Hearing people say that they believe in God but not the Bible or the church is common because a lot of what believers profess is…well, frankly, offensive.
I was at a fashion party and just felt empty,” Becket Cook said, describing his life as a set designer in fashion, bumping shoulders with supermodels and the socialite elite.
“I had done everything in Hollywood, met everyone, traveled everywhere. Yet I was overwhelmed with emptiness at this party…. I had already been wrestling with questions about the meaning of life, searching for it in all sorts of ways. But I knew God was never an option, because I was gay.”
Six months later, he sat down with his usual cup of coffee and noticed a cluster of young people at a nearby table. Lo and behold, they had physical books in front of them. Did children even read these days?
Becket looked closer and was shocked to realize they were reading Bibles. “I asked what their church believed about homosexuality, and they explained that they believed it is a sin.
“I appreciated their honesty and that they didn’t beat around the bush.”
The Sharp and Thorny Truth
The challenge of being forthright about our beliefs, particularly those that seem antiquated or out of step with modern culture, can be daunting.
“Every generation has had a particular point where the gospel in that culture seems to have a word to say that doesn’t fit within the culture,” Gary Wilkerson points out in his sermon on the Ephesian church and their struggles with the dominant sexual culture of the day.
“It’s the way we handle difficult truths that speaks to the real faithfulness of our commitment to the gospel.”
Protestant Reformation leader, Martin Luther spoke in a similar vein in one of his letters, “ It does not help that one of you would say: ‘I will gladly confess Christ and his Word on every detail, except that I may keep silent about one or two things which my tyrants may not tolerate, such as the form of the Sacraments and the like.’
“For whoever denies Christ in one detail or word has denied the same Christ in that one detail who was denied in all the details, since there is only one Christ in all His words, taken together or individually.”
In order to take God seriously and confess that we believe in him, we have to accept the Bible in its entirety, uncomfortable passages and all.
The Old Testament vs the New Testament
Many of the Old Testament practices are no longer observed by the modern church, and this causes some confusion and skepticism for those who read through the Torah and see all of the instructions God gave the Israelites which we no longer follow.
In the gospels, Jesus explains this by telling everyone that he came to fulfill biblical law and the prophets’ writings (Matthew 5:17-18). Those ancient ceremonies of sacrifice and purity were a shadow of the things to come, namely Christ and his work on earth (Hebrews 10:1-18).
As Paul explains in Galatians 3, goat sacrifices and purification ceremonies are no longer needed for believers imbued with the Holy Spirit.
In many cases, objections to the Old Testament don’t come from carefully studied scripture or difficulties understanding one passage in the context of the whole chapter or book.
In his seminal book, A Case for Christ, Lee Strobel acknowledges the true reasons behind his former mentality toward religion in general and Christianity in particular: “I had read just enough philosophy and history to find support for my skepticism—a fact here, a scientific theory there, a pithy quote, a clever argument.
“Sure, I could see some gaps and inconsistencies, but I had strong motivation to ignore them: a self-serving and immoral lifestyle that I would be compelled to abandon if I were ever to change my views and become a follower of Jesus.”
One vs Many Ways to God
In modern Western culture, it is considered wildly inappropriate to tell people that they can’t choose their own way to God, heaven or a good life.
Society currently embraces diversity—not a bad thing—but with this overarching inclusive mentality has also come a silencing of any commentary on various lifestyle choices or religious beliefs.
Pastor Tim Dilena, World Challenge board-member, discusses this mentality in his sermon about eternity. “When the world criticizes Christianity for endorsing one way to heaven, I ask this, ‘But aren’t you glad there’s at least one way to get to heaven? Aren’t you happy that God didn’t go, “You can’t go to heaven.” God made a way for us!’
“Oh my goodness, and we’re upset because we don’t like the way.
“Let me say it like this. If you were in a burning building, would you refuse to flee because there was only one exit? ’I’m not going through that door if it’s not painted yellow. I’m not doing that. I only go through yellow or fuchsia doors.’
“How ridiculous! So God provides a door, and we’re all ticked off. You know what I believe? If there were a thousand ways to God, we’d want a thousand and one ways to God…because men don’t want simplicity; they want autonomy. We want to decide the way it should be, and you don’t have that right to decide because it’s God’s home…”
Accepting that we don’t get to choose our way to God is a blow to our pride. It means acknowledging that we’re sinful and unable to see truth without God’s view.
The payoff, though, is more than worth the cost.
A God of Sacrifice and Peace
The Bible study Becket Cook stumbled across at his café invited him to church. Becket decided there was no harm in investigating a service. By the end of it, he went forward at the end of the service to receive prayer, a very different man than the one who had entered.
“God had a lot of grace on me the day he saved me. Giving up the gay life wasn’t that difficult; it was actually quite easy. I had just met Jesus and the relationship with him was so overwhelming and wonderful and all-consuming.”
Becket described the relief that he felt no longer under the constant pressure to justify his relationships and choices, first to himself, then to everyone else. The constant, dogged shame had been lifted.
“The gain is this relationship with God through Christ. Eternal life.
“It’s this impenetrable joy because of not only knowing Christ, but knowing the meaning of life—where I came from, what I’m doing, where I’m going. It gives me such peace.”