Recently I spoke to three different groups of eighth graders at a local Christian middle school. I began each class by asking how many were born into a Christian home. Almost all students raised their hands. Next, I asked how many would confidently identify themselves as a Christian. Again, every single hand shot up. The two or three students I called on were able to articulate core doctrines such as the deity of Jesus, or His atoning death and resurrection with surprising clarity and precision. On a whim, I asked the second class, “How many of you would say that the Bible is your final authority for life and how you practice your Christianity?”
About five of the twenty-three students raised their hands, and only with half-hearted conviction. Five.
This shocked me a bit (and their teacher!) and I said, “Wow. That is really interesting. Can I ask you a few more questions?” They nodded in agreement so I asked them what actually is the final authority for their lives. A brave girl in the back raised her hand and said, “Well, the Bible can help me, but God is my final authority.” I asked her how she knows what God is saying, and she described it as “a voice” she hears in her heart. Many of the students nodded in agreement.
“So what is the Bible?” I responded. Another girl raised her hand and answered that the Bible is “like… a guide.”
I asked what the students would do if “the voice” ever contradicted something the Bible speaks about clearly. Using an example from the Ten Commandments that is also affirmed several times in the New Testament, I said, “Let’s say you are in a worship service, you feel really good, and then you hear ‘the voice’ tell you that it’s okay to steal just this once. But the Bible clearly says you shouldn't steal." After thinking for a moment, the girl in the back said, “I would have to go with God's voice.” The students seemed to agree. I asked her if I understood correctly that in this case, she would reject what the Bible says and listen to the voice in her heart? Her response: "Yes."
I went to the whiteboard and wrote this sentence:
God cannot make mistakes.
I asked the students if they agreed with that statement. They all nodded in confident agreement that they did.
Then I wrote,
The Bible is the Word of God.
Again I asked if they agreed, and they all heartily did.
I then explained to them that what I was constructing was a logical argument called a syllogism. If the first two sentences (or “premises”) on the board were true, then the only logical conclusion is:
The Bible cannot make mistakes.
There were audible gasps and “Oh!”s. A girl in the front row said, “God can’t contradict himself!” I said, “You’re right! And I would suggest to you that if ‘the voice’ ever contradicts the Bible, ‘the voice’ you are hearing is not God.”
While I was thrilled that the students responded to this teaching moment, it left me wondering how a room full of sincere Jesus-following young people, who grew up in Christian homes, could not know what to make of the Bible.
But they did not. They were confused about God's voice, and trusted their own hearts over His Word.
Richard Land, of Southern Evangelical Seminary, sums it up this way:
Once you surrender the objective, infallible, inerrant nature of God's revelation of
Himself to us, all you are left with is each interpreter's subjective, autobiographical,
idiosyncratic God, who may bear little or no resemblance to the one, true, immutable
God with whom we must all deal ultimately. (1)
Consider this: If you are lost in the woods, and have only a compass to help you find your bearings, do you want that compass to point to true north—or to yourself? Your answer could be the difference between life and death.
Our hearts are like self-pointing compasses. Jon Bloom said:
The truth is, no one lies to us more than our own hearts. They don't tell us the truth.
They just tell us what we want. No, our hearts will not save us. We need to be saved
from our hearts.
The Bible is like a compass that points true north. When we follow the Bible with the help of the Holy Spirit we will stay on the right path and be kept from danger—even when that danger is our own hearts.
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