How would you like to uncover the most precious treasure that ever existed? Can you imagine the untold wealth that would come with such a discovery? Fame, fortune and luxuries of every kind! But what if the discovery, rather than bringing with it the glory and wealth that people so desperately seek, brought with it challenges and hardships that people try to avoid at all costs? What if your treasure brought with it a great responsibility not only to the one who left it for you, but to those who will come after you? Would you still be so eager to find it?
If we have a relationship with God through His Son, Jesus, this is the scenario in which we find ourselves – overjoyed to have been brought into the family of God, yet given an awesome responsibility in return. Some Christians are unaware of this responsibility. Other Christians find it easier to simply be thankful for their salvation and live the rest of their lives as if nothing’s really changed. While there might not seem to be anything wrong with that, there is a richness and fulfillment that comes with our chosen faith that would be a shame to leave untouched, and if left untouched we could also leave ourselves open for deception and trouble.
Can we possibly know the fullness of what the God of the universe has for us? How can we truly understand the greatness of what He has done for us and what is expected of us as His children? The answer is simple – read His Word, the Bible. But that simple answer can bring overwhelming frustrations. Where do you start? How can you possibly understand what God is trying to tell you? Wouldn’t it just be easier to forget the studying, go to church on Sundays and let the pastor tell us what God is trying to say to us? God delights in His children, and I believe He is especially overjoyed when one of His sons or daughters begins to study His Word in earnest – seeking not only the will of God, but the face of God; seeking not His hand, but His heart.
The Bible isn’t just a collection of verses to read for devotionals to make you feel good, nor is it a manual to learn how to make God give you what you want. What is it? It’s God’s message to mankind wherein He reveals Himself to us so that we can come to know Him on an intimate basis. Throughout the pages of Scripture God points us to the only way that we can legitimately come to Him and have that intimacy – Yeshua, Jesus, the Messiah. He has also given us His Word to give us reassurance and hope in what can be a very troubling world. And the most beautiful thing is that the whole Bible – from Genesis to Revelation – is one work that is completely integrated.
One more thing before we move forward. It is vital that we never take verses from the Bible out of context. Each verse must be viewed in light of the whole of Scripture and its surrounding verses in particular. God’s Word, by its very nature, cannot contradict itself. If it seems to be, it is we who are missing a piece to the puzzle. Taking a verse or two out of context to prove a point of doctrine or a pet theory, or not looking at the Old Testament for meaning in the New Testament can only lead to error.
These errors can then lead us into legalism. Here are just a few examples that some people teach which stem from these sorts of errors: women should have long hair, keep their heads covered and not wear pants or make up; certain foods should not be eaten on certain days; particular prayers should be recited in specific ways; certain activities should be avoided on Sundays.
Remember, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; thus anyone who belongs to God may be fully equipped for every good work.”
All Scripture is from God and the whole of Scripture – the Old and New Testaments - should be used for teaching and correction.
We must not pull a verse out of context to try and prove a point that is not at all related to that text. Again, if you are a follower or disciple of Jesus you have a great responsibility. Part of that responsibility is to keep God’s Word intact and to never mutilate the text to try to make it mean something it doesn’t.
Another very good verse to keep in mind is James 1:19-20:
“Therefore, my dear brothers, let every person be quick to listen but slow to speak, slow to get angry; for a person’s anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness!”
I have often heard this taught as meaning that we should be polite when someone is speaking and that we should control our tempers. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, that’s not what James was speaking of. He is telling us that when we hear the Word of God we should be quick to listen to what it says and slow to become angered by what the Word says if we disagree with it. Let me tell you, there have been many times when I didn’t particularly care for what the Word seemed to say, but knowing that God truly knows best, I had to allow Him to bring me to a place where I wouldn’t be angered over the Word. I think that today, in our society of “rights, freedoms, privileges, and political correctness,” we are far too quick to judge God’s Word and become angered by it.
One last thing before we move on – and this is important – we must never go beyond what is written in Scripture. There are many who teach that a person can't understand the Old Testament without interpreting it through the New Testament, and that you can't understand the New Testament without a fresh revelation from God. While this may sound plausible, and even a little exciting, it is nothing short of gross error. By this method of Scriptural interpretation most of the Bible becomes spiritualized, allegorized, or turned into nothing more than “Christian” fairy-tales. I firmly believe that God says what He means and means what He says and there are numerous cases in Scripture that show that people like Daniel, Jeremiah, and Jesus Himself also took Scripture at face value. If they took the Scriptures seriously, I think we would be wise to do so as well.