The Bible's Hard to Understand? (Pt 2)

While some have suggested over the years that the Bible is hard to understand, perhaps we should see what the Bible has to say about that. Luke wrote about the life of Christ to a man named Theophilus so that he "may know the certainty of those things in which [he was] instructed" (1:4). Jesus Himself said, "You shall know the truth" (John 8:32).

In the Old Testament, Moses wrote of gathering "all Israel" together "every seven years." At the time, the leaders were to "read this law before... men and women and little ones... that they may hear... Learn... Observe... and that their children... may hear and learn" (Deut. 31:9-13). The Bible states that it can be and it was understood. We saw in the last article that God is the one who gave us both the Bible and our minds, and He said that our minds could understand the Book that He gave use (Eph. 3:3-4; 5:17).

So, if the Bible is capable of being understood, what can a person do to understand the Bible? Let's make a list:

  1. Truly believe in God (Heb. 11:6).
  2. Truly believe that the Bible is God's Word (2 Pet. 1:20-21).
  3. Trust the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13; Psa. 119:42).
  4. Show reverence for the Word of God (Psa. 119:10-11, 97).
  5. Have a love for the truth (2 Thess. 2:10; Prov. 23:23).
  6. Have a desire to know the truth (John 7:17; Matt. 5:6).
  7. Have a willingness to study (Acts 17:11).
  8. Put true diligence into your study *2 Tim. 2:15).
  9. Expect to understand it (Eph. 3:3-4; 5:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-15).
  10. Pray about it (1 John 5:14; Matt. 7:7-8; Jas. 1:5; 4:2).

Now that you've made these pre-reading preparations:

  1. Read it.
  2. Keep reading it. Don't stop.
  3. Compare various reliable translations *KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, ESV).
  4. Skip over any parts that you don't understand. Come back to those later.
  5. Read it over and over. My grandfather told me that he read through the Bible 50 times and saw things the 50th time through that he had not seen before.
  6. Use the easy-to-understand parts to help shed light on the not-as-easy parts. Let the Bible be its own commentary.
  7. Mark in your Bible, especially noting in the margin other verses in the Bible that help to explain that verse.

Is there more you can do? Certainly. But the best way to understand the Bible is to read it. Don't take someone else's word for what it says. Read it. Understand it yourself. Then, apply what it says to your life.

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The Bible's Hard to Understand? (Pt. 1)

How many times have you heard it said? Or maybe you were the one saying it? "The Bible is too hard to understand." People have been saying that for years. But, is that true? Should we set the Bible aside and dismiss it as an incomprehensible book? Or have we maybe been misinformed and the Bible can actually be understood? Let's consider this.

First of all, who is saying that the Bible is hard to understand? I have known people over the years who had not read the Bible but were making claims about the Bible. If you haven't read the Bible, then how do you qualify to offer any evaluation of it? Or maybe you are one who has tried to read it but you have found it hard to understand. Why is that?

Sometimes things we have heard cause us to think the Bible is hard to understand. Some have said over the years that "only the clergy could understand it." That conditions the mind of the average person to think, "Well, then I won't be able to understand it." Perhaps you've started to read the Bible but didn't expect to understand it. Again, the mind is already closed to the possibility and is preconditioned to "not" understand.

If you are one who has thought the Bible is "Too hard to understand," can I ask you a sincere question -- How much have you read? What parts have you read? When someone who has never read the Bible asks me where they should start, I usually tell them to start with the book of John, then read Acts after that, and then go back to Genesis or to Matthew. John is easy to understand and it's all about Jesus. After reading through John, can you still say, "The Bible is hard to understand"? I've never met anyone who could still claim that.

Admittedly, some parts of the Bible are difficult to understand, such as reading about animal sacrifices, or reading the names of people and places that we don't recognize, or reading figurative language that is not familiar to us. Peter made a statement about Paul's epistles and said, "in which are some things hard to understand" (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Someone might say, "Well, there you go! Even Peter said it was hard." But wait? Notice that Peter says it was "SOME" things are to understand. Not all. Not most.

Here's something we need to grasp. God gave us the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16), and He said that it could be understood. Paul wrote, "when you read" what he had written, "you can understand my insight" (Eph. 3:3-4). We can understand what Paul understood and such is expected (Eph. 5:17; John 8:32).

So, let me encourage you to open your Bible. Expect that you will understand it. Ask God to help you. Then, start with the book of John and enjoy reading about Jesus.

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3 Things the Church Owes New Converts

Those of us who have been Christians for some time must consider what our responsibilities are to those who are new to the faith. The way we respond (or fail to respond) to new converts could be the difference between whether they flourish in their faith or fall away. While it is right to rejoice as baptisms are taking place, it is also necessary to evaluate our congregation and be sure we are all that we should be for the new converts. Let's consider a few things every congregation owes new converts.

1. A Loving Family

The Church is the household of God (1 Tim. 3:15). We are family in Christ, and we should operate like the most loving family in the world (1 Cor. 16:14). When someone rises from the waters of the baptistery, God does not send them out on their own. God adds those who are being saved to the body of Christ (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:18). The world will know that we are disciples of Jesus by the love that we have for each other (John 13:34-35). New converts will also pick up on our sincerity and commitment to the New Testament if they encounter a people who have been radically shaped by the love of Christ.

New converts should enter a congregation that welcomes them, loves them, and assists them in any way possible as they grow closer to Jesus. It should be normal for Christians to show love to one another (2 John 5). Some people who become Christians did not grow up with loving family members among their physical family. They may have never been hugged or told they were appreciated, or that they did a good job. In Christ, we are to show them something different. We are to show them the family as God always intended for it to be (john 15:12).

2. Patience

No sensible parent gets angry with a newborn who spits up on them. Parents recognize that newborn babies will make mistakes and do things wrong on occasion. In fact, it will probably be a long time before a child is able to make good decisions and overcome clumsy mistakes. When congregations encounter new converts, we should keep in mind that they are "babes in Christ." This does not mean we do not challenge them to grow in their faith, but we should be patient with them (1 Thess. 5:14). The fruit of the spirit involves patience and new Christians need us to exercise patience toward them (Gal. 5:22). Even those of us who have been Christians for a few years recognize that we still sin and stumble, how much more a recent convert (1 John 1:8,10)?

When a new Christian says something incorrect or does something wrong, remember to show patience. Be slow to pounce on them and rebuke them for their inability to grasp New Testament Christianity in its fullness. Remember to five them time to grow and do not rush them along; spiritual growth takes time (cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-11). Again, we do not approve error or fail to correct it, we just need to do so gently and with patience (1 Thess. 2:7). Jesus spent three years training the apostles and still recognized there were some things it would take them a while to grasp (John 16:12). We need to be patient with those who are learning the truth and crucifying old habits for the first time. If we want God to be patient with us, we better be sure to be patient with others (Matt. 7:2).

3. A Chance to Grow and Participate

The adage is, "If you want something done right you have to do it yourself." Jesus never said anything like this. There is room in the body of Christ for everyone to use their talents and gifts to the glory of God (1 Cor. 12:12-24). The church owes new Christians and opportunity to grow in their faith. There should be classes for them to attend and things taught so that they can grow and flourish. If we do not want them to remain babes in the faith, they must be fed a steady and healthy diet of the Word of God so they can mature and develop (cf. Heb. 5:11-14). However, we must not simply stick them in the classroom and lecture them.

New Christians should be allowed to volunteer, get involved, and use their talents for God's glory. The sooner a new Christian is involved the more likely he or she will stick around. People will remain committed to the tings they are invested in. Wise elders will not turn over a Bible class to new converts to teach or allow them to lead prayer immediately after their conversion for obvious reasons. Still, if we are wise, we will find things for them to do and ways for them to serve so that they know they are not second-class citizens in the kingdom. We should let them fix communion, fold bulletins, go visiting with us, go door-knocking, help serve meals, etc. New converts, like seasoned Christians, must have works that accompany their faith and we can help with this (James 2::14-26).

It is great to see people obey the gospel and become Christians. It is always sad to see new Christians fall away and leave the church. New converts have personal responsibility concerning their faithfulness to God (Rom. 14:12). Likewise, the local church has responsibilities to new converts. May we all do our part to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31)!

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What’s Your Spiritual Credit Score?

We are probably all familiar with our credit score. The FICO credit score is a metric created by the Fair Isaac Corporation to help lenders assess the risk of borrowers who are searching for a loan. A FICO score takes into account five areas to assess a person’s creditworthiness: payment history, current level of indebtedness, types of credit used, length of credit history, and new credit accounts. Generally speaking, a higher FICO score allows one to borrow more and get approved for loans easier because he or she is deemed as a low-risk borrower. 

A FICO score can range from 300 to 850 points based on the individual’s criteria listed above. According to Investopedia, only 1.6% of the population has the perfect FICO score of 850. A perfect FICO score is rare in part because individuals with such a high score usually try to leverage that score into securing more loans, which causes the score to go down. Nevertheless, having a perfect FICO score would be quite the achievement because a high FICO score more readily allows one to secure mortgages, car loans, and other financial opportunities. The FICO score reflects something inherent in our thinking: that good things can be merited. 

Can you imagine if there was a spiritual credit score? Many of us would probably imagine a spiritual credit score as going up and down based on our good deeds or our sins. If we help our neighbor move, our score will go up, but if we cheat on our taxes our score will go down. If this is how a spiritual credit score worked, we might expect that the more good deeds we did, the more God’s grace would extend to us. We might hypothesize that if our spiritual credit score was high enough, we could get into heaven or earn a nicer section of heaven reserved for those with high enough scores. 

The problem is, we could never do enough good to have a perfect spiritual credit score on our own merit. All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Even if we were to do everything God commanded us, we would be unprofitable servants, only doing what was our duty to do (Lk. 17:10). The only way for us to be forgiven of our spiritual debt is to rely on the compassion of the Master to whom we are indebted (Matt. 18:23-27). We are saved by grace through faith and “not of works” (Eph. 2:8-9). Our spiritual credit score can only be raised, “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy” (Titus 3:5). 

So, if we were to ask ourselves what our spiritual credit score is, it is either 300 or 850. Either we are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) or we are “alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5). Either we are a son of disobedience deserving wrath (Eph. 2:2-3) or we are God’s “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Eph. 2:10). The only way to raise our spiritual credit score is to be in Christ where we have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sis, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). 

We could never pay off the debt we owe God, yet He forgives us anyway when we obey His Son (Heb. 5:9). If our spiritual credit score has been raised into the heavenly places through Christ, we should live a life devoted to good works and forgiving others (Matt. 18:28-35; Titus 2:14). If our spiritual credit score is low because we are still in our sins, we must put on Christ in faith, repentance, confession, and baptism (Gal. 3:27)! A high credit score may enable one to purchase a house or a car, but being in Christ enables one to inherit eternal riches. 

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