I was speaking about John’s Gospel to a man who was a life-long Baptist and had attended Church for over fifty years. At the time, we were discussing John the Baptist’s Aaronic heritage and how that fit into the meaning of John 1, when I casually mentioned that John was killed before the end of Jesus’ ministry.
“Wait, didn’t John become an apostle afterwards?” he asked.
“Who? John the Baptist?”
“Yeah. How could he write this book if he died?”
“Oh. No. John the Baptist and John the Apostle are two different people,” I explained. “John the Baptist is the guy who wore camel fur, and ate locusts, and all that. While John the Apostle was probably a very young man when he started following Jesus. He wrote this Gospel decades later and died a very old man.”
“Oh, wow. I never knew that! Why didn’t anyone tell me that?”
At that point, I realized I had to stop the conversation and go back to basics.
I thought about that as I was reading some materials by R. B. Thieme. I found this quote helpful,
“The Bible is the only source of [the] divine viewpoint. It is the very mind of Christ, the living Word (John 1:1) expressed in written form. Therefore, if you, as a believer, are to have the divine viewpoint of life, you must know Bible doctrine. If you do not know God’s thoughts on any given matter, how can you possibly think according to the divine viewpoint?” (Mental Attitude Dynamics, p. 8).
Many Christians are Biblically illiterate and the Church is suffering because of it. Actually, I would also say that families, schools, businesses, and governments are suffering because of it too. Why?
Because you cannot act in a way pleasing to God—in your family, business, school, or local church—if you do not think in a way pleasing to God. And you cannot think in a way pleasing to God, if you don’t know enough of God’s revelation to know what to think on any given subject.
You can’t be a good surgeon if you don’t know anatomy. You can’t be a good electrician if you don’t know electricity. You can’t be a good cabbie if you don’t know your way around a city. So how can you expect to be a good Christian if you don’t know the first thing about being a Christian?
Knowledge is a prerequisite for competence in any field, including Christian living.
Of course, Bible knowledge is certainly not the end-all be-all of the Christian life. You ought to be a doer of the Word, not just a hearer of it (James 1:22). But you cannot be a doer of the Word, if you don’t know which Word you should be doing! Hence, Bible knowledge is not just for scholars, it’s for every believer. It’s for everyone who wants to live a life pleasing to God.
That means you.
Think of how the Bible itself conditions righteous living on studying God’s Word:
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1-2).
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
If you don’t want to walk with with wicked, study the Word.
If you want to be equipped for good works, study the Word.
Hearing a good sermon on Sunday morning is important, but it shouldn’t be your only “meal” of the week. You need to be eating all week long. And that’s up to you, not your pastor. You need to straighten out your thinking Monday through to Saturday, and the only way to do that is through studying the Word on your own.
That isn’t easy. It takes effort. It takes time. Like any skill, you have to put in the hours to really start to think God’s thoughts after Him. Personally, I’ve been replacing my TV time with listening to sermons, or watching them online. You can do that too. And what a different it makes!
Now, I have to admit something. Studying the Word and getting your thinking straight can be hard. The more you stand under the Word the more you’ll understand it. And the more you understand, the more you’ll have your thinking challenged. You’ll begin to realize that many of your assumptions, beliefs, values, priorities, and ways of looking at the world are ungodly. And that’s hard to realize. Actually, it can be quite shocking. In those moments, you need to submit your thinking to God’s Word. To quote Thieme once again,
“The Bible is the only accurate discerner of what you think, and it is the only source for straightening out your mental attitude. Let the Bible ‘umpire’ your thoughts. It is your most constructive critic” (Mental Attitude Dynamics, 11).