I love to go to bookstores and watch what people look at in the religious or inspirational sections. Many times religiously-minded folks will pick out a religious book written by a man or a woman, sit down next to me, and begin to read it and discuss it with their friends. Usually they don’t mind if I join the conversation. That’s one way I start Bible studies. It’s a great way to meet new people who are also interested in religion and thus find opportunities to sow the seed of the kingdom.
Over the years, I’ve noticed in many of these types of discussions how much knowledge many have about the views and writings of the various authors whose religious material they’ve been reading. I’ve also noticed how comparatively little knowledge many of these same people have of the Bible. Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed this to be true not only with strangers at bookstores, but even with some who regularly go to church on Sundays. Over the past few decades, it seems that the reading material of more and more religious folks consists more of the latest from Max Lucado, Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, or Francis Chan and less from the Word of God.
In a recent study of 1 Corinthians, I examined Paul’s discourse about how God made foolish the so-called “wisdom” of the wise men and well-educated scribes and debaters of Paul’s day, and chose to save man through the message of God’s Word which may of the scholarly philosophers thought foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). Here are some relevant excerpts of what the divinely-inspired apostle said:
“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
“Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”
“For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.”
“But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
While reading this the other day, I started thinking about all the various viewpoints about Christian doctrine and morality which so many in the religious world have and why they have them. Some say baptism saves (1 Peter 3:21); others say it doesn’t and cite what their pastor or favorite religious author or professor said. Some say divorce is fine for any reason and quote the best-selling author or television evangelist to back them up; others say divorce and remarriage are only permitted if fornication has occurred (Matthew 19:9).
Other examples could be given…but do you see a pattern here? There are many who claim to follow Jesus. They claim to know and teach his will…but they do not. I’m reminded of what Paul warned Timothy concerning false teachers: “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Timothy 1:5-7).
I’m also reminded of his description to Timothy of the mindset behind those who flock to them: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).
This is why many give their trust and preference to the opinions and so-called wisdom of their fellow human beings. Yet in the end, their eternal destiny will be decided by whether they adhere to what the Bible says. Jesus said, “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day” (John 12:48).
In whom do you put your trust?