I was at a friend’s house the other day. She said her Bible study group had finished their last Bible study book and was looking for another one to start.
“Hey. Have you written a fun Bible study we could do?” She asked.
I thought for a moment. “Well I think they’re all fun.” I replied. Offering some titles as an example.
She considered them thoughtfully then replied, “No. My group wouldn’t be interested in those, they like something light and easy to get through.”
I compare this sentiment to watching movies. Not wanting to invest time on a movie that is complete fiction, people enjoy knowing the movie they’re watching is based on a true story. It comforts them to know at least some of what is presented is true. Movies like, Hacksaw Ridge, The King’s Speech, Erin Brockovich, Catch Me If You Can, Hidden Figures, the list of successful popular movies based on a true story goes on.
I find many Christians use this reasoning when it comes to their biblical understanding and study. They’re happily entertained, secure in the knowledge their beliefs and faith are based on a true story. They find the facts boring and unexciting, lacking the sparkle of embellishment. Most cinematic audiences enjoy watching a movie based on a true story rather than endure the facts of a documentary. Some Christians happily accept a story based on truth instead of studying into biblical facts. Embracing these entertainment driven sentiments leave them in the dark on a wide range of Biblical based beliefs, affecting their knowledge of God at the most basic level. This may seem like a bold, exaggerated claim, but let me provide a few quick examples.
Perhaps you’ve heard and enjoy, as I do, the light-hearted examples of how children can get Bible stories mixed up. As adults, we perpetuate those misunderstandings by not sticking to biblical facts. Take any good nativity scene for example. Tradition demands that we have three wise men greeting the baby Jesus in the manger along with some shepherds. However, the Bible tells us the wise men didn’t arrive at the manger when Jesus was born, rather they came to a house and saw a child. Matthew 2:11 Easy-to-Read Version
11 The wise men came to the house where the child was with his mother Mary. They bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened the boxes of gifts they had brought for him. They gave him treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The number of wise men is also part of the mythology. Since there were three gifts, tradition assigns one gift per wise man, but the Bible doesn’t specify the number of wise men.
Even the date of December 25 is questionable as it’s too late in the year for shepherds to be in the open fields. Wikibooks has this to say.
“Would shepherds be in the fields in December? The text reads,”
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.” Scholars of the Bible have concluded that this would be an unlikely practice in the month of December, for the weather conditions would be too cold to live outside or tend to a flock of sheep.”
Those who think this to be a trivial matter, as Christmas is a joyfull, harmless celebration of the birth of Jesus, believe any reason to celebrate Jesus is a good one, knowing only a few non-believers will deny Jesus was born. They think, “What does it matter if our traditions aren’t totally accurate?” This kind of thinking permeates our Christian faith on many Christian topics and long held beliefs, it desires to make the truth appeal to the masses of the world.
Another example has more serious consequences to our spiritual lives. Many Christians believe that once someone has accepted Jesus as their savior, they are saved, and nothing can separate them from Jesus or remove them from the love of God. They will cite scripture like Romans 8:31-39 New International Version to support their belief.
More Than Conquerors
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Many of my Christian friends are hold fast to this belief when it comes to their friends and family that appear to have abandoned their Christian calling. They believe a confession of faith in Jesus is a one-time ticket to salvation that cannot be revoked. Like the Bereans of old, I believe we need to search all the scriptures to find the truth. We don’t have to look too hard before we read scriptures like the ones found in Hebrews 6:4-6 King James Version.
4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
It’s not possible to be snatched from the hand of God, but we can jump from it through our own volition and self-determination.
As I pointed out earlier, the Bereans would search the scripture daily to see if what they were told was the truth. Acts 17:11 Living Bible.
11 But the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and gladly listened to the message. They searched the Scriptures day by day to check up on Paul and Silas’ statements to see if they were really so.
It can be inspiring to enjoy a good movie based on a true story, the stories can be thought provoking and uplifting. In the same way the traditions of our faith can also encourage us to do good works, bolstering our convictions in the Lord. Knowing all the facts supporting our beliefs will help us sort out any false ideas we may think are true. Just as kids might muddle up Bible stories, we adults can muddle up Bible doctrine. The only way to be secure in your Biblical beliefs is to test them against what all the Bible scripture tells us. This can take time and effort as we work through our religious beliefs. Talking to those who don’t share our ideas will be helpful as they will likely look at our beliefs from new perspectives, possibly giving insight we had never considered before.
Don’t let a good story get in the way of the facts. Knowing all the facts the Bible gives us about our beliefs can free us to enjoy the good stories and traditions of our faith securely understanding the truth. It’s up to mature Christians to know biblical facts, politely pointing them out to those who might not appreciate documentaries. Doing in-depth Bible study is vital for Christians who are heeding the advice Paul gave the Philippians and want to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.
Philippians 2:12 New International Version
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,