According to Christian researcher George Barna (www.barna.org) 70% of Americans and 93% of Christians believe that God is the all powerful creator and is still in control of the universe today. This number is shocking considering how many people also believe that the universe was created in a Big Bang and that human life is the product of evolution. Many want to say that God created by use of these but in doing so God isn’t much of a creator at all.
From cover to cover the Bible depicts God as all powerful. In Genesis He is the creator of the universe. In Revelation He is the victor over evil and the everlasting God whom we have hope of being with forever. This is one of the most basic Christian beliefs and this explains why so many people, Christians and non-Christians alike believe in some kind of all powerful God.
But if people believe that God is all powerful, why do they live their lives like there is no God? The answer is that we want it all. We want the security of a God who is there in times of trouble and we want Him to leave us alone when things are going alright. What we really want is a genie in a bottle. That way we can have a wishes granted when things get tough – sicknesses, financial difficulties, relationship troubles – and then we can put a cork on him when we don’t want to hear about how we should live our lives to avoid some of these problems.
After 9/11 we saw the hypocrisy of our legislators standing on the steps of the Capital singing God bless America when some of those same people are fighting to have the name of God removed from our currency, our courtrooms, and our pledge of allegiance. We want God’s blessing so long as it comes with no strings attached. We want an all powerful creator God who has absolutely no expectations of us, will let us live our lives as we please, and will come running to rescue us when we need help. And then of course we expect Him to go away again and not bother us once we’re past our time of need.
According to Christian researcher George Barna (www.barna.org) only 40% of Americans and 62% of Christians believe that Jesus lived a sinless life. This view among Christians is perhaps the most perplexing of any to me. If Jesus sinned while on earth, what is the basis for one’s salvation? Why was Jesus’ death on the cross any more significant than if you or I sacrificed ourselves? No one is going to heaven by virtue of my sacrifice and if Jesus had sinned while here on earth He would be no different than the rest of us.
When sacrifice was implemented in the Old Testament, the requirement was a perfect sacrifice. The Jews were expected to present an umblemished sacrifice because it pointed to a perfect savior who would be a sacrifice for them. The book of Malachi rails against the Israelites for giving worthless sacrifices of crippled and unfit animals. This was because it was saying that anything was acceptable as a sacrifice despite what God had required. Unfit animals were not acceptable because they didn’t point to the perfection of Jesus who would die on the cross once and for all for our sins.
Jesus gets lumped in with other religious figures. He was a good teacher. He taught people to resist doing wrong and wanted everyone to love one another. If this is all that Jesus is, then He is no different than Buddha, Confucius, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King. It is because Jesus was sinless that He was capable of bearing our sins on the cross. He was the unblemished sacrificial lamb that was slaughtered at the time of Passover. Nobody but a sinless person could take away our sins.
I’ve had a good but very busy week this week. I had meetings at the beginning and end of the week and decided to stay in PA in between rather than come back home. So I thought I’d have a nice and relaxing couple of days off. Nice, yes: relaxing, no. I ran around all week and caught up with a few people I haven’t seen in a while.
Among my triumphs of the week was reconnecting with my former pastor and mentor. On top of me being away he now spend 4 1/2 months of the year in Jamaica teaching at Jamaica Bible College. Aside from catching up, he gave me a copy of his collection of Bible studies – very in depth studies that he’s written over the last 25 years or so. He had them all formatted and together on one cd and was distributing them to pastors at our meeting. And he gave me permission to reprint them online which is great for everyone.
Over the next several months I’ll be posting these Bible studies as I have the time. There are 24 of them and they are 60 pages minumum with most being over 100 pages. I’ll be setting up new websites and formatting them to work well with an online format. I don’t know how long this will take but if my early estimate is correct I may need to create 2500 or more web pages. Needless to say, this won’t be quick and easy but I think it is a very worthwhile addition and I believe that it will also be of interest to a number of people on the internet. As always, I’ll include updates when I get the studies posted.
According to Christian researcher George Barna (www.barna.org) 72% of all Americans and 53% of Christians believe that it might be possible for someone to earn their way into heaven through good deeds. This doesn’t go so far as to say that these people believe that they are working their way into heaven but that some others might be accepted because of good deeds.
John 14:6 says, “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
There is one way to heaven and that is through Jesus. There are no shortcuts or alternative routes. This belief is likely held out for people who seemed good but never could be bothered by Christianity. We don’t like the idea that God would punish someone who was “relatively good.” But the fact remains that pretty good doesn’t meet God’s standard. We are all sinners and we are all in need of forgiveness, even those who were pretty good and who tried to live a good life.
Once again, we must go back to the idea of absolute standards. God set the standard at perfection. If we can make it into heaven by being good, how good is good enough? How could we ever have assurance of salvation if making it into heaven depended on some other standard that we were never given? But we were given a standard. The standard is perfection and we fall short of it. And because of that we need the forgiveness of Jesus. Good deeds are not going to be enough.
Good deeds do not address the issue of sin. We all sin, even the best of us. But how can a good deed make up for something bad that we have done? Once hurtful words are out of our mouth, they can’t come back. Once we have done something wrong, we can’t undo it, only hope to repair the damage from it. Only forgiveness addresses the issue of sin. Forgiveness is what is needed to make it to heaven, not good deeds. There are no good deeds that can make up for the bad things that we do, no matter how many good things we do.
According to Christian researcher George Barna (www.barna.org), only 27% of all adults and 40% of Christians believe that Satan is real. This means that people don’t take him seriously. Satan is depicted as a fallen angel in the Bible. He is depicted as a real force every place that he appears. He is not simply a symbol of evil, he is the father of lies and is a master deceiver.
Satan is the one who deceived Eve in the Garden of Eden. It was he who tempted Jesus in the desert, even twisting scripture in an attempt to get his way. And it is Satan who will ultimately be thrown into hell when the Day of Judgment arrives.
1 Peter 5:8 tells us this about Satan: Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Satan would like nothing more than for us to disregard his existence.
Why does this make a difference whether Satan is real or symbolic? Everyone is willing to acknowledge that there is evil in the world today. The difference is whether it is just something that happens because of sinful people, more or less as a fact of life that we will encounter evil, or if it is an organized force. The fact that Satan is real means that he is working to destroy all those who follow God.
Every Christian must deal with three forces that cause them to sin – the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world is full of sinful people who tell us to be like them. The flesh is our own sinful nature that we battle with, even with the help of the Holy Spirit. And Satan whispers deceptions in our ear that we can get away with our sin and that it won’t hurt anyone.
Satan is not the only reason that we sin. It is in our very nature since the fall of Adam and Eve. But Satan is real and wants us to fail and wants us to turn our backs on God. He wants us to live life our own way and forget about worshipping our loving Creator.
According to Barna research, (www.barna.org) half of Americans believe that the Bible is accurate in what it teaches. This number improves to 79% of Christians who believe that the Bible is accurate. This does not include that the miracles performed in the Bible are literal or that the Bible is 100% historically accurate, only that the principles taught in the Bible are accurate.
One of the best known verses regarding the Bible itself is 2 Timothy 3:16. “All scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” Many look at the Bible as being a collection of books written by many diverse men over the span of centuries. This is absolutely correct. But what many people don’t recognize is the amazing continuity between the books of the Bible. The message is the same from book to book because God was behind the writing of it all. God used the individual personalities and writing styles of many different people but He inspired the message. Because of this every word can be accepted as not just the opinion of some well intentioned people but as the very words of God penned by those people.
If such a large number of people believe that the Bible is accurate, a bigger question remans – why don’t people live according to Biblical principles if they believe them to be accurate? It goes back to the idea of absolute standards. People believe that the principles may be correct but they don’t apply to this day and age as they were written to a group of people thousands of years ago.
Or the answer may be even simpler. People believe that the Bible is accurate but they haven’t taken the time to read it so they can’t actually live according to what the Bible says. It doesn’t matter how accurate the Bible is if we are unfamiliar with its teachings.
I have a cell phone that can probably do a lot more things than send text messages and make phone calls. But I have no desire to do anything more with it than that. I have an instruction book that will tell me how to do everything else with my phone and I trust its accuracy. But I’ve never read the book. And I have no desire to make my cell phone do more because I’m happy with it as it is. This is the way many people treat their Christianity as well.
Many people are happy with their Christian life as it is and don’t bother to read the Bible because they don’t want any more out of their life. They fear that it will change them and cause them to do things that they don’t want to do. In truth, knowing the Bible only makes you more fulfilled in your Christian life and will never detract from your life.
People may believe that the Bible is accurate but it takes more than just belief to make a difference. People need to act on this belief. If the Bible is accurate in its teachings, then we need a desire to learn its teachings. Only then will it make an impact on our lives.
According to George Barna’s research (www.barna.org) 34% of Americans believe in absolute truth that doesn’t change according to circumstances. Only 46% of Christians believe in absolute truth. As Christians, the Bible should be our standard. We hold that God’s Word is the basis of our beliefs. But if there is no absolute truth than the Bible is just a book of suggestions. And that is what it has become for many people, even those within the church.
When there is no absolute truth we have no basis to judge right and wrong. It suddenly becomes a matter of one’s opinion whether an act is acceptable or unacceptable. “Because my opinion is no more valid than your opinion, then we both must be right and we need to willing to accept all truths.” This is what happens without an absolute standard to base our morals upon.
The lack of absolute truth has pervaded in the area of homosexuality probably more than any other area. You constantly hear “who are we to judge?” That is the battle cry of a lack of absolute truth. We are not called to judge. God is the judge and He has already made the pronouncement. God doesn’t tell us to hate gays but He clearly calls homosexuality unnatural and indecent in Romans 1. People explain away these passages and remove the authority of God’s Word when they refuse to acknowledge what the Bible says.
Of course this doesn’t just apply to homosexuality. The lack of absolute truth has touched every moral or social area of our lives. Abortion is explained away as a woman’s right to choose and no one has the right to make such a decision for a woman. Stealing is ok because the bankers on Wall St have taken so much money from us that we’re really just taking back what is ours. The justifications go on and on because there is no longer a black and white standard to guide us. Anything is acceptable under certain circumstances.
Even within the church we can’t take a stand on issues any longer because of this lack of absolute truth. We pick and choose the parts of the Bible that we want to accept and ignore the parts that we don’t like. We explain away these parts by saying that they were written for another culture and aren’t meant to be upheld today.
When you look around the world today and see the many problems that we have, the lack of absolute truth is the starting point of it all. We can’t call something wrong if we have no basis for that opinion. Your opinion is just as valid as mine without a standard to base it upon. In a democratic society we base many things on the majority but what if the majority is wrong? Or what happens when the majority shifts its opinion? What was acceptable yesterday is wrong today and what was once wrong is now ok. How do we judge without an absolute standard?
Christians must hold the Bible as their highest standard. We can’t pick and choose what parts of the Bible we like and ignore the ones that don’t match our definition of the world. Instead we must shape our view of the world based upon the standards of the Bible.
For starters, we should define a worldview. A worldview is the filter through which we see everything. It doesn’t have to be sophisticated or formal. Everyone has one whether they know it or not from the most sophisticated people in a big city to the most uncultured people who do nothing but live for the weekend. A worldview is what sets our priorities. Someone who has a worldview that wealth and power are the most important things in life are going to spend most of their time attempting to possess these things. Someone who holds that drinking beer and having a good time is most important will spend most of their time attempting to do this.
Having a Biblical worldview is not the same as being a Christian. Ideally all Christians would have a Biblical worldview but the numbers don’t reflect that. Many people in America consider themselves a Christian. Depending on the survey anywhere from 75-90% of Americans consider themselves Christian when asked. When asked about details of their faith, less than half meet the standard of evangelical Christianity however.
For our purposes a Christian is someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and believes that they will go to heaven on the basis that they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus as their savior. Even among this very generic and simple definition of a Christian, few Christians have a Biblical worldview.
So what is a Biblical worldview then? Researcher George Barna (www.barna.org) has done a lot of research in this area and I will use his definition and research findings. A Biblical worldview is defined as believing that absolute moral truth exists, believing that the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings, believing that Satan is a real being or force and not just symbolic, believing that a person can’t earn their way into heaven through a good life or good deeds, believing that Jesus lived a sinless life, and believing that God is the all knowing, all powerful creator who still rules the universe.
When those standards are applied, only 9% of America has a Biblical worldview – that’s Christian and non-Christian combined. This is pretty lousy when we consider that so many consider themselves a Christian but not completely shocking because we shouldn’t expect non-Christians to have a Biblical worldview. What is more shocking is how few have a Biblical worldview who meet the evangelical definition of Christianity. The numbers only double to 19% of Christians who have a biblical worldview. While this is certainly troubling, there may be more problems in the future. Young adults aged 18-23 had an extremely poor showing of a Biblical worldview. Only 0.5% of this age group can be classified as having a Biblical world view.
So what does the Bible really say and why should we hold to these beliefs? Here are posts addressing each of these parts of a Christian worldview: