God’s Word

Time for a Change

Have you ever felt like you were in a spiritual battle when you started to really give sincere effort to read and study the Word? There’s a reason for that.

Satan knows that the power for the Christian life is in God’s Word.

It’s not in a book about God’s Word, it’s not in some mystical experience that could be God (but surely isn’t), and it’s not in the music that makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside. These are counterfeits. They are designed to make us feel close to God without really being close to God. 

It’s called deception.

I am amazed at how few Christians study the Word. They say they are a Christian and, yet, there is no love in their heart for the Bible.

Of course, we can see why this is.

The church has, ever so steadily, been moving its focus from the Bible to other things. Things like entertainment, programs, social justice, and political agendas.

And so its people are left without the nourishment of the Word, without the protection of the Word, and without the reward of the Word. And they do not even realize it.

It wasn’t until I was in my 40s that I really started digging into the Bible. It was then that I started actually understanding what I believe.

I am so ashamed to even write this. How could I be a strong believer and wait that long to study the Word?

While I was full of conviction and dedication and commitment to God, my half-illiteracy of the Word was a very real encumbrance.

So this is why I write. Many of you have read all of this before. I’ve included it in earlier posts. But I just keep thinking about this right now.

God’s Word has been relegated to the background by most Christians as they try to live their lives the best they can. They search out books, counselors, and even medication to help them cope when life throws a curve ball. While these things aren’t necessarily wrong, why is God and His Word always our last place to go? Why do some of us never open up the Word to search for answers there?

I remember hearing someone say about twenty years ago that the next doctrine that would be severely attacked is the sufficiency of God’s Word. Boy, was he right. This is being attacked in so many ways, it is hard to keep track.

The mainstream church is teaching its followers that–

The Word is no longer sufficient to help us with our problems.

The Word is no longer sufficient to deepen our intimacy with God.

The Word is no longer sufficient to teach us the Truth.

The Word is no longer sufficient (or relevant enough) to reach the lost.

This lack of interest in and disbelief in the power of the Word has even trickled into biblical, conservative churches. Maybe even your own church…

Oh, how sad! How tragic!

For the Word is sufficient for all of these things and so much more!

And Satan knows it. And THIS is why we feel spiritually attacked when we make an effort to study the Bible. THIS is why Satan and his minions are attacking the Word so fiercely, inside Christendom and without.

Sometimes I feel like a broken record in writing this but, truly, if I can accomplish no other thing than to draw fellow believers to actually study what they say they believe, I will feel like I did something to further God’s Kingdom on this old, broken, sorry earth.

For too long now, we Christians have declared our faith in God and, yet, have relegated His Word to a shelf somewhere. Many don’t even get it out to go to church anymore because churches aren’t even using it.

So maybe it’s time for a change.

If you call yourself a Christian but make no time for God’s Word, then it is probably past time for a change.

If you, like me, have become aware of the inestimable value of God’s Word in your life, then why aren’t we saying anything to other Christians around us? Perhaps we need to change, too. Those of us who get it must speak up! We must encourage believers to get in the Word.

We need to change, too–we need to be bold and courageous enough to point people to the Word in a church scene that just doesn’t really care.

All we need for salvation and eternal life is in the Bible.

All we need for life and godliness is in the Bible.

All we need to be close to God is in the Bible.

All we need to know to reach the lost is in the Bible.

It’s all there.

So let’s study it, know it, and encourage others to do the same!

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Recently, Pastor Dean (my brother) has been preaching on Psalm 19, which has naturally led to sermons on God’s Word. A short series of those sermons, titled “The Inestimable Value of God’s Word”, may encourage you as you reflect on what I wrote here today. I thought I’d go ahead and share them for anyone who may be interested–

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word, Part 1

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word, Part 2

The Inestimable Value of God’s Word, Part 3

By the way, you can find the whole series here (just scroll down until you see Psalm 19 in the lefthand column). It’s a great series and I highly recommend!

 

Is There More Than One Way to Interpret Scripture?

A few weeks ago, a friend asked me this question: How do I respond to those who say we can interpret scripture however we want? She had been talking with someone and they had claimed that there are many interpretations to scripture and people just interpret the Bible however they want to make it fit with their viewpoint. While the second half of that sentence is true (people try to make the Bible say whatever they want), it is the first part of this sentence that I want to examine today: Is there more than one interpretation?

This is a great battle in Christendom today because almost all false Gospels rely on the answer to this question being yes. If we desire to stick to the traditional view of the Word, we will often have to deal with people saying to us: Well, that’s your interpretation.

So let’s take a look at this so that, hopefully, we will be a little more prepared the next time someone makes a statement like this.

If you write a letter to someone, does it have one meaning? Or are there several?

When you were in high school or college, did your teacher claim that there was more than one interpretation of the Iliad and the Odyssey? Or Shakespeare? To any other literary source?

They did not. Because there isn’t.

While there may be principles and applications that we can find under the surface of any written work, there is never a completely different meaning.

But for some reason, people use an argument they would never use for any other written work. If we remember that the Holy Bible is God’s very word, inspired and inerrant, then we can understand their need to have more than one interpretation. For this is how a rebellious man can do a work-around and still call himself a Christian.

And we can see—as we have seen in the past few years—that the Bible can be twisted to mean anything anyone wants if we disregard the normal approaches to understanding written documents.

2 Timothy 2:15 counsels us to correctly handle the Word of Truth. This then would lead us to the understanding that there is a right and a wrong way to interpret scripture.

John MacArthur puts it this way in regards to scripture interpretation: “You can be right and I can be wrong or I can be right and you can be wrong or we can both be wrong. But we can’t both be right.”

Exactly.

We have a grave responsibility to use proper hermeneutics to figure out what each passage’s proper interpretation is. (Hermeneutics is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible.)

I am almost finished with Roy Zuck’s Basic Bible Interpretation (one of the resources I will recommend below) and he says this:

“Interpreting the Bible is one of the most important issues facing Christians today. It lies behind what we believe, how we live, how we get on together, and what we have to offer the world.”

Interpreting the Bible correctly is key.

So how can we be sure that we interpret the Bible correctly? What are the steps? First, there are some qualifications for us:

  1. We must be regenerated. We read in I Corinthians 2:14 that the natural man cannot understand the things of God. So in order to interpret and study scripture correctly, we must be saved. Not only does God open our spiritual eyes upon our salvation but it is also at this time that we are indwelled by the Holy Spirit. He is our Helper in all things, including scripture interpretation (John 14:26).
  2. We must be humble. If we come to the scriptures with a proud heart we will severely limit our capability in understanding God’s Word (Proverbs 16:5). A proud heart leads to an unwillingness to surrender our will to the Father’s. Instead, we find ourselves looking for scripture to promote our ideas and our agendas. This has led to many a wrong interpretation.
  3. We must be reverent and sober-minded. If we have a lackadaisical and careless attitude towards the Holy Word of God (2 Timothy 3:15) we will have the same attitude in interpreting it.
  4. We must be willing to obey all that we read. Ahhh. So now we get to the heart of the matter. We must be willing to obey. If we take a look at almost any twisting of God’s Word or false system that uses Bible verses, what do we see? We will always see obedience to only part of God’s Word. Usually, the parts that elevate, bless, or otherwise make their lives easier. The parts that are hard, that are negative, or that require one to look and be different than the world are soundly ignored. Scripture can only be interpreted correctly if we are willing to obey it in full. (Psalm 119:1-16)
  5. We must approach the scriptures with sound judgment and reason. We must seek to be objective rather than subjective. We must try, as best we can, to come without prejudice or preconceived notions.
  6. We must pray. We must ask the Lord to give us insight and lead us to the correct understanding of what we are studying. We must recognize that, in and of ourselves, we are helpless and hopeless. We need His help and guidance for all things.

Now that we know how we should personally approach the scripture, let’s take a brief look at the best way to interpret the scripture—

  1. It should be interpreted literally. This means that it should be interpreted in its most natural form. If you pick up a letter from a friend, you are not looking for hidden meanings or allegories. You are reading it and taking it for what it means.
  2. It should be interpreted in context. This means we take some time to study the entire passage, we determine the author and who they were writing to, we find out why they were writing to that group or individual. We must study the verses surrounding the favorite verse. We must find out all we can about the context of the passage. It is only after studying these things and understanding the context that we can then look for principles to apply to our own lives.
  3. It should be interpreted with regard to its historical understanding. In the recent years, we have so many “new interpretations”. Tossing tradition and rules out the window has led to a completely different kind of Christianity. But Paul makes it clear that we should pay attention to what has been historically taught when he writes this in 2 Thessalonians 2:15: Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

Dividing God’s Word rightly takes work. I believe whole-heartedly that much of the error and heresy we see in the church today is due in great part to people not being willing to learn the Word for themselves. I find myself talking to more and more people who want to base their interpretation of scripture on how they feel (I just can’t believe in a God who…) or on what they have been taught by a teacher (But my teacher says…)

Whenever these two things become our guidelines we are in grave danger. Feelings have their place, after all they were created by God. They are not evil. And teachers can be most helpful to us. They can make us think and they can open our eyes. But we must, in a mature and objective manner, take responsibility for our own learning of the scriptures. We must leave milk behind us and feed on meat, always growing in our knowledge of the Word (Hebrews 5:13).

I hope that this has been helpful. There is so much that could be said regarding this subject and I feel like I have been woefully inadequate in what I have written here–like I barely scratched the surface. I will add some resource links below for those of you who would like to study this subject in a deeper way.

 

HELPFUL RESOURCES:

Principles of Interpretation by Pastor Dean Good

Got Questions: What is Biblical Hermeneutics?

Basic Bible Interpretation by Roy B. Zuck

 

 

When Life Feels Impossible

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So the other night I was at a Tough Truck competition. This would not tend to be my usual choice for a Friday night. But this was different because my son had entered the contest sponsored by our local fair. Of course, I wanted to support him. It’s his third year participating and, honestly, it’s kind of a fun night.

But it can get a little monotonous watching these beat-up cars and trucks take the same track again and again. So when a very lifted truck–is there another term for this that I don’t know? “very lifted” just doesn’t sound like I know what I am talking about! Anyway— when this truck pulled up to the starting line, we were growing a little bored. I heard a few comments around me wondering how the truck would survive the course. It looked like it would topple over as it took the various jumps and turns. I had to agree.

But, lo and behold, it stayed upright. The driver was able to keep his truck under control as he quickly maneuvered his way through the course from his high perch. As he took the last hill and landed on the dirt in front of him, he gunned it towards the finish line. For some unknown reason, a giant hill of dirt sat at the end of the course this year. The driver was going so fast that he had to swerve to miss this pile. As he swerved, he finally did what all of us had been expecting all along. He tipped his truck over on its side. There he lay, helpless, as men started running towards him.

They gathered around him and started trying to push the truck back over. More and more men ran to the truck and added their strength. But the truck wasn’t budging. Which is actually a good thing for the fellow who was trying to pull it back down and stood on the other side of the truck (what exactly was he thinking?!?)

After a few moments of pushing, they finally got a tractor and hooked it up. With this machine, they were able to quickly pull the truck back over onto its four wheels. The truck driver was just fine and drove off the field. The competition continued.

As I watched this whole thing, I just had the thought come to me that all that manpower really did nothing. Now could they have, with enough men, rolled that truck over? Probably.

But, oh, how that tractor had made easy work of the whole thing.

Made me think…

Sometimes we have a personal problem. It’s a giant problem (or in most cases, a giant sin issue)–whether it be an addiction, a bad marriage, anger issues, needing to lose weight, or whatever. You fill in the blank.

And we start gathering our resources — books on the subject, websites, support groups, seminars, conferences, and counselors. We gather our family and friends for support and encouragement. And all of these things gather to push us back over to where we need to be. And sometimes it works.

The show Biggest Loser (is that even on anymore?) shows us that it can work. All that pushing does help the contestants get to healthy weights (although I think many of them end up where they started — but, hey, that’s another subject for another day).

I can’t help but think, though, that as believer we have a better way to go about it.

We have the Word of God to teach and to change us (Hebrews 4:12, 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We are told in scripture that the Holy Spirit is here to strengthen us in our inner man (Colossians 3:16). And that the Holy Spirit will help us to keep the pattern of good works that was committed to us (2 Timothy 1:13-14).

All of the extra resources are okay (if they are from a biblical viewpoint) but they are just that –extra.

I know this isn’t a popular viewpoint, but the bottom line here remains that all we need for a life lived for Jesus is God’s Word. All we need to get to the bottom of any problem is God’s Word. We need to read it, study it, know it, and obey it.

Does that seem too simple for you? It may be. But that doesn’t make it any less true.

This does not mean we will have a problem-free life. However, what it does mean is that we will have the strength, courage, and guidance necessary to face our sin issues and problems. The Bible will show us the best way to get back on all four wheels and, if we obey, we will get there. It may be slow and hard, but we will get there.

I think that is really where the rubber meets the road– what the Bible tells us to do isn’t really what we want to hear.

We don’t want to hear that we need to be selfless (in a bad marriage or unpleasant work situation) or have self-control (losing weight, addictions, anger issues). We want to blame it on someone else or something else. Funny thing is, though, that God’s Word never gives blame as an option. Instead, it always hits us right where we are in our sinful hearts.

And so we wriggle uncomfortably and turn towards other options, following after the wisdom of man instead of the wisdom of God. We push and sometimes even unwisely pull without much success.

Oh, how foolish we are.

Let’s turn our hearts back to God’s Word today. I love how Psalm 119: 9-11 puts it —

How can a young man cleanse his way?
By taking heed according to Your word.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.

 

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