By Pastor Jason Paul
Most news stations have a news crawl along the bottom of the screen with current updates on what has been happening in the world today. One of these latest news stories scrolling on the bottom was from the polling place Gallop. The news clip was on the latest Gallop poll, which reported a record-low 20% of Americans who say that the Bible is the literal word of God compared to 44% in 2017(3). If you are like me, when I saw the news report, it was almost like watching a show, and the news interrupts programming for a special announcement. Seeing that a new record-low was established should be concerning, and as I dug deeper into the Gallop poll, I found more statistics that need to be concerning to everyone who identifies as a Christian.
Over the last five years, the belief that the Bible is the literal word of God has dropped 24% among Americans who have been asked that question. The poll even recorded a new high of 29% who say that the Bible is a collection of “Fables, legends, history, and moral precepts recorded by man” (1). Not only should these numbers be concerning, but even the steeper decline in formal identification with a religion, self-reported membership in a church, church service attendance, the personal importance of religion, and a decreased belief in God.
The bottom line is that the belief in a living God and the views of the Bible as God’s literal word is declining among Americans, which brings to mind a couple of questions. First, why such a massive drop over the last five years? Second, if 20% of Americans believe that the Bible is the literal word of God and the poll also recorded that 58% of Christians believe in the literal word of God, then why such a decline? I think that the answer to these questions falls into the lap of every Christian living in America. Are we as Christians doing enough outside of the four walls of the church to tell everyone in our sphere of influence about the good news of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Bible?
I am sure every Christian in America has an inward desire to reach others in their sphere of influence with the life that only Christ can offer them. Some are good at sharing the news with others and those who may not be as confident. Jesus gave his followers a command in Matthew that he has “been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NLT, Italics added). Maybe you are a Christian pursuing the great commission and making disciples, and perhaps you are not. Over the next few posts, I desire to re-equip Christians to re-engage our culture with the Gospel’s good news. America needs all Christians standing on the sidelines to re-engage, get into the game of making disciples, and teach them the good news. But before we re-engage, we must be re-equipped to turn the trend around.
- Remember that we are in a Spiritual Battle
More than ever within our culture, the battle for the truth is under attack. Paul spoke of this battle when he said, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). As Christians, we are in a battle. Some know they are in a fight and are equipped to advance the good news, while others have forgotten that they are in a battle. We need more Christians to come out from neutral territory and fight for the Gospel. If more Christians got into action, made disciples, and taught them the good news, the belief that the Bible is the literal word of God among all Americans would begin to change for the positive. But most Christians have forgotten that they are in a battle and must be reminded about the battle and how it affects them. These believers need to be re-equipped to reenter the battlefield. God has supplied every Christian with the tools to face this battle head-on. As believers, we need to be re-equipped with the means God has provided to re-engage in the battle.
One of these supplied methods is the word of God. Read what God says about his recorded word in the Bible from Psalm 19. “The instructions of the LORD are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the LORD are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are clear, giving insight for living. Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair. They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb. They are a warning to your servant, a great reward for those who obey them. (Psalm 19:7-11) With all of these truths of God’s word that have application for everyone, why not receive the word and believe in what it says.
2. Re-engage by receiving the word.
The second step to re-engaging is accessing how you think about God’s word.
John McArthur commented, “What a person thinks about God’s word, in reality, reflects what a person thinks about God (2).”
What do you think about God’s word? How about God? Are you allowing God’s word to transform you daily? Is God’s word defining what you think about God, or is it your political or personal beliefs? Are Christians today allowing their political affiliation and ideologies to form their beliefs instead of aligning to God’s word? These are all excellent questions that every Christian should pause and consider. The Apostle Paul tells us to not “copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) But are we?
According to the latest Gallup Poll, the pollsters broke down by political affiliation of those less likely to believe in God. Among those polled about their belief in God, Liberals came in at 62%, Young adults at 68%, Democrats at 72%, Conservatives at 94%, and Republicans at 92%. As Christians, no matter what political affiliation you prescribe, we need to compare our beliefs and way of thinking alongside God’s word. Does the way we think or believe match the truth of God’s word, or does it match today’s political environment? Back in Jesus’ day, there were political-religious factions within Israel who aligned with their traditions instead of aligning themselves to God’s word. The Pharisees and Scribes allowed their personal beliefs and ideologies to define how they viewed God’s word and their actions rejected the truth.
Mark 7:1-9 NKJV “Then the Pharisees and some of the scribes came together to Him (Jesus), having come from Jerusalem. Now when they saw some of His disciples eat bread with defiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands in a special way, holding the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other things which they have received and hold, like the washing of cups, pitchers, copper vessels, and couches. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?” He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.” He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”
You read the Bible, receive what it says, know that God authors it, and align yourself to its teaching. Run everything in life through the Bible and align yourself with what it says. Run your decisions before the Lord, who will teach you his ways through Scripture. If it’s in the Bible, then believe in it. Psalm 94:12 says, “Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law.
3. Re-engage by turning your belief into action.
Your belief system matters because you act out of what you believe in. Your beliefs need to be shaped by what is written in the word of God. What you think in Scripture needs to translate into an actionable faith. James, the half-brother of Jesus, reminds the body of Christ, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well,”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So, you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” (James 2:14-20 NLT)
If we want to reach more unbelievers with the good news, our faith in God and his word needs to be acted out. God has given us a platform where we can reach our community with the Gospel. Are you using your platform to reach the lost in your family? How about in your workplace? Are you using your platform to help the poor and needy? As Christians, we are the hand and feet of Christ, and we must show others that we have faith in action.
4. Remember, Christianity is about a relationship.
As Christians, we have a relationship with God that is precious. So precious that we need to remember to share what this relationship is like with others. We get to experience what it is like to know God, the joy of worship, and the comfort that comes only from being in a relationship with God because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. God chose to be in a close and personal relationship with those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul wrote it elegantly when he spoke about this special relationship in his letter to the Roman churches. Paul writes, “And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God. Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” (Romans 4:22-25; 5-2 NLT)
We have such a unique privilege to stand boldly, speak confidently, and joyfully come into the presence of God, sharing in his glory. Recently, I was driving home from a praise and worship set and began to pray. I thanked God that I could come before him and that he was approachable. I thanked him for a beautiful night of worship where Christians came together to worship God. Many things about being a Christian are joyful, and this joy is missed out on by many people who choose not to know God. I want to encourage everyone, a Christian, to become re-equipped to understand this relationship’s specialness. We have the Holy Spirit and Jesus residing in every one of us, and we can spread the good news of Jesus to those around us. If the 58% of Christians who do believe that the Bible is the literal word of God would share the word of God and what God has done for us, then America can have a spiritual revival. But it starts with you. Will you join me in becoming re-equipped to share the good news of the Gospel and re-engage? I hope so, America needs a spiritual awakening, and it begins with those within the church who have a personal revival and who choose to become re-equipped to re-engage the culture.
1) Jones, J. M. (2022, June 17). Belief in God in U.S. Dips to 81%, a New Low. In Gallup . Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/poll/393737/belief-god-dips-new-low.aspx
2) MacArthur, J. (2016). The MacArthur Study Bible (p. xviii). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
3) Newport, F. (2022, July 6). Fewer in U.S. Now See Bible as Literal Word of God. In Gallup. Retrieved from https://news.gallup.com/poll/394262/fewer-bible-literal-word-god.aspx