not familiar with it. It is not an infallible translation. As with any version, we need to check with the original language to establish the correctness of a passage.
(As an added note, some of the proponents of the King James Version, who think it is the only one we can use, would be very surprised to learn that when it was originally done, the Apocrypha was included in it. The American Bible Society removed the Apocryphal books without valid authorization during the 1800's. Some proponents of the version would be appalled if someone removed one word of the present K.J.V. today. Yet, a number of books have been removed from what they call the "authorized" version already. Why are they are not making an outcry to replace them back into the version?)
We should shun perversions of the Word of God. We need to desire the truth, If the original says that Mary was a "virgin", we should not accept someone translating the word as "young girl." There is a doctrine that is perverted by that kind of translation. Poor translations "corrupt the Word" (II Cor. 2:17, Gal. 1:6-8). So we must study the Bible carefully. The correct translation of the Bible will make it perfectly harmonious. The answer is to check whichever version you are using with the original language. We should accept whatever message is the true message of the Bible. Then we need to read, re-read, study, meditate, memorize, and allow the truths of the Bible to become part of us.
This sounds difficult. It sounds as if we could read it daily for the rest of our lives and not be finished with the study of it. Yes! Yes! Yes! We should be re-writing the version that we are studying into our minds and hearts and living that version before the world every day of our lives.
Why? Because God reads a certain version. That's right, God does read a particular version! God told us three times in the Bible which version of the Bible that He reads.
"But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people."
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put My laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts."
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them."
The version that God reads is the one in your mind and heart. How accurate is that one? How are you living, acting, and speaking the Word of God? How much of God's message has gotten into you? Learn all you can from whichever version you have chosen to use. Make sure that the version that you are using has correctly translated the passages. Then write the correct message onto your mind. Accept it, and live it.
"Let not mercy and truth forsake thee, bind them upon thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart."
"My son, keep My words... write them upon the table of thine heart."
How often does God need to tell us that the version with which He is most concerned, is the version written in you. We could argue from now till the rapture over the KJV, the NIV, the NASV, the Living, and the Amplified...etc. However, at the rapture, the only version going to heaven is the version you have translated yourself and written onto the "table of your heart."
Realize this, God wants us to be "doers of the Word..." Too many are just readers of a version. They may read and read, but they do not allow the Word to be written into the computer of their mind. They do not start to live the Word, because it is only part of a Book on paper, instead of THE BOOK IN THEIR OWN BEING THAT IS LIVED BEFORE THE WORLD AS AN EXAMPLE TO THEM.
James 1:22, 25
"Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves... But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed."
The key is not to have the misconception that we must find a perfect translation to carry to church, but that we should live a perfect translation before the world. This takes study, and more study. This takes effort in living what we read. Let's begin applying the Word of God to our lives. We need to study the Bible. We need to hear it taught by Godly men. We need to quote the Bible. We need to think and meditate upon its message. We need to make the Word of God so much a part of our lives that we become known as people who live the Word When God reads the version that we are living in this world, is He pleased with that version???
This misconception has led to many being unaware of God's concern of what version God reads. They argue versions, and live lives that are far from portraying the correct truth that God's Word has revealed. The proper living of the message of God's Word will make sure that God is not "ashamed" of us.
"But these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned, But now they desire a better country, that is an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He hath prepared for them a city."
If we, like the heroes of faith mentioned in the preceding verses, would look into God's Word, and be "persuaded" of them, and then "embrace" them, and finally "confess" them before others... then God will not be "ashamed" to be called our God. God isn't worried whether we have the "correct" version on the end table at home. He wants the correct living in our lives, and the correct understanding of the true Word of God in our minds. Our lives will exhibit what we truly believe.
Because God is vitally concerned with the correctness of our understanding of His message, the devil is at work to attack, pollute, and pervert the true Word of God. The incorrect teaching and living of God's message is called HERESY.
"Now the works of the flesh are manifest... adultery, fornication...etc... heresies... they that do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God."
II Peter 2:1
"There shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies."
The Bible clearly warns that in the last days [especially] there shall be many false teachers and heretics who teach a perverted gospel. You cannot tell them by the version from which they are teaching. Many will use the King James Version, and many will use another version. They will pervert and distort what the Bible is teaching, and create doctrines that are able to bring damnation to their believers.
Not all error is "heresy." Some may believe the rapture will occur in the middle of the tribulation, some may believe it will come at the end of the tribulation, and some will believe it will be at the beginning. They can all go to heaven when it does occur, and the two groups that are wrong are not heretics. The incorrect understanding of that doctrine will not damn the soul. Yet, there are other teachings that will damn the soul if believed. These are the ones we call "heresy."
"Heresy" is a doctrinal difference that if believed will damn the soul. Minor disagreements amidst Christians are nothing to stumble over... We need to get into the Word of God, and study to resolve which doctrines are truly taught in the Word. Paul and Barnabas disputed an idea for a while. Peter and Paul had a difference of opinion on a doctrinal issue for a time. The disciples disputed at Antioch on the need for circumcision for a time. These types of issues can still come between Christians. The ideal thing is to get into God's Word and establish what God is teaching. Too often men want to check their denomination's interpretation and accept it, without regard to whether it is Scriptural or not.
Paul was even called a "heretic" in his time. Yet, he argued that he based all of his doctrines on what was written in the "law and the prophets."
"But this I confess unto thee, that, after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and the prophets."
Even some who believe the Word of God correctly [as Paul] will be called "heretics." It is not what you are called that is important, it is whether you are believing and living the Word of God properly. Even some of the Christians in Jerusalem could not accept Paul and his teachings...
"...he assayed to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him and believed not that he was a disciple."
The vital thing for all new converts to know when they begin to study the Word, is that when you do get the correct understanding of the Word, some Christians with misconceptions will oppose you. Don't have your mind set on having everyone applaud your life and ministry. Just be sure to have the proper understanding of the Word of God, and live it!
There will be some who will not understand it as you find it revealed in God's Word. Paul addresses that problem.
"Him that is weak in the faith, receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations."
Don't do as the early church did. They argued over what meats they should eat or not eat. They argued over what day was the correct one on which to worship the Lord. They argued over whether they should be vegetarians or not. They argued over who was the best teacher of the Word. The list could go on and on. Today, it is the same. Christians are arguing over many doctrines, and concepts. Don't get into those debates. Study the Word, and find what it teaches. Believe that, and live it! Then get out and do the work that God wants done today. Win Souls to the Lord... Many others will argue and debate the color of the carpet for the church till the rapture happens... and never get to the work that God has saved us to do.
What we do with our lives is going to be judged by the Lord someday.
"But why dost thou judge thy brother? and why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ... everyone of us shall give an account of himself to God..."
What about the ones who are teaching a perverted gospel that is truly "heresy"??? We are to try to teach the heretic twice the correct truth. Then, if the truth is rejected, we are to "reject" the heretic.
"A man that is an heretick, after the first and second admonition reject."
The word "reject" is from the Greek word "paraiteomai" which means to "beg off." It does not mean to be angry and battle... it means to get away from that person and keep a distance from him and his teaching.
The true emphasis in our starting the Christian life is to learn, from the Word of God, the "milk of the Word." These simple truths are the ones that are vital for all to know. Yet, we are not to remain there. We are to grow spiritually so that we can soon begin to eat of the "meat of the Word." The maturing of a babe brings that one from the drinking of milk from a bottle to the sitting down to the table with a thick steak. In the spiritual growth of a young Christian, there should be a maturing in the Word to more and more difficult truths.
What is the main hindrance to this growth from milk to meat? It is the dullness of hearing the Word of God. Some turn off their ears, or sleep through sermons, or get so busy doing other things that they do not feed upon the Word of God. Some Christians have been in churches for many years and are still on the "milk" and have many misconceptions because they have not gotten into the "meat."
"...of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing. For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God, and are become such as have need of milk and of strong meat. For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the Word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil."
Do you want to grow spiritually? Do you want to get from milk to meat? Do you want to know how to properly discern good from evil so that you can make God UN-ashamed to be called your God? Then get into the Word. Learn and devour the "milk". Grow in maturity of accepting God's true message in the Bible, and thereby get into the "meat" of the Word. Don't get distracted by things in life. Don't let your minds get cluttered with other things. Don't get sidetracked by heretics. Don't be "dull of hearing." Hunger and thirst for more of the truths that an All-Knowing God has revealed to us in the Bible.