“That’s not what that scripture means” is a regular statement in the Samuel house. It’s an inside joke. One of our kiddos will cite a part of a scripture as leverage in a discussion only to have me or my wife unfold the whole passage and meaning. We often hear phrases such as, “God is in control,” or “It’s all going to work out,” or other trite sayings parroted with good intentions. However, many of these phrases fail to convey accurate theology. Though these scriptural misunderstandings have comical consequences in our home, they have developed into costly pitfalls within our church culture. God’s Word has often been used to endorsed profound moral and social wickedness. From the slaughtering of the unborn to the endorsement of sexual perversions, Biblical texts have served to be a misused ally on the lips of politicians and celebrities. Scriptures twisted by the hands of modern translators and commentators seem to support whatever cause one needs to validate. It appears that pursuing an excuse for carnal behavior has replaced the pursuit of truth in understanding Biblical text. How can you avoid reading the scriptures through the distorted lens of personal benefit? Here are a few suggestions.
- When you read the scriptures, search for the call of Jesus. The call to follow Him is a constant call to die to one’s selfish desires. The sacrifice of carnal desires and temporal pleasures is a continual invitation to the disciple of Jesus. The reward for this sacrifice is the transformation of one’s identity into the nature of Jesus. (Romans 12:1-3, Matthew 16:24)
- The scriptures are written to show you who Jesus is. The more you discover about Him, the more you will discover who you were saved to be. The behavior directing passages of scriptures are given to us to aid in living an eternal life because we have laid to death the self-seeking life. The idea that God’s Word is a means to secure a life without suffering or one of the perpetual external pleasures is foolishness. The fulfillment of following Jesus is found primarily in the union we have with Him and those who follow Him. (John 20:31, 1 John 3:25)
- Reading and obeying God’s Word should urge you to serve others. God’s Word will not lead you to isolation from or the hatred of those who are not Christ’s disciples. When the scriptures are wielded to spur hatred or hostility toward others, it is always due to a misunderstanding.
- God’s Word will always compel you to humble yourself. This single principle will keep your eyes from being blinded by your ambitions. (Psalms 138:6, Proverbs 3:34, Psalms 40:4, 1 Peter 5:5)
Through the closing statements of the Old Testament prophet Amos, the Lord declares, “Look! The days are coming… I will send a famine throughout the land- not a famine of food or a thirst for water- but rather a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” (Amos 8:11) This prophecy is unfolding before us as many within the Church live a life barren of godly character. Decades have passed in which Christian communities have gathered on Sunday mornings to hear inspirational messages. Preachers, with pep rally theatrics, have promoted popular proverbs and catchphrases while laying aside the needed teaching of the Scriptures in practical and applicable ways. Though this famine of God’s Word seems to have extinguished the desire for revival rains, we are not without hope. Jesus promised us that His Spirit would teach us. (John 14:26). As a follower of Jesus, how can you begin to see the life of God’s Word transform your heart and mind? It begins with a daily choice to open God’s Word and say, “Teach me, Holy Spirit.”