You have probably heard the saying attributed to circus magnate Phineas T. Barnum, "There's a sucker born every minute." Nearly all of us have been deceived at least a few times in our lives. Upon careful research, even Barnum's famous "quote" turns out to be a deception invented by one of his rivals. Usually, we are deceived about relatively minor matters, often because of our own carelessness. But it would be far more serious if we found we had been deceived about the major issues of life.
You have probably heard the saying attributed to circus magnate Phineas T. Barnum, "There's a sucker born every minute." Nearly all of us have been deceived at least a few times in our lives. Upon careful research, even Barnum's famous "quote" turns out to be a deception invented by one of his rivals. Usually, we are deceived about relatively minor matters, often because of our own carelessness. But it would be far more serious if we found we had been deceived about the major issues of life. For example, most of us just assume that our parents' religion is "good enough for us."
If there is a real and personal God, and if He has a plan and purpose for us, then fulfilling that supreme purpose is infinitely more important than figuring out how to make more money or how to be "happy" in the few short years of our lives. Is understanding your right relationship with the Creator the most important issue by far in your life—more important than anything else? Or do you just assume that everything is fine?
A very wise man once told me, "Don't assume anything!" Yet most people can very easily be fooled or "deceived" in religious matters because they assume they know what is right, and spend so little time or mental effort actually proving—or trying to prove—what they believe. As we have reported to you many times before, the various religious surveys and polls all indicate that most Americans, Canadians and Britons are, in effect, "biblical illiterates." Even most churchgoers cannot name the four Gospels, the Ten Commandments or most other key facts and figures in the Bible. It is obvious that most professing Christians in our Western society have no idea whatsoever why they really believe what they believe. They usually just adopt the religion of their parents or friends.
Also, I have noticed that many Americans assume that the majority of people on this earth are Christian. They seldom focus on the fact—a fact easily provable with almost any encyclopedia or world almanac—that most people on this earth are not and never have been professing Christians. Most Americans assume that the "majority is always right." Yet Christianity is definitely a "minority" religion!
So, again, why do you believe what you believe?
Is it because you have earnestly studied and proved to yourself the existence of a real God? Have you also proved to your own satisfaction that the Bible is the inspired word of God—the revelation from our Creator to help us understand the real purpose of life and how to fulfill that purpose?
Then, if you believe that the Bible is inspired by the Creator, do you genuinely study the Bible to see what it actually says? For without actual Bible study, you could be a "sitting duck" for Satan's deceptions! As Jesus Christ said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4).
How can you possibly "live" by every word of a book that you have not deeply studied? How easy it would be for misguided or false ministers to mislead you as to what the Bible actually says! Since most of you reading this certainly do feel that the Bible is inspired, notice what the Apostle Paul was inspired to tell us, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, KJV).
So, for your own sake, I would like to strongly encourage all of you to start taking the time and putting forth the mental effort to genuinely study the Bible! This may sound trite, but I truly believe that doing so could revolutionize your life!
But how should you study?
Successful Bible students use several different methods. The two that I most strongly recommend—and you can alternate between them both—are subject study and simply reading the book. Subject study would involve using a concordance, and going through various topics in the Bible such as "heaven" or "hell" or "eternal life" or "commandments," and reading the passages that have to do with those particular topics. This is an excellent way to learn about various topics in an organized fashion, and to see what the Bible actually says about whatever topic you choose. This approach certainly should be used regularly.
The second method of Bible study, which I use most often, is the "reading straight through" method, which—just as it sounds—involves simply reading right through books in the Bible, as you would a book on history or any other topic. This is now my favorite method of study, since in decades past I have gone over most of the major topics in the Bible extensively using the first method. Simply reading the Bible in this manner gives you the "feel" of exactly how a particular topic is introduced in context—that is, how it fits into the overall pattern of the book and of the topic being discussed. And this is the primary method undoubtedly used by most of God's servants in New Testament times—and for at least a few centuries afterward—because, for centuries, there were no concordances available!
The Apostle Paul, for instance, may have had only part of a scroll of Isaiah, or some other book, to study. Also, in his day, much of what we call the "New Testament" had not yet even been written. So, when he tells us to study the scriptures, he meant primarily the Old Testament at that time. Yet many professing Christians are taught to be "suspicious" of the Old Testament. What a shame! For the Old Testament was not "done away." It merely has to be understood in the light of the magnification of God's law and of its meaning, as given through Jesus Christ and the apostles in the New Testament (Isaiah 42:21).
If you want to understand what Christ taught, and to see how it does not "do away" with the Old Testament, my suggestion would be to simply start at the beginning of the New Testament and read straight through the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the book of Acts just like you would read any other book. This will certainly give you the true "gospel" as taught and practiced by Jesus Christ and the original apostles! Then it will be very hard for "liberal" ministers and even heretics to "fool" you with some paganized conception of God or of the Christian way of life—a false conception that may have been developed during the Dark Ages or since!
From my own experience as a minister of Jesus Christ for 53 years, I can tell you that those who "slack off" in actually studying their Bibles are affected profoundly! Please ask God to help you, motivate you and guide you as you study His inspired word. Remember, you are reading what is, in effect, the "mind of God"—the revelation from your Creator telling you why you are here, explaining what life is all about and revealing the way to eternal life. Remember that Jesus Himself emphasized our need to "feed" on Christ: "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me" (John 6:57).
Later, Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life" (v. 63).
Part of the magnificent legacy left by God's servant and our dear brother, Mr. John Ogwyn, who died last year, is the extremely helpful Bible Study Course that he authored. This course is not complicated or difficult to understand. But it does lead you through key issues in the Bible in an organized way, giving you specific information that you might have great difficulty figuring out on your own—and all of it easily provable from the pages of your own Bible! I strongly encourage all of you who have not done so to sign up for this course. Just call us or write us at the office nearest you, listed below at the end of this Personal. Ask for enrollment in our Tomorrow's World Bible Study Course. It will be sent absolutely free—as is all our literature.
True Christianity—the teachings and examples of Jesus and the apostles—has certainly been "under attack" for a long time! If you, personally, will diligently study the Bible to see what it actually says, you will be able to see clearly through all the "smoke and mirrors" of Satan's deception, and come to know the Truth that God inspired to be given to mankind through the pages of the Bible. As Jesus said, "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).