In celebrating their twentieth anniversary of publishing their “Best-Seller” list, in October 2013 USA Today published the findings of which book genres have been the best-selling over the past twenty years. They discovered that the third best-selling book genre was adult erotica books (sadly), number two was children’s literature books (parents are trying to figure out how to keep their kids happy), and number one was self-help books. Americans are desperate to solve their marriage problems, their parenting problems, their own psycho-emotional problems, their financial problems, and a whole host of other problems. Additionally, I dare say this is probably true of many inside the church. Too often believers look to Laura Schlessinger and Oprah Winfrey for solutions. Too often churches look to corporate America to figure out the best way to attract ‘consumers’ and grow their church. The result is that the divorce rate among those who regularly attend church is nearly identical to those outside the church. Nearly 70% of children raised in Christian homes walk away from the faith during their first year of college. And the term “mainline denominations” is a well-known reference to liberal churches who deny the inerrancy of scripture.
Just before the nation of Israel enters into the Promised Land God offers them this warning: “When the LORD your God cuts off before you the nations whom you go in to dispossess, and you dispossess them and dwell in their land, take care that you be not ensnared to follow them, after they have been destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods?--that I also may do the same.' You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the LORD hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods. ‘Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it’” (Deut 12:29-32 ESV, italics mine). Thus they were not to borrow from the surrounding peoples any ideas as to how they are to conduct themselves within the covenant community.
The apostle Paul echoes the same warning to the New Testament Church in 1 Cor 4:6 when he states: “I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up in favor of one against another” (1 Cor 4:6 ESV, italics mine). To be fair, there is some debate as to the writings Paul is referencing. He is either referring to (1) the Old Testament, which the church in Corinth may or may not have had, (2) what he just wrote in chapters 1-3, (3) the entire letter of 1 Corinthians; i.e., ‘do not go beyond what is written here in this letter’, or (4) what he wrote to them in an extant letter prior to 1 Corinthians (cf. 5:9). However, regardless of the position one takes the central point remains the same--do not go beyond the will of God as revealed in scripture. Yet so often Christians live by the philosophy: ‘Act first, ask questions later’. Before making important decisions the questions are often: What is everyone else doing? What is the latest trend in marriage? What is the most popular philosophy on parenting? What are other churches doing that seem to work? However, there is only one question that should be asked--Is it biblical?
In 2 Peter 1:3 we read this: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us”. That is, through the knowledge of God—“through the knowledge of him who called us” (i.e., the study of scripture)—we are given everything we need to know for living life in this world and for godliness (i.e., preparing for the next life). And in Romans 15:4 we’re told: “For whatever was written in former days [the OT scriptures] was written for our instruction”. The Bible tells us everything we need to know to live a life that glorifies and honors God. Thus, I want to encourage you, if you want to glorify and honor God in your life then search the scriptures daily. Don’t be led by emotions or logic or traditions or the influence of the world. Instead be a Berean, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11 ESV).