I don’t mean to get “denominational” on you but when I became a Methodist, I began to study the “accidental”* founder of Methodism, John Wesley. I had a natural curiosity about what the man believed and felt it made sense to know his stand on various issues.
One such foundational issue had to do with his position on the importance of the Bible for the Christian. I soon found that Biblical Scripture was his primary source for Christian life, but he also used traditional understanding of Scripture as a basis for his belief. In other words, what had been interpreted in the past need not be discarded. He held reason in high regard as he was a highly educated man and felt that human intellect should be applied to Bible study. Lastly, he felt that human experience helped enlighten the Scripture, “experience is the individual’s understanding and appropriating of the faith in the light of his or her own life.”**
It is that focus on experience in my opinion that allows human beings to understand God’s Word through the utilization of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His Disciples that “when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” [John 16:13]. God is the ultimate guide in our understanding of His Word, He removes obstructions to our understanding, He opens our minds to clear understanding and makes His words plain.
Even though many Christians know that God’s Word should be their inspiration, their guide, their source of wisdom, they act like God’s Word is written in some form of secret code. Someone with decoding ability must come and tell them what it means. For many, it is just a combination of stuffy old stories, ancient history and irrelevant rules. It is written in archaic language; the only people who understand it are seminary trained pastors and theologians.
What flies in the face of all this negative thinking?
God wants us to read His Book. He did not intend for us to put it on the shelf, deposit it in a drawer or put it on the coffee table to gather dust.
Years ago, I read a little book entitled How to Study the Bible and Enjoy It, written by Pastor Skip Heitzig. It was a plain-spoken approach to reading the Bible. Heitzig wrote about how to decipher the Bible by opening our eyes, our minds and our hearts. He had practical sections about how to find the right tools to help with understanding, but his overall approach was that we can all do this if we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit and ask Him for help.
I remember a prayer he wrote that he recommended we say before reading God’s Word. The third word of the prayer was “submit”. As I have stated, many feel the Bible is beyond them but some who want to read it feel they can understand it on their own. They are smart. They need no help. “I can muscle through this just like I muscle through everything else in life.”
Admitting our limitations and asking for help is key to getting help from the Lord in understanding His Book. I have found in my life experience that many things are beyond my control, beyond my ability, and I have to admit weakness. I have to admit my dependence on The Father. Some of the greatest periods of growth in my walk with Jesus have been triggered by letting Him lead, guide and direct me through amazingly complex, impossible tasks. In my weakness is His strength.
He will do that for your Bible reading too if you ask.
Proverbs 2: 1-5 states “My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”
Pastor Graham*** writes that “every area of our lives is to be under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And that means that searchlight of Gods’ Word must penetrate every corner of our lives.”
We cannot live by God’s Word if we don’t open God’s Word. We can’t adequately understand God’s Word if we don’t enlist the help of the Holy Spirit.
Ask Him for help…
He will deliver…
*Wesley was an Anglican cleric and theologian who wanted to reform the Anglican Church in the 18th Century. He did not know his efforts would start a new church.
**from the United Methodist Church Website
***Pastor Billy Graham from his book The Holy Spirit.