Can you trust the book we call the Bible? If you’ve trying to convince yourself God doesn’t exist, you might be tempted to try to marginalize it to make yourself feel better about ignoring it, but the truth is that rather than being unreliable, the Holy Scriptures are more worthy of our trust than any other information out there for us to accept or reject.
“But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.” (2 Timothy 3:14 NLT)
Who first taught you about God? Who took you to church? Who said said the Bible is true? Was it your mother when you were little? Your father? A grandmother who cared for you? Was it a beloved friend? A caring neighbor or co-worker? A pastor who stepped outside of himself to help you? Paul penned these famous words to Timothy, his protégée–his son in Christ, as he called him. (In case you don’t know, Timothy was of mixed parentage–his mother was devout, but his father was not. Because of that, he hadn’t even been circumcised, as Jewish boys are supposed to be, according to God’s command to Abraham, and actually had to have this procedure done because his devout Jewish audience wouldn’t listen to his message otherwise). But look at what Paul said: “You know…[the things you have been taught] are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you.”
That’s the key to accepting or rejecting any doctrine or philosophy–regardless of whether it is religious, secular, or any other label we slap on it–can you trust those who taught you? Whenever you decide whether to accept or reject a teaching, always look at the life of those who embrace it–at what following it wholeheartedly turns you into.
Elsewhere Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1 NKJV) That’s a bold assertion many of us today would be reluctant to tell another, yet it’s a reflection of how holy our lives as Christians should be–how pure and right and good our conduct, as those who believe in and trust Jesus.
So if you’re trying to decide if a teaching is honest–look at everything else in the life of those who have wholeheartedly embraced it. Is their life honest? If you want to see if a teaching is good–is the life of those who follow that teaching good? What does believing something turn you into?
There are many ideas and philosophies out there, but most of them produce ugly results. Rather than producing good in the lives of those who embrace it, the high and mighty secular intellectual atheism of men and women like Steven Hawkins, for example, produces a self-centered lifestyle, moral ambivalence and confusion, depression–ultimately even despair.
The Bible identifies the kinds of behavior that can show up in the life of a person who rejects Christ as, “…sexual sin, being morally bad, doing all kinds of shameful things, worshiping false gods, taking part in witchcraft, hating people, causing trouble, being jealous, angry or selfish, causing people to argue and divide into separate groups, being filled with envy, getting drunk, having wild parties, and doing other things like this,” (Galatians 5:19-20) and warns that, “…people who do these things will not have a part in God’s kingdom.” (Galatians 5:21 ERV)
Genuine faith in God, on the other hand–and not just in any higher power, but in the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” of the Bible–produces beautiful results in those who submit to His authority in their lives:
“But the fruit that the Spirit produces in a person’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these kinds of things. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their sinful self. They have given up their old selfish feelings and the evil things they wanted to do.” (Galatians 5:22-24 ERV)
These verses have been often quoted, but have you ever actually thought about what they’re saying? That sophisticated professor who waxes eloquent about mankind’s higher potential, but causes his wife and children grief by his shameful personal conduct, is merely reflecting the result of his belief system. God even warns us about religious hypocrites– “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
There have been far too many examples of leaders who have claimed to follow Jesus as a disguise for getting the trust of gullible people in order to exploit them in some way. That’s why God tells us presenting yourself as a Christian isn’t evidence of Christianity–a holy life is. Jesus warns us to, “Be careful of false prophets. They come to you looking gentle like sheep, but they are really dangerous like wolves. You will know these people by what they do. Grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. In the same way, you will know these false prophets by what they do.” (Matthew 7:15-20 NCV)
Or, as The Message paraphrase put it, “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.” (Matthew 7:15-20 MSG)
So why can we trust the Bible? Obviously because of the many other evidences of its legitimacy, but also and especially because of the goodness it generates in the lives of those who genuinely love and trust Jesus! Because other than loving God more than anything else in life, trusting that He will ultimately make everything wrong right, and clinging whole-heartedly to Him, the goodness He produces in the lives of those who follow Him, the self-denial in favor of serving others–even going so far as giving up our own lives–makes absolutely no rational human sense! Even Paul acknowledged “If our hope in Christ is for this life only, we should be pitied more than anyone else in the world.” (1 Corinthians 15:19 NCV)
Dear Lord God,
Help me remain faithful to the things I have been taught, knowing they are true because I can trust those who taught me! Amen.