I was extremely frustrated with the churches where I had worked. I had begun to see the Bible as ambiguous on some essential issues. I had spent nearly a decade in church ministry and had a degree from Bible College. I had started my seminary work but burned out because of the inconsistencies I saw in how different professors would explain the gospel. My frustration led me to make a swift exit from ministry when I was 27. I needed to cool my heels and get a handle on what the Bible truly said.
In this hiatus from vocational ministry, I got married, moved to Longview TX, began attending Cypress Valley Bible Church, and met Bob Bryant. He had been the lead teaching pastor there for a little over four decades. It was a casual acquaintance at first. I was little more than the husband of someone who grew up in his church.
However, Cypress Valley had something exceptional I had rarely seen in the churches at which I had previously attended. Bob’s teaching drew me in instantly. His sermons were spiritually stimulating without appealing to empty emotional gimmicks. I got hooked to his consistent and logically satisfying exposition of scripture. It was remarkably refreshing since I had spent so many years in a ministry that teetered on the border of emotional manipulation, and muddy expressions of salvation.
At some point in that phase, Bob asked me to preach on a week that he was going to be out of town. In the process of discussing what I would talk about I asked him if he would mentor me. He accepted, and we continue to meet on a regular basis.
One Friday afternoon during one of our weekly meetings, I asked him about a difficult passage and how to understand it. He pulled out a simple piece of paper. I glanced at it not knowing what I was seeing. He said, “I can make a copy for you if you like.” I agreed, still not quite understanding the significance of the document. It was a single sheet that he had laid out in Microsoft Word, or something similar. I studied the sheet as he explained.
I didn’t know at the time what was in store but, the book you are now holding had its beginning when I agreed to a photocopy of Bob’s document. I learned, as he handed over the copied paper, he had been refining that sheet for the past 30 years.
It’s safe to say that Bob Bryant produced the backbone for this book. The verse selection and the flow of ideas in these pages come from his study and teaching to the greatest extent possible. I discovered that the sheet was a result of not only his careful study but also what he had learned from his mentor Zane Hodges, who had been a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary for many years. Now as I attempt to pass it on to you, I imagine the impact it will have on those who read this book.
You are probably wondering what magical thread of ideas that document contained. Running down the simple sheet were two columns. They carried the headings “salvation” and “discipleship.” Under these two column headings were 33 sets of Bible verses. Virtually every difficult-to-explain passage that I’d faced in recent years fit in one of those two categories, salvation or discipleship. Bob explained that most people’s misunderstanding of various Bible verses came down to a confusion between salvation and discipleship. However, when difficult verses get placed into the context that was intended, either salvation or discipleship, the meaning almost always becomes incredibly natural. So, I had to try it out for myself. I took the sheet home and began my eager research, and the results were nearly magic.
I have come to see these two columns as a key that unlocks a brilliant understanding of the Bible. It’s a legend for a biblical treasure map. I’m still on the journey, but I’ve been following it for a few years now, and it’s changed the way I see Scripture and my life in general. My frustration melted away as a logical and reasoned approach to the Bible was finally within my reach.
From the first time I saw and understood t his ingeniously arranged document I knew I wanted to do something with it. Others needed to experience what I had. Understanding and observing scripture as well as possible is the key to a fulfilling and abundant life. This book and the other materials connected to it are a testimony to what I’ve learned from Bob and his teaching, study, and personal conversations.
On the following pages, you will discover, as I did, what I have come to call, “the document.” The remainder of this book will be devoted to explaining the distinction between salvation and discipleship. We have often called this “the most important distinction in the Bible.”
To see the video series, study guide, and Bible study materials that go along with this book visit FREEGRACE.IN and click on Salvation and Discipleship. Without any further delays, I hope you enjoy Salvation And Discipleship: Is There A Difference?