Thump It Up

Bible thumpers don’t win popularity contests: Those overzealous, tract-pushing, MC900292944Jesus-this Jesus-that talkers, who annoy us with their constant efforts at turning every conversation into mini sermons.

As I led my family through reading Claiming Christ, we came across a set of Bible verses that raised this issue. Here, let me show you by “thumping” the following directive:

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.” (Heb 3:12-14)

You’ve got to be kidding! “You must warn each other every day”? But I’ve always made fun of Bible thumpers, and now I’m being told that God wants me to become one?

There has got to be an exception to this. If I go to those around me and daily start warning them of concerns about being deceived by sin or of striving to stay faithful to Christ, I’m going to be rejected and laughed at. I’m going to become one of those weirdos.

Why God? Why me?

Thump, Thump. Because to not do so is to confirm that you are not a follower of Jesus.

“Such people claim they know God, but they deny him by the way they live. They are detestable and disobedient, worthless for doing anything good.” (Tit 1:16)

But maybe I don’t have to be like that. I’m not good at evangelism. I’m not good at speaking. Send someone else.

While many are making excuses for why this doesn’t apply to them, for those who have shut their hole long enough to humbly listen to the voice of God:

“Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.” (Mt 10:32-33)

Thump, Thump.

Some carry signs along street corners. Some hand out tracts at bus stations or shopping malls. Some confront friends whenever certain behaviors raise concerns. Some have a daily pattern of sharing the gospel, including the distasteful aspect of our sinful human tendencies. Some look for ways of bringing Jesus into conversations with anyone who will listen.

Some claim to know God…and they actually do know him, as demonstrated by the way they live.

Few do it just like others, for there is great latitude in sharing the gospel with others. The real question is not what method is best, but are you doing it?

Thump, Thump.

The label may carry negative connotations to those with more in common with the Accuser-of-the-brethren, but are you proud to be a Bible thumper?

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About grahamAlive

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4 Responses to Thump It Up

  1. Richard Elfers says:

    Kevin,

    Yes, we need to look out for our brothers in Christ, but we’re also supposed to be paracletes–encouraging and comforting others. I have found encouragement is a far more effective way to bring about change than pointing out failures.

    I’ve got a “Bible thumping” brother who, though retired still does campus ministry in Cheney. On occasion he has come on too strong in following that Scripture too strictly to the point of making me gag. In his past he has made me feel angry by his constant correcting of perceived sins, that he has a greater understanding of what it means to be a Christian than I do. I found his approach insulting and legalistic.

    One can be turned off to such an approach–and to the Gospel if the approach is too strong. Jesus said in John 3 that he did not come to condemn the world, but to save it.

    I’m convinced that many people have turned away from organized religion because of the religious right forcing/pushing their views at people–being “bible thumpers”. As Paul said, “He who strives for the mastery is moderate in all things.”

    My mental picture of what you mean by your words makes me cringe based upon my experience with my brother. Every opinion he didn’t agree with came back as a judgment against any opinion that did not fit with his narrow views of Scripture. I found it hard to talk with him about any controversial issue or even noncontroversial one because of his strong black and white views.

    The heart of Scripture is building relationships with God and humans through prayer and bible study and fellowship. Part of the fruit of the spirit is gentleness. Your blog didn’t come across with much of that. God doesn’t zap us for our every sin and failure. He’s kind and works with us over a lifetime. You don’t correct your children as strongly as your article came across. I’ve seen you be very gentle and kind to them. Shouldn’t that be how the Scripture you used be looked at?

    I don’t know if you intended it that way, and maybe it is my past experiences, but your blog seemed really strong to me. Perhaps, am I am doing what the Scripture intended–seeking mastery through moderation? Don’t forget I Corinthians 13 is also a model of how we are to treat others. Your scripture should be tempered with the love chapter.

    Thoughtfully in Christ, Rich

  2. grahamAlive says:

    Hi Rich,

    I appreciate your willingness to challenge me on such things. I think that is the kind of thing that demonstrates the point (a willingness to “thump” back).

    I have also experienced people who have pushed harder than I thought was wise, but I think you are missing something. Every one of the verses you cited are anecdotal to the issue. Not one was written in the specific context of evangelism. You may have ignored the verse as it was stated and appear to have elevated your own preference rather than acknowledged the truth as stated in that verse. I was not suggesting anything other than what was written by the Holy Spirit. And I was not condoning all methods of Bible thumping–I fully recognize that there are abuses out there.

    Yes, I agree that love needs to be at the forefront, but that was not the issue being addressed in the post. The issue was whether or not we are doing what it says, not about the motive or the method.

    Encouragement was part of that verse, but so was something else that you appear to be subordinating as less important. Perhaps that is why Proverbs says that it is a wise man (and a rare one) that both listens to rebuke and expresses appreciation for the concern.

    My intent is always to present Scripture accurately, but it was also to stir the thoughts a bit. Even in our Christian thinking, we are often biased by secular humanism more than the pure word of God. We lean toward what makes us comfortable rather than what God says is right. In fact, it is common for people to dismiss the power of the actual words of God, in favor of stories and paraphrases. I find that shameful. There is no greater gift that we can give than the very words of God. We display it with love, but our love does not transform like the word of God itself. The word of God is Spirit and Life.

    Personally, I find that most resistance to what is often denounced as Bible thumping is the same spirit shown by Israel at the presence of God on Mt Sinai: keep God away from us or we will die. And so it continues: Keep the Bible, and quotes from it, away from us or we will be offended.

    There are those who share the gospel with little skill and even with offense at times, but in my opinion that is a fractional issue compared to the volume of rejection by many, including many so-called-Christians at holding out the word (Phi 2:16). Far more people refrain from doing what that verse in Hebrews pleads for, compared to those very few, albeit “broken” individuals who are at least trying to openly share the gospel as commanded. God calls the weak, and so it should be no surprise that many of us inadvertently offend at times. Those mistakes should be corrected, but never should we stop promoting the Bible or what it says.

    So it is with my underlying verse for my Blog: “Since, then we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men.” (even if they don’t find it comfortable to their personality or calling).

    I would suggest that those who offend on occasion, but are trying to do what God expects, will be blessed; whereas, those who make excuses and claim that they will “encourage” but avoid those awkward interactions, will find themselves with goat tags when standing before Jesus.

    “Therefore say to them, ‘This is the nation that has not obeyed the Lord its God or responded to correction. Truth has perished; it has vanished from their lips.'”

    To those who share only encouraging words, God says: “The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them”. These teachers no longer speak Scripture.

    In response, God declares to the one willing to speak his words, “I will make my words in your mouth a fire and these people the wood it consumes.” That means, we shouldn’t be surprised when the truth offends. Jesus told his disciples to expect the same thing.

    All the prophets of old were told by the people of God to stop speaking God’s words. Should it surprise us that many who claim to be Christians will say the same thing to those who promote Scripture? Some will try to twist the issue to one about method, as if their approach is better, but until they themselves start doing what God instructs and go daily to one another to encourage and to confront sin in each other, their advice is not based on truth.

    “Let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.” Even though many will denounce such efforts as “unloving”.

    “He who speaks, should do so as one speaking the very words of God.” And don’t listen to those who try to turn you away by saying there is a more gentle and loving way if you would stop quoting “the very words of God”.

    They think they have more wisdom on how to share the gospel, but “every man’s own word becomes his oracle and so you distort the words of the living God.”

    “A curse on him who is lax in doing the Lords work.” That work is very clear in the Great Commission and elsewhere, but few take it serious enough to make it a daily pursuit.

    Regarding our ideas of encouragement without correction, as admonished in my quote from Hebrews: “because you encouraged the wicked not to turn from their evil ways and so save their lives, therefore you will no longer….” AND “if you do not dissuade him from his ways…I will hold you accountable for his blood.”

    So, when you are brought before authorities and one another, don’t try and figure out your own words, for it will be given to you what to say, for it will be God himself speaking his own words through you. And if they don’t like it, do it anyway.

    Yes with love, but not with with world’s idea of smarmy love, for “this is love for God: to obey his commands.”

    “Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture”. So help me God!

    I hope and pray that the Post will ring true as a wake up call. But I recognize it may also just make some people upset. And I do find that disappointing.

    As always, thanks again my friend for engaging with me in trying to honor our Lord in all things.

    In Him,

    Kevin Graham

    http://www.grahamAlive.com
    grahamAlive.wordpress.com
    facebook.com/pages/GrahamAlive/133754193367733?sk=wall

    Sharing the Light of Christ, one click at a time.

  3. Dena Rootes says:

    May I reply to our earlier communication wherein you forwarded me a copy of “The Judas Complex” booklet for review? After reading it, I spent several days thinking about it. I believe the recipients will benefit by what you have to say. One small detail — you might want to change “cheep” to “cheap” where it appears a few times.

    More significantly, I wanted to comment on the idea of restitution (which I find in the Old Testament, but have not seen in the New…). I understand that you want to show both the spiritual rebirth and give examples of the physical, practical, daily living activities. I fear that it will be difficult enough for these men to become productive members of a basically unforgiving society, without the added burden of restitution — at least until they are financially and emotionally established. Plus,would it not be better to place the emphasis on the gracious forgiveness provided by the extraordinary, selfless, merciful and loving sacrifice that Christ made so that we might not be destroyed because of our sins?

    Since you asked for comments, I hope you do not mind hearing these. I have written several pages that I thought to send to you, but thought better of it. Every writer you send your material to will have a different perspective, etc., and so would change your material. I respectfully submit that our focus should be on the magnificent gift of Christ’s sacrifice in our stead. And, yes, some practical skills for returning to daily life — using the fruits of the Holy Spirit to make our choices — figuring out that we cannot return to the same environment we left without causing additional struggles, realizing that we cannot think about the same things we did in the past, and that we must fill our minds with Christ’s mind if we want to successfully follow Him….

    Thank you for this opportunity to communicate with you.

    Kind regards. Keep the faith. Keep challenging us to think.

    Thank you. Dena Rootes

  4. grahamAlive says:

    Thanks Dena for your thoughtful comments.

    I don’t know what it is about that word “cheep” that I keep missing. That same word has pecked at me before. I do the same thing with the word “the”–when I am in speed typing mode, I always seem to type it as “teh”. At least spell check catches that one.

    Great point about restitution. The command is no longer defined specifically for Christians, but the principle remains appropriate. As with many biblical concepts, it is not always easy to convey the distinctions between the simple truth and that which is a matter of spiritual maturing. I tried to make the difference evident by stating something to the effect of “ultimately, the only thing that is necessary for repentance is to accept what Jesus has done for you upon the Cross.”

    The reality is that anything else is a matter of evidence and maturity–something that Jesus defined as so important as to have repeatedly reminded us of what he will respond to anyone who claims faith in him but doesn’t produce maturing fruit in keeping with the work of the Spirit. That distinction can be confusing for many, but it is nonetheless, a teaching of our Lord.

    (This whole idea of former commands that may continue as principles is itself a challenge for many to grasp. Tithing to sacrificial giving is an example; 7th day Sabbath to “resting” in Christ is another; Don’t murder to avoiding anger is another; Fasting from food to fasting for the benefit of others who are in need by what Scripture calls “spending yourself on behalf of” is another great example.)

    This past Sunday, I spent time with a group of inmates discussing the difference between using their jail time as “a wake up call” (as they often call it), and the maturing focus of beginning to think more of others.

    Meditating on our own issues is very necessary, but it is a step of maturing in the Spirit to also consider (and then act upon) the needs of others. Several in the group got the point and were able to comment on how perhaps they ought to start looking for ways to think of how to contribute to easing the struggles of others, both of those around them as well as those whom they have hurt.

    That takes the simple truth, like you well pointed out, of our freedom in Christ, and seeks to apply the comfort we have received to the benefit of others — that is in line with New Covenant restitution, and it develops without a specific command, like it had been under the Mosaic code.

    I think you are right in sensing that some could view restitution as an imposed burden, for which they are ill prepared to shoulder. I will reconsider the wording. I do want to be careful about offering meat to those who are more in need of milk, while at the same time being faithful to speaking the truth and allowing the Spirit to puree it as necessary for each individual.

    Thanks for taking the time to share some of your thoughts.
    Kevin

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