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Greetings All,

Today's 'thoughts' come to you from Steve Dresselhaus - Senior Director of Global Ministries with TEAM - The Evangelical Alliance Mission. They can be found in the mission's magazine: Team Horizons (Volume 7 Issue 1 2012 ), where they are listed as two of the "10 Mission Myth Busters."

One of the TEAM missionary families that is supported by our church ( George and Kim Aguirre, who minister in Umbertide, Italy and whose ministry clips can be seen at: Passionate for Christ In Italy ) gave me a copy of the magazine and I found the two entries very intriguing. Though each statement seems patently true at first, he makes a compelling case for seeing it differently. They offer good food for thought. Enjoy.

MYTH #3: Christians Grow in Maturity by Knowing More About the Bible.

"Isn't this like losing weight by reading diet books? Don't you love curling up next to the fireplace under a warm blanket, a dieting book in one hand and a bag of chips and dip in the other? I can read all the dieting books in the world but unless my behavior changes, I'll eventually end up looking like Jabba the Hut (from Star Wars). The Christian life is supposed to be about obedience, not acquiring knowledge for the sake of acquiring knowledge. Jesus says that if we love him we will obey him. So, unless we are obeying Jesus by putting into practice what we learn, don't we run the risk of becoming hearers only and not doers of the word? Worse yet, at some point, if all we do is acquire Biblical knowledge, won't we become like the bad guys in II Timothy 3:7, 'Always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth'?

I've been a Christian for a lot of years. I calculate I've heard upwards of 8,000 sermons and Bible studies, read several hundred Christian books, read my Bible on at least 15,000 days (I missed out on several years, but that is a different story), listened to Christian radio, and sung 10's of thousands of Christian songs. I've even been to Bible school and seminary. With all that information and knowledge floating around in my head, I reckon I should be pretty close to perfect. But I'm not. I'm not even close -- in spite of all I know.

I doubt God will one day say to me: 'Congratulations on your factual knowledge of the Bible. You scored in the 98th percentile on the written portion of Heaven's entrance exam.' What I'm going to hear -- what I'd really, really like to hear -- is, 'Well done, good and faithful servant.' The myth about growing in maturity simply because we know more about the Bible: busted -- big time!"

I sooooo have to agree! The older I get and the longer I walk with Christ the more I see that maturity is directly linked with doing what the Bible says and not simply knowing what the Bible says -- or even teaching what the Bible says! And that's a hard one to swallow as a preacher who goes into a classroom and pulpit nearly every Sunday (and many Wednesday's and other times of the week as well -- and has for nearly 26 years!) to disseminate biblical instruction to the flock -- biblical knowledge.

Yet, if I or my flock does not then take the information and knowledge given and put it into practice -- if all I or they do is study and listen and learn and gain more information to store it away in the "biblical knowledge file" of our brains -- it has done little or nothing to mature us. In reality, information only really becomes internalized in us as it is put into action on a regular basis. We grow and mature as we do.

It is not true (as I heard one seminar speaker say): "When people are taught what is right, they will do what is right." Maybe in a perfect world! Maybe in a world where there is no sin! But not in the this world where 'the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life" -- need I mention Satan -- oppose us at every step. In fact, only as we obey what God says in His word can we even come to truly understand many of the passages of Scripture we read and study. It's by doing that understanding comes. As Jesus Himself stressed twice in the teaching of the house built upon the rock: "Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock" (Matt. 7:24 and 26). That's the Bible's key to growth and maturity.

MYTH #7: Jesus Told Us to Evangelize Our Neighbor

"Jesus told us to evangelize our neighbor. Right? Of course he did. Well, not exactly. He did tell his disciples and by extension us, to love our neighbor, serve our neighbor, help the poor, heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile and, yes, he did tell us to preach the Good News of the Kingdom. Sooooo... isn't preaching the God News of the Kingdom the same thing as evangelizing? It is, except for the part where it isn't... at least not by our current definitions of evangelism.

The message Jesus told us to preach didn't include the part about his dying for our sins, and his subsequent resurrection from the dead. That came a bit later, and the Apostle Paul certainly affirmed those basic elements of the Gospel in I Corinthians 15. But those essential, vital, indispensable, non-negotiable aspects of our faith had not yet occurred when Jesus sent out the 12 and then the 70 to preach the Good News of the Gospel. They were not preaching and teaching what we do today. When Jesus sent out the original crews of missionaries, he did not instruct them to present 4 or 5 truths and then obligate the person being "evangelized" to make a yes or no, thumbs up or thumbs down decision and then recite a prepackaged prayer of confirmation.

Jesus said that his followers were to obey him and love one anther, and that this love for one another would be their trademark, their identifier. He said that if we love him, we would obey him. But nowhere does Jesus tell us to evangelize our neighbor. He told us to love our neighbor, and when we do that, the powerful tide of God's love through us will touch his or her body, mind and soul."

Some could cite Matthew 28:16-20 as an exception to what he says. But even there the command of Christ is not to evangelize -- at least not in the sense of simply making converts, or people who profess the faith after only hearing a slight Gospel presentation and then praying (as he says) a "prepackaged prayer of confirmation." The command is to make disciples -- and that takes a lot more time and effort (especially when we learn in the very next verse that making disciples means "baptizing them... and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." His command is not simply to know and believe everything Jesus says, but to obey everything Jesus commands.

There it is again. Obeying. Doing. Putting the truth into practice. For if we are not encouraging people to obey what Jesus said (which ifs far different from simply learning what Jesus said) then we are not doing what the Great Commission calls us to do!

Steve's thoughts were a challange to me. In fact, I was up from 3:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. repenting and praying and pledging to do (and not be content simply to know) what the Bible says. Maybe its time for you to pray the same.  In His Service, Pastor Jeff