A couple of days ago I was working from a coffee shop. It was very busy that day when a couple of men walked in. The only place for them to sit was across the counter from me. So they sit down and start to talk business.
Then after they finish with their business transaction the conversation drifts towards church.
The one man said, “You know, the reason I go there [his church] is because of the teaching (he made sure to really emphasize the word “teaching”). When I sit down with those guys we’ll all bring our concordances and references books. We’ll cross-reference verses and look up the Greek. You know [name of friend] went to Multnomah Bible College and [name of another friend] went to [name of some other well-respected Bible school].”
The conversation continued like this. It was all about how good they could analyze the Bible. There was no talk about God or people. No mention of the friends this man had at church or the bond they had in the spirit. No discussion about how his life had been changed.
It was 100% based on the “teaching” and how many “scholars” were gathered in one place.
As I sat there listening to this conversation going on 2 feet from me I thought, man, is that really the best part of being born again and going to church? To analyze the Bible and be impressed by the fact that the people we agree with went to a prestigious Bible school?
Now I don’t think there’s anything wrong with an intellectual pursuit of the Bible. But I do believe there’s more than just a textbook understanding of God available to us. I believe for the most part we miss what God wants to do among and through His people.
What makes believers different from atheists?
Did you know atheists also love to study the subjects they’re interested in? So is the only difference between someone who’s been born again and an atheist, the text? What we “study” is right and what they study is “wrong”?
What about that whole “new creation” thing? The part about our spirits being dead and now they’re alive? Shouldn’t people whose spirits are alive be noticeably different from those whose spirits are dead?
The church likes to hurry up and plan
And did Jesus command us to go and learn…and read…and listen…and debate….and analyze….and memorize…and then when you’re really “mature” you’ll read longer, study more, and win all your debates (because you know you’re right)?
It reminds of something I heard recently,
“The church is always in a hurry up and plan mode. We gather in a huddle but never actually break to play in the game.”
Instead of going out and making disciples of all nations we’d rather have a Bible study to find out what exactly that really means in the Greek.
“God, when you said you’d pour out your Spirit on all flesh. What did you really mean by “all”?
Do you think if you knew Greek and Hebrew you’d be more equipped to change the world? Hey, I’m just asking…sometimes I feel like I would. But now that I’ve actually written that thought down it seems stupid (maybe we should all get in the habit of writing down all our thoughts…eh, actually, I guess that could go south fast. Never mind.).
OK, back to Jesus….
I think Jesus came to earth, died on the cross and rose from the dead to give us more than just a textbook understanding of Almighty God.
Now I don’t have this all figured out. I’m not some super-spiritual Christian who looks down on people who like to obtain knowledge. If you know me, you know reading and learning are two of my favorite things to do.
So like I said, I’m not against using our minds to glorify God. I’m just more hungry for the actual presence of God.
Why settle for learning about Him when we can be with Him?
What impresses us?
But somewhere, at some point we have to cease from our own works. We need to come into the presence of God and be impressed by Him. More impressed by God and the kingdom of heaven than with our own abilities to figure out scripture.
And at some point a holy love for God and for others must consume us. Or else we’re only different from the atheist in regards to the text we’re interested in studying.