Now they sin more and more; they make idols for themselves from their silver, cleverly fashioned images, all of them the work of craftsmen. It is said of these people, “They offer human sacrifices! They kiss calf-idols!”
~Hosea 13:2 NIV~
We can always find justification to sin if we base our satisfaction on the things of this world. I see so many people trying to make a case for living lives that don’t honor God or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ through selectively quoting or mis-quoting the Bible. My suspicion is that this stems mostly from faulty or non-existent teaching about what the purpose of the Bible is and how it can help us gain a full understanding of the meaning of Christ in our lives. When we open up the book and start reading without having even a partial understanding of the various authors, divisions, literary devices, contexts, etc. that are present in Scripture, it is easy to step back and say that it either doesn’t make sense or worse, to believe that it lifts up evil behaviors as being the desired manifestation of the Holy Spirit in us. If we take the time to learn how to read the Scripture, we can reap the full benefit of the teachings it contains and apply them to our lives to bring about a rich harvest of the full and complete truth of who God is and what He wants to do for us and in us.
The reason I suspect that the basic misunderstanding of Christianity and of the Bible as a tool for learning about Christ lies in a lack of good teaching in our churches is because I experienced this firsthand. I first attended church as a teenager and was very much in love with the idea of being a Christian. I had no idea why, but it seemed like fun at the time and so, I figured that’s all I needed. I had no clue about the depth of the Scripture and how it all connected to my destiny as a child of the Most High God. The sermons I heard back then had nothing to do with helping me understand what it means to be forgiven; to have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. The preacher didn’t teach us, he lectured us on what a terrible group of people we were and how we’d better watch our step if we wanted to go to Heaven. The preaching tended to stick to the “big ten” topics for all Christians to memorize; the birth of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, tithing, stewardship, repentance, the Ten Commandments, no sex before marriage, no divorce, and of course the Rapture. There was little, if any teaching about understanding our duties as Christians, Jesus’s teachings about love and grace, knowing that we will always sin, understanding forgiveness, what it means to sow and reap, how God uses our experiences to shape us into the people He means us to be, and so on and so on.
There is so much that is left out of our regular church sermons that we must be willing to diligently seek Him in order to know the truth of His word. Without a desire to know the fullness of His truth, we are only playing at being Christians. If we are satisfied with a superficial Christian experience, then we aren’t really experiencing what it means to be a follower of Christ. This isn’t to say that all churches are failing at teaching the word of God; it is saying that the responsibility of teaching us God’s word doesn’t lie solely with the preacher and the Sunday school teacher. We must actively seek to understand Scripture and apply it to our lives in ways that glorify God, not in ways that seek to justify our sinful behavior by finding fault with something that vaguely applies to our situation and spinning it out of context. God knows we are sinners. He isn’t surprised by the fact that we do things we shouldn’t do. Sin is part of the process required to become righteous. And becoming righteous is a never-ending journey that we must be willing to travel as we make our way closer to God and the eternal reward that He seeks to give to those who love Him.
So, it isn’t about following all of the rules perfectly and pointing a self-righteous finger at those who aren’t doing or can’t do what we believe to be the right thing. It isn’t about deciding to believe in nothing and seeking to blast holes into what others believe in order to justify our own lack of faith. It is about understanding that the underlying theme of the Bible is to love. There is no room for hating those who are still “in process” and there is no room for thinking that we will ever know all there is to know about God and His word. Our job is to love Him, love ourselves and love others as we live out the plan that He reveals to us through an ever-evolving cycle of sin and grace. The closer we get to understanding how He loves us, the easier it is for us to accept His grace and move away from a life of sin.
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
~Luke 15:7 NIV~