It was right before the Farm City Days parade, and much of our townsfolk were gathered together at the Square. My family and I were passing out copies of John and Romans with gospel tracts. We got a lot of "thank you's," and a few "no thank you's," but what stuck out the most in my mind was one particular response that I didn't know how to handle at the time.
"I have my own beliefs," one man said. I paused for a moment, kept the material, and moved on. I wondered what a person could believe that would actually be their own belief? I guess all of our beliefs to some degree could be called "our own beliefs," but surely those beliefs are a mixture of what we have heard or read from others, what we have observed with our own eyes in nature... and what we just want to believe for some reason or another.
Later, I asked myself how I should have responded. Perhaps I should have responded with "I'd love to hear your beliefs, do you mind sharing?" (to which he would most likely have said "yes, it's none of your business") I could have just asked him "Now, do you mean they are your original beliefs and no one else shares them or are you just saying you don't believe the Bible?" At any rate, I really wished I would have found out what he meant by "I have my own beliefs" before I walked away.
If a person doesn't view the Holy Scriptures as their main source of their principles and moral standards, then obviously they have rejected them, whether they are really saying "I have my own beliefs" or they are saying "I don't believe the Bible because I believe what someone else has told me." But the real problem is when "Bible believers" say "I have my own beliefs," and unfortunately, whether we realize it or not, we are probably guilty of saying this quite often.
How many times have you heard or said this,
"Here's What I Believe The Bible Is Saying."
That is often no different than saying "I have my own beliefs." I'm afraid we have gotten into a bad habit as Bible teachers and preachers of making the Bible say what we want it to say...or what someone else has told us it says. There is nothing wrong with having confidence in God's Word, there is everything wrong with having too much confidence in other men or in ourselves to interpret God's Word the way we want.
When I was in Bible college, I was a member of Southwest Baptist Church. At the time, Brother Sam Davison was pastor, and I'll never forget a particular message he preached on the text found in Genesis 6 regarding the "sons of God." I suspected he would be very dogmatic about the position he held and would show us exactly what the Bible said about the subject. I was eager to know what I was supposed to believe about this subject.
To my surprise, he carefully presented all three common views. He gave the reasons people have those views, and then pointed out the strengths and weaknesses of those views according to Scripture, and why he THINKS one of those views is probably correct. I learned so much about Hermeneutics and Basic Bible study by observing how he handled that one subject, that I hardly needed the class after that. To this day, I try to handle most subjects I'm not 100% sure on the same way (not to say I don't fall into the "this is what I believe" trap from time to time...why do you think I am writing this article?)
I realize it is good to take a stand. I realize there are certain people in our lives we are going to trust more than others to guide us. Most importantly, I realize that we have the Holy Spirit within to guide us... but this doesn't mean we cannot be deceived or deceive ourselves when trying to interpret the Bible. I am far from being any kind of authority on Scripture, but I have found that the more I study the Bible with this thought in mind, the more I am discovering in which facts I can be most confident and on which truths I can stand the firmest. I have found it is far more dangerous to have "my own beliefs," than it is to say "I'm still trying to figure that out."
I'm reminded of the words of the blind man to whom Jesus gave sight. When they tried to convince him that Jesus was a sinner and could not be given credit that should only be given to God, he replied "Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not: one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see." (John 9:25).
God bless, and may your passion for ministry grow as you "addict yourself" to it (1 Corinthians 16:15).
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