Thursday, March 15, 2012

Christianity: Academic Pursuit or Love Relationships

Some don't want scripture to speak to their heart before it speaks to their head so they require a reference for every scripture quoted. They want intellectual validation rather than spiritual validation. They look to interpret something based on their established lens rather than being taught by the Spirit of God who reveals the deep truths of God. Is Christianity merely an academic pursuit or is it about full-fledged love relationships with God and others?

Study Scripture or Show Your Spirit?
"Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

The word "study" is an old English word used in the KJV that has changed meaning since the KJV was translated. It isn't talking about academic study. It means "make every effort" or "be diligent." Sure that could include academic study but academic study is not specifically in view here. That outdated translation has caused many to be "always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). This is because they trust their intellectual interpretation of scripture over trusting the interaction of God in their spirit. They ignore the red flags that God gives through their feelings and write them off as selfishness. Presuppositions rule and our spirit is treated as if it were never reborn.

People take 2 Timothy 2:15 to mean, "Study scripture so God will approve of you" but what it really means is "You are already approved by God so make every effort to act like it." It doesn't mean you have to earn God's approval. You show that you already are approved of by God rather than strive to become approved. You do whatever you can to let others know what a joy it is to have God's approval. You live by and show your perfect spirit.

Divvying the Truth
"Rightly dividing the Word of Truth" does not primarily mean "make sure your sermon or lesson is accurate." It in fact runs contrary to that. Rightly dividing means you know who to give what truth to and when. The relational disbursement of truth is in view here not the blanketing of a message to a group of people. It is like dividing up a meal. You are considerate of the portions people need, their allergies, when they've eaten, and what they've eaten in the past.

"Rightly dividing the Word of Truth" is less about relaying information correctly as it is about relaying the correct information to the correct people. Don't simply tell the truth but know who needs what truth and follow the Spirit to give it to them at the best time. Just because you know doesn't mean you should tell everyone. Not everyone is ready to hear. Jesus taught in parables for that very reason.

Jesus deeply considered who He was talking to and when. Most today don't understand that about Him. Today people tend to approach the scriptures, especially the New Testament, with the mindset "I'm the audience so I must do whatever the bible says where ever it says it." Jesus' primary audience was pre-cross, under the law Jews. All people today are post-cross, post-resurrection, and are not under the law.

2 Timothy 2:15 is about others. You make every effort to show God's approving love to others. You give out truth to others when they need it most. This isn't a passage for a professional preacher. It is a scripture for every spiritual saint.

Person Traded for Papers
The Bible is like the biography of our friend God. The book does not replace God. Jesus said the Holy Spirit was one just like Himself sent to teach us & relate to us. Jesus specifically said in John 16:8-10 that the Holy Spirit is given to convince Christians of their righteousness (right standing with God) because God is no longer visibly on earth.

Modern Christianity treats the Bible as God. It treats Jesus as a distant historical figure. It treats the Father as someone in heaven who you pray strictly ordered prayers to who never talks back. For the Christian this views God as someone you try your best to act morally for because you are afraid God will get mad at you.

The reality: The Bible is mostly a historical record of God and His people in history prior to the 2nd century AD. It contains poetry about how some people felt and letters of instruction and advice from people who knew God well. It is a trustworthy record of God making Himself known to people in the time span it was written.

Jesus died on a cross to take away the sins of the world & He came back to life 3 days later. Because of this God never gets mad at His children. Jesus then became a life-giving Spirit who lives inside of all those who trust Him (1 Corinthians 15:45). He offers an unbreakable spiritual relationship. He is not distant but closer in the present than physically possible. The Father is like the Son, He lives in you and aims to show you love and to help, teach, & relate to you all your life.

God is not angry or distant. He holds no sin against any living person. He is closer to mankind than He has ever been. How sad would my relationship with my wife be if all it consisted of was me reading her love letters to me and leaving her messages about things I want? Approach God boldly and say "I want to know & experience your love." Don't feel like you are unworthy to do so. The blood of Christ has made you worthy forever.

No Summer Vacation
The methods of teaching in churches are patterned after Ancient Greece and not the style of Christ. Churches today have lectures (sermons) by professors (pastors) & classes with progressive lessons by teachers. Secular methods of teaching will result in non-spiritual learning. Thus people speak of God abstractly, think of Him as distant (impersonal), and argue about Him academically.

Church buildings are the schools Christians are "forced" to go to every week where most people can't wait to hear the final bell ring (the closing prayer). You get dirty looks for disrupting class (talking during a sermon or asking too many questions in Sunday school). You are required to sit and listen quietly and sometimes you get assigned home work.

I am not saying going to church is universally bad but I am saying that their methods are largely ineffective, unbiblical, & unChrist-like. It is much easier to receive falsehood and shame from the unquestionable trained professional than it is from a peer whom you can converse with. While it is fine to enjoy going to church a Christian doesn't have to want to go to church because churches as we know them aren't God's way and were never God's intention. What we call church is not the community of Christ that wows the world with their love for one another but instead is an obligatory academic institution.

Many of Jesus' famous sayings were responses to people not preplanned lectures. The Lord's Prayer & "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" are two examples. Most of Jesus' teachings were to His disciples whom He had relationships with. Jesus didn't teach them "a series on faith" or "a series on prayer." Jesus didn't teach with planned prescriptions. He taught man-to-man, person-to-person. He related with people and responded to them. He taught them at the times of their greatest benefit. Feel relieved that even in God's perfect timing the disciples still didn't understand a lot of what Jesus said.

Today preachers travel around preaching prepared messages to people they don't know. That is as unrelational as it gets and it is not Christ-like. When you don't have to relate to people you don't have to think much and you can just recite your prepared message with no interruptions. The Spirit has little to no wiggle room to help people through such messages.

Jesus taught crowds because crowds followed Him. He didn't schedule meetings for people to come. He actually attempted to escape crowds from time to time. We try to draw crowds to ourselves. Jesus didn't even command His disciples to set up meetings and draw crowds He sent them out in pairs to go house to house. Jesus' strategies were personal and impactful. Jesus "rightly divided the Word of Truth" His whole life all for the benefit of those who listened.

Jesus and Children
"People were bringing some children, even their babies to Jesus, so that He might touch them, lay His hands on them, and pray. And when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking those who brought them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant, and called for them, saying to them, “Let the children alone. Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them from coming to Me, for the kingdom of the God of Heaven belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it at all. And taking them in His arms, He was blessing them. And putting His hands on them, He departed from there." (Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17)

Jesus took children into His arms. He didn't send them away to a class or force them to memorize scripture. How did Jesus treat children? He invited them, He did not push them aside, He showed affection by touch, He prayed for them, He blessed them, He healed them, and He validated them. Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father doing. Well look at what Jesus did with children. That is the Father there too! He wasn't burdening them with laws and scriptures and study. He lovingly showed them affection.

Sadly parents feel a responsibility to train their children academically in regards to God. "Family bible study is a serious time because God is serious." Christian parents still teach their children the old covenant law. The law that brings death! A self-aware teenager might view life like this, "Life sucks under the law and God is no fun to be around. He is always getting on my case!"

Jesus did not use fear, punishment, and obligation to manipulate people. Why? Because He wasn't afraid. He knew how the Father felt about Him, He knew who He was and He enjoyed working with His Father because of the love they shared. We can live like this too.

Jesus died so we could know God forever and experience and share His love. Relationships!
The Assembly (true church) is the community of Christ that wows the world with their love for one another. Relationships!
Jesus welcomed children and treated them with loving affection. Relationships!

I pray that you experience the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19)

"Do not argue about trivial, insignificant things. Doing so helps no one and ruins those who hear you." (2 Timothy 2:14)

Here are some interesting definitions of "academic"
  • hypothetical or theoretical and not expected to produce an immediate or practical result
  • marked by a narrow focus on or display of learning especially its trivial aspects
  • Scholarly to the point of being unaware of the outside world
  • Theoretical or speculative without a practical purpose or intention
  • Having no practical purpose or use; belonging or relating to a place of learning, esp a college, university, or academy (church)
  • excessively concerned with intellectual matters and lacking experience of practical affairs
  • conforming to set rules and traditions

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