James 1:21 “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”If you’re a practicing or former Evangelical Christian, I have no doubt you’ve heard someone utter the prayer, “Please, God, speak to me! Let me know what it is you want for my life.”
Though I grew up in the church, for some reason reading my Bible had never come naturally to me, nor was it easily understandable. I lamented silently for years over the fact that I simply was not disciplined enough to read my Bible on a daily basis. As I briefly mentioned in my previous post regarding how to study the bible, my wife purchased a study Bible and through her I was able to see the understanding I longed for fulfilling her every spiritual need (shout out to Jessica for suggesting the Quest study Bible for my wife).
So, you may be asking, how exactly does this tie in with hearing from God? Relax, I’m getting there. You should have realized by now that brevity and concision are not my strong suits. I digress.
The simple answer to the title question is quite simply, and you may feel ripped off, you hear from God by burying your nose in His Word! As I began to immerse myself in the Bible I began to see the world in a different light. I began to understand our Creator in a way that Postmodern Christianity avoids like the plague. I began to realize more fully how absolutely depraved I am and the lengths to which God’s wrath poured out on His son on my behalf. For even the tiniest of sins, a little white lie, Jesus Christ was tortured and slaughtered. How in the world could I ever justify those “little” sins?!
The other interesting development as I dove into the Word was that many of the children’s Bible stories I grew up listening to maybe weren’t presented exactly how the Bible states them. I suppose I understand that the fact David posthumously beheaded Goliath and delivered it to the King likely wouldn’t play real well to a room full of first grade children. Also, lost among the beautiful paintings and pictures of smiling animals, beautiful cloud terminated rainbows, and a smiling Noah, is the fact that the rest of the entire world was literally drowned. But, I suppose the eradication of all humanity wouldn’t easily fit on that mural in your kid’s bedroom, not to mention the fact that surrounding your infant with images of people drowning is probably not going to win you any parent-of-the-year awards.
The bottom line is that I was Biblically illiterate. I was a regular church attendee and professor of Christ, but I never took the time to explore the 66 letters he left for us.
Why would I ever expect Him to speak to me when I couldn’t even be bothered to crack his book open once a day? The more I surveyed my friends and family, the more I began to realize I wasn’t alone. In fact, it’s quite apparent that Biblical Illiteracy is a growing problem. The scarier thought is that many of those looking to oppose Christianity (atheists, other religions, etc.) know more about our own Holy book than we do? How ridiculous is that?! It’s no wonder so many Christians struggle to defend their faith on a regular basis. George Gallup and Jim Castelli summed it up best when they said, “Americans revere the Bible – but, by and large, they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”
So how bad is this issue? Allow me to provide you with some sobering statistics from various surveys conducted in the last five years (and the answers for those of similar mind):
- Fewer than half of all adults can name the four Gospels. (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John)
- Many professing Christians cannot identify more than two or three of the Disciples. (Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon, Jude, and Judas Iscariot)
- 60% of Americans can’t even name five of the Ten Commandments. (  You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.  You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain,for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.  Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.  Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.  You shall not murder.  You shall not commit adultery.  You shall not steal.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.)
- 82% of Americans believe “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.
- 12% of adults believe that Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife. (Just, no.)
- A survey of graduating high school seniors revealed that over 50% thought that Sodom and Gomorrah were husband and wife. (No, they were cities.)
- A considerable number of respondents to one poll indicated that the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham. (I have no words…)
Biblical Illiteracy is like a poison wreaking havoc in the lives of individuals, in our churches, and in our communities. Does that sound a bit extreme? Maybe, but how many of the 7 or 8 of you actually reading this blog (hi Mom!) are under the impression that the phrase “Ask Jesus into your heart” is in the Bible? I know I used to think it was, boy was I wrong. The truth is that this growing problem in current American Christianity is like a sniper picking off Evangelicals one-by-one.
Let’s consider the three primary areas being infected by this plague: Individuals, Churches, and Communities.
Historically, God’s people (Individuals) have always been destroyed by lack of knowledge. Consider Hosea 4:1, 6 “(1) Hear the word of the Lord , O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; (6) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
Where there is lack of God’s Word, the people faint (Amos 8:11-13) and in ignorance they make the wrong choices. Further, when they stumble and fall as we will we all, they simply do not know where to turn. Without knowledge of God’s Word, a person has no real direction or guidance in life. Psalm 119:105 so eloquently and concisely states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Additionally, and this was something due to my prideful nature I fought vehemently to accept, without knowledge of God’s Word an individual has no true joy or peace in life (Psalm 119:111, 165).
How many lives are being destroyed and how many people are stumbling through life because they do not have the light of God’s Word guiding them?
One might argue that’s where the Churches come into play, and I would agree. However, more so now than ever in history, the Church is languishing for lack of solid Bible teachers. Why is this the case? Why is it so tough to find teachers knowledgeable in His Word? The author of Hebrews warned us this is due to Apostasy in the church, Hebrews 5:11-14 “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”
The second, and even more prevalent issue, is the quickly growing volume of false teachers and their false doctrines. 2 Peter chapter 2 is entirely devoted to warning about false prophets and false teachers. Verses 1 through 3 set the tone by saying, 2 Peter 2:1-3 “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.”
How many churches are simply “dying on the vine” or tumbling rapidly into wholesale apostasy because their members are unable to discern between Truth, error, and outright lies? What effects ultimately arise in our communities due to the local church abandoning Truth in the Word of God?
There are a few things I’d like to point out regarding the effect of Biblical Illiteracy on our Communities. The simplest and most obvious effect is that our standards of morality are skewed and ultimately flipped to where good becomes evil and evil becomes good (Isaiah 5:20). Let’s have a look at some real-world examples of where this is beginning to truly become reality.
We legalize the slaughter of the innocent (abortion) and spare the guilty (capital punishment is on its way out). We reward the wicked (movie stars, entertainers) lavishly and spend more time reading about their lives than God’s Word, and deprive the good (school teachers, etc.). Divorce is made easy, adultery looked upon lightly (if not outright endorsed), fornication is promoted and encouraged, and homosexuality is rapidly being accepted as an acceptable alternative lifestyle.
The effect of these “evils turned acceptable” is that these things destroy our families and communities! For instance, pornography and promiscuity allowed to spread in the name of “freedom” is ripping our families to shreds. Children are deprived the kind of parenting that is their God-given right which leads to juvenile delinquencies at the least, and more serious issues at the worst. Consider how the moral fabric of our nation and others in the world are becoming unraveled when “everyone does what is right in his own eyes”. (Judges 21:25)
I hope you’ve hung in to this point because after spilling a considerable amount of digital ink, completely depressing and demoralizing you, it’s time for some Good News!. As I’ve tried to show, the poison of Biblical Illiteracy has infected and sickened our people, our churches, and our communities. Fear not! There is an antidote to this wicked poison, but it requires an individual effort in four key areas to become Biblically Literate.
First, you absolutely must begin a daily, private devotional Bible reading. I cannot emphasize this fact enough as it is the bedrock upon which your understanding of God’s word will be constructed. Psalm 1:1-3 and Psalm 119:97-104 tell us to “meditate on God’s Law day and night”. A systematic practice of prayerful Bible reading as part of a daily devotional will bring a person closer to God, gradually increase one’s understanding of the Word of God, and will offer strength, comfort, and hope that only the Scriptures can truly provide. Are you willing to do your part, every day, in stamping out Biblical Illiteracy?
Second, you must seek out frequent in-depth Bible study with others. Hebrews explains to us here and here that the faithful Christian realizes the value of mutual edification. Most churches offer many opportunities for Christians to study together. This could be anything from small groups in a person’s home, to Bible classes at the church on Sundays or through the week. Something where Christians can benefit from the knowledge of other Bible students. Are you willing to faithfully participate in such activities to stamp out Biblical Illiteracy?
Third, parents must accept their God-given responsibility. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 and Ephesians 6:4 make it very clear that God gave the responsibility of spiritual training to the parents. Of course, the church provides assistance with children’s classes but parents should not abdicate their responsibility to the church. Additionally, parents should be very much involved in the teaching programs of any church. Are you willing to accept your parental duties to stamp out Biblical Illiteracy?
Finally, it’s up to Pastors and preachers to fulfill their duty to the Word. Timothy tells us here and here that preachers are to give heed to the Word, and to preach the Word. Additionally, we should expect preachers to be “men of the Book” preaching and teaching the Word of God and providing exposition of the Scriptures (expository preaching, something severely lacking in the modern church). Especially prevalent in our postmodern Christianity culture, preachers should refrain from entertaining their flock with “pop theology” and “pop psychology“. And on a side note, having your praise band play “Highway to Hell” before your Easter sermon is not an acceptable example of preparing your flock to hear the Good News, it’s blasphemous. Are you willing to require that preachers proclaim the Word to stamp out Biblical Illiteracy?
For the last person still reading this far into the article (hi Mom, again!) I’ll wrap it up by mentioning the encouragement for this article came after reading an article by Dr. Albert Mohler entitled “The Scandal of Biblical Illiteracy: It’s Our Problem“. I thought his concluding paragraphs to be especially on the mark:
“Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy–or too distracted–to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples. We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs.
The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches. This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of Americans–Christians included–will go on thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah lived happily ever after.”
Are we willing to get “deadly serious about the problem of Biblical Illiteracy”? If so, James wisely tells us in the verse with which I began this article, “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21
Read Part II of this series: “The Lost Art of Listening: Hearing From God Part II“