Scripture memory was a very big deal when I was a kid. I grew up in a non-denominational church that mostly (but not always) hired Baptist ministers. Baptists are BIG on Scripture memory and to this very day those verses I memorized when I was a kid have stuck with me. The one that keeps coming to mind this morning is found in both the longest chapter and the longest Psalm (with 176 verses) in the Bible–Psalm 119. The verse is verse 105:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light for my path.
The “word,” of course, is the Bible. While the author of this particular psalm is unknown, I usually picture David, who ruled as King over Israel 3000 years ago, as the author. There are many authors linked to the book of Psalms which includes 150 individual Psalms that “were written by many different people across a period of a thousand years in Israel’s history” (quote source here). David is noted as the author of a major portion of them (73) when the author is, in fact, known.
Many Christians in the world today including myself believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17—“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”) and that it is completely accurate–(e.g., “infallable”)–from Genesis 1:1—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”–to Revelation 22:21—“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” In fact, Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” However, even though these verses clearly state both the accuracy and the inspiration and of the Bible, not everyone who call themselves Christian believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and that it is accurate. And I wonder where they find “truth” if they consider themselves to be Christian yet do not believe in the accuracy and inspiration of the very source of Christianity which is found in the Bible.
I stumbled upon a survey last night that was conducted in 2001 by The Barna Group titled, “Religious Beliefs Vary Widely By Denomination.” The results were, to say the least, revealing. As stated in the survey, “Nationally, in terms of religious classification, about four out of every ten U.S. adults are born again Christians and 8% are evangelicals (which is a subset of the “born again” segment). In terms of denominational affiliation, one-quarter of Americans are Catholic and a majority (three out of every five) are aligned with a Protestant church.” I found it surprising that only 8% (9% in a later survey conducted in 2007) of 4-in-10 U.S. adults who considered themselves to be “born again” also considered themselves to be “evangelical.” So what’s the difference between “born again” (a broader classification) and “evangelical” (only a very small segment of the “born again” population)? I’m glad you asked as I wondered, too. And here’s the answer according to The Barna Group definition found at www.religioustolerance.org:
Non-Evangelical Born again Christians: These are individuals who:
- Say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
- That commitment is still important to them now.
- They have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.
- They believe that, because of their confession and acceptance, they will spend eternity in Heaven.
- However, they don’t meet one of the Evangelical criteria listed below.
Evangelicals are individuals who meet the born again criteria (above) and seven additional beliefs as well:
- They consider their faith as very important.
- They have a responsibility to evangelize others.
- Satan exists as a living entity.
- Salvation is attained through God’s grace [through Jesus Christ], not human effort or good works.
- Jesus Christ led a sinless life while on earth.
- The Bible is accurate throughout.
- God is omniscient [all-knowing], omnipotent [all powerful] and omnibeneficient [all benevolent], the creator of the universe who is still ruling it today.
While I personally dislike using labels (however, they do provide clarification), I fall within the 8%-9% who call themselves “evangelical” because I firmly believe all of the statements above. And I do believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, accurate and infallible. If I didn’t there would be no anchor or faith to hold me especially during the very hard times that come to all of us. Indeed, God’s Word (the Bible) is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path (Psalm 119:105) and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). And, it has sustained me through these very trying and difficult past four years.
Getting back to the Barna survey conducted in 2001, of the 6000 randomly-selected adults surveyed only 41% believed that the Bible is totally accurate. Within that 41%, the stats within denominations were as follows: Pentecostal/Foursquare, 81%; Assembly of God, 77%; Christian non-denominational, 70%; Baptist (any), 66%; Adventist, 64%; Church of Christ, 57%; Presbyterian (any), 40%; Methodist (any), 38%, Lutheran (any), 34%; Mormon/Latter Day Saints, 29%; Catholics, 26%, and Episcopal, 22%. Also, the survey found that four out of five among those who attend a charismatic or Pentecostal church believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches whereas only one out of five Episcopalians believe it is accurate.
The origin of the word, “Christian,” is found in three places in the Bible: Acts 11:26; Acts 26:28; and I Peter 4:16. The disciples of Jesus Christ were called Christians first at Antioch (Acts 11:26). To be a Christian, therefore, means being a disciple (a follower) of Jesus Christ and adhering to all that He taught about how to live, act, and believe in the Bible. And, Hebrews 13:8 clearly states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” which means His teachings are every bit as relevant today as they were when He walked on this earth. It is the very foundation of Christianity–true, authentic, life-giving Christianity. So if only41% of those surveyed believe that the Bible is accurate, what do the rest of those who consider themselves to be “born again” Christians believe, and where are they getting their understanding of what it means to be Christian? The very name implies being a follower of Jesus Christ, and the Bible is our source for how to live this life in Him.
A car cannot run without gas, and a Christian cannot live this life the way God intended without filling up regularly on the Word of God. Living on fumes from Sunday to Sunday and rarely ever opening the Bible doesn’t cut it. I know, as I went for years not reading it on a regular basis (we all have a million excuses for not reading it so you don’t need to hear any of mine). But here’s the truth–it IS living and it IS active and you won’t know it unless you read it on a regular basis with an open heart and mind and praying for God to open your eyes. If you start doing that, it will change your whole life from the inside out.
Consider what Hebrews 4:12-16 has to say in The Message Bible, “God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. Nothing and no one is impervious to God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what.
“Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.”
The Word of God really is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path. Without it, we are living in darkness whether we recognize it or not . . .
Let us therefore
to the throne of grace,
that we may obtain mercy
and find grace
in time of need.
~Heb. 4:16 NKJV
YouTube Video: “Thy Word” (1986) sung by Amy Grant:
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