Getting the basics

I teach a weekly Bible Study at a safe house for women. We have been studying lately about general Bible literacy; understanding how the Bible is laid out, the categories of books and their names. Just learning the order of the books in the New Testament has been a big challenge for most of them. 

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In keeping with the season, last week I brought up the subject of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Although all but one of them claimed to have confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior, their knowledge about these events and their significance was very sketchy. They didn’t know that Jesus descended before He ascended, that He took upon Himself the sin of humanity. They weren’t sure who crucified Him, or for what reason. They had very little knowledge about the time Jesus spent with his disciples between the resurrection and His ascending to heaven. 

I feel that I have an important responsibility to help them understand truths like these. But sometimes I really wonder how widespread this lack of knowledge is? Are we assuming that people know basic truths just because we are so familiar with them? Could this lack lead to a loss of faith later on when times get tough and they don’t have the assurance of their salvation? 

I think these questions are important. I would not want to be guilty of teaching a lot of doctrines of details, or just interesting facts and stories. At this stage they need the “pure milk of the word” ( Peter 2:2) so that they can “grow up to salvation.” 

Certainly our personal relationship and fellowship with God is more important than our knowledge about Him, but I am convinced that what we know will profoundly affect that fellowship. We are so privileged to have free access to His Word to help us build that relationship so strong that it will stand any test. 

  • Have you encountered similar situations? 
  • How have you dealt with them? 
  • How can we encourage people to strengthen their core beliefs?

No longer orphans

Afghan orphan child

As we sat around the table, all at once I could feel a hush

as they considered what I had just said. 

Every week, I lead a Bible study group at a local shelter for battered women and their children. I had felt strongly that I needed to begin teaching about the fatherhood of God, as many of these women had had poor examples of a father, which influenced their view of God the Father. We were all reading from John 14, where Jesus describes his relationship with his Father. Until now the ladies had been interacting, commenting to one another on different details of the study.

But then I read verse 18, and all of us felt the truth of it sink in:

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

I had prefaced the passage by asking them about their fathers. Of about a dozen, a couple of them never knew their father, several commented that their fathers had been violent and abusive. Only a couple had grown up with a loving, secure relationship with their father.

Reading this verse brought to the surface the deep feelings in most of them that they had been in fact fatherless, and gave them new hope in deepening this relationship with their heavenly Father. I saw a few tears as I shared about the differences between the father that they had experienced and the One that they were now learning about.

The same way that we can feel alone in a crowd, we can feel abandoned in the midst of relationships. No human relationship can even come close to supplying the need we have for God, but when we are in touch with His love, guidance and provision all our other relationships can come into focus.

We have Jesus’ promise: “I will not leave you as orphans.” He goes on to say, “…you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” That’s real intimacy.

Have you entered into this deep fellowship with our Father and His intense love for you?

Spiritual midwives?

And it was of His own [free] will that He gave us birth [as sons] by [His] Word of Truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures [a sample of what He created to be consecrated to Himself]. (James 1:8 Amplified)

I have never heard of a baby having anything to do with their being born, but yet many people seem to have the idea that they participated in their spiritual birth, like some sort of spiritual midwife. They attribute their new birth to their act of accepting, believing, confessing, deciding, etc. Somehow I am a bit uncomfortable with this; I think that is taking too much credit for what has happened. This same verse in James says that the Father did it by his will, not by ours.Image

And yet I know that we do have something to do with the process. God does not just take over a person’s entrance into his family, we must take some action. I think that our action has more to do with dying; beginning with our understanding of our status of being dead in sin. The Law of God had the purpose of exposing sin by showing man that he is unable to keep it. We are made aware of our spiritual death and our utter need for God. According to this verse in James the Word of Truth is the agent by which we are born of God, thereby making him our Father. But I think it is significant to note that we do not cause our new birth.

So why does this make any difference? Isn’t it just enough to know that we are part of God’s family, without having to worry about the details? I believe that these details matter very much. I have seen so many people that have very little idea what it really means to be a new creature, to have passed from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. It is obvious when they can’t even begin to explain the change in their own life, if indeed there has been one. It is true that we don’t necessarily need to understand all of the theological implications of the matter to be a child of God, but unless a person really understands that they were dead spiritually, I may doubt that their rebirth has really taken place.

I would be inclined to believe that our part in the process is more in accepting the fact that we were dead. (Romans 6 and 7 play this out in detail.) When we find out that we were included in Jesus’ death, and that his death destroyed the power of our sinful nature, this realization causes us to cry out to God for salvation. Only then can we born of God. After that the process of dying – or of considering ourselves to be dead to the old nature – is an ongoing process for the rest of our lives on earth.

With all this, it is not my intention to judge people as to whether or not they are born again. Rather, I am concerned that many may have only accepted a belief, repeated a prayer, or joined a religion rather than having experienced a real regeneration and rebirth into God’s family.

I believe that this difference is a matter of spiritual life or death. What do you think?