The more I study Scripture, the more horrified I am at all the things I’ve been taught through the years about God that simply aren’t true.
Little details, like with Noah. He didn’t just get on that ark with two of every animal. He got on the ark with seven pairs of every clean animal, one pair of every unclean animal, and seven pairs of every bird. Maybe that’s been simplified over the years for little kids to understand it, but it’s not a story just for little kids.
I was taught Noah tried warning other people about impending judgment and was mocked. That part? Not in the Bible. 2 Peter 2:5 has a brief reference to Noah as a preacher of righteousness, but even that doesn’t specifically say he ever directly warned the others. God clearly chose only Noah’s family to be saved. Otherwise he would have sent Noah to the world as he sent Jonah to Ninevah.
I often hear what an amazing thing it was for the first disciples to drop their nets and follow Jesus instantly upon his calling. And yes, that’s a big deal. But when Jesus told them to follow him and he’d make them fishers of men, they already knew him. They’d already met him. As John 1 tells us, at least Andrew and probably John were disciples of John the Baptist. They would have constantly heard JtB talk about Jesus as the Messiah. When JtB sees Jesus, he points him out as the Messiah. This is when Andrew goes to get Peter and shows him Jesus.
Why does that matter? Because it diminishes the importance of our responsibility as sharers of the Gospel. We know people may have radical conversions and suddenly drop everything to start following Jesus, but these disciples heard about him, met him personally, and then, when he called, they dropped everything to follow him. Isn’t that how most people come to Jesus? That’s why we’re instructed to share about him, lead others to him, and let him call them. We have a responsibility to point out the Messiah to others, not just sit back and keep quiet and pray for a radical conversion. As Romans 10:14 says, “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (NLT)
It seems several times a week I go to Ronnie and say, “Did you know this-and-this thing isn’t actually Biblically accurate? I was always taught that it was true.” And most of these things are relatively minor, like whether or not Noah actually warned people of the flood and was mocked for it. I’m not saying that’s not important, because a right understanding of the Bible is always important. But it’s likely not as damaging spiritually as some of the things I’ve been taught over the years. I could list tons of them, like the fact that I have to be good enough to get to heaven, I have to have enough good deeds, I have to recommit my life to Christ on a regular basis, I have to weep and respond to every altar call, I have to be completely sinless, I have to be baptized or take communion or do something or nothing or anything or everything to in one way or another earn my spot in heaven. All of that is a blasphemous, offensive lie. It’s not only not Biblical but it’s actually in direct contradiction to the Gospel. And it was all extremely damaging to me as I struggled to understand the Gospel not in terms of what God had to say but in terms of what I’d previously been taught. Sometimes I wish I’d had a clean slate going into the Gospel.
I love the pastor at our church. He’s incredibly knowledgable and a great speaker. I learn when I go to church. In our weekly Gospel Community, I learn as well. But my greatest learning always comes through reading Scripture and prayer. Sometimes I’ll learn something (or think I learn something) about God from another person and in my next quiet time, God will deliberately bring me to Scripture that shows me what I thought I knew wasn’t Biblically sound. It’s happened countless times.
Quiet time should be our ultimate priority through the week, above church or school or small group or discussion or any other form of Biblical teaching. These other things are just hearsay–sometimes they’re 100% correct and sometimes they’re not. If you want to know me, you can ask friends or family and they’ll tell you all sorts of things about me. Some might be true, some might be false, some might be exaggerations. But if you really want to know who I am and what I think about things, you’ll desire to spend time alone with me. If we’re learning more about God from anyone other than God, that’s religion, and that’s dangerous. If we’re learning more about God from God, through Scripture and prayer, that’s a relationship, and that’s where God wants us.