fbpx
Learning to Trust (and Love) the Bible

Learning to Trust (and Love) the Bible

My relationship with the Bible has always been one of intense love…and at times almost crippling doubt. And it all began for me with a fairly lukewarm prayer.

Jesus, I’m going to try to take you seriously for a while. As best I can remember, these are the words I prayed down in the basement of my childhood home when I was 18 years old. It wasn’t a very poetic prayer, and it even seems a bit half-hearted, but it was enough. That night Jesus grabbed onto this reluctant convert and nothing for me has been the same since.

That moment set me on a path–a lifelong quest–to learn how to trust and love the Bible.

I’d grown up in church. My dad was a pastor during my formative years. I knew the Bible pretty well, and if we were doing a Bible trivia night, I could dominate. But it wasn’t until that lukewarm prayer that I began to hear God’s voice through its ancient pages. I could see God’s love for me. I could see myself in His words. A life and a love and a joy calling out to me from its pages.

Weird, right? As a senior in high school, unsure of my future, lonely and depressed, God found me and He used His Book to do it.

I couldn’t get enough.
Almost instantly, I couldn’t get enough of this Book. It was like food and I hadn’t eaten for years. I’d read it in the morning before school and at night before bed. Sermons (at Christ Community no less, vintage Pastor Tom) came alive. I began discussing it with friends and a few months later even began leading a Bible study with my peers. 

I wanted to know it and understand it and trust it and obey it and build my life on it. I wanted to know the One who’d made me and there He was on these dusty pages.

But then doubt settled in.
I don’t know if you know this about the Bible, but it is a hard book. Once you start reading (more than just the inspiring soundbite), questions surface. Brutal, sometimes seemingly unanswerable questions. And then, of course, doubt.

The next fall I headed off to Bible college (I told you, I fell hard for this book!), yet the more I studied and read, the more questions I had. In fact, the greatest season of doubt in my life (so far) happened while in Bible college and then seminary. Could I really build my life on a Book so old, so often confusing, so very difficult at times, with so little certainty?

Can we really trust (and love) the Bible?
Well, no surprise, I’m going to say yes. Let me go ahead and name my bias. Big shocker that a pastor says we should trust the Bible. But it has never been easy for me. Doubts still surface. Regularly. As I said, my relationship with the Bible has been one of intense love…and at times almost crippling doubt. To some extent, that remains true today (though thankfully less debilitating).

I know that there is nothing I could say to instantly make you trust and love the Bible. Faith is still required. But I want to share with you why I believe. Or perhaps more importantly, why I keep believing. Why do I keep returning to this beautiful, difficult, mysterious, ancient Book? Here are the three most important reasons for me personally: the person of Jesus, the character of God, and the testimony of its pages.

But first, a few warnings.
This is not meant to be exhaustive and it should be noted that everything here has been the subject of countless blogs and books. There are people smarter than me if you want to dig deeper. I also want to acknowledge that my reasons can easily be questioned. I don’t have any unassailable arguments and some of what I’m going to say is clearly circular in its reasoning. (Trust the Bible because the Bible tells you to trust the Bible–it’s great logic, I know.) 

Here’s the deal. If you don’t want to trust the Bible, there is nothing I can say to convince you. Faith is still required.

That is exactly right. My goal is not to convince those who don’t want to believe but to encourage those who do.

The Bible is a difficult book. It’s ok to admit that. Yet being difficult to understand isn’t the same as being untrustworthy. There is a lot I still don’t understand about the Scriptures, and a few things I just don’t like. But I keep coming back for these three reasons.

  1. The Person of Jesus

Everything in my faith comes down to the person of Jesus. Everything! I answer each of my doubts with this: did Jesus rise from the dead or not? If He didn’t, I’m out. But if He did, everything changes! If Jesus actually rose from the dead that is the most important truth the world has ever known, making Jesus the most important person. You see, one day I’d like to rise from the dead as well. So if He did, I want to hang on every word He said and all He did. 

There is good historical evidence (not just the Bible tells me so) supporting the validity of the resurrection. While much could be said, until someone more compellingly answers the following questions, I will continue to believe Jesus did come out of the grave alive. 

Questions like:

  • Why was the tomb empty and why couldn’t anyone find the body?
  • What about all the eyewitnesses who saw Him alive?
  • If it was a legend, why would the inventors make women (who couldn’t even testify in court in that time period) the first eyewitnesses? And why would you make all the men doubting cowards?
  • How do you explain the transformation of the eyewitness, from doubting cowards in hiding to literal martyrs for their faith that Jesus was alive?
  • Where did the church (and this crazy movement of His followers) come from, in the midst of so much oppression?

If Jesus rose from the dead, then it doesn’t matter if you like what He said or not or whether or not you find Him personally compelling. If He rose from the dead, He wins, and I’m listening.

Jesus believed the Old Testament.
And Jesus believed the Old Testament. I struggle with the Old Testament. I love the stories and poetry, but I find it much harder than the New Testament. Not only did Jesus believe it, He loves it! He quotes it and makes references to it constantly. You can’t even really understand Jesus without understanding the Old Testament.

He said things likeScripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), referring to the Old Testament. In His most famous sermon, considered to be a kind of summary of His main passions, He says: Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18).

He even referred to Himself as the center of the Old Testament Scriptures and the key to their understanding. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… (John 5:39).

...beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself… Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead… (Luke 24:27, 45-46)

The one who defeated death believed, taught, loved, obeyed, and even revealed Himself as the focus and fulfillment of the Old Testament. I’m siding with the One who defeated death—every time.

Jesus commissioned the New Testament (sort of).
It also seems like He commissioned the writing of the New Testament through the work of the Apostles. The people who knew Jesus best were the ones who wrote these things down for us.

Jesus told them: I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you (John 16:12–15).

It is reasonable to believe that Jesus wanted His Apostles to write these things down, and promised that His Spirit would guide them in it.

Jesus reveals the character of God.
Jesus also shows us who God is. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9). And what does Jesus reveal to us about God the Father? 

Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection show us that God wants to rescue. God wants to love and be loved. God wants a really big, beautiful, diverse family. God wants a relationship with His creation. Our God wants to be known. That doesn’t prove He gave us the Bible, but it does give us a motive. Jesus shows us that it is God’s heart to communicate with His people. 

Hebrews begins with these words, making a similar connection: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son… (1:1-2) The Apostle John does the same when He refers to Jesus as the Word of God (John 1).

If God so wants to be known that He would send His own Son, it’s at least plausible that He would find other ways to reveal Himself as well. I trust the Bible because I trust the person of Jesus.

  1. The Character of God

I also trust the Bible because I trust the character of God. Jesus shows us the character of God, but so do the Scriptures. You cannot read the Bible without the overwhelming sense that God wants us to know Him. The reason we exist is to know God and be known by Him. Here are just a few such scriptures:

Exodus 6:6-8: I am the Lord… I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians… I am the Lord. 

Psalm 46:10: Be still, and know that I am God. 

Proverbs 8:17: I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.

John 17:3: And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

Jeremiah says it perhaps most beautifully. What is the most important thing any human can do? Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” (9:23-24)

And what is God’s goal for humanity? I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

God wants to be known. This doesn’t mean the Bible is His Book but it does show us a deep motivation for self-revelation.


God cannot lie.
It’s also important to note here that God cannot lie. He wants to be known and, as God, He has the power and creativity to reveal Himself. But how can we trust Him? We can trust Him because He can only be truthful. He can only be faithful and honest. 

1 Samuel 15:29: The Glory of Israel [meaning God] will not lie.

Numbers 23:19: God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

If God is real and if He wants to be known, He will reveal Himself accurately and honestly. I trust the Bible because I trust the character of God. 

  1. The Testimony of Its Pages

I also trust the Bible because I trust the testimony of its pages. If the Bible is not God’s Word, it is perhaps the most arrogant, self-confident, full-of-itself book ever written.

If it is not God’s Word, it is not just a nice book with nice stories and nice morals. If it is not God’s Word, it is evil, because it claims to hold the very words of God, and to be the greatest, most important, most sacred book ever written. Trust it or trash it.

The claims it makes.
Listen to just a few of its claims:

2 Samuel 7:28: Now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are truth…

2 Samuel 22:31: This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true.

Psalms 12:6: The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.

Psalm 18:30: As for God, His way is blameless; the word of the Lord is tried…

Psalm 19:7: The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.

Proverbs 30:5: Every word of God proves true.

2 Timothy 3:16-17: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 

2 Peter 1:19-21: And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention…knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 

Revelation 22:6: And he said to me, “These words are faithful and true”; and the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must soon take place.

The Story it tells.
The Story it tells also nudges me toward belief. I can’t tell you if its words are true, and perhaps I’m only speaking from my own experience, but the Story of Scripture has a ring of truth about it. Yes, it is easy to get lost in the details or all the individual stories, but when you see its grand narrative, many of our questions and longings find compelling answers. The grand Story can be summed up in four chapters: Creation, Fall, Redemption, New Creation.

Creation. The world had a beginning. It was made with purpose and significance, with humans made in the image of God. Regardless of what you believe about how or when God made the world, the fact that He made it answers so many questions. It compellingly explains why we live as if our lives matter, why beauty touches us so deeply, why love and relationships are so essential, and why, even now in the 21st Century, we just can’t seem to shake our longing for a Maker. The Bible shows us how we were created with these things in mind.

Fall. But everything is broken. We hurt the people we love. We run from God. We choose self-destructive paths. We break the things we touch. And despite all our effort, we can’t fix it. Then add to that cancer, viruses, tornados, infertility, pain in childbirth, loneliness, depression, anxiety, terrorism, war, racism, trafficking, and eventually death. We know in our bones the world shouldn’t be this way. The Bible tells us why.

Redemption. Yet we long for things to be better, and we work to that end. We strive toward self-improvement and we long for it in the people we love. We celebrate stories of forgiveness and reconciliation, rescue and redemption. These things are hard-wired into us by a God who offers them to us, and we see them on display through the climax of this Story in His Son. The Bible explains these longings.

New Creation. One day things will finally and completely be made whole. We want utopia. We want to live forever. We want to be reunited with the people we’ve lost. We want to see God. All these longings find fulfillment in the Story of Scripture.

No, none of this proves the Bible is true or that this grand narrative is the narrative we’re living. Yet, it gives me just one more piece of confidence in believing. It tells a compelling Story.

The way it speaks.
And if you thought that last point was too subjective, you’ll hate this one.

The way this Book speaks to my heart reinforces its veracity. When I read it I can almost hear God’s voice. I feel comforted in my heartache, convicted of my sin, and exposed at my deepest level. I don’t just read this Book. It reads me! It knows me and speaks directly to me. I trust the Bible because I trust the testimony of its pages. 

So what now?
So what are we supposed to do with all this? I want to end with three action steps.

  1. Bring Him your doubts

First, bring God your doubts. I know I didn’t answer your questions and I realize there are fair reasons to doubt the Scriptures. Don’t sweep your doubts under the rug. Take your doubts seriously enough to look into them.

Sometimes people say things like “the Bible is full of contradictions” without actually looking at any supposed contradictions. Or sometimes we reject the Scriptures not because of any logical argument, but simply because we don’t like what it says. I don’t want to obey this so it must not be true. There are also times when we assume the Bible must be false simply because we haven’t taken the time to properly understand it in its cultural context.

Instead, take your doubts seriously enough to do some of the work to really understand. I discovered early on that many of my doubts had more to do with a lack of understanding or an unquestioning loyalty to my own cultural assumptions than with anything inherent in the text. Do the work. Bring Him your doubts.

  1. Trust that God knows better

Second, in all matters, trust that God knows better. Easier said than done I know, but if God has spoken, trust that He has spoken for our good. His Word is for your good. I love how the statement of faith for our denomination the Evangelical Free Church of America summarizes what we believe about the Scriptures. Pay close attention to how it ends.

We believe that God has spoken in the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments, through the words of human authors. As the verbally inspired Word of God, the Bible is without error in the original writings, the complete revelation of His will for salvation, and the ultimate authority by which every realm of human knowledge and endeavor should be judged. Therefore, it is to be believed in all that it teaches, obeyed in all that it requires, and trusted in all that it promises.

Believed, obeyed, and trusted. Not just read or studied or proclaimed, as important as those things are.

Jesus said: Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:24-27)

Trust these words. Obey them. Build your life upon them. They are for you from God. Trust that He knows better.

  1. Make this Book your food

And finally, eat this Book! Make it your food. It is strange to me how regularly the Bible refers to itself as a kind of food, sweeter than the best dessert and more satisfying than the richest feast. For Jesus while fasting even chose God’s Word over bread. He said, quoting the Old Testament: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).

 So eat up, Church! Read it regularly and systematically. Memorize it and meditate upon it. Learn to study it and dig deeply into it. Know it so that you can trust it, love it, obey it, and build your life upon it.

Where else can we go?
I love this Book and I want you to love it too. It has been twenty-three years since that half-hearted prayer in my parent’s basement. Twenty-three years and I still feel like I’m just barely at the beginning, still struggling, still doubting, but still growing.

Whenever I’m wrestling with my faith (which is more often than I care to admit) I often think of one of my favorite stories from the Gospels. Jesus was at the height of his popularity but then preached a really hard sermon. After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…” (John 6:66-69).

I often feel like Peter. For I am often burdened by doubt and unanswered questions, tempted, like the crowds, to walk away. But where would I go? Jesus has the words of eternal life! So here I am, learning to trust (and love) the Bible.

Opening More than Open Here

Opening More than Open Here

From the beginning, Christ Community has sought to not only share information about Jesus but also be a catalyst in spiritual formation toward Christlikeness. Core to our DNA is the longing to multiply whole disciples, not just inform the masses. 

Open Here has been a helpful tool for church-wide discipleship into the habit of daily Bible reading for the last several years. The purpose has never been about content or quantity (though those are important), but to form a spiritual habit.

Why focus on the habit of Bible reading? We believe that reading the Bible daily is an astounding place to glean truthful information. The Bible informs God’s people (John 17:8), and we want to know who God is and what He has done through His son Jesus.

In addition to being a source of truth, we believe the Bible sanctifies God’s people, or grows us in godliness (John 17:17). More pointedly, the time spent in consistent Bible reading is where the Holy Spirit goes about His work of transformation. We see how the Bible powerfully transforms God’s people (Ezekiel 37:1-8) into more whole and holy people, and we want to dwell in the source of His transformation.

Needless to say, we love the Bible at Christ Community, but our hunger to grow in Christlikeness and equip our church to do so together has sparked a desire to expand our focus into additional disciplines. We want to grow in prayer, fasting, meditation, and more! The spiritual habit of reading the Bible, while extremely important, is not to be the only spiritual habit in the lives of Jesus’ apprentices. 

Therefore, the month of December is the last Open Here Bible reading plan. While that will no longer be a resource we provide, our goal of spiritual formation will take on new life. We are hard at work creating a new resource that still engages the Bible, but will also further equip our church with a more robust list of spiritual habits informed by Jesus. 

We are excited about who God is forming us to be as a church together. Head over to theFormed.life to sign up for this new resource. We believe it will help us all become more formed into a people like Jesus. 

If you would still like to follow a Bible reading plan, here are a few exceptional options to consider for the new year:

  1. The Bible Recap
    The Bible Recap “Chronological” reading plan follows the story of Scripture as the events occurred. This one-year plan corresponds to The Bible Recap podcast (available wherever you listen to podcasts). We recommend listening to the corresponding podcast episode after you do each day’s reading.
  2. Read through the Bible Chronologically
    The Blue Letter Bible “Chronological” plan is compiled according to recent historical research, taking into account the order in which the recorded events actually occurred. This is a fantastic plan to follow if you wish to add historical context to your reading of the Bible. If the schedule provided is followed, the entire Bible will be read in one calendar year.
  3. Read through the Bible Canonically (as laid out in most English Bibles)
    The Blue Letter Bible “Canonical” plan goes straight through the Bible — from Genesis to Revelation. You will be supplied with reading for each day of the week as a steady guide toward finishing the entire Bible in one calendar year.
YouTube – Staff Recommendations

YouTube – Staff Recommendations

YouTube. Did you know that 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute worldwide! That’s a staggering amount of data. And 67% of people believe they can learn anything they need to know on YouTube. Anything from how to be a better parent, to how to build a better pizza. With all that content, how do you find ‘the good stuff’? How do you find something worthwhile to watch? 

While our campus pastors may not be YouTube aficionados, we did coax them into sharing a few of their favorite YouTube recommendations and videos with us to help us cut through the clutter. Enjoy these YouTube picks, then share with us a few of your favorites as well. 

Bill Gorman – Brookside Campus 

One of my favorite new artists is Jon Guerra and the visual version of his album KEEPER OF DAYS has been a regular YouTube companion for the past few months. The album offers an eclectic mix of musical styles combined with deeply thoughtful and scripture-saturated lyrics. My favorite tracks are “Hiding Lord,” “Tightrope,” “Citizens,” and “Prettier Than Solomon.”

Gabe Coyle – Downtown Campus

Sometimes we just need to laugh. It’s good for the heart and the body. And I have to say that KEVIN JAMES’ YouTube CHANNEL has been the place I go to just laugh. My favorites are the Sound Guy episodes where he splices himself into movies. So good. 

Andrew Jones – Leawood Campus

This one is easy for me. I don’t rewatch ANYTHING on YouTube like I rewatch Tim Keller’s recent (2017) lecture at Princeton Seminary called, “ANSWERING LESSLIE NEWBIGIN.” I don’t know if I have heard a clearer summary of the church’s mission to encounter and transform western culture than this. I have found it both timely and timeless. If that sounds too intense, I recommend rewatching the Chiefs Super Bowl win and/or the Royals World Series game 7. 

Reid Kapple – Olathe Campus

One of my favorite channels is SCARY POCKETS. They do some incredible funk and groove covers of modern pop music. Their cover of Hanson’s hauntingly catchy song MMMBop is just gold!

The TEN MINUTE BIBLE HOUR has been a recent discovery for me. Matt Whitman is an evangelical Christian who visits and learns about various denominations and traditions within Christianity. He tours and interviews different ministers, pastors, and priests to discover what we all share in common and where we differ in theology, worship, and practice.

Shawnee Campus

My seminary education took countless hours of reading, studying, reflecting and sitting in class. It turns out I could have just subscribed to THE BIBLE PROJECT YouTube. Their videos are theologically rich, visually engaging and memorable. In seriousness, I would never trade my seminary education in for some YouTube videos, but if I had to, The Bible Project would be my choice.

Better to Read the Bible Every Day than Every Year

Better to Read the Bible Every Day than Every Year

Have you ever attempted to read the entire Bible in a year? There are lots of great plans out there that can help you do this. Two of my favorites are the Read Scripture plan from The Bible Project and the Robert Murray M’Cheyne plan. 

If you’ve never read the entire Bible before, it’s a great thing to do. We believe that ALL of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments are “God-breathed,” inspired by the Holy Spirit. If you haven’t had the joy reading all those God-breathed words at some point in your life, you’re missing out.

However, sometimes attempts to read the Bible in 365 days leave us feeling hurried in our reading or frustrated when we fall behind. 

This is why it is better to read the Bible every day than every year. Reading the Bible in a year is a goal. Reading the Bible every day is a habit

In the end, our habits shape us more than our goals. Indeed, it is our habits that ultimately enable and empower us to reach our goals. This is how James Clear, author of Atomic Habits and one of the best contemporary writers on the topic of habits, puts it:

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results. 

What if this year you gave your greatest energy not to getting through the entire Bible, but in establishing a habit, a system, a routine of reading the Bible every day? No matter what. Come hell or high water. (Do people still use that expression?) You read the Bible every day. 

The Bible is mediation literature. Read it every day, and soak in it. Reflect on Psalm 1. 

1 How happy is the one who does not

walk in the advice of the wicked

or stand in the pathway with sinners

or sit in the company of mockers!

2 Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,

and he meditates on it day and night.

3 He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams

that bears its fruit in its season

and whose leaf does not wither.

Whatever he does prospers.

4 The wicked are not like this;

instead, they are like chaff that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand up in the judgment,

nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

6 For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked leads to ruin.

Be like a tree this year—read the Bible every day—see how long you can keep the streak going. Worry less about completing a certain amount of reading. Instead, focus on establishing the habit of reading. 

If you happen to read the Bible in a year because you installed the habit of reading the Bible every day, that’s wonderful. But even if you don’t read the whole Bible this year, I can promise you that if you read it everyday—with a posture of seeking to know, love, and obey Jesus—your life will change. 

The change will probably be imperceptible at first. But it will happen. And you will find deeper joy as the roots of your life soak up the nurshing, refreshing, fruit-enabling waters of the Word. 

Take the Next Step

If you’re looking to start this habit but don’t know where to start in your Bible or what to read each day, Christ Community’s Open Here reading plan is a great place to start. It gives you a short passage to read each day that relates to the current sermon series.

I Can’t Breathe: George Floyd, the Gospel, and Our Response

I Can’t Breathe: George Floyd, the Gospel, and Our Response

With the events of the past two weeks, I have been asked on numerous occasions to give my reflections and while I do have some thoughts, no one has better articulated the moment we are in than my friend Chris Brooks. Chris is not only an outstanding pastor in the Detroit area, he also serves on the board of Made to Flourish. I am grateful Chris has given his permission to repost the blog he recently wrote to his church family.  – Tom Nelson


By Chris Brooks – Senior Pastor – Woodside Bible Church

Yesterday, I lost my breath! My breathlessness came because of watching the now viral video of a man gasping for the desperately needed air his lungs begged for. He pleaded with the police officer whose knee was crushing his windpipe as he moaned out the words, “I can’t breathe”. These are infamous and haunting words for African Americans who became all too familiar with this painful phrase as we watched the killing of Eric Gardner by New York City police in 2015. The echo of this refrain acts as a dying man’s declaration of his demise at the hands of those who cared more about administrative procedure than his asphyxiation. These three grievous words, “I can’t breathe,” also stand as damning evidence of a generation’s lack of basic human decency towards those who are all too often misunderstood, mislabeled, and marginalized. These are words we hoped we would never hear again, yet the pain they bring came rushing back into our souls yesterday as we saw, through tear-filled eyes, the killing of Mr. George Floyd.

These types of horrific events trigger fear, pain, anger, and distrust in the hearts of ethnic minorities. Those who personally identify with the social situation that created the conditions for the death of Mr. George Floyd are left feeling vulnerable and afraid. Unfortunately, the psychological stress produced from seeing a man slowly die as he agonizes and helplessly cries out for his life is only exasperated when minorities look to their spiritual families and local churches for comfort. Too often they find deafening silence or even worse, a voice of rebuke from Church members who feel it’s out of place for them to express their lament. To affirm Christian love and the solidarity Christ prayed would mark His Church (John 17:20–23), we must give voice to these undeniable injustices.

Our acknowledgment must transcend the social scientists and cultural commentators of our day. Our critique must rise to the level of the Gospel.

This is true precisely because we are Gospel people, and this is a Gospel issue. Injustice is always a matter of the Gospel revealing our blind spots and exposing our theological deficiencies. The holes in our Gospel can only be remedied in Christ as we have our hearts reformed by His Word and filled with His grace. Considering this, I suggest there are three Gospel truths Christians should address when considering the killing of Mr. George Floyd.

Three Gospel Truths Christians Should Address

1. We do not believe in Moralistic Evolution.

While most people may not be familiar with the term and corresponding tenants of moralistic evolution, our society has been deeply impacted by its beliefs. Darwinism has long been the accepted and, in the minds of many, unquestioned worldview of the academy. Secular humanism ascribes to the belief that humanity improves over time through the process of natural selection. This conviction is also known by the phrase, “the survival of the fittest.” Darwinists champion the hypothesis that genetically, humanity grows stronger as weaker genes are weeded out in favor of more dominant genes, which are then passed from one generation to the next.

When applied to one’s view of ethnicity, Darwinism expresses itself through the claim that weaker races of people are rightfully dominated by stronger ones, thereby improving humanity. Secular biologists, like the outspoken Princeton Professor Peter Singer, unapologetically advance the idea that weaker species lack value and, therefore, deserve to be eliminated by stronger ones who exercise their might. This erroneous and deadly doctrine extends to the field of ethics as well. It is falsely assumed that humanity exists on an invisible, but real, arch of moral improvement as it pertains to our morality.

It has been 45 years since the term “sociobiology” was introduced by E.O. Wilson who suggested “the time has come for ethics to be removed temporarily from the hands of the philosophers and biologicized” (Wilson 1975, 562). His conviction was that humanity evolves morally, thereby forming progressively more just societies by weeding out detrimental ethics in exchange for behaviors that increase the common good. According to the proponents of moralistic evolution, these superior behaviors are codified and agreed upon through some form of an assumed social contract. Under this contract, societies of people agree to do away with actions that bring harm to one another in exchange for a morality preserving their collective futures. The central tenant of moralistic evolution is that each successive generation, guided solely by the forces of biology, becomes morally superior to their predecessors. However, this assumption has one major problem. The evidence does not support it. We need look no further than the genocides of the 20th century around the world, the Jewish Holocaust in Europe, and the rise of racism in our own country to see the truth. From the institution of Jim Crow, which marked the American Bible Belt just a generation ago, to the present-day increase in the number of hate crimes and racialized hate groups, the truth sits plainly before our eyes. The murder of Mr. George Floyd is simply the latest of these atrocities.

Sadly, the reach of moralistic evolution has crept into the Church in many ways, especially as it pertains to the inconvenient sins of racism and discrimination. Many within the Church assume somehow our society is growing more morally fit and racism is decreasing. However, the message of Scripture is consistent concerning the heart condition of each generation of humanity. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” As Christians, we can not ascribe to the social heresy of moralistic evolution. The Bible’s indictment over the wickedness of our hearts is not simply a matter of concern within the Torah or the Old Testament. Our eschatology (the theology concerning death, judgement, and the final destiny of humankind) is also informed by the Apostle Paul’s concern over the corrupted nature of the human heart. He expressed this concern in a letter to Timothy:

“Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”
2 Timothy 3:1–5

The sin of racism is just as rampant and vile today as it has always been. The only unique reality for our generation is this evil is now being recorded and spread virally through the powerful platform of social media. The Gospel, which is the only cure for these forms of discrimination and injustice, is just as needed today as ever.

Without the transforming grace of Christ at work in our lives, we are no less bigoted, racist, or prejudiced than our ancestors.

So, the Church must not fall prey to thinking that racial discrimination is a thing of the past. The killing of Mr. George Floyd is a tragic reminder racism is a current and present danger.

2. We must continue to acknowledge that the Homogeneous Unit Principle has done much damage to our witness and renders many churches powerless for addressing injustices.

I realize the Homogeneous Unit Principle (HUP) is a theological term foreign to most, but its practical impact on the Western Church is enormous. Popularized in the 1970s, HUP became the driving theory behind the Church Growth movement. The pragmatic underpinnings of HUP were simple yet effective. Proponents argued the best way to grow a church numerically was to create spiritual communities marked by commonality and not diversity. Many Missiologists of that time adopted the belief that evangelism was most effective when people were not forced to cross ethnic, linguistic, or cultural barriers. It was theorized that the more diverse the environment, the slower the growth and the fewer number of conversions. HUP was applied by church planters with wild numerical success.

Sadly, a generation of churches were born that neither reflected the demographics of their community nor were in touch with the concerns of those outside their socioeconomic world. The problem again is that HUP is not the Gospel. Thankfully, groups like the Lausanne Movement (1977), which was co-founded by evangelists Billy Graham and John Stott for the purpose of advancing the global spread of the Gospel, began to confront and condemn HUP as a practice. The Pasadena Coalition, as they were then called, noted that from the beginning the Church was intended by Christ to be multi-ethnic and culturally diverse.

Revelation 7:9 declares,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.”

This beautiful mosaic is the picture Christ wants his Church to reflect as we focus on multiplying disciples, leaving the numerical growth of the Church in the hands of Christ and not in the hands of pragmatists. It is through the natural and healthy tensions that arise from living in a loving, Gospel-centered local church, with other believers who come from a different socioeconomic reality than us, that we develop the spiritual muscles needed to address the structural injustices in our society. Christ intends for the Church to be diverse, even if it means exchanging short-term and sometimes shallow numerical growth for a greater depth of spiritual maturity as we become disciples who make and multiply other disciples.

3. We must extend our commitment to the sanctity of life to marginalized adults.

My wife and I are passionately Pro-Life. It is this conviction that has led us to become foster and adoptive parents. As we do our part in defending the rights that come along with the personhood of the unborn, we have become unapologetic and outspoken advocates. Over the years we have also immersed ourselves into the Right to Life community. We joyfully and financially support the courageous, gospel work of Pregnancy Resource Centers. I know firsthand the blessing of sharing my faith with hurting young moms and dads as they stand outside an abortion clinic just steps away from making an unalterable decision that will damage their souls and destroy the life of their precious baby. For my wife and I, all our Pro-Life passion is rooted in God’s inerrant word. We wholeheartedly believe Scripture affirms each person is a unique and special creation of God. As early as Genesis 1:26 we are told people are made in God’s image and after His likeness. Scripture never shies away from the teaching that life begins at conception. The words of Jeremiah 1:5 burn deeply in our hearts,

“Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart…”

However, it is equally important for us to affirm God loves and identifies with the marginalized adults in our community as much as He does the unborn in their mother’s womb. The Prophet Isaiah instructs God’s people to, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.” In Proverbs we are given guidance for what it means to live a life that honors God and invokes his blessing. Proverbs 31:8–9 tells us that in part, living in reverence and honor of God means we obey the instruction to, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” By all measure Mr. George Floyd was a member of the group that Proverbs 31:8–9 has in mind.

Mr. George Floyd deserved to breathe!

He was a man who was made in the image of God. No doubt he was marred by imperfections, like all of us, but he was worthy of dignity.

This is why I refer to him with the prefix “Mr.” It is my way of bestowing upon him the respect he should have received as he lied under the pressing knee of pain, gasping for breath, and calling for out mercy. Jesus died for his sins! This is precisely the point. Ultimately, the mercy and grace he was looking for is found in Christ alone.

But we have the responsibility to give voice to the voiceless. We must declare to the world that his value in the eyes of God was unquestioned. No matter his past or present condition, Mr. George Floyd deserved to breathe! It is not until we rid ourselves of the deficiencies of our theology that we will be able to honor his life by helping others who live in the fear that they or their sons, brothers, or fathers might be next. Breathe the fresh air of justice both in this life and the life to come!

[vcex_divider color=”#dddddd” width=”100%” height=”1px” margin_top=”20″ margin_bottom=”20″]

Written by: Chris Brooks, Senior Pastor of Woodside Bible Church
Published by Woodside Bible Church, 

Wilson, E.O. (1975). Sociobiology: The new synthesis. Harvard University

Do You Know How Satan Works?

Do You Know How Satan Works?

Having an awareness and knowledge of Satan’s work is vital for Christians. In his latest book, Against the Darkness: The Doctrine of Angels, Satan, and Demons, theologian Graham Cole argues that given the increasing secular cultural context in which many western Christians live, this awareness is difficult. Citing the work of Harry Blamires who was writing in the mid-1960s, Cole explains the “defining characteristics” of the Christian mind:

In a classic work about the loss of the Christian mind to secular thinking, Harry Blamires articulates the defining characteristics of the Christian mind in terms of its supernatural orientation, its conception of truth, its acceptance of authority, its concern for the person, and its sacramental cast (“sacramental” broadly understood) (Cole, Against the Darkness, 106).

Restoring and maintaining this supernatural orientation of Christian thinking is a necessary element in understanding and practicing the way of Jesus. To help us in this restoration and maintenance, Cole takes us to the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church and points out four key passages that address Satan and his works. 

2 Corinthians 2:10-12

First, Paul states that he knows, that is, he is not ignorant of Satan’s designs (lit. “thoughts”). 

“Anyone whom you forgive, I also forgive. Indeed, what I have forgiven, if I have forgiven anything, has been for your sake in the presence of Christ, so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.” (2 Corinthians 2:10–11 ESV)

A couple of key observations. One, it is very possible for us—even as Christians—to be “outwitted by Satan.” Two, the outwitting that Satan does can be in the area of unforgiveness. Cole writes, “The devil attacks in the realm of the interpersonal. Without forgiveness, relationships that have broken or strained cannot even begin to be repaired” (Cole, Against the Darkness, 106). 

2 Corinthians 4:3-5

The second passage Cole highlights is 2 Cor 4:3-5 where Paul refers to Satan as the “god of this world” (or “god of this age” NIV).

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (2 Corinthians 4:3–5 ESV)

Another way that the Evil One is at work is blinding those who have not believed. They are not seeing, understanding, receiving, and giving their allegiance to Jesus and the good news He proclaimed. Cole points out that Paul doesn’t explain how this blinding happens, but highlights that it is significant that Paul calls attention to the “mind” rather than the emotions as the location of the blinding (see Cole, 107).

2 Corinthians 11:2-3

Third, Cole draws our attention to 2 Cor 11:2-3. Here Paul uses the metaphor of marriage. The Corinthian church is like a bride engaged to Jesus, but Paul is worried that they are straying to another lover.

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:2–3 ESV)

Cole notes that drawing away happens when false teachers and Satan present themselves to believers as “angels of light.” They seem to be teaching something true and good and beautiful when, in fact, it is actually something false and bad and ugly (see 2 Cor 11:13-15). Once again, notice that it is our “thoughts” that are in view as the realm of the deception. 

2 Corinthians 12:7

The final passage Cole looks at is 2 Cor 12:7 where Paul makes it clear that Satan can afflict not only the mind but also the body. 

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” (2 Corinthians 12:7 ESV)

Paul here is writing about his own personal experience with a bodily ailment of some kind and he describes it as “a messenger of Satan.” Paul never tells the exact nature of this physical ailment, but whatever it was, Paul understood God had allowed it in his life to keep him humble and dependent on God. Now does this mean that every cold or hangnail has a direct Satanic origin? No. But it does remind us that Satan can be at work not just in the “immaterial” realm but in the material also, including our bodies. What is key to remember though, is that Paul says the “thorn was given.” The question is who gave it? Most commentators argue (I think rightly) that God is the one who gave it, which means that even though Satan is at work, he is not doing so outside the control and sovereignty of God. 

Do not be unaware

As Christians living in the late modern world of the West, everything in the broader social imagination of culture pushes us to dismiss the supernatural (if we even think about the supernatural at all). Paul’s reminders here in 2 Corinthians are an encouragement to us to break out of that narrow, thin description of the world and into a deeper richer understanding of the creation we inhabit. One that includes a supernatural, personal, evil Satan, who Cole calls “the malevolent spoiler.” May we not be unaware of the Spoiler’s schemes. May we meet those schemes with the truth of God’s word, and in the confidence that the Enemy we face, while powerful, is ultimately defeated.