Thursday, January 24, 2013

Because I Said So

     Every child on the planet has probably heard this at one time or another growing up.  And every parent has probably said this in response to the proverbial question:  "why?"  This question is sometimes asked from a sincere heart that is seeking to make sense out of life and certain situations.  But at other times it is projected on authority figures as a challenge to convince them as to "why" they should do what they are told.
     When the question of "why" is followed up by the infamous answer of "because I told you so," this can mean a number of things.  It could mean that the parent doesn't exactly know the answer but wants to be believed nonetheless.  Or maybe it's a lazy excuse for not wanting to take the time to teach or explain something.  Or perhaps it could mean that they want to be obeyed without being questioned altogether.  And then there are those moments when there simply isn't enough time for an explanation just right then.  But sadly enough, the necessary explanation is all-too-often swept under the rug of the next "because I said so."  And the cycle continues...
     Unfortunately, this expression has taught myriads of children that authority figures have no accountability to their subordinates and that blind obedience is expected from those under their control.  My belief is that this mindset has crept into the church.  Many times we are told to do certain things without sound biblical understanding as to "why."  We are commonly told what to do and are often given a particular version of how to do things, but the why is often neglected when a clear explanation is in order.
     Of course the "why" of spiritual obedience should always be substantiated by the Word of God.  Church doctrines (what to believe) and religious traditions (how to do things) carved in the stones of church services and organizational structures are not reason enough to obey.  We need chapter and verse (why).  Anything other than the Word of God which serves as a foundation for what we believe and how we live is a shaky foundation, which is sure to fall under the pressures of life.
      Even Jesus didn't play the "because I said so" card.  He derived his authority from the word of God coming to him from the Father (Matthew 4:4).  In fact, he only spoke what he heard the Father speaking to him.  And he only did what he saw the Father doing.  So when Jesus issued orders to his disciples, he actually did this because he discerned what the Father was saying and doing in their lives, and he wanted them to experience the Father's love.  Jesus then took the time to help them understand some things along the way, but they had a difficult time grasping truth until they received the Holy Spirit later on.
     So the saga continues...  For example, we are told that in order to be good Christians we should read our Bibles every day.  But why?  "Because I said so."  OK, that's not going to cut it anymore.  "Well, because the Bible itself says to."  That's better but really, why should we read the word of God?  What specific purposes should motivate us to study the Scriptures?  And what tangible results should we expect as a result of becoming a diligent student of the Word? 
     Before we look in the Word to answer this question of "why," ponder this for a moment:  believers in the first century by and large DID NOT read their Bibles every day, and yet they experienced exponential spiritual and numerical growth as the gospel was proclaimed in their generation.  You might be scratching your head at this statement, wondering how it could be true.  Allow me to explain.
     For starters, the New Testament was still in the process of being written in the first century and wasn't compiled for quite some time after that.  Secondly, the printing press wasn't invented as of yet, so copies of the Old Testament weren't exactly accessible in their local Christian bookstores.    And thirdly, the vast majority of people in the Roman empire at that time were illiterate, and therefore couldn't read the Bible even if they had one!  For these very reasons, the reading of Scripture took precedence in their public meetings.
     I am not making the case that we don't need to read the Word.  My point is that the early church thrived under the leading of the Spirit despite the lack of the Word's availablilty to them.  With our ability to read and our easy access to the Old and New Testaments, how much more of an impact should we be making in the world in which we live?  
     We have the same Spirit that the early church had, the very Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, and yet our ability to transform our world pales in comparison to the first century believers.  How can this be so?  Now that's a good question that deserves a good answer.  Maybe I'll take a stab at that one later, but for now let's dive into some biblical reasons why every believer should diligently read and study God's Word.

to be continued next week...      

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