I couldn’t think of anyone I had ever met who was more brilliant than this man. His charisma was heavier than the air; it was as though my lungs had gladly substituted life’s oxygen for his passion. His insight was never-ending and his logic was brilliant. After leaving his classroom I couldn’t help but to feel twice as alive as I was only fifty minutes beforehand. Students would congregate in his office before and after class hoping to uncover the source of his vigor. He was a fountain of knowledge available to anyone who came to him with an empty bucket. His passion was for teaching and his message was the New Testament. I met him my first year at college.
Impressionable and hungry for knowledge, I absorbed every word that was spoken. Only one among thirty, we were all mesmerized by his ability to persuade. His speech was impeccable and his words did more than just flow from his mouth; they sprang, danced, and marched out like circus animals being led by their ringmaster. He knew what he was talking about and he presented it well. The words of the Gospels came alive before us. We could close our eyes and see Jesus leading the twelve through the streets of Capernaum. Our bodies were confined to cheap plastic chairs and long narrow tables but our minds sat with Jesus on the hillside while He delivered the Beatitudes. We were challenged to think and to read with intention. Old stories became fresh and alive, new theories and critical thinking only helped to uncover dusty Sunday school lessons long since forgotten. A plethora of views began to develop as we wrote down every last word. Who was this man named Jesus and what was His role here on earth? When did He know He was the Christ? What did He mean by this and by that? Was He really the Son of God? Did Matthew and Mark actually write “their” gospels? Could He have really been born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth? Was the resurrection even a historical event… how fast the bliss is stolen and how quickly the innocence is lost.
His passion increased and so did the questions. I watched as my classmates began developing uncertainties of their own. His flame was spreading and we were all soon emblazed. Was Jesus a miracle worker or a magician? Was His death on a cross necessary or no more than a symbolic act? Of what significance is a blood sacrifice to the twenty-first century? Can we even be certain that Jesus spoke the familiar red letters in our Bible? Did the Son of God come to save man from sin or to free the poor from their slavery? At first it was invigorating, but soon it was exhausting and deadly. We were no longer answering questions, but had turned to questioning answers. I suppose this concept is beneficial in many circumstances, but what if the answer is Jesus Christ? Who are we to question the Word of God?
The Apostle Paul says “we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14). It sounds simple on paper, but becomes overwhelmingly difficult when applied to our lives. Three years into my education, I had taken a class with him every semester. My faith became unstable and my witness was weak. I had forgotten why the Lord brought me to college and my questions were growing darker with every week that passed by. I was but one of only a few students who made it out that lucky. Many of my classmates began to lose all signs of their relationship with Christ. Here we were, preparing for the ministry, yet questioning the Man who called us, and doubting the Scriptures He ordained. Looking back I wonder why we were ever surprised that our relationship with the Lord was failing. How well would your relationships continue to grow if those you loved questioned the truth of everything you said? Some friends turned to skepticism, insisting that the Scriptures were fabricated and the Jesus I knew was but the result of alternative motives and self-serving men of ages gone by. Others, pinned down by the weight of their own questions, ceased to believe that the Creator was in control. They may not have rejected His Word, but they no longer trusted their Savior with the toils of everyday living. Still others continue to blindly chase after false doctrines created by man. Unless the Lord intercedes, they will only go on to lead younger Christians down the same path of cunning deception and confusion.
I was at a crossroads and a decision had to made: Which path would I chose? It was a long and difficult process. I deeply respected both my professor and my friends but it appeared that our convictions were about to separate our passions for the Scripture. While they continued to research and create a multitude of theories, I found much peace and fear in Galatians 1:6-9.
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.”
I rest my faith in Scripture alone. I may study it and explore it with passion, creativity, and even confusion. Who am I though, to question what the Scriptures teach me about Jesus Christ? Who am I to debate the authority of the Bible? The book of Galatians tells me I am cursed if I present any Christ other than the one clearly laid out in Scripture. Three years of agony and deep confusion was the result of my complacency. The integrity of Scripture and a dedication to the truth had not yet become a priority or passion in my life. I was not prepared for the “waves and winds of false doctrine and trickery” that were inevitably waiting for me on the other side of adulthood. Only God’s grace and provision prevented me from being pulled under by the well-intended passions and teachings of an otherwise good man. Many of my friends were not so blessed.
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves that you might not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 7).
“And as a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:14, 15).