30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

January 30, 2000

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"Can We See the Bible the Same Way?"

Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine yet another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things religiously that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour, "Can We See the Bible the Same Way?", I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Also the apostle John warns us that we should"....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God. Today, we are going to answer the question "Can We See the Bible the Same Way?

Some years ago I heard of a report by the Associated Press in which the police said, "A man was shot to death here last night during an argument over whether Lucifer of the Bible was male or female." Now this is certainly an extreme case, but it does suggest how foolish men sometimes act in their disagreements. And often when this kind of action is followed, other men argue that we just cannot see the Bible the same way. Some would even argue that God did not make us so that we can understand the Bible alike.

If God caused us to see the Bible differently, why then did He command us to see it the same way? He spoke through the apostle Paul, when He said, "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor 1:10).

How can we be perfectly joined together in the same mind, if God made us to see differently? Just shortly before He died on the cross, Jesus prayed for his disciples, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20-21). How could Christ pray for men to be one if that unity was impossible? To be one does not mean one person, but one in aims, purposes, desires, will. Can all believers be one? Jesus seemed to think that they could and then asked that they would!

The early Christians showed us that men are able to see the Bible the same way. In Acts 4:32, we read, "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common."There was a demonstration of unity. If the Christians of the first century could see alike, of course, we can today, for we have the same message that they had.

The truth is that if we understand the Bible at all, we will understand it the same way. Surely, some misunderstand the Bible, but it is these very misunderstandings that lead to religious divisions. We should never make the Lord responsible for the lack of unity that is seen today. Who is then is really responsible for all the religious division that we see around us? Not the Lord. So it must be man. Religious division is brought about by a misunderstanding of God's Word, as well as other things of equal seriousness.

One reason for mankind not seeing the Bible alike is ignorance. The apostle Paul spoke of the Jews in Romans chapter 10, verse 3, "For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God."On the cross Christ spoke, "father forgive them; for they know not what they do." Before Paul's conversion, he spoke of persecuting Christ and the church through ignorance. Yet, he said that he did it in all good conscience (Acts 23:1). Can a person be honest and sincere and still persecute Christ and His followers? We can see from Bible examples that this is most certainly so! If Paul could oppose the truth because of ignorance, can not man do likewise today? Absolutely! Many sincere people today have inherited their religious convictions from their parents. They have never stopped to investigate the Bible for themselves. My friends in this audience, we must not take it for granted that our parents knew all of the truth. And I surely wish to cast no reflections upon anyone's parents. Perhaps they lacked the opportunities which you now have. You have the opportunity to search the scriptures, as we are now doing. If you do not, your ignorance will not excuse you for not doing what God requires of you. And by not studying the scriptures, you, too, become responsible for the religious divisions around us.

Deception is another cause of not seeing the Bible the same way. Almost all of the writers of the New Testament sound out warnings against being deceived. One of the great problems has always been the gullible element in man's nature. Christ Jesus Himself admonished us to take heed that no man lead us astray. Paul said, "Let no man deceive you with empty words" (Eph 5:6). And again,"Let no one deceive you by any means" (2 Thes 2:3). We could multiply these warning by many passages, where you and I are warned not to be deceived.

Whom shall we blame if we are deceived? Christ said, "If the blind lead the blind, then both shall fall into the ditch." The one who deceives shall be lost, but also, the one who is deceived will fall into the ditch next to the deceiver. Both, the deceived and the deceiver shall be lost.

Another reason for not seeing the Bible alike is conceit. Paul says the Jews of his day did not submit themselves to the righteousness of God, but they went about to establish their own righteousness. (Romans 10:3). The Lord says the Gentiles professed to be wise, but they became fools when they changed the truth of God into a lie (Romans 1:25). For this reason God gave them up; and He will do the same with us today, if we through our own conceits, supplant His will with our own ways and ideas.

The church in Laodicea thought itself rich and in need of nothing, but Christ said they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked (Revelations 3:17). Would you want it to be said of you and the church where you attend that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked? What prevented them from seeing themselves as they truly were? Conceit! That same kind of self-delusion is often an obstacle to seeing the Bible the same way.

Yet another obstacle that prevents us to see the Bible the same way is prejudice. Prejudice is the result of having a pre-conceived idea before all of the facts are known. Someone has said, "Don't confuse me with the facts, my mind is made up." I am absolutely persuaded that many in the religious world today have made up their minds without considering the teachings of God's Word seriously. The Jews of the first century did not understand the nature of Christ's kingdom because they wanted an earthly king to lead them in war against the hated Romans of their day. They simply could not accept Him as a spiritual leader. They wanted a temporal ruler, a fleshly king to sit upon David's old rusty throne and rule over this earthly existence. Surprisingly, there are many in our day and time that are still looking for the same kind of kingdom. But, my friends, Christ has never promised to set foot upon this earth again. He has promised to take us home to that eternal place not made with hands. I realize when I say He shall not return to establish some kind of an earthly kingdom, I disturb a great number of people who are looking for an earthly utopia upon this earth. But, search your Bible carefully, and you will find that the scriptures are silent as to Christ's returning to establish an earthly kingdom. Perhaps, you would like to share your information with me if you have found such in the scriptures. I will await your reply. But, I doubt that any will offer such from the scriptures. When, oh when, will mankind learn that our battle is not against the fleshly hosts, but against the spiritual rulers and powers of darkness. So states Paul in Ephesians 6:12. Ours is a spiritual warfare, a spiritual battle. Obviously, we must overcome the flesh and all of its enticements. But, that is done with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and not with guns and tanks, battleships and armies. No, Christ shall not return to this earth to do battle in some carnal or fleshly manner. When He comes again, we shall meet Him in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Son of God. Read carefully 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 concerning the truth concerning the way our Lord will come back. It may be that you believe that the Lord is going to establish some kind of earthly kingdom when He comes again? If so, surely you can prove your answer by furnishing a New Testament book, chapter, and verse that teaches this to be a fact. But my friends, this simply cannot be done.

We must ever cultivate a sincere desire for truth. One must be willing to surrender whatever belief he or she has for the sake of truth. It makes no difference what I believe, nor what you believe; if it is different from the truth of God's word, we must put it aside and embrace truth with all our might. The Lord says people will perish who have not a love for the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:10). Now let me ask you, do you really love the truth? Do you really want to investigate what the will of God is and then DO what God asks of you? Often men are willing to cling tenaciously to any teaching that justifies what he or she enjoys, or that promises to relieve us from a responsibility that is burdensome, or that permits a craving which we enjoy. Before we know it, prejudice creeps into our thinking and it hinders us from seeing the Bible the same way.

Another cause that keeps men from seeing the Bible the same way is that some are willing to follow the traditions of men. Traditions which have been added by men to the teachings of the Bible. Christ said of the Jewish people, "These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt 15:8-9). In the book of Mark, chapter 7, verses 8-13 we can read where the Pharisees asked Christ why his disciples did not follow the tradition of the elders. Notice what Christ says here: "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men--the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do." And He said to them, "All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.' But you say, 'If a man says to his father or mother, "Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban"--' (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do." Just as the traditions of men prevented the Jews in Christ's day from properly understanding His word, so traditions today prevent an understanding of the Bible. We cannot follow traditions of men and still see the Bible alike. Traditions supplant the bible and they obscure its teaching. The only tradition we should cling to is the tradition of the word of God. The apostle Paul stated to the Thessalonian brethren: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thes 2:15).As long as we allow the traditions of men to remain as a barrier to our vision, we will never be able to see the Bible the same way. The religious world today is running over with the traditions of men. Things which are being done in the name of religion without even the slightest attempt to present book, chapter and verse to substantiate the practice. Often we hear someone say, "Well we like it. No, we do have the Bible for everything that we do, but we like it." What dangerous ground to stand upon. Jesus said there were those who were building upon the sand and that the sand would not support them when put to the test. Thus far this morning we have offered some reasons why men do not see the Bible the same way. Sometimes it is because of ignorance. Often it is because of deception. It can be because of conceit. Or it might be because of prejudice.

Another factor that keeps people from seeing the Bible the same way is because of Convenience. Let me illustrate this statement. When the Bible was given in the first century, under the inspiration of the apostles, people were baptized by immersion. By that, I mean that baptism was a burial in water, a going down into and a coming up out of the water. (Acts 8, Romans 6:3,4; Colossians 2:12, and other verses). The scholarship of the world is almost wholly united in acknowledging that baptism was immersion in the first century. But, today about half of the people who claim to be Christians practice sprinkling or pouring of water, calling it baptism. Why is that so? Is it because there are some statements in God's Word that suggest that sprinkling should be practiced. Oh, no! Then why do they practice such? It is argued that sprinkling is more convenient, therefore it is all right. Because of this, sprinkling has been substituted in place of what the Lord commands. We see then that convenience has set aside what the law of God teaches and has become a stumbling block in the way of seeing the Bible the same way.

Another barrier to our seeing the bible the same way is the teaching that sincerity alone makes any religious belief acceptable to God. Many reason that if we are sincere in what we believe then we are right in the Lord's sight. And yet, that idea is refuted over and over again throughout the Bible. Paul was sincere while he persecuted Christ, but he was sincerely wrong (Acts 23:1). Cornelius was conscientious in his religious devotion to what he thought was his responsibility, but he was told to send for Peter to tell him words whereby he might be saved (Acts 11:14). His sincerity was not enough.

When we feel that we are acceptable to God because we are sincere in our belief, then our trust is in our own faith, and not in God. We have not put our faith in God until we have placed his teaching above all other considerations. When we believe that sincerity makes our faith right, we feel no need to search for the truth, and so we settle back into a state of complacency. It is this satisfied state that precludes our seeing the Bible alike, for it discourages an earnest and honest search for the truth. My friends, anytime that we become complacent or satisfied, we lose our desire to search the scriptures, and that leads to a failure to see the Bible the same way.

You may ask, and rightly so, "Is there any way for all of us to see the Bible the same way?" I believe that there is because Jesus prayed that we do so. It becomes obvious from what we have already said that if some things stand in the way of seeing the Bible the same way, then those things must be removed. If ignorance stands in the way, we must overcome it by gaining a knowledge of God's Word. If deception has cast a cover over our eyes, we must throw off this delusion in order that we may see clearly the truths of the Bible. If conceit has laid hold upon us, we must break its shackles, and look deeply into God's truth. If prejudice has blinded us, we must take off the blinders. If human traditions has become a barrier, we must give them up and accept only what the Bible teaches. If we are practicing anything in religion for convenience sake, we must seek a higher motive for what we practice. If one has been taught that we are all right so long as we are sincere, we must realize that sincerity alone is not sufficient. The Word of God is available to each one. We are all commanded to follow it, without change or deviation. Surely, we must be sincere, but sincerity itself (or alone) will not make us right in God's sight. One can be sincerely wrong. And there are so many examples of this in God's Word.

Ignorance, deception, conceit, prejudice, traditions of men, placing convenience above principle, and accepting the thought that sincerity alone makes a belief right, are all mental blocks that must be removed before we will see the Bible the same way.

Another barrier to seeing the Bible alike is the elevation of human opinions above faith. Faith is a conviction based upon evidence. Opinion is a human guess. Faith comes by hearing the word of God, and opinion comes from human imagination. A person cannot say scripturally that he or she has faith unless he or she can read from the Bible the authorization of what he or she believes. Does not our Lord teach that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). How can we determine what the Lord approves of? By opening the Bible and reading out of it. Can you find the passage that authorizes the things which you believe and practice? Or does it make any difference to you? I hope and pray that it does make a difference to each one who is listening.

Friends, we can see the Bible the same way if we read it with the determination to know just what it teaches. We must not even read it with the purpose of proving our own idea, or to prove that grandmother was right. Too many try to prove to others that they are right, when we should honestly be searching the Scriptures to see whether we really do have the truth on everything that we believe and practice.

In closing this lesson, let us see what the Lord says one must do to be saved. Christ commanded his apostles to "teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19). The Lord promised that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16). Our Lord told the apostles that "repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). By studying the New Testament of Christ, we learn that He has promised the forgiveness of sins to those who hear His word, believe in Him as the Son of God, repent of their sins, confess their faith in Him, and are scripturally baptized. We call your attention to Romans 10:17; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4, as well as many other passages that harmonize with these. When one obeys these commandments of the Savior, the Father in Heaven then forgives of past sins and adds that one to His family, making them a Bible Christian. What Is Truth? That is truth of how one is saved and can gain eternal salvation. Jesus said, "And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).

I want to encourage you to not let any type of pre-conceived ideas or prejudices cloud your mind in obeying the will of our Lord. The Bible clearly teaches that only those that do the will of the Lord will be saved (Matt 7:21). Are you really trying to do the Lord's will or man's will. When we are honest and truthful with ourselves, having a heart determined to let God control our life, then and only then can we begin to put into practice those things which are authorized by the word of God. May God be with each and every one of you this morning as you strive to do His will. We look forward to another Bible study next Sunday morning as we begin a series on "The Holy Spirit."

This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"