My People Perish

“They had zeal without full knowledge, hope without understanding, religious practice without clear theology.” ~ J. Julius Scott Jr., Jewish Backgrounds of the New Testament

“My people are destroyed” said God.

While you could say the small prophet Hosea spoke to a different time and people, look around today and you’ll see it is still true. God’s people are destroyed. Beaten back on every front, surrendering left and right the ground of morality and decency and charity. Christian responsibilities co-opted by conniving socio-political systems that seek to enslave through manufactured need rather than free by salvation of the soul.

But why are God’s people destroyed?

It isn’t, as one would gather from visiting churches today and listening to the people and the pastors and reading the glut of how-to-fix-Christianity books, that they lack heart or soul, or truth or depth in their feelings of devotion. It has nothing to do with with a lack of action by them on behalf of the gospel. It isn’t that they are too involved in the culture, and it isn’t that they are too distant from it. It isn’t that they don’t read their bibles, or because they protest at abortion mills. It is not for any of these reasons that God’s people are destroyed.

No, it is because they lack sense. Because they are not intelligent about what it is they believe. God’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.

Passing through a bookstore, do you breeze past the Theology section? Do you see a book titled “Systematic Theology” and your eyes glaze over? Do you come across a difficult section of scripture and you skip past it looking for greener pastures for your soul? Does the thought of countering charges of biblical inconsistency or addressing the basic points the foundational principles behind baptism cause you to shiver? Why is this? Do you fear that you don’t know enough about “those things”, that such things are better left to pastors and some nice but weird people who God has made specially for debating and defending the faith and that scary thing called “Apologetics”?

God may not have called us to defend our faith before a television audience with Larry King. He may not even care whether or not we show up at the local park and talk to strangers about Him. But He wants us to not be destroyed.

We avoid destruction through knowing, first and foremost, what it is we believe. And not in simple Sunday School terms that haven’t advanced since 2nd grade. It is the responsibility of each and every Christian, to the extent of their own ability, to know why they are saved, what they are saved from, who saved them, and how that salvation came to be. For most people, the extent of their own ability is far beyond where they are now.

We avoid destruction through also knowing why it is we believe what we believe. This requires knowledge of the history of the Christian faith. We do not live in the only important time. It is a general fault that the majority of each generation thinks only in terms of their own generation. But the world, humanity, and Christianity are all very much older than any one of us, and are likely to continue on much longer than any one of us. Those troubling issues we deal with today are in no way unique. Brilliant people have struggled and pondered and argued over every nitty-gritty detail of the various ideas that comprise orthodox Christian theology, and there are very good reasons why the most universal and general beliefs of orthodox Christianity are what they are today. Even a little knowledge of how we came to believe what we believe can help defend ourselves against the destruction of predatory and untrue belief systems and cultish ideas.

We avoid destruction, in short, by studying to show ourselves approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Can you rightly handle the word of truth?

I doubt I’ll ever be able to handle the word of truth. But that will not stop me from learning and honing and studying and growing in knowledge so that I may escape destruction.

Hosea 4:4-6
4 Yet let no one contend,
and let none accuse,
for with you is my contention, O priest.
5 You shall stumble by day;
the prophet also shall stumble with you by night;
and I will destroy your mother.
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.

2 Timothy 2:14-19
14 Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. 16 But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene… 19 But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

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