It’s called “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth”. It’s also called the “Jefferson Bible.” It’s a historical edited version of Holy Scripture produced by President Thomas Jefferson in 1820. In that text, Jefferson produced a cut and pasted copy of the Bible in which he includes only the passages that he could agree with. Being a pragmatic realist Jefferson excluded all the miracles and supernatural events of Jesus’ life, including the resurrection. Jefferson liked the moral guidance of Jesus but the divine aspects of the Gospels were unacceptable to him.
How sad. How utterly common to this day.
I’ve realized that most Christians are in the cut and paste business when it comes to God’s Word. If we like and agree with it, we will accept it. But when that old “two-edged” sword cuts deeper than we appreciate, we’ll just break out the proverbial razor and glue.
The American Public education system did this in the 1960s when the “Supreme Court” decided removing the Bible from our school system was a good idea. Now schools have record levels of drug overdoses, record levels of student anxiety, depression and worst of all, suicide. Bad exchange. What’s interesting is the recent studies prove that students with even nominal Bible knowledge are vastly out-performing (in GPA) those with none. As the Proverbs put it, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 1:7).
“Cutting and pasting” the Bible is not limited to governmental institutions. Christians “cut out” the parts of the Bible they don’t like constantly. A few examples here:
Some Christians give very little if at all to their local church. These same Christians will complain about the decline of society. You cannot have it both ways. Either you stop complaining and embrace the culture you dislike or you start giving (tithes) to your local Gospel-preaching church and involve yourself in the mission of Jesus to change the culture. Jesus called us the salt of the Earth. That means we have a perservative function for society. If we don’t invest our resources, it’s not going to happen.
How about serving? Why is it that most Christians think “real ministry” happens on a stage in front of an audience of mostly Christians when in the Gospels we see Jesus walking the streets, talking to those far from God and loving the sinner into the warm forgiveness of grace? What got lost in translation from the Jesus on the pages of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John to the Church that bears His name often filled with posturing for position like we’re campaigning for public office?
How about small group attendance? People may argue we do not see the term, “Small Group” in scripture so it is not a necessary facet of Christian life. We also do not see the term “Trinity” in Holy Scripture and yet it’s an orthodox doctrine of the Church. The scriptures make it clear in Christ’s example (He started with a group of 12). Jesus had a small group. Also, note the over 50 “one another” statements of the New Testament that reveal THIS FAITH is meant to be lived in interpersonal community. While Waters church has over 550 people in small groups, we have so many more people to engage on this level. Stop cutting and pasting, get in a small group and be the Church!
Or maybe your problem is Jeffersonian. You have a hard time believing God can do miracles today and so you’ve cut and paste His ability to intervene in your situation right now. Perhaps you’re dealing with an illness, a stressful situation, a terrible loss recently and you think nothing good could happen right now. You don’t have to accept that! You can choose today to believe God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all you ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20-21).
The scariest thing Christians do is not disobey God. The scariest thing we can do is recreate Him in our own imaginations. When we bring Him down to the comfortable form of God we can accept, WE LOSE. That’s the point of the 2nd Commandment – no images were to be made of God because He is beyond all images we can imagine. While NOTHING we believe or disbelieve about God will limit who HE is, we will face severe limitations in our lives as we follow Him. My most ardent advice here is to let God be God, let His Word be true and even when you don’t want to do it, DO IT. When you don’t want to believe it, BELIEVE IT. When your Christian upbringing or denominational affiliation is in conflict with God’s Word, go with God’s Word.
This is what repentance is about. The word “repentance” means to change your mind. In repentance, we turn from our ways of thinking to His. We put the scissors down and let God be God and serve Him with fear and reverence. The only one who has anything to gain in this equation – is YOU.