In God’s faithfulness, He providentially brought to my attention some Scriptural details that I had completely forgotten. I regret my forgetfulness because the details in question are important and help to confirm the direction the Lord has been taking me for the last ten years or so. These details ought to be set before each student of God’s Word just as they stand in the text without any theological manipulation or cover-up.
You remember the story I’m sure. It is one of those Bible stories that is repeated so often that every child can basically tell the story. Three men see a badly hurt man beside the road. They are a Priest, a Levite, and a Samaritan. The Priest and Levite crossed over to the other side of the road so they could avoid the man entirely. The Samaritan was the only one who felt compassion for the injured man and helped him. Then at that point, the preacher or teacher expounding upon Jesus’ story shows the need to reach out and meet the needs of others (even if they are hard to like or are our enemies). And while that is absolutely correct, it misses the main point of Jesus’ interaction with the self-defensive Lawyer who came to Jesus about a very important issue, one that he had analyzed correctly.
I have found it nearly impossible, and that is probably an understatement, to engage anyone today in a discussion on the teachings of the Bible without being asked, sooner rather than later, what I believe it takes to get to heaven. Most simply ask straightforwardly, “What must a person do to get to heaven?”
Not much has changed in the past thirty-five to forty years. I remember trying to raise support for my ministry in Portland, Oregon. I was following through with a contact that had been given to me from another Christian who had decided to support my ministry. He felt that this friend of his would respond also. So I entered this man’s business and told him of my ministry with college students and of my need for monthly support. At the end of my presentation, he turned around and grabbed a note pad and pen off his supply shelf and wrote a question for me to answer. He said, “Before I’d consider helping you, you have to answer this question: ‘What must a person do to go to heaven?’”
We have been taught all our lives that the most important thing we can do for a dying relative or friend is to lead him or her to faith in Jesus before he or she passes into the next world unprotected. This scenario has been recently, and I must add, powerfully, set before us in the movie God is not Dead. In the last scene of the movie, the greatest antagonist against the belief in God is hit by a car on his way to a concert being helped by the protagonists who want to glorify God. While it is apparent that the antagonist is repentant and desirous of changing his ways as he makes his way to the concert, a minister, with whom he has had a couple of dialogues, sees him lying in the street during a pouring rain. He runs up to him and gives him a simple, last chance to trust in Jesus. And he does. The scene actually gives the viewer chills; it is so exciting. It did that for me at least.
Study Bibles have been around for a long time now. The first one could be said to be the Geneva Bible published in 1560. Its study notes were intended to promote the Reformed Theological tradition. Then around 1917 the Oxford University Press published the Scofield Study Bible. It became the standard for the next seventy years. Then between 1985, when the New International Study Bible was published, and the turn of the twenty-first century, there was a great proliferation of study Bibles, climbing to over one hundred in number. Every denomination and most of the larger sects had its theological perspective now enshrined in its very own study Bible.
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