When I was a kid, we put a lot of emphasis on memorizing Bible verses. I grew up in the Cold War, always preparing for the day the Russians might invade the U.S. (Of course, they would overrun Alabama first!) And if they did, we were told they would take our Bibles away from us; the only Bible verses we would have would be those we knew by heart. So we memorized a verse per week. Even now, when I quote Scripture, I usually quote it in King James, the Bible I learned as a child.
When Jesus was challenged in the wilderness, he answered Satan by quoting the Scriptures. Not only that, He quoted from Deuteronomy. His first answer, “Man does not live by bread alone” is from Deuteronomy 8:3. The second reply is from Deuteronomy 6:16 and the last one is from Deuteronomy 6:13—verses He memorized as a child.
Sometimes when Jesus prayed He would quote scripture. Even the shallowest reading of Jesus’ life could not miss how central the scripture was to Him. This leads to a very important question for us who call ourselves “Christ followers.” Why isn’t the Bible central to our lives?
We read books about the Bible, but we don’t read the Bible.
We memorize song lyrics, but not verses from the Bible.
Why not? Do we not think it’s important to know the Bible by heart?
To know God’s word is to know God’s heart—His words in our hearts and minds. They make a difference. Because what’s in your mind becomes what your heart what wants, and what your heart wants becomes what you do.
How about you? How much can you quote by heart? How prepared are you for the moment the enemy invades? For Jesus, it made a difference. My guess is it should make the difference for you and me as well.
Evaluating the Pew Forum Research
A lot of people have been excited about recent Pew Forum research that indicated most people don’t know the facts about their own religions. Christians, it seems scored particularly badly on this. According to the study, atheists actually did better on the test than Christians did! There were a lot of articles written by agnostics and atheists accusing Christians of not even knowing what they believe.
None of this was news to me. I work everyday with Christians and more times than not, I am surprised by what they don’t know that I thought they knew.
But I wonder if the researchers asked the right questions. Most of the believers I know don’t have time for theological discussions. They don’t worry about metaphysical dilemmas or the historical implications of doctrinal development. They are trying to make it to next Thursday.
Their lives are complicated by children, marriages, parents, jobs, and how to help hurting friends. There is no time to debate; most of my friends only have time to do. And in their doing, they display a knowledge of Christ most theologians would envy.
Christians do not study to become smarter. We don’t read the Bible to get the right answers to questions that might be asked by researchers. We read, study and pray to KNOW Christ better—not just know about Him.
The good news of Christianity is not that Jesus once lived, but that He lives now—with His people, in their worlds, dealing with their problems. Do I know Jesus and live in His strength as I face issues and challenges? That’s the real assessment of Christianity.
Okay, so we failed to fill in a few blanks on a questionnaire. That doesn’t worry me. But to miss Christ—to not know Him—now that’s failing the test.