All of my life I grew up hearing the sacred text either from a pulpit or from my mother at home. Hearing the sacred text daily was normal for me and I grew up with a love for it. But as the Lord began introducing me to biblical scholarship, I began to realize that reading the sacred text required much more from me than I had previously been taught.
Being faithful to God, requires us knowing how to interpret scripture correctly.
I quickly began to realize that not just me, but many of us Christians, often go to the sacred text as we are, and not as the scripture is. Meaning, we force ourselves upon it. We force our ideologies, doctrinal beliefs and opinions on it. In other words we want to get something from the Bible-not really looking to encounter the living Word Hinself.
Often times we go to scripture to argue a point, or USE IT, for our own benefit and that's not
THE SPIRIT of the sacred text-it's not to be viewed or used a weapon against people.
If we are truly desiring to learn from Jesus through the stories and narrative of Scripture, our hearts will become more tender and loving towards others-not more defensive and angry.
Our hearts will be laid out before us as we read the sacred text.
What does the author of Hebrews remind us?
“For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 AMPC
And let us not forget the beatitudes:
““God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. God blesses those who mourn, for they will be comforted. God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth. God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be satisfied. God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy. God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God. God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. Matthew 5:3-12 NLT
I've encountered a lot of angry people over the course of my life and ministry who grip their bibles like swords, slicing and dicing in the name of God, and that makes me sad. Unfortunately, at times I've been one of those people.
And much of this I believe has to do with the fact that we don't know how to faithfully interpret the sacred text. We proof-text scripture for personal reasons and for argument sake- to justify our position doctrinally or make our point-and my friends that is not the Spirit of Jesus. It reminds me of the Sons of Thunder in scripture in Luke's gospel account:
“Now when the time was almost come for Jesus to be received up [to heaven], He steadfastly and determinedly set His face to go to Jerusalem. And He sent messengers before Him; and they reached and entered a Samaritan village to make [things] ready for Him; But [the people] would not welcome or receive or accept Him, because His face was [set as if He was] going to Jerusalem. And when His disciples James and John observed this, they said, Lord, do You wish us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did? [II Kings 1:9-16.] But He turned and rebuked and severely censured them. He said, You do not know of what sort of spirit you are, For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them [from the penalty of eternal death]. And they journeyed on to another village. Luke 9:51-56 AMPC
Whether we realize it or not, each of us have been shaped by a way of hearing or reading the Bible, and becoming aware of how we've been shaped is so important.
When we faithfully come to the sacred text, God will lay open our hearts and show us what we did not see before-our own spiritual condition.
So the question is-are we atuning our hearts and spirits to God's Spirit when we read the sacred text or are we looking for reasons to make our Christian viewpoints valid?
Proverbs 4:20-23 reminds us this:
“My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:20-23 NLT
I have learned to get my heart right before I go to Scripture for any reason. I have learned that interpreting scripture takes time, a lifetime, of looking to God and being in relationship with him. I have learned to be more careful in my approach to what I think or am familiar with as it relates to the stories of scripture.
I have been on a journey the last three years of deconstruction. I've come to understand that many doctrinal beliefs, especially in the charismatic -Pentecostal and Evangelical and other Church denominations, as it relates to the authority of scripture versus the Word (Jesus) himself, have shaped many to be angry and mean spirited people-whose tongues wag and fingers point at the opportunity to set people straight. I believe it to be Phariseeical in nature, zealous not for the Word himself, but the words written in the text.
St. Maximus the Confessor reminds us:
Many churches doctrinally believe "the Scriptures both the Old and New Testament are verbally inspired of God, and are the revelation of God to man, the infallible, authoritative rule of faith and conduct." Or "The Bible is the infallible word of God and the authority for salvation and Christian living."
At a glance, these doctrinal statements all sound not only familiar for many of us but good and right (mostly because we have been shaped to believe this way) -as doctrinal truth. And familiar as these may be, and as useful as that language may have been at one time, I'm convinced that we need to look at this language again. We find meaning in language and I'm afraid the language needs changing because our hearts need changing.
I'm witnessing as I talk with Christians one on one and as a whole from many in the Christian community, a religious nature that is void of love-not reflecting the nature of God. I'm searching my heart out too so please hear me. The spirit of this blog is to make us LOOK AGAIN WITH GOD AT OUR OWN HEARTS AND AT SCRIPTURE.
I believe we live in one of the most fearful times of our generation. Fear and uncertainity plagues many hearts, and looms around every corner, and I sense people grasping for answers-going to scripture as they are-not as God is.
Unfortunately, many Christians have engaged in political disputes, arguments and have unknowingly aligned their hearts with a spirit of this age. Thus their beliefs are now distorted as they read and interpretate scripture. The political mindset is one that can deceive us-entangling many with the spirit of the age and not Christ.
As a result we are being divided within the church of Jesus Christ-not United. And any house divided against itself will fall.
"Many of these doctrines were drafted as provisional- heat of the moment apologetic measures." -says Dr. Chris Green in his book "Sanctifying Interpretation." He goes on to say that these statements were devised to address, philosophical problems perceived as threats to the believers confidence in the integrity and the authority of the Scriptures. In actuality, however, driven by fear of subjectivism, and the need for peculiar feeling or idea of certainty, they bound Pentecostal doctrine (and I would add other denominational doctrine) to the conceptual framework of foundationalist epistemologies-two disastrous long-term long lasting effects. In spite of the fact that they were intended to foster unity, and to bolster confidence, these doctrines, and the frames of references they depended upon to be intelligible, in fact, lead and continue to lead to more and more fragmentation, confusion, and anxiety."
All that being said, I believe it has caused us to lose the heart and Spirit of Scripture, which is Jesus Christ himself-THE WORD MADE FLESH.
So I leave you with this question today. Have we have gone back to the letter of the law as Paul warned in scripture and left the Spirit of the letter -Jesus Christ? If so, Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Create in me a clean heart oh God, and renew a right spirit within me. Amen.