Jack had a good thing going while stationed in Hawaii in the U.S. Navy. Everything was under control. He sang on a live television entertainment show, played football on a local navy team, performed at dances with a musical ensemble and drove to the beach in his baby-blue convertible.
As the flight scheduler for all the Navy and Marine fliers on the island, his office commanded a spectacular view of the ocean. Hollywood could not have produced a more satisfying environment.
Life was good until the day his barracks supervisor, a gnarly and salty boatswain's mate, added to his cubicle room a sailor named Chuck. For the past year, Jack had treasured the peace and freedom of solitude, but that would soon end.
Chuck regularly listened to a particular radio preacher every evening. The preacher authoritatively painted frightening scenarios about biblical prophecy and the end of this age of man.
Jack asked Chuck to turn down the sound. A week later Jack asked Chuck to turn up the sound. His curiosity trumped his agitation.
Jack was shocked by what the preacher reported the Bible said, and he set himself to prove wrong both the preacher and Chuck. But digging into the Bible itself, much to his surprise he proved them right.
Up until that time, Jack (not his real name) had been in control of his life, or so he thought. But no longer. His days of peaceful serenity were over. Initially shocked by the Bible, he noticed his life beginning to change by the truth he was discovering.
Are we following truth or tradition?
The Bible shocks most people when they compare their long-held religious traditions to the truths of God revealed in Scripture. It never occurred to them that their beliefs didn't match up!
Caught in this quandary, most just don't know where to turn. Some try to resolve their problems by "giving their hearts to the Lord." But when things don't miraculously and immediately change for them, they often take their hearts back.
To most religious-minded people, the unvarnished facts of the Bible can indeed be shocking. One person who was shocked was Joe Kovacs, executive news editor of WorldNetDaily. An interview with him appears in this issue, see Shocked by the Bible. Kovacs has written a book titled Shocked by the Bible, in which he offers his readers some interesting Bible facts. For example, one cannot find in the Bible that Sunday is the biblical Sabbath, and one cannot find Christmas or Easter at all.
His book, one of the religious best sellers in recent years, directly—and sometimes humorously—contrasts popular religious beliefs with Bible facts. And yes, many of the things he documents are quite shocking!
Blessings and benefits from the truth
Are there any benefits to biblical shocks and surprises? Yes, because anytime you learn biblical truth and live by it, it will benefit you.
We see a positive case of biblical shock in the example of the people of the ancient city of Berea in northern Greece, whose attitude is held up as an example in Scripture.
The Gospel writer Luke wrote of how the apostle Paul and his companion Silas went into the synagogue in Berea and preached the gospel of Christ Jesus. Both Jews and Greeks there believed what Paul taught from Scripture. But they were also proactive and proved to themselves whether what they had heard was true.
Acts 17:11 tells us of the Bereans, "These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so" (New Revised Standard Version, emphasis added throughout).
Though they had never heard of these facts from the Bible (for them a set of scrolls), and though they were likely surprised by them, still they approached Paul's teaching and the scriptural facts he presented with a positive attitude. As a result, they received great benefits for proving true the facts of the Bible: They learned that Jesus Christ was indeed the prophesied Messiah, the Son of God, and that He taught God's truths leading to eternal life.
Paul, formerly known as Saul, experienced an even greater shock from Scripture. Though he knew well the Old Testament from his studies as a rabbinical student, he aggressively persecuted the early Church, traveling great distances to bring Christians back to Jerusalem, where they would be jailed or worse (Acts 8:3; 9:1-2). He was even complicit in the execution of Stephen, a faithful deacon who was stoned to death (Acts 7:58; 8:1).
God shocked Paul by blinding him for three days. God then directed a Church member, Ananias, to lay his hands on Paul so he could receive his sight (Acts 9:3-17). "Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God" (verse 20).
From persecutor of the Church, Paul became a proclaimer of Jesus Christ. God shocked Paul and changed his life completely. More shocks followed: God selected Paul to be "a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel" (verse 15), which led to persecution and death.
Still, Paul enjoyed many great spiritual blessings and benefits, especially the sure conviction that ultimately He would live forever. As his life neared its end, he wrote: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
There are many tangible benefits to being shocked by the Bible, if one takes them to heart. Sadly, most do nothing even after they're shocked by Bible truths. As Winston Churchill famously said of our natural human tendencies, "Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened."
Jesus tells us: "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13-14).
Very few find Christ's narrow gate to eternal life because of spiritual blindness.
Blinded by a great deceiver
One shocking fact of the Bible is that most people are blinded to God's truth, including professing Christians (Matthew 13:10-15; John 12:37-40; 2 Corinthians 4:3-4; 11:13-15).
Well-meaning people have been led to believe that God accepts their brand of Christianity as long as they are sincere about it. Sincerity is good, but salvation is built on God's Spirit and truth (John 4:23-24).
If sincerity alone identifies a true Christian, then God has failed miserably. The Bible says "the truth [singular] shall set you free" (John 8:32)—not truths, plural. All of the different religious denominations, and there are hundreds if not thousands, think they have the truth—and yet their doctrines vary wildly and often diametrically contradict each other.
But Christ is not divided (1 Corinthians 1:13). He has one body, one Spirit, one hope, one faith and one baptism, all given by one Lord, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:4-6). Jesus said He would build His Church—one singular body of believers, not many different and contradicting churches (Matthew 16:18).
Why are there so many differing churches that claim to represent Jesus Christ? Because, as the apostle Paul warned, there is a "god of this age" who has subtly blinded well-meaning people from the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4).
This lying being, Satan the devil, has deceived people into believing in "another Jesus" with a "different gospel" (2 Corinthians 11:4). And he slyly palms himself off as "an angel of light," with misguided ministers following him who may seem to be ministers of righteousness but are purveyors of falsehood (verses 13-15). If Christians refuse a counterfeit $100 dollar bill, why would they trust their eternal salvation to counterfeit religious traditions?
The Bible exposes this interloper who wants to be worshipped as the god of humankind. After Jesus' 40-day fast, Satan audaciously offered Him authority over all the kingdoms of the earth—but there was, of course, a catch: "And he [Satan] said to Him, 'All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me'" (Matthew 4:9). Thankfully, Jesus refused to worship Satan. Sadly, however, a blinded, deceived humanity has made a different choice (1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9).
All make a choice
Most people, including professing Christians, are blinded to these shocking Bible facts. They don't know that much of what masquerades as Christianity is not of Christ, but is part of Satan's great deception of mankind.
Many major "Christian" beliefs and practices—such as Christmas, Easter and weekly Sunday worship—are not found in the Bible. They are parts of a different gospel, a counterfeit of Jesus' true gospel and the accompanying authentic biblical observances of Passover, Pentecost and God's other commanded festivals, as well as the weekly seventh-day Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Leviticus 23).
Well-meaning Bible readers are so blinded by man-made religious traditions that they cannot see Christ's true gospel.
Why are 2 billion professing Christians blinded by human religious traditions? The sad fact is that they are, at least in part, complicit in their own blindness. Jesus said: "For the heart of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them" (Matthew 13:15).
Did you catch what Jesus said? He said they have willingly closed their own eyes to the truth!
Jesus holds each of us responsible to act on the facts of Scripture once we hear them (Acts 17:30; James 4:17). He also said that the world loves its own but hates those who love God and His truth (John 15:19).
Where do you stand on this matter? Though the plain truths of the Bible can shock well-meaning people for a short time, usually the shock wears off, either because—to use Jesus' figurative language—the seed of truth fell by the wayside, or on stony places with no fertile soil to support spiritual roots, or among the thorns, meaning worldly distractions and entrenched bad habits or works of the flesh that choke out growth (Matthew 13:4-7; Galatians 5:19-21).
Encouragingly, Jesus reveals that a few in this age would respond favorably to God's good spiritual seeds, yielding good fruits or works. Some are able to produce a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold (Matthew 13:8). God's good spiritual seeds are spread before you in this magazine in the hope that they will take root.
Most people find a religion they feel comfortable with. But to live the truth as Jesus did requires the conviction and courage to leave our comfort zones (Luke 14:26-27). It requires counting the cost of following God wherever that might lead (verses 28-32). It means, if necessary, giving up everything to devote one's life to following Christ (verse 33).
To follow Christ is to represent Him and God the Father as an ambassador of Their heavenly Kingdom, which is soon coming to this earth (2 Corinthians 5:20; Luke 11:2).
Yes, religious traditions blind many well-meaning people. The Bible can indeed shock you and impact your life, but whether or not you will allow the truth to further change you is ultimately your decision.
Changed by the truth
Jack, whom we met at the beginning of this article, was shocked by the Bible—what it did and did not say. He spent hours every night striving to disprove what he was hearing so his friend Chuck could be set free from the bonds of what Chuck confidently called the truth.
It took several months for Jack to discover what Chuck already knew. Unlike the Bereans, he tried earnestly to disprove what Chuck called the truth. Instead, Jack found himself being changed by the Bible teachings he thought were bogus.
Although Jack was shocked at what Chuck showed him from the Bible, it took Jack's unconditional surrender to God, imperfect though it was, for him to be really changed by the truth.
What does it take to be changed by the truth, to understand the spiritual applications of God's laws? You can know Bible facts, but to allow those facts to change you requires something more. It requires spiritual discernment and understanding.
Such spiritual discernment and understanding come only through the gift of God's Holy Spirit. That is what makes one a true Christian (Romans 8:9). But how does one receive the gift of God's Spirit? There are progressive steps a person must go through to become and remain a true Christian.
First, God the Father must call us. Jesus said, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). The Father's calling sets the stage for our salvation.
We must respond to God as we learn His truth, which means we change from our old ways that conflict with His new ways. The Bible calls this repentance (Acts 2:37-38).
We then exercise faith or belief in God beyond simply saying we are Christians or that we believe in Jesus. Believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior we must. But that means believing in Jesus' teachings, including His commands and rewards, and acting on them. As Christ Himself said, "But why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). It also means accepting His sacrifice for sins and receiving Him and the Father into your life completely.
We then ask for baptism from a minister of Christ who believes, teaches and practices the truths of the Bible. True Christian baptism is total immersion in water symbolizing the death and burial of the old sinful self and resurrection to a new life in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:3-11). God washes our sins away through Christ when we go through this symbolic act (Acts 22:16).
After the minister baptizes us, he then places his hands on our head, asking God to give us the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17), which God does if repentance is sincere.
Through receiving the Holy Spirit, we are begotten as the Father's own children (2 Corinthians 6:18). Having been raised from the symbolic watery grave of baptism to new life, we are now expected to live our life after the manner that Jesus lived His, as a new creation in Him (Galatians 2:20; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
We are now able to examine and evaluate our own life on a daily basis (1 Peter 4:17: 1 Corinthians 11:31-32), viewing ourselves in the mirror of God's law of liberty and Jesus' sinless and perfect life (James 1:21-25).
Finally we strive daily to become more and more spiritually mature or perfect (Matthew 5:48), living by and applying God's law, which is spiritual and holy (Romans 7:12). The apostle Paul said that we die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31), continuing to repent of our old habits and sins that crop back up at times, and are renewed daily, striving to follow Jesus' sinless example (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Perfected by the truth
God the Father wants us to become perfect or complete in Him (Matthew 5:43-48). He is perfecting us through Christ, His Holy Spirit and our willingness to actively strive to change our life with His help (Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 2:21-22; Galatians 2:20).
God is merciful toward us, patient with us and loves us so much that He gave His only Son that we might have life (John 3:16-17). "What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?...In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:31-32, 37, NRSV).
To be changed by the truth, one must give up the world's way of living and actively live God's way of life. This is what Jack learned after he was challenged by the facts of Scripture that shocked him. He gave up his former way of life and allowed Christ to change him through the gift of the Holy Spirit. He went from being shocked by the Bible to being transformed by its truths.
Again, Jesus Christ clearly shows that we come to understand God and are changed by God's truth through the power of God's Spirit: "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:23-24).
We hope that you will be one of those who are shocked by the Bible and then ultimately changed by God's truth! GN