@Tim_Ramey That is a challenging question that certainly calls for some introspection. The apostle Paul challenges us each to work out our own salvation with ‘fear and trembling’ (Phil 2:12) and King David eagerly asked God to search his heart and reveal any hidden faults (Psalms 19:12). As Christians, I think this attitude of humility and a willingness to learn and let the Spirit reveal our inward thoughts is crucial. I think there are a number of reasons that we may not be living according to Scripture and I think they each call for a different response.
I say ‘sincere’ ignorance because sometimes we simply do not know. Take D. L. Moody for example. When he first starting preaching, he only preached God’s wrath. When he learned about God’s love, suddenly he began preaching about the amazing love of God. And when he learned about the Spirit, he began to preach about the transformative power of God’s Spirit in our lives.
This type of ignorance is not due to laziness or an unwillingness to obey or a lack of humility. Rather, it is simply that certain truths have not been learned yet.
Consider this example from Acts 19:1-2 - " While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”
They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
These sincere believers were simply in sincere ignorance of truth. I do not think we ever need to fear this type of ignorance - God is gracious to all who are seeking Him and we all must seek after wisdom and learn and grow. The solution for this type of ignorance is good teaching from the Word of God - the easiest one to solve!
One frequent command in the Bible is to ‘remember’ what God has done. King David often calls to memory God’s faithfulness in the Psalms to spur himself on to obedience. And James warns us not to forget after hearing the truth of God.
James 1:22-25 - Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
The solution here is to have daily habits that help us remember who God is and what He has done. The Israelites said the Shema and had many festival commemorating God’s goodness to them. We have the Lord’s Supper and the fellowship of the believers. And we can each create ‘memorial stones’ in our lives to help us remember the goodness of God.
Willful ignorance could be due to wanting to avoid the inconvenience of obedience or, in the worst case, with a heart that is set against God in some matter. This is a very dangerous place to be and Paul in Romans 8, a passage you are very familiar with, is clear that if we put the flesh above the Spirit we do not belong to God.
Romans 8:9-13 - You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.
John 14:21 - Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.
The solution to willful ignorance is sincere repentance and a renewal of our covenant with God through Christ.
It may be that we are in a Christian community that believes something that is unBiblical, but because of cultural forces they are unwilling to question it. Think of Churches in the past that did not speak out against racism (though the issue may not be of that nature). We may be simply unwilling to even think of questioning an idea because of the social consequences.
As with willful disobedience, I think here again we must repent and remember Christ’s call to take up our cross and follow Him.
Luke 9:23 - And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."
Can you guys think of any other reasons someone may not be in line with Scripture? Are those categories helpful?
In terms of addressing this issue in someone else’s life, I think we have to be very careful. Without a relationship with them or a formal role such as their Sunday school teacher or pastor, we may not have the ‘trust bucks’, as someone I knew once said, to speak into their lives on these kinds of issues. And even if we do know them, I think it takes great wisdom to no when to challenge someone and when to remain silent and how to go about it.