Friday, September 13, 2013

How To Read Your Bible Part 1

A few days ago I decided to "update" my devotional plan in order to ensure it remained fresh. I am constantly concerned and on guard about my devotions becoming routine or mundane. I really enjoy my morning "appointment" with our loving and gracious God. As a result I make some periodic adjustments. This is important to me and many of you know that recently I went through a very dry spell. Try as I might I found myself coming to the Scriptures and leaving thirsty, hungry, dry, and unrefreshed.

One thing I always try to stay on top of and up to date on is various suggestions on how to read my bible and bible passages during my morning devotion. I think it is important to always keep in mind that the goal during this time is to read the Scriptures and determine/discover what they say.

First, let me make it clear right up front that you are not reading a passage in order to hear a "voice" or "message" from God. The canon of Scripture is closed. Divine revelation, by God's choice is now closed. 

God no longer speaks in an audible voice. The devotional guides that encourage you read a passage of scripture until you "hear" God's particular message for you is misleading at best and dishonest at worst. There is no special or private message for you in Scripture.

The bible was not directly written to you. The gospels, the historical narratives, the epistles, and even the apocalyptic writings were written to specific people, at a specific time, for specific purposes. This is not to deny or say that the Scripture is not "profitable" for doctrine, for  your  reproof, for your correction, or for your instruction. I will say more on that later. 

Second, the bible is not a system of Tarot Cards. You don't open a page of Scripture and search for hidden meanings that tell you your fortune. The bible is not designed for you to open its pages and determine what outfit to wear, or what car to buy, or whether the "stars are favorable" to you today.

There may be times when you approach the Scriptures in order to determine God's character, or His "position" on something so that you may gain a proper and biblical perspective on something pressing you. The bible is designed by God to enlighten your mind and soul on things that pertain to God.

Third, the bible is not an Aladdin's Lamp. You cannot come to the Scriptures in hopes of obtaining what you may want or need at a given moment. Unfortunately, for all of the good that the bible is, it is not magic.

Over the course of several years I have discovered an inordinate amount of people including believers who at one time tried to read the bible but no longer do. They tried and gave up. Their bible now sits on a shelf, in a drawer, buried in a closet or simply collects dust. They once read it or at least tried to and they no longer have any interest in the bible today.

Why is that? Why did they give up? Why do they have no interest in reading the bible any longer?

There are several answers to these questions. Regardless of how many answers you can fathom, there are really only two categories that any answer will fall into. The first category I simply call "Legitimate" and the second category, I call "Illegitimate."

Due to the fact that usually the I hear reasons that I believe are illegitimate more often than any legitimate reason, let's start with that category. OK? Great!

There are two main illegitimate reasons why people stop reading the bible. The first reason is, "It didn't work." I don't know how many times I have heard people say, "Bible reading? Ya, I tried it. It didn't work." In other words they didn't get what they wanted.

The second illegitimate reason people give for no longer reading their bible is, "I never get anything out of it." Though this sounds similar to the first reason it is actually different. What this means is that try as they might and as many times as they read something they could not see or find its meaning. The passage meant nothing to them.

So, what are the legitimate reasons so to speak that people give when they admit that they no longer read their bible?

First, they don't understand the bible. I get that. Especially if the person is not a believer. The unbeliever cannot understand the spiritual things of the bible. I am not surprised when someone who demonstrates no evidence of being a Christian tells me that they cannot understand the bible. It's like, "Duh! What's your point?" [Be kind, I don't say that to them]

Second, they don't know how to read the bible. Again, this doesn't usually surprise me also. Very few people including believers are taught how to properly read or study the bible. Right or wrong, good or bad, interpreting and understanding the bible is an art and a science. It takes skill. Admittedly, it takes very little skill at first for simple passages. Skill must be developed to effectively read and interpret the Scriptures.

Third, most people, including believers are not taught how to principlize the text within its context nor how to bridge various gaps. By this I mean to properly read and understand the bible there are at least four gaps that need to be bridged. Don't panic, even the newest believer can easily bridge some of these gaps with assistance and basic tools.

Fourth, many people who attempt to read the bible are not spiritually prepared. By this I mean they really are not living or maintaining a life conducive to "receive" the spiritual things of God.

These gaps are the grammatical, the cultural, the geographical, and the historical gaps. Help from mature believers and basic tools will enable even the most novice believer read and understand the bible. I will talk about those tools in a future post.

Having run on a little more than I intended let's continue this topic tomorrow, if the Lord is willing.

Why do you no longer read your bible?


KC Bob said...

I started a group last Tuesday that aims to read the bible in 90 days. Last week we talked about what keeps us from reading it. All but a few of this group of 20 have never read it from cover to cover. I am looking forward to walking with them on this great journey. Already through Genesis and will have Exodus finished by Tuesday. Love the ways that guys like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph and Moses are helping me to live.

Gregg Metcalf said...

KC Bob - Fantastic that you get to take some guys through the Bible! What a privilege and joy.