I mentioned a few weeks ago in a blog that one of the “evidences of grace” recently was when I was speaking with a lady in our church that said: “I didn’t realize we were all called to be theologians” - and she said this in a good way not a sarcastic way! This is a sweet lady who is getting it; we are called to know doctrine, we are called to know truth, we are called to be holy and we are called be thinkers, learners and teachers. Too often we hear well - meaning people destroy a passage of Scripture or reject a truth from the Word because it doesn’t line up with their previous thoughts or experiences. Let me give some examples then, I will exhort the importance of approaching the Word of God.
Matt. 19:19 “Love your neighbor as yourself” I have heard well-meaning people say that this shows that in order to really love someone biblically you must learn to love yourself as Christ wants you to. However, Scripture tells me the opposite! It tells me I must die to myself, I must hate my life – I must esteem others as more important than myself. So what is the point of Matthew 19:19? The point is - I can’t take one verse and mutilate it to prove a point! The context is key: Jesus was talking to a rich man who was living for himself. The point is not him loving himself, the point is that he must love his neighbor… and the problem this man had was that he loved himself and his possessions more than anything. The text is teaching to love other people and not yourself.
I was asked one time after preaching why do I give all this history before my sermon. Well, because if we don’t understand the culture, if we don’t understand the meaning of the terms, we will miss the point of the text. The idea of sitting in a Sunday School class, reading a passage of Scripture and looking around and saying… “What does that mean to you?” The answer is who cares what it means to you, or to me! What did God intend for it to mean? We do this with parables - we forget the parables were told by Jesus to an audience…and many times if we miss the audience, we can miss the parable. John MacArthur did a wonderful job illustrating this in his book “The Tale Of Two Sons” on the prodigal son (s). He points out the elder son, the one that stayed at home is a picture of the religious leaders in the audience that were pressing Jesus for answers -the same group who murdered Him. I pointed this out before, as many preachers have done through the ages, and had some completely confused to say the least. Why? Too often the parable is just a story someone was told in Sunday School and never had to think through. While the Bible is relevant and written to us today, it is written in a context, they were among a real audience when preaching/teaching and this information has relevance to the meaning of the text!
The illustrations like the ones above that have happened in Bible study groups and church services, are too many to count. The bottom line is this - when we approach the Word of God, let it speak, keep it in its context, and be a thinking Christian. As we spend time enjoying the truth of God we must remember that we are not approaching it to validate what we think (or what we want it to say), but to discover what God thinks. As we are nearing an end of our study in Psalm 119 and I hope God has used it to “salt the oats” and make you more thirsty for the Word of God. I hope it has made you long to read it and long to know His mind!