Category Archives: Bible

Thoughts and impressions directly associated with a bible section or verse

Living up to a name

Writer David Roper wrote of an account in an elevator. Three men were quietly and complacently riding down from their workplaces. None of them seemed excited or even aware of their surroundings. For them, the day was done and were anxious to go home. Two floors above the lobby the elevator stopped to let on more passengers. The doors opened and a larger-than-life image of cowboy stared in. He was wearing an old and stained grey hat, a stained sheepskin coat and well scuffed boots.

This tall, rough, and lanky man looked intently through the open door at the current occupants and said, “Good, evening men.” All three men immediately straightened up and squared their shoulders. They all were making a new effort to live up to the name “men.”

Living up to the name. Being a Christian is more than living a life not much different from everyone else. Being a Christian is not living up to an idea or an implied expectation. Being a Christian is straightening up our shoulders and bearing proudly our faith.

Be on your guard, stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. I Corinthians 16:13

On the Move

The accounts of Jesus seem to be characterized by movement.  He would never stay tarry long in any one spot.  Move, walk, go, come, get into a boat, go to a wedding, Jerusalem, Capernaum, always moving.  

The disciples had been sent two by two on missionary journeys. The teams were now returning to report their successes and disappointments. When the disciples had returned to the Master, they were tired, hungry, and wanted to share their experiences (Mark 6:30).  These disciples had traveled far and upon arrival, they were confronted by throngs of the curious, the hangers-on, and other would-be disciples all trying to get the attention of the Master. Pushing through the crowd they were situating themselves in the little space which remained in front of Jesus.  Each taking a seat in a semi-circle to isolate Jesus from the masses. It was their place of honor; all the others would have to wait. The oral reports were made, duly given in turn.  It was difficult to hear over the crowd’s comings and goings. Additionally, the rumbling of empty stomachs was adding to the distractions.

They had completed the stories of great and small successes and a few not so great.  Jesus listened intently and said nothing in direct response. They wanted to hear how they had scored on their first missionary efforts. They expected great accolades and praise from Jesus after recounting the fantastic things they had done.

“Come with me.” “I know you need rest and a time to recoup, but let’s take a walk first.”

They were already footsore from walking for the last two weeks or so.  Reluctantly these tired, hungry, and now frustrated disciples followed Jesus for a brisk two-mile hike down to the Sea of Galilee. Just a little stretch of the legs.  Besides, it was not time to eat lunch quite yet.

They arrived at the shoreline. The Sea edge was soft with small breaking waves. The soft breezes of the lake filled their lungs.  It was a good place to stop and rest. One by one the weary disciples sat down on the sand.

“Let’s get into the boats and to over to the other shore.”

Back on their feet they all boarded one of the boats and set sail for the other side. The wind was blowing in a direction making the journey longer than expected. Unfortunately for the missionary travelers, the word got out that they were on the move, and the people arrived at their destination first. The slow boat of disciples was slower than running around the lake.

They had been recognized and the whole of the region was alerted. Five thousand had come to see and hear Jesus. Jesus had compassion on them and started to teach.  As the words of God flowed as water upon the dusty ground the crowd was in rapt attention.

It was now late in the day and the disciples had not eaten much of anything all day.  Jesus did not show any hint of a conclusion. and with rumbling stomachs and sore feet, the disciples attracted the attention of Jesus saying, “We are in a very secluded spot and it is getting late. It would be best if you would send the crowds away so they can secure their physical needs.”

“You give them something to eat.”

They looked at Judas who was carrying the cadre’s combined treasury who simply shook his head. “That would take almost a year’s wages. Are we to spend the last of our money to feed the uninvited?”

After additional ceremony and miracles, the five thousand and the disciples were fed.

Time to move again, “Get into the boat and off you go to Bethsaida, I will meet you there.”

I get the impression from this account and many like them, that Jesus is a restless spirit.

I like the sense of God moving around. I like to think that God is already ahead of me wherever I am going, preparing the way, hoping that I will notice him in that place and that time. I also like the idea of Jesus continually on the move. He went to where the people were. And once he showed up somewhere, more people thronged to see him. The presence of Jesus was compelling, and even his detractors showed up to see what all the fuss was about.

Did the foot-sore disciples ever get their well-deserved rest?  The closest I find is in the upper room, as they were reclining at table.  Yet even then Jesus was still teaching.  He goes before us and He goes with us, and sometimes he hangs back to clean up our mess.  God is always moving.

Motive and action

I don’t think I am a bad person.  I may not get along with everyone and often become the source of criticism because I ask questions that are hard to answer.  I have a friend that is both caring and inquisitive. In my opinion, he listens to my rants and questions because he is too polite to tell me off.  It is not a judgment of my self-worth or even my methods, but frustration with my methods.  One of my favorite idioms is, “One good question is better than a hundred bad answers.”  Therefore, I ask and sometimes my friend almost blows steam out of his ears in frustration.   I ask not because there are good answers or even bad but to make my friend think, to challenge the norm, to overcome complacency in his own intellectual pursuits.  

There seems to be an internal desire to set standards for good and bad.  Good is determined by mostly external sources and the most common determination is the lack of bad.  Sources such as laws, rules, culture, norms, and sometimes the perceived condemnation or acceptance of a close loved one.  Every action is measured by the company we keep. 

In my most recent foray into understanding the revealed intent of God for me, my focus has been on the words and actions of Jesus.  My prime source of determination of good and bad is set by that singular man. He is the solid surface by which I set my level.  I can find no better.

One of the interactions between Jesus and his historical culture is summed up by a question presented by a self-proclaimed culture measurer, “Of all the commandments, which is most important?” Mark 12:28-34 For any teacher or rabbi, it was an excellent question. It is the motive behind the question which draws my attention today. Why did he ask the question?  What was his motive behind the question?  What is the need that required satisfaction?  If there is no motive, no need, why ask in the first place.

There are well over 600 commandments in the Old Testament Law.  Each of these commandments was written to address practically every facet of Jewish life.  The teachers had difficult times to keep up with every commandment, mandate, rule, and punishment.  The question this teacher of the law presented was a very valid question. 

Every action, thought, attitude, impression is metered by a need.  Paired with every volitional act there is a twin need.  There is a necessity, a reason for doing.  The why of the act.  We may well focus on the response of Jesus.  I will save that response for another day. Never-the-less I need to understand the inquisitor and his motives. I want to step into the world of this teacher and understand what motivates, what empowers, what energizes this act of inquiry. Very seldom does an action have a singular motive.  The motive of the questioner must be taken into the understanding of the answer from Jesus.  I can quickly pick at the knot of understanding by examining the possible why of the question.

Looking at the context from Mark12:12-34, there are several groups confronting Jesus. First with the Pharisees and Herodians questioned about money to cast Jesus as a revolutionary against Rome.  as.  Then the Sadducees took their turn questioning Jesus on Marriage and the Resurrection. Each in turn tried to catch Jesus in a logical error. The Pharisees, the Herodians, and then the Sadducees all failed at their questioning.  Each in turn was simply trying to trap Jesus in some heresy.

Most writers on this passage lump this lone teacher in with the other entrapment groups. The teacher questioner was trying to trap Jesus into saying something out of the norm.  He was not trying to show the others up but was trying to be accepted by them. He took on this adversarial role to be accepted by the religious, legalistic, self-promoting, and judgmental upper-class religionist group. He was trying to be seen as part of a larger cultural social strata. That he deserved to be in their company. “I can join in and emulate your line of questioning and be as good as you.” A motive of acceptance of perceived superiors.

Secondly, perhaps this simple teacher thought he could do better than the other judgmental entrappers.  Perhaps, part of the motivation of this Rabbi, this teacher of the law, was to show his hierarchal superiors he could do better. To state a question to demonstrate his superior intellect.  An intellect that would reveal his current place in life did not restrict his upward mobility. To show he deserved to be among this upper class. If he could show them up he could raise his status in the religious hierarchy of the culture. If he could submit a question that was better formed, more effective, more thought-provoking than all the best religionist questions previously made he could show them up. “You guys all failed, now watch and learn.”  Simply it was a motive of self-promotion. I can do better.

The third motive in this gamut of conversations could be a simple academic exercise. An earnest quest for knowledge and understanding. Teachers are always thirsty for knowledge, for new ideas, new insights, new questions, new conclusions.  Here was this new rabbi proclaiming the Kingdom of God and the questioner wanted to soak it all in. A tell me more attitude from a sincere learner. “Rabbi, in your understanding of God, what do you place as more important than any other.   I need to make note of these for my upcoming debates with my study group.”  The motive of learning or self-actualization.

Another of the paramount motives a person can have is for a good self-image.  It is self-awareness of where you fit. It may be judged by the external, but in reality, we are who we think we are. It is only the individual which can look deep within himself to see the good and the bad, the lovely and the ugly. You may call it honor, or reputation, or even “thine on-self be true.” It is a deeply personal thing that calls from our very soul.  As David said, “Search me and know me.” This inquisitive questioner this interrogatory was simply asking for reinforcement of his own view of himself. “Jesus draw for me a line so I can compare my soul and spirit to your estimation of the hierarchy of good and bad”.  The motive of self-worth

Fifth motive for this teacher is judgmentalism.  Being a judge has always been seen as a very important place in society. Impartial, knowledgeable, just, and fair are all qualities of a judge. Here the inquisitor of the law was simply asking the question of the greatest commandment to set a measuring rod for his quest for impartiality.  I have said to my children, “I don’t care what are the rules, just don’t change them mid-game.” Here the teacher of the law needed a stated expectation of goodness. And with that statement, he could count himself worthy to judge others. If I can meet your expectation of goodness, I can feel better about myself and can rightly judge everyone around me.” Judgmental qualifications as a motive.

Additionally, the motive could well be an effort to set for himself a line by which he would or could did not cross.  To see himself as better than the other guy.  I have heard it in the church, “At least I don’t steal from the offering plate.” It was a motive that was and is most selfish of all.  Self-justification. I don’t need God or man to judge me.  I can do what I will if I keep this one thing. “Show me the line by which I may justify myself.”  Self-justification is a motivating factor.

There could have been many more motives.  But every motive is driven by need. The question could have been motivated by the need to be accepted in a new and upwardly mobile religious group of Jesus. The crowds had become larger and larger.  Miracles of bread and fish, of resurrections and water into wine.  “I want to be a part of that.”  “I want to be a friend of Jesus.”  Every society, culture, or group has requirements for membership. The question could well be taken as a measuring rod for inclusion. He was posing the question needing an invitation to belong. “Tell me if I can join you in your quest of God. Give me an absolute measuring rod, so I may conform to your expectations and include me into your circle of friends.”The motivation of being part of something new and fresh.  The unique motive.

Whether the reason for the question was to be acceptance of authority, self-promotion, intellectual appetite, appraisal of self-worth, qualification of credentials, a friend of Jesus, or a combination of two or more, I would submit it went deeper than all these motives. He was something special. 

Had Jesus given an answer similar to those given to the other religious groups, it would have stopped there. Jesus saw beyond all the other possible motives and saw someone genially seeking God. In the Hebrew mindset, it was all about rules and commandments.  When Jesus quoted from the Old Testament there was a mutual agreement. But look closely at this account as it continued.

Jesus made his statement. ‘Hear O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this; Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these”.

In response, the teacher rephrased it to include something very important. He added, “these are more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  The establishment, the religious culture, the other trapper groups based all their questions on hypothetical situations.  Each question or hypothetical was to provide no out in the response. Each was dependent on outward acts and they could construe or twist into the alienation of a portion of the culture. To them, it was all about the action and not the motive.  As long as you did a certain thing you could be seen as righteous.

The teacher of the Law concluded, it was the motive and not the action.  All the actions of sacrifice, burnt offerings, all the things they did to justify themselves were not as important as the Love of God and the Love of man.

It was not actions that promoted acceptance by authority, it was not actions to promote self, it was not an intellectual exercise, it was not an assessment of self, it was not a qualification of duty, it was not even to be a friend of Jesus.  None of these things mean anything without the love of God and of man.   Hence, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

So why do I ask questions and sometimes make those who hear a little annoyed? Because I need them to come closer to God.  To irritate them to a point of understanding, like the teacher of the law, it is about why you do more than what you do.

The Intent of God

Fear does not rule my life. I live in hope and great expectations.  Never-the-less, I look at our current place in history and perceive a radical change in our culture.  The number of persons which have no belief in God it at about 7%. Further 16% of the world’s population do not identify with any religion. Both these statistics suffer from the ebbs and flows of perception.  That is not what is disturbing me.

What brings me to a point of consternation is the change in the loss of the understanding of the true intent of God. Theology (Study of God), Christology (Study of Christ), Ecclesiology (Study of the Church), and the plethora of Bible resources all have become entities in themselves without much on the intent of God.  Study for study sake has taken the place of study to discover what God wants. To discover what God’s intent is toward me.  What does God want for me?

What does God’s intent mean to the way I live my life?  What does God’s intent change me?  Or for that matter how am I to know that I need to change?

Maybe I it is just to late for me to embark on a quest for God’s intent for me and simply and blindly follow all those who have boldly gone before.  Or just perchance there is an inner need that has to be satisfied.  A need to know.  And in knowing, a chance to change.

I have a dream

To steal a phrase of Martin Luther King Jr. and a synopsis of the Sermon on the Mount, this is the text of my dream for the church which are honored Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven.  Written by someone who is a PINOGAM.  (Person In Need Of Grace And Mercy).

My fellow citizens, I have a dream for you today!

A dream:

Where The Kingdom of Heaven’s gates are thrown open to the Poor in Spirit.
Where those who are oppressed and put down are comforted,
Where the meek and lowly are welcomed to their inheritance,
Where those who have found a deep longing for righteousness are filled,
Where those who show mercy will be welcomed and forgiven,
Where The pure in heart will be overwhelmed and awed by the sight of God,
Where those who have sought peace and justice will receive their rightful name of children of heaven,
Where those who have been ridiculed, made fun of, put down, hung up, killed, ostracized will permanently possess the Kingdom of heaven.

You see I have a dream for you!

A dream for you to be the flavor and brightness of the world.
A dream that you will find a place of righteousness greater than any in the time of Jesus.
A dream where murder, adultery, divorce, broken promises, retribution, never happen in your lives.
A dream where there is true and unfailing love for your enemies.

I pray for a day,

When the needy will be supplied
When prayer will be more than lip service
When forgiveness is the new normal
When fasting is more than way to loose weight

There is a dream in my heart for you all, A day in which:

Your treasures in heaven become more important than any here on earth.
Your eyes are open to new opportunities and light.
All that happens in your life does not shadow God’s blessings.

I have a dream where:

We come to a place where we are able to discern right from wrong without any planks in our eyes,
Where we can petition God for heavenly things instead of earthly.

I have a dream in which all who search for the narrow gate will find it.

I have a dream where Kingdom of Heaven Citizens:

Might look at every teacher, preacher or prophet, and look carefully at their fruit that you will know true from false.
That God can search me and find nothing that would shadow my words as I have taught and will teach.
Where there is no hypocrisy in our deeds.
Where there is no hypocrisy in our motives.
Where there is no hypocrisy in our character.

I have a dream:

In that great storm which is coming that I know my foundation is true.

I have a dream today.

A dream of a great and glorious day:

Where every valley shall be raised, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see this day together. 

God Bless you and Keep you as you make your own dreams. 

Just Larry

God the only judge of character.

It is going to happen whether we like it or not. The presidential election. It has been touted as the most important in this or last century. It is discouraging to contemplate the two candidates running for the highest leadership position in our country. Both and neither seem to check all the boxes for me. Never-the-less, the election will be held, and someone will be in the white house for four years.

In the middle of the sometimes heated discussions of politics, we are distracted from the headlong ubiquitous degradation of America’s moral foundation and fundamental liberties. My inclination to discover what their vision is for the future and vote for that future. I want to do my civic duty. My vote is not about the personal values of the candidate but the change or lack of change for our country.

Yet there are many within the church who strongly disagree about one or both candidates. I have heard some will not vote, out of protest. Others condemning anyone one not seeing it the way they do. Others explicitly state their mandate is only to vote if it does not compromise their Christian witness whatever that means. And others say, “If you don’t vote you are not Christian.”

My thoughts here are from my study of the Bible. Both candidates profess the Christian faith. Where is my responsibility to include in my criteria for voting the genuineness of their Christianity? Where does it say a criterion of who is the best leader in this time of turmoil, pandemic, and social unrest, be based on my judgment of Christian their character? I can’t find it. Judge as you would be judged.

Our political decisions may well lead to discussions and even to outward persuasions, but I will not judge. That kind of Judgement is God’s and I am not looking for a job. I Cor 4:5 states that Jesus will judge. It is for him alone to bring to light what is now hidden and to commend or rebuke. So my friends, let us “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, [bear] with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). Let us not dismiss our own faith by doing anything else.

Sermon on the Mount

I am building a group of men to think for themselves.  To rightly divide the word of truth.  The vehicle for this building is a study on the Sermon on the mount.  It is in Matthews Gospel Chapter 5,6,7.

But as I read these words over and over again, I am amazed at the teachings of Jesus.  He was teaching the disciples on a grassy hill about the Kingdom of Heaven.  The hearers were amazed at the teachings of Jesus for it was from authority.  It meant something to them.  The sermon was one of those in which after the last AMEN, you simply said, “wow”. It pierced their hearts with truth. Not like another law book or set of rules.  Jesus taught them about the things which impacted their lives.  

The Scribes and Pharisees taught speaking and re-speaking the same words.  Words without life and conviction. Jesus said to those who listened, “your righteousness must surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.  This new law of the Kingdom of Heaven, this new way of truth and life, this abundant life points to dire need for a new righteousness.

The Kingdom of Heaven is a righteousness of faith empowered by the Holy Spirit to enable  you  to  lovingly,  willingly  and  delightfully  yield  your  will  in  total  submission  to  His  examination  of  your  heart  so  that  you  may  be  completely  set  free.

As with any revolutionary idea these words of Jesus were and still are misconstrued. It would be easy for anyone reading the Sermon on the Mount to wince once and a while. We have to be different from everyone else.  We can’t even think about getting angry and wishing someone ill, just looking at a woman is the same as having relations with her, divorce is out of the question, can’t make a oath, turn the other cheek and pray for my enemies.

In a quick read the task of obedience is overwhelming. “Jesus have you just traded one set of laws for another?”  The demands of Jesus are simply too difficult. Who among us have never hid wrong attitudes in our heart?  Who is not guilty of disobeying the rule of the King? 

The inevitable result is to fall short of God’s glorious ideal. We try and try to uphold that ideal with every ounce of our strength, but we fail again and again.  We end up living a life full of disappointment, guilt and failure.  And that is just the point. 

your conscience burns within you knowing that Jesus does not rule simply until you’ve had enough.  But rather than leaving you naked in your rebellion and exposed to judgment, He forgives you. He heals you. He restores you. He lifts you up and strengthens you to carry on the journey of faith for yet another day.

In our men’s study we simply say, “there are only two things in the Bible, 1) Revelation and 2) reconciliation.”  God reveals Himself in his plans and ideals and we are to reconcile ourselves to that revelation. When we fail.  And fail we often do. Failure should lead ourselves back to God for His strength, His guidance, His forgiveness, His love, His reconciliation.

General Principles of Biblical Study

As we study the Bible, whether we are in our own or with a group, there are a number of specific principles that help us to understand the Words of God as we read and study.  These are the principles that I try to follow.  Through personal use of these principles, they have keep me from jumping into places where God would not have me be.  Perhaps they might help you.

Principle 1: Author’s intention.

It is not my meaning of the scripture but the intention of the writer.  This means we should know the who is writing, why he is writing, when he is writing, what is the cultural setting, differences in language historically, what is the style and literary forms being used.

Principle 2: Know the context

A single word, even with a good dictionary must be understood within the sentence and paragraph in which is placed.  What does the following mean? “I booked.”  Does it mean you left in a hurry?  Does it mean secured a ticket on an airline? Does it mean I reported an event? Interpretations must be done in the context of the passage. Therefore, context determines meaning! The nearest context must give the most weight in interpretation. First, there is the near context of the sentence, then the paragraph, then the section and then the book and even author.

Principle 3: Normalcy

If possible, the Bible must be taken at its face value. When Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth”, the rule of normalcy says it is possible that Jesus meant they were Sodium Chloride?  When Isaiah 55:12 says “the trees of the field will clap their hands” the rule of normalcy would take this as impossible because trees have no hands.  When the literal does not make any normal sense, it is most likely there is some sort of figure of speech.  Conversely when Jesus said, “Blessed are the mercy for they shall mercy,”  Figurative language include: Parables, similes, metaphors, hyperbole, satire, analogy and illustration.

Principle 4: The Bible as the Key to the Bible

Use the Bible to help interpret itself. Interpret difficult passages with clear ones. This principal is sometimes called the law of non-contradiction. Because the Bible is God’s word, and God is true, the Bible will not contradict itself.  Do not try to change an Old Testament scripture because it seems to contradict a New Testament scripture.

Principle 5: Application is not interpretation

As we study the Bible there is only one interpretation.  This is God’s word and it does not change with time or human application. When Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with expensive oil, this is the factual interpretation. The interpretation is only refers to the act of Mary. What about us today? An application might be that we are willing to give sacrificially for the Lord’s work and give Jesus acts of worship as Mary did. Another would be that everyone must carry expensive oil to church and anoint the pastor’s feet every Sunday.

Principle 6: Distinctions of audience

Be sensitive to distinctions between Israel and the church and, Old Covenant and New Covenant. Promises made to Israel in the Old Testament cannot automatically be transferred to the church in which we are a part. For example, the land promises were given to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 12:7) but that does not include me, a Gentile Christian. It is true that certain Old Testament commands repeated in the New Testament are still binding, but this is made clear by their repetition in the New Testament. The church was formed in Acts 2 with the descent of the Holy Spirit and most direct statements to and about the church occur after that.

Principle 7: Types of literature

There are many types of literature in the Bible. There is law, narrative, wisdom, poetry, gospel, parable, epistle, and apocalyptic. Each of these types of literature has specific features that must be considered when interpreting a text.

Behemoth shame

When I was a young boy, I was visiting my cousin Sam in Pacific Grove. We were more like friends than cousins and we did most everything together. One afternoon we decided to go to the movies to see Behemoth, a monster movie in black and white. Back in those days late 1961 there was not much trouble two boys in a small town could get into so together we would go.   My Aunty Mae was busy, and we didn’t really want to ask her if we could go, so out the back door and down three blocks to the movie house we walked.

But when we got there, we discovered, to our dismay, we did not have enough money for both of us to get tickets. After much discussion, we decided on a plan. Sam would buy the ticket with a clear conscience and enter the theater.  The real dastardly deed would be for Sam to sneak down the aisle and open the back door so I could get in.

It was going to be an easy thing to do. We heard of others doing it. And if we got caught, the worse would happen was to be kicked out. Oh there would be a blemish on our spotless record and be banned from ever coming back, but no risk no reward.

It wasn’t that we were evil little boys of eleven, it was that we could see no harm in me seeing the movie from an empty seat. I was not taking the place from anyone else, and no one would ever know.

For the time, it was a good monster movie. It was a knock off of Godzilla.  Lots of screaming, destruction, and ending with a victorious banishment of the monster. But I could not enjoy watching all the terror and mayhem. I felt all during the movie that someone was watching me. My guilt was keeping me from enjoying my ill gotten gain. I thought to my self, “Someone knows of the dastardly deed I had done.”  I was attending without paying the price of admission.

I have done some things in my life which I am not proud.  I have sinned in so many ways; I have done dastardly deeds that I should have been caught and punished for.  But I have availed myself of the free gift of grace and forgiveness offered by Jesus.   Occasionally I have the same feelings of cheating which I had back in my delinquent days with cousin Sam.  How do I get over them?  In the book of Hebrews is a simple and elegant answer: Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. 10:22.  That movie ticket which I cheated on was simply wrong.  I was guilty even though I was ever found out.  That feeling is not guilt, it is shame.  Shame is the feeling in the conscience that makes us feel bad.

So every time I feel remorse, shame from a past act, I just smile.  Jesus paid the price. God is able to cleanse us from that guilty conscience.  Praise the Lord. 

The truth is not enough.

Sometimes I just don’t get some of the assumptions I hear from my brothers and sisters in the church.  It could well stem from personal experiences or even pre-conceived understandings of my own.  Whatever my problem may well be, I hear some of the strangest voiced conclusions and they set my own sensibilities on edge.

A few years back I was teaching a class on the book of John.  We were trying as a group to understand Jesus. What brought up the edgy feeling was the response to the question, “Why do you study the Bible?”  That question had many answers.  Some of the answers were conditioned “Sunday School” answers, while others were a little more honest, and others from those who were truly seeking more in their spiritual lives.  It was the last answer that didn’t seem quite right.  “I study the bible to be a better Christian.”  What it sounded like to me was this apt student was equating the accumulation of facts and theological understanding with growth. 

I pressed him to clarify and he quoted from John 8:32, “The truth will make you free.” He was saying when there is enough truth in your life you will, by that accumulation, become a better Christian.

I didn’t argue or tell him he was wrong, I simply smiled and jotted down a note to get a better understanding of his perceived pathway to growth.

At issue is endemic to many in the church. The idea of filling your heart with so much knowledge, so much scripture, that you become a super Christian, is often proclaimed.  What a terrible thought.  What an indictment against the very God in which we serve.  Before you get your own hackles up, let me explain.

First, the Gospel of John does say, “the truth will set you free.” But like most misconceptions of the will of God, it was taken out of a larger portion of scripture.  Jesus was speaking to Jews who had been influenced by the Pharisees and had come to an understanding of Jesus.  They had the head knowledge.  They had accumulated so much Jewish theology and insight of the prophets, they saw these as pointers to Jesus being the Messiah. Consequently, they had accepted the words of Jesus as truth.

Second, the Gospel of John in the same eighth chapter and which this “make you free” statement was stated also includes a preface. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and that truth will set you free.” The key is not accumulation but a holding.

Holding is not just gathering the wheat in the fields and taking it as an accomplishment.  Holding is knowing the purpose of the wheat and making bread. To be a disciple is to conform to the teachings of God, to stay on a prescribed path set by God, and it is to be more than a sponge.

Why do I study the Bible?  Two things.  I study to understand God and His path for me. And subsequently, to finding that path, I utilize my new understanding to follow that path.  My life is one of revelation and reconciliation. Without the second part, the first part is without much help to my growth.  My growth is dependent upon my understanding of God’s place for me AND my willingness to do something about it.