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Reading The Bible The Way God Intended

It's true the Bible is a book. But it's actually a book of books. These books are a compilation of 66 different writings and everyone of them have a unique purpose. It has stories about the lives of good, but also many very flawed people, about journeys, battles, the lives of kings and prophets, Jesus and the early church. But you knew all of that. Here are a few things you may not have thought of.

1. The Bible's Primary Job Is Not to Give Us Talking Points.

All of us are tempted to approach the Bible to either learn some new ideas, or justify what we already believe. But the Bible exists to transform you and me! N.T. Wright put's it this way; "We read scripture in order to refresh our understanding of the story within which we are mere supporting actors. God is the central actor not us." Why is that important? Because as sinful humans we're all tempted to take the center stage and use the Bible to prove our point of view, or disprove the views of others.

Yes, of course the Bible also informs us of God's intentions for this world and specifically how we are to live out our days on earth. And when confronted with teachings that appear to us contrary to Scripture we have a moral obligation to speak up. But Jesus doesn't require us to persuade everyone to our point of view. In fact he told his disciples if they weren't received in a town and their message was rejected, that they should shake the dust off their sandels and move on. "Don't throw pearls before swine." We need to keep our personal focus on worshipping, loving and obeying God. Because the Bible is first and foremost a book about God, not us.

2. Consider the Genre

Genre matters. If you picked up a book about World War II you would expect the accounts to be factually true, not a book of poetry, or predictions about the future. Each book of the Bible is there for a unique purpose and it contains figures of speech, dialogue, poetry, etc.

A fellow elder once made this comment. "Clare I take every word of the Bible to be the literal truth." John, I commented, "I respect you a lot but I don't think you do. Do you mean in Psalms when it reads "God rides on the clouds," that if it's a cloudless day God is stuck?" "Of course not," he said. "That's a figure of speech." There you go. Nobody should take every sentence of the Bible literally.

Take Proverbs for instance, it says, "Train up a child is the way they should go and they will not depart from it". Proverbs 22:6. We all know all kinds of kids raised as Christians who walk away from faith, or do terribly sinful things. Proverbs are what theologians call wisdom literature. Proverbs are not promises but wise sayings that are generally true but not outright promises God makes. So we can't read them in the same way we read so many other promises God makes that we can take to the bank.

3. Consider the Context

Whenever you read a book, an article, or listening to a podcaster or radio program, context is everything! Here's an example of a common misunderstanding.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land". -2 Chronicles 7:14.

I can't tell you how many times that a verse is quoted at Christian political rallies or church services as a promise God made to Christians about our nation. But read the whole chapter and you'll see God made that promise to the people of Israel, not to Christian Americans. Does God want all believers to humble themselves, pray and seek his face? Yes, of course. And if they do, will that make our nation better? Of course. But does that require God to make America a great nation? No. That promise was only made to Israel.

4. Ask These Questions As You Read

  • What does the passage teach me about God?

  • Is there something about God I've misunderstood?

  • Am I truly living out God's plan for his people, or am I just doing what I see other Christians doing?

  • What does this passage teach me about how I am to relate to others?

  • What keeps me from being obedient to what God is clearly telling me to do?

5. Reflect & Meditate

Don't let the words you just read fade in your memory. Think about them, pray about them, write a verse out, write down questions you have about what you learned. Remember the Bible is there to transform you, not just to read for information. I've often said, "I'm reasonably certain Jesus would prefer I'm half as knowledgeable, but twice as obedient."

"Let the Word of God dwell in you richly," Colossians 3:16.

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1 Comment

We seemed to be so good at taking the parts the Bible literally that work for our thoughts and ideas. But when it doesn’t go along with our thoughts and agenda then we say it’s a figure of speech.

Thank you again for sharing.

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