Embracing a Full Faith: Beyond Bible Study and Church Attendance

In the Gospel of John 5:37-40, Jesus speaks profoundly about the nature of believing and following Him. He addresses a critical issue with the religious leaders of His time, highlighting a misconception that is still relevant today—the belief that intellectual knowledge of scripture and religious observance alone constitute a complete faith.

Understanding Jesus’ Rebuke

Jesus criticizes the Jewish leaders for their diligent study of the Scriptures under the assumption that knowledge alone could grant them eternal life. These scriptures, which they revered and studied meticulously, were meant to point them to Jesus, the living embodiment of God’s word. Yet, despite their scholarly devotion, they missed the essence of the scriptures: to foster a relationship with Him and embrace His teachings in their lives.

The Modern Parallel

Fast forward to today, and we find a similar scenario among many Christians. Regular church attendance and Bible studies are often seen as the sum total of one’s religious duties. While these are undoubtedly vital aspects of Christian life, confining one’s faith journey to these activities can lead to a faith that is knowledgeable but shallow.

Religious rituals and practices can offer substantial benefits for spiritual growth by providing structure and regularity in one's faith journey, making spiritual truths more tangible through physical actions and symbols, and connecting individuals to a broader tradition and historical context. After we got married back in 2021 and the churches started opening back up, we spent several months going “church shopping.” Both of us coming from different denominations of Christianity, we took this as an opportunity to explore different types of churches. As a Catholic and a Presbyterian, we both felt drawn to churches with a more traditional feel and order of worship and churches in particular with a pipe organ and hymns sung throughout the service. After moving out to a rural community and joining our new community church that differs from this more traditional feel, we have shifted our focus to some of the other aspects of what it means to go to church and be practicing Christians.

Attending church can enrich your life spiritually, provide a supportive community, offer moral and ethical guidance, and give you opportunities to serve, learn, and grow in your faith. These benefits contribute to a well-rounded and fulfilling approach to living one's faith actively and communally.

A Balanced Approach

The caution in John 5:37-40 serves as a timeless reminder that while scripture and church are indispensable to our faith, they are not the entirety of it. Intellectual knowledge of the Bible is not enough. Studying the Bible (and memorizing verses) is helpful but insufficient on its own to foster a full relationship with Jesus. By engaging in learning, worship, service, an prayer, we actively work to do His will.

Take the parable of the talent, for example (found in Matthew 25:14-30). The parable involves a master who entrusts his servants with different amounts of money (talents) while he goes away. Upon his return, he evaluates how each servant managed the resources. Two of the servants invest and multiply their talents, but one servant buries his in the ground, fearing the loss. The master condemns this servant for his inactivity and failure to utilize what was entrusted to him, even taking away the little he had and giving it to the one who had made the most. The Bible likewise contains spiritual wealth and truths that are meant to be actively engaged with, not just passively read or ignored.

Let us not only be hearers of the Word, or mere attendees of the church, but doers and active participants in this rich, expansive journey of faith. Engaging deeply, broadly, and genuinely in our faith is the path that leads to a fulfilling and impactful Christian life.

Lessons from John 5:37-40

  • Study the Bible: Studying the Bible is crucial but insufficient on its own to foster a full relationship with Jesus. Instead of memorizing individual verses, read and study the Bible for the full context of the verses that you wish to quote and reflect on the true meaning.

  • Relationship Over Ritual: Emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus rather than just religious rituals or practices. Make regular time to be receptive to God's messages and commands.

  • Active Faith: True faith is demonstrated through actions informed by Jesus’ teachings, not just beliefs or attendance. Participate in a community event or church activity beyond Sunday service. Consider volunteering for a charity or attending a group meeting. Remember Jesus, who came "not to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28).

  • Spiritual Discipline Practice: Try a spiritual discipline that you haven't practiced before, such as fasting for a day or meditating on a specific scripture for a week.

  • Reflect and Journal: Spend some time at the end of the week journaling about your experiences, especially how these actions have affected your relationship with Jesus and others.

 

To emphasize the importance of this verse in our mission to promote true understanding of the Bible and God’s Word, we are offering a 10% discount on our store for customers who use the code JOHN53740.

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