Every generation of believers faces their own unique set of challenges and questions. Different temptations hold cultural sway and attempt to pull Christians off course in different eras.
Yet, as the writer of Ecclesiastes said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” These challenges, questions and temptations have been around before—in different forms and different combinations, yes, but we do not face unknown riddles.
Today, many Christians are stumbling over how we respond to an unchanging Scripture and a changing world. With that, there are two distinct temptations those of us who are following Jesus today must face.
How we respond to these two questions will determine our faithfulness in this generation.
Can I practice love without the truth of the Bible?
How do you best love someone? Your answer to that question is determined by how you define “love.”
If you see love as merely accommodating or accepting, then loving someone means never challenging them or confronting them regardless of how damaging their actions or attitudes may be.
But that’s not a biblical understanding of love. Biblical love asks us to not seek temporary pleasures that will sacrifice eternal joy.
It also asks us to challenge others to do the same. The best way we can love someone—ourselves or another person—is to call them to pursue the greater treasure.
Speaking at the Passion conference, Beth Moore gave this quote that went viral.
She’s right. It takes courage to live in the tension of truth and love. Previous generations (and some today) try to cast aside love in favor of truth. The path of Christ is not the path of pharisaic legalism.
But neither is it the path of licentiousness and openness to any and all sins because of a misguided concept of love. One of the primary temptations Christians will face in this culture is to attempt a love unconcerned with truth.
I say, “attempt” because that does not actually exist. Divorced from truth, love is merely permission—which may feel good, but it can be deadly to your soul.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote: “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” The same is true of love. It does not exist apart from God and His commands.
No one enjoys getting stopped by a red light, but it’s better than being told to go when it’s unsafe. Truth-centered love can serve as a traffic light in our lives—telling us when it is safe to go and when we should stop.
But Moore’s quote also touches on another popular temptation today—following Jesus apart from the Bible.
Can I follow Jesus without trusting in the truth of the Bible?
I’ve seen a growing number of people cast doubts on the truthfulness and dependability of Scripture in the context of supposedly better following Jesus.
They say to trust in Scripture as completely true is to commit bibliolatry—making an idol of the Bible.
Why would we trust in the Bible as God’s word, when that’s how Jesus Himself is described in John 1? If He is the Word of God personified, why should we rely on a word transcribed?
Why can’t we just follow Jesus and not be concerned with biblical texts that can frequently seem out of touch with modern life?
Here’s a simple question for those who believe Jesus as the Word of God is in opposition to the Bible as word of God: What do you know about Jesus apart from Scripture?
How do you know what He said, how He lived, how He died, or what He would have us do now without first starting with the Bible? How would you even know he is the human Word of God without the written word of God?
The only knowledge we have of Jesus is from the Bible given to us by God the Father through Spirit-inspired writers. You cannot follow Jesus without accepting the authority of Scripture.
Unless you want to argue the Bible is infallible and inspired in some instances—where it talks about Jesus—and less so in other areas. But at that point, you have done more than you want to admit.
In reality, if we want to keep Jesus, but reject His word, we’re acknowledging we have a text we regard as infallible—it just isn’t Scripture. The prevailing modern culture becomes our sacred text.
And, ultimately, this places us in a position of authority over the Bible. The individual, informed and influenced by modern culture, is the ultimate authority.
We accept biblical teachings about Jesus and other issues, but only when they correspond to our positions and views. We appreciate the verses about loving others, but not the ones concerned with sexual ethics (and vice versa).
When we do that, we’ve simply used spiritual language to baptize our usurping God’s authority. There is no following Jesus without the Bible.
Those questions have been asked before.
There is a story of a couple who decided that God’s word didn’t work for them. They talked with some others around them and began to feel as if God’s commands were too restrictive.
And maybe the message had gotten lost along the way. Surely, God didn’t want them to miss out out on what others were saying was an enlightening, even spiritual experience.
Their own desires were telling them to go for it. Other voices in culture reassured them it was a great thing. So Adam and Eve ate what God told them not to eat.
The modern temptations to seek the good apart from God’s word is not so modern. There really is nothing new under the sun.
Casting doubt on both the veracity and love of God’s commands were the tactics of the serpent in the garden and some of the same ones he uses today.
When we seek to disconnect God from His word, we are following in the footsteps of Adam, not Jesus. It is the path of rebellion from God, not relationship with Him.
Scripture serves as the foundation for our rightly loving others and as the guide for our faithfully following Jesus. To remove the Bible from those two aspects of our lives leaves us blindly standing on shaky ground.