The Christian & Private Study - A 'How To' Guide
A very common view that many have of Christians today is that Christians are Christian merely by default, that Christians are Christian because they were raised in a Christian culture or Christian family and lack the imagination and fortitude to genuinely examine what it is they have been taught and to honestly consider what it is they believe to be true . . . or they are viewed as so emotionally needed or of such an intellectually meager capacity that they have been duped by some evangelizing group and simply believe whatever they are told to believe by their church. This is a common post-modernist view, and so, is a relatively new view.
Historically, Christians did not have these weak, frail, unthinking, etc, connotations attached to them - many disagreed with them, many counted them to be wrong in what they believed to be true, etc, but it was recognized that they were just as smart and emotionally stable as those who believed differently than they. Today, in our post-modernist world, it's not sufficient to merely see things differently, today those you disagree with must be wrong because they just aren't as smart and good as you are . . . if someone advances an economic policy you disagree with they must not care about others like you do, if someone advances an account of the origin of the universe that you disagree with then they must not be as smart as you are, etc.
In contemporary American culture, Christians are commonly counted to be narrow-minded, foolish, emotionally unsound people who are fearful of change and are happy to disregard the advances of science and remain in their fairytale world of ages ago where an invisible father in the sky takes them to streets of gold when they die. And I fear there are many Christians who too often substantiate that view for a world perched to mock. God doesn't want us to simply announce that we're Christian, He doesn't want us to just 'accept' Jesus and continue on, He doesn't want us to merely make sure we're in church every week and that we believe whatever we hear from the pulpit . . . nor does God want us to only read two chapters of the Bible every night at bedtime. God wants His people to know what it is they say they believe - He calls us to study to show ourselves approved.
Many are familiar with the account in the book of Acts of the Bereans; when Paul went to the town of Berea, he was pleased to find Christians there who, not only "received the word with all eagerness", but who then went on "examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so". Luke, the author of the book of Acts, endorses these Christians of Berea as "more noble" than other believers. And consider this; the New Testament is very largely made up of letters written to local congregations, letters admonishing these churches and correcting them concerning some teaching error or corrupt practice . . . Galatians, Ephesians, Thessalonians, etc, are all written to congregation that are Christian, but that flat-out have things wrong - there is no New Testament letter to the Berean church.
God doesn't want us merely to believe whatever we were raised to believe, He doesn't want us to make sure we're in the 'right' church and then simply believe whatever we're told to believe - God calls us to know Him personally, to love His word, and to learn from His very Spirit which He has given us. Studying the Bible is not for others, it's not something the minister is competent to do but the rest of us are not, it is not beyond us and our abilities. I recognize that a book filled with 'thee' & 'thou' and 'begotten' ,etc, can put us off, and I understand that ideas (and even terms) like 'atonement' & 'sanctification', etc, can be intimidating, and I realize that those who study the Bible as a vocation (theologians & apologists, etc) talk about things like transubstantiation & infralapsarianism, etc. And I understand that this paragraph, filled with "thee & thou", "atonement' & 'sanctification", and "transubstantiation & infralapsarianism", might not be encouraging, in fact, I know the mere reference to the word "theologian" or "theology" makes many cringe . . . but here's where I got you - I'm a high school dropout.
I'm not remarkably brilliant and I virtually faded out of school in 7th grade and stopped going altogether halfway through 10th - yet I know what the Bible presents as the truth, I am able to read and understand what I read . . . and this is a legitimate case of, if I can do it so can anyone else. You know how your 12 year old can show you things on your computer that you couldn't figure-out? That doesn't happen because he's smart and you're stupid - it happens because he gives more of his attention to the subject, he has a real and genuine interest in it that you don't have, he has built and built on what little he knew when he started so that now he's an annoying little punk who thinks he's smarter than his parents. My intention here is to encourage and aid you to become annoying little punks with the Bible . . . no, that's not right - my intention here is to encourage and aid you to know and understand, and be able to share with others, what it is that you say you believe.
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'Christian Life Lessons'
There are some essential things you can know that will make your own private study fruitful, and some resources that can help the common believer advance with confidence in his own personal understanding of what the Bible presents as the truth. You don't have to be a scholar to study Scripture effectively and you don't have to be intimidated because of unfamiliar terms and references - I hope to share with you some basic guidelines that have helped me and that I have shared with others to a profitable end.
1. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Bible"
2. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "God"
3. Regular, Normal Christianity ~"Jesus of Nazareth"
4. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Trinity"
5. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "Man, Sin, And Spiritual Death"
6. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Covenant, The Promise, The Covenants, And The Gospel"
7. Regular, Normal Christianity ~ "The Atonement - Law & Grace"
The Christian & Private Study - A 'How To' Guide
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