To be a Christian, a Christ follower, implies we follow Jesus. That means we do the simplest of things like, daily surrender our lives to Christ. We pray. We read scripture. We pursue God because God is our source of truth. We walk in a relationship with God and ask Him to lead us, love us, and protect us.
The prayer of a Christ follower would be like David’s prayer.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life. TLB Psalms 139:23-24
A Christian Atheist is different. A Christian Atheist doesn’t surrender their will. They are okay with not praying or reading the Bible. They believe in God but are content floating through life with no real connection with God. They aren’t following after Christ. Their source of truth comes from within, their feelings, their likes and dislikes, and whatever our culture thinks is right.
Paul described the Christian Atheist.
There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. MSG Philippians 3:18-19
Do you see the difference? David is reaching out to God in daily surrender. David is asking God to love him, lead him, and change him. What Paul described was someone who doesn’t want to change. Someone who doesn’t want to surrender their will. They are comfortable feeding their appetites, living out their desires and have no real connection to Christ. Paul would say, they hate Christ’s cross.
Last year, the Cultural Research Center of Arizona Christian University surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults from four major groups: Pentecostals, Charismatics, Mainline Protestants, and Catholics about 51 topics including marriage, absolute truth, the sanctity of human life, and the authority of the Bible.
The leading researcher, George Barna, concluded the following.
“The most startling realization is how many people in our churches are adopting unbiblical beliefs. American Christians are undergoing a ‘post-Christian Reformation.’ It certainly seems as if the culture is influencing the Church more than the church is influencing the culture.”
This is stunning. It’s so stunning, we had to create a series on truth.
I want to ask you a few questions. What is your source of truth? Is it scripture? Your friends? What your culture thinks? Your feelings? A couple of years ago, I was road bike riding with a group of guys. As we started for the day, the one guy asked me, “Ken, what is your view on homosexuality?” I responded, “I think you should care very little about what I think and care a great deal more about what God thinks.”
Do you have a meaningful connection with God? Do you believe in God but are comfortable floating along with no real relationship with God? How do you view God? Is God someone you pursue? Is God and the Bible something you surrender your life to? If how you are living is different than what that Bible teaches, what do you do with that? When the Bible says, treat your husband this way, do you do it? Treat your wife this way, do you do it? Treat your enemies this way, do you do it?
How you answer those questions, is a very big deal.
Scriptures says this:
And so I insist – and God backs me up on this – that there be no going along with the crowd, the empty-headed, mindless crowd. They’ve refused for so long to deal with God that they’ve lost touch not only with God but with reality itself. They can’t think straight anymore. Feeling no pain, they let themselves go in sexual obsession, addicted to every sort of perversion. MSG Ephesians 4:17-19
If we don’t pursue God in a meaningful relationship, over time, we lose touch with God and reality and we won’t be able to think straight. Isn’t that scary? We lose our ability to think straight about life.
Sam shared this incredible scripture last week.
7 The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together. The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road. 8 The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy. The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes… 11 There’s more: God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. 12 Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? MSG Palms 19:7-8, 11-12
Did you see that? Walking with God is literally like following a map to find joy and avoid danger.
God is the basis of all truth. The Bible is the word of God, and it’s trustworthy and reliable. And as we follow Christ, as we stay connected with Christ through surrender, prayer and reading, God leads us. That’s why, being disconnected from God or worse, ignoring God, is so dangerous. We will lose connection with truth, God’s road map to life, and with reality.
This leads us into this week’s statement: The Bible is the primary source of moral guidance.
What do you think about that statement? Do you believe that?
Over 2,000 people surveyed said the following. Evangelicals 58% agree, 42% reject. Pentecostal 62% agree, 38% reject. Mainline Protestant 29% agree, 71% reject. Catholic 23% agree, 77% reject. [Source: churchleaders.com/news/383605-george-barna-another-reformation.html]
This is alarming because this survey wasn’t done with people who reject God. It’s people who you would assume attend church. On average, 57% of people who call themselves Christians, followers of Christ, reject the statement that the Bible is the primary source of moral guidance. That’s unbelievable.
Think about this. If walking with God and reading scripture is like following a road map to joy and avoiding danger, and if 57% of Christians don’t believe that, no wonder Christians are so tired and confused. If you throw out the road map to life to find joy, you will feel tired and confused.
What does the Bible say?
There’s nothing like the written Word of God for showing you the way to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. Every part of Scripture is God-breathed and useful one way or another – showing us truth, exposing our rebellion, correcting our mistakes, training us to live God’s way. Through the Word we are put together and shaped up for the tasks God has for us. MSG 2 Timothy 3:15-17
The Bible is the primary source of moral guidance.
Paul in Hebrews continued to talk about the Bible.
For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. NLT Hebrews 4:12
Let’s be clear. The Bible is the primary source of moral guidance. It’s not like anything else. The Bible has the power of God to speak to you, heal you, reveal your rebellion and inspire you. When you read the Bible, it does exactly what David prayed in Psalms. “God search me, test me, lead me, show me my sin so I can change.”
If the modern-day Christian believed this, we would devour scripture, wouldn’t we? When we chose to not read the Bible, we are telling God, “I don’t need You to lead me today, I’m good.” We are telling God, “I got a lot to do, I can get by without You speaking to me today.” Please hear me. The Bible has the power of God to speak you. It’s no ordinary book.
Just real quickly about reading scripture. There is no special insight here. Just read it. Find a version, or better yet a couple versions, and read it. If necessary, down-load a Bible app and the app will read it for you.
To close today, I want to walk through Hebrews 4, the whole chapter. I said close, don’t be fooled, we will be reading a chapter to close. For context, Hebrews 3 begins talking about the rest God wanted to give the Children of Israel. Let’s pick up in chapter 4.
1 God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. 2 For this good news – that God has prepared this rest – has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God. 3 For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said, “In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,’” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. NLT Hebrews 4:1-13
The author is talking to the Church about 70 years after Jesus’ crucifixion. They are struggling. Some are wondering if they should continue to follow after Christ. He is telling them God created a place of rest for the Children of Israel who were slaves in Egypt. But that promise from God didn’t do them any good because they didn’t believe God.
Do you remember the story of the Children of Israel? They were saved by God in the most dramatic and violent way. They were supposed to follow God into the Promised Land. But they rebelled against God and Moses in the desert. When they got to the Promised Land, they failed to have courage. They felt fear and wanted to go back to Egypt, even after experiencing God saving them.
God was so frustrated, He said, “They will never enter my place of rest.” What was supposed to be a 40-day journey into the promised land, became a 40-year desert experience, ultimately dying in the desert. They never entered rest. They missed out on physical rest called Sabbath and they missed out on spiritual rest.
What does that have to do with us today?
4 We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.” 5 But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.” 6 So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. 7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.” NLT Hebrews 4:1-13
The author here is saying, the promise of rest that was for the Children of Israel is real and it’s for us today. However, the Children of Israel rebelled and didn’t believe that God would lead them into rest. So, God created a place of rest for us today.
Let’s keep reading.
8 Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. 9 So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God. 10 For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. 11 So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. NLT Hebrews 4:1-13
The author continues and says, they missed out on the physical and spiritual rest. However, God continues to renew his promise of rest, it’s available to you but please, whatever you do, don’t rebel like the Children of Israel did. Please, believe that God wants to lead you into rest. Please enter that rest.
But how? How do we enter that rest today, right now? Next couple of verses.
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable. NLT Hebrews 4:1-13
God’s word is God’s place of rest for today, right now. We will have rest in heaven for sure, but you can enter into God’s rest today, right now. How? We engage the Bible. It’s anointed by God to speak to you, develop you and lead you. It’s a place of rest for you.
Please hear me, reading the Bible is not about getting more knowledge so you can puff your chest out when you know more facts than others know. It’s not about pride. It’s about submitting to God and asking Him to speak to you and change you. It’s about God’s presence deeply impacting our souls. It’s about the Holy Spirit transforming us into people who love. It’s a place of rest for our souls. A place to find hope and healing.
But here is the problem you face.
It’s the same problem the Children of Israel had. Do you believe? God told the Children of Israel, “I am leading you into the promised land, a place of rest. Trust me.” They didn’t. They wanted easy street. They complained. They rebelled. They worshipped idols. And when they saw the promised land, instead of having courage, they allowed fear to overwhelm them. They didn’t trust God, so they never entered rest.
So let me ask you. If God says, the rest that was for them is for you and you can find it as you read scripture, do you believe God? The survey says, around 57% of Christians don’t believe that God’s word is the primary source of moral guidance. Is it no wonder that Christians seem so tired and defeated?
Here is an even bigger problem.
Chances are you may have tried it. You may have tried to read the Bible for a couple of days. And maybe as you read it, you didn’t have a magical moment, a fuzzy warm sensation as you read it, and you thought, ‘What’s the point?’
That’s like God telling the Children of Israel, trust me, I am leading you out of Egypt to the promised land. They follow God for a couple days into the desert, didn’t have water, and they want to go back to Egypt and back to slavery. God tells us, trust me with your life. I am leading you into rest for your soul. We read the Bible, it isn’t awesome at first, so three days in, we quit.
Here is what we want you to know today. The Bible is the primary source of moral guidance. The question is, do you believe that? Do you believe the Bible is empowered by God to speak to you? Do you believe a lifetime of reading the Bible, will lead your soul into rest?