As Christians, we often have the simplistic opinion that we live by the New Testament and the Jews live by the Old Testament. However, if you were to investigate the Jewish faith, you would discover that their beliefs and practices are not actually formulated from the Old Testament itself but from the interpretations that the rabbis have given to the Old Testament passages over the centuries. The explanations behind what they believe, the ceremonies they practice, and how they conduct their lives are more likely phrased, “As the rabbis say…” rather than, “In the Bible…”
But, before we point a finger, we need to consider our own lives. I think of one individual that I sometimes discuss biblical ideas with; her standard response is, “Well, that’s not what I’ve always been taught.” The truth is that this is not just the reply of one individual; it is the universal reaction of believers in general. Even though it may not be verbalized aloud, this is what actually goes on secretly in our hearts and quietly in our minds. We filter all our opinions and beliefs through the doctrines of our denomination, the lessons of our favorite Bible teachers, and the theology of our culture.
Several years ago, I had the privilege of being part of a team that developed a new discipleship program to be used by Every Home for Christ in their ministry around the world. Once the curriculum was finalized, I was assigned to travel the globe training the national leaders how to implement the new program. North America, South America, the Caribbean, India – no problem. But I encountered something really unanticipated when I got to Africa. One of the lessons is based on Jesus’ visit to the home of Mary and Martha – the story about how Martha was busy serving while Mary occupied herself with listening to Jesus teach. Everywhere else in the world, Mary is always considered the heroine of the story because she chose the “good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:42) However, in Africa where women (as you will learn in Good People, Bad Things, and Vice Versa) are expected to serve and not even take a seat at the dining table, Martha became the superstar of the lesson – totally disrupting the lesson plan. It took some really creative maneuvering on my part to get the object of the lesson across to the participants – not to mention, some imaginative persuasion to get them to commit to teach the lesson so that it would communicate the truth it was designed to illustrate.
It was hard work to get those African delegates to take off their “cultural glasses” and read the passage for what it said. But this is not simply an African problem; it’s universal. I pray that you will set your “theological glasses” aside as you read the lessons in this trilogy. I have no doubt that you come across a number of ideas or interpretations that don’t agree with what you already believe. When you do, I ask that you simply take the time to look at the verses exactly as they are written in the Bible, not as you have heard someone teach them. Then, I would ask that you go just one step further and take some time to pray in the Spirit as you allow your spiritual man to digest those verses. According to I Corinthians 13:1-3 and 14:2, the avenue to understanding the mysteries of God is through speaking in tongues and allowing the Holy Spirit to prophetically unravel those hitherto-undisclosed revelations for you. If you’d like a more complete explanation of how this principle works, I invite you to read the chapter “How Saul of Tarsus Became the Apostle Paul” in my book Maximum Impact.
I challenge you to stop allowing yourself to be conformed to the thinking of the rest of the world and become transformed into the image of Christ by renewing your mind according to what the Bible actually teaches. With these revised perspectives and renewed insights, I believe that you’ll become the individual in your generation who leaves behind a definitive godly legacy!