In my opening post I mentioned how it is my desire for myself and others to be both challenged and changed by God’s word. In this post I want to spend some time discussing why God’s word challenges us and how it can change us.
Q: What is the Bible?
A: It is an ancient, Holy Spirit inspired collection of books comprised of narratives (e.g., 1-2 Samuel), poems (e.g., the book of Psalms), letters (e.g., Galatians and Ephesians), laws (e.g., Leviticus), genealogies (e.g., Ruth 4:18-22; Matthew 1:1-17), prophecies (e.g., Micah 5:2; Malachi 4:5-6), censuses (e.g., Numbers 1-2), etc.
Q: Why in the the world would reading something like that challenge us?
A: Because the lessons learned and the precepts set forth from these documents go against who we are as human beings.
Let me explain. Ever since God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the garden of Eden, there have been two “voices” speaking to mankind. There is the voice of God, which always speaks truth, but there is also the voice of Satan, speaking lies. And whose voice did our ancient ancestors listen to in that garden? God’s or Satan’s? Satan’s. And because they listened to Satan’s lies and ate fruit from the forbidden tree, it is not our natural desire to listen to the voice of God. Instead, everyone born from that point forward (you and I) inherited a sinful nature. Romans 5:12 states, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned” (HCSB). We are born sinners. We are born with a disposition turned away from our Creator.
This is where God’s word enters the picture. His word, inspired by the Holy Spirit and penned by human authors, sets forth the truth and exposes the lies. Are there grey areas? Sure. But is there absolute truth? You better believe it. And that truth is what challenges us. Let me give you a few examples of how the Bible challenges popular thought…
The world (under the influence of Satan) tells us there are many ways to heaven, but Acts 4:12 says of Jesus that “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (NASB). Also, in John 14:6 Jesus stated that He is “the way, the truth, and the life” and that “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (HCSB).
The world also wants us to believe in universalism, the idea that all people will be saved, but Jesus made it very clear in Matthew 25:46 that some “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Our society and even our federal government and courts want us to accept same-sex marriage, but Romans 1:26-27 suggests that such relationships are “unnatural” and “shameless.”
I know that the examples I have just presented are more general, so what about some more personal ones? The world encourages you to make the most of yourself and to make sure that everyone around you knows all the wonderful things you have done. The world wants you to exalt yourself. Yet Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11 and 18:14; Yes, He said the same thing twice…It is that important!). In a world dominated by self-exaltation, we are challenged to live humbly.
The world teaches you to spend all your time with people that are just like you. Your friends should be those who dress like you and make close to the same amount of money as you and those who can do for you what you do for them. But when Jesus was sitting around the table with a group of Pharisees in Luke 14:12-14, He said, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, don’t invite your friends, your brothers, your relatives, or your rich neighbors, because they might invite you back, and you would be repaid. On the contrary, when you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame, or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Jesus challenges us to step outside our circles and be open to those who might not look or dress like we do.
I could go on, but I think it is easy to see why God’s word should challenge us. Now, in conclusion, on to how it should change us.
I mentioned above that you and I were born with a sinful nature. Sin angers God and He does not tolerate it. This being the case, you and I were born into a broken relationship with God, a relationship in need of mending. Thankfully God has given us His word, which as we have seen, challenges our moral and spiritual fibers. It also tells us of the solution which mends our broken relationship: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When a person places their faith in Jesus and is forgiven of their sin, they are changed forever. Yet we all know that people still sin, they still make mistakes. But the goal, through a process known as sanctification, is for us to sin less and less. The goal is for us to be changed from the inside out, to become less like our old selves and more like our Savior. And how does that happen? It happens as we read and study Scripture and apply it to our lives.
In Romans 6:19 Paul wrote, “For just as you offered the parts of yourselves as slaves to moral impurity, and to greater and greater lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness, which results in sanctification.” My prayer is that God’s word would not only challenge us, but that we would truly be changed by it as well.