Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Throw the Book at Him! - How Do We Know It's God?

I grew up in an era when books were pretty much the only alternative to TV. I am sure you love your Kindle, but I had some favorite books with real pages and everything. My most treasured was The Wind in the Willows, which I received as a birthday gift from my grandfather in 1963. It was inscribed with a blue fountain pen. I couldn't read back then, but it was in a wonderful paper wraparound jacket and a green tweed like cloth binding.

My mother would sit on my bed and read it to me. The experience is much less about the story line or the plot, but the experience of the book - turning pages, my mother's voice; its changing cadence and emphasis, depending on the character. When she read to me I could hear the wind in the willows.

When I started to read, I had some childhood favorites: Little Toot, Winne the Pooh, Harold and the Purple Crayon, and The Little Engine that Could. I can hear that words "I think I can, I think I can." as if I was there in my upper bunk, reading by flashlight. I loved Dr Seuss too.

My mother used to take us to The Channel Book Store on the Yale campus. I guess it's gone now - probably a Borders or something. We often went to the library where I would quietly scan the shelves of books looking for one that caught my attention. I loved the books, and after I got saved, I used to go to a book store called Amazing Grace. I had a stint of unemployment, and I went as often as I could to look, to read, and to fellowship.

For me, books and magazines were my Internet. I wanted to know everything that I could about the subjects that interested me: hockey, motocross, skiing, mechanics, music, photography, Christianity, and later computers. At my first computer school I managed to plow through 3,000 pages of software manuals during a 12 week class.

What seems amazing to even me, is that I had such a hard time reading. I failed English and/or Reading 9 of my 12 years of education. I had dyslexia which no one did anything about it. The teachers laughed at some of my transpositions - they always seemed to make a funny word. On occasion my wife also finds it amusing.

I still liked books - and collected a lot of them. I had 12 versions of the Bible, 4 of which I read in two years.

I still really like the Bible, and I enjoy reading it - especially the Message. I have different versions that I use for different reasons. For many years I memorized verses in the Revised Standard - a throw back to my studies at Bethel. I studied the D. L. Moody Bible series and I used the King James version for that. I attended a Southern Baptist Church in the 90's and we used the New International Version there. At my next church we used the North American Standard, and I read the Amplified Bible for devotions. I went to ministry school and there, we used the New King James version. My Online Bible turned me on to Greek and Hebrew. And I had an audio Bible as well.

For many years I thought that I could gain a lot of knowledge about the Bible and become an expert by studying it and reading it. I went to conferences, read books by the most educated Christian scholars and heard hundreds of sermons too!

I actually became a worshipper of the Bible, not the God reveled in it. I could spout Bible like a gushing fire hydrant.

The problem with being a "Bible spouter" is that you have to be intellectual, legalistic, or arrogant - or some combination of the three. And one day you meet up with someone that is grounded in the word, not stuck in some religious interpretation. Then you are done - well done. Their insights are God's insights, not something they learned from another Christian. The Pharisees were legalistic, and Jesus rebuked them for intellectualizing the law.

The parts of the Bible that I am certain of are the ones that God himself has revealed to me. As Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples to the very fact that He was the Messiah of the Old Testament, God has opened my eyes to facets of truth that are important to me and MY relationship with the Creator.

A lot of folks ask questions such as this: "How do you know which is the correct interpretation or version of the Bible?" My answer, the one that brings YOU close to Jesus in a way where YOU can hear his voice. I know, because my relationship is with Jesus, not with the Bible. Reading different versions helps me better understand the intent of the writers and interpreters, but it may not tell me what God is saying to David.

If a verse or passage is not illuminated to us, and opened in our spirit, we are simply engaging in debate, opinion, and theological argument where Christianity becomes a philosophy. What we need is for the eyes of our hearts to be opened, and to be like the Bereans, looking into the word for ourselves. In the process of searching for it like silver, we are likely to enjoy rhema (living word) - hearing God's voice.

Personally, I think it's hard to understand the Bible, but what I have found is that God makes it easy - well if I have faith. I often challenge verses that seem pretty main stream. I want to make sure what I am being taught is the truth. I go after the versus and passages that others say are difficult.

In the end, there isn't going to be a written test. He is not going to ask us if we figured it all out. He is not going to mention our fancy-dancy leather Bible case, or perfectly straight underlines and high-lights. He isn't going to ask you if you read it, He'll want to know if you lived it. And then Jesus will look into your heart and mine to see if His word is there beneath the seal of the Holy Spirit.

How about you, what's your process for understanding the truth of the word of God? How do you hear the wind?

11 comments:

Tracy said...

I relate to both your love of actual books, and your experience of learning much Bible knowledge and then coming into the greater truth of relationship with the God who authored the Bible.

My process for understanding the truth of God's Word is not a formula. I approach God and His Word in a variety of ways.

Like you, I enjoy using several paraphrases and translations. Because of this I've developed a fondness for Biblegateway since I can just pick which versions and have them laid out side by side for whatever passage I'm looking at. I've found the insights of other Believers to stimulate my own thoughts and reactions; so I enjoy both larger and smaller Bible study groups,commentaries, Christian books, and even blogs.

The best thing is that connection with God Himself. To be candid, I'm not proficient at relationships; be they with people or God Himself. It's not easy for me to just "be" in the presence of God, or to come to Him with the deep hurts or longings in my heart. I'm still working on that. I'm grateful that many times God seems to just come to me in those unexpected moments.

photogr said...

Well some bibles are easier to understand than others. The more recent ones seem to be able to put the passages in more revelant terms but at the same time they seem to loose something in the translation. The 23rd Psalms comes to mind as well as others.

The way I see things with God. He is always there wanting to share with you his love even if you have Him tuned out or don't hear Him.

If you want to have a relationship with Him, just pray and talk to Him. He will respond in His own time. If you pray to ask for understanding of a passage in the bible, He will enlightening you.

He speaks to us in the bible ( which ever one you read), He speaks to us in our daily lives, He speaks to us in our sleep, and our visions.

He is constantly trying to communicate with us. All we have to do is be receptive to His voice through the Holy Spirit.

Have any of you ever had an impulse to do something but had a voice that said to wait or don't do that and later found out it was a good hunch not to do what you proposed? Perhaps it was the Lord speaking to you.

GCT said...

"A lot of folks ask questions such as this: "How do you know which is the correct interpretation or version of the Bible?" My answer, the one that brings YOU close to Jesus in a way where YOU can hear his voice."

You are aware that Xians who come to different interpretations would make the claim that it brings them closer to Jesus in a way they can hear his voice, aren't you?

"He'll want to know if you lived it. And then Jesus will look into your heart and mine to see if His word is there beneath the seal of the Holy Spirit."

So, do you reject the idea of salvation through faith along?

David said...

@GCT - a couple of quick points.

-1 There is only one correct interpretation of the Bible (not version - versions are about language). God is not fickle. He saves by faith or he doesn't. He sends unrepentant sinners to Hell or He doesn't. Lying is a sin. It doesn’t matter which version you read as long as you "get it." Men who think they can know God through intellectual endeavors can easily miss Him.

-2 Salvation is by faith and faith alone. Thus we get the seal of the Holy Spirit. We are then accountable for our actions and inactions.

GCT said...

"-1 There is only one correct interpretation of the Bible (not version - versions are about language)."

The point I was trying to make is that you claim to have the right interpretation, but so do many other Xians - most of whom don't agree with you. You claim that your interpretation is right because it brings you closer to Jesus, but they make the same claim. It seems that your metric for determining the correct interpretation works equally well for other interpretations, so we are left without a good metric to use.

"-2 Salvation is by faith and faith alone. Thus we get the seal of the Holy Spirit. We are then accountable for our actions and inactions."

This is confusing. If salvation is by faith, and faith alone, then how are we accountable for our actions? As long as I believe in the right thing, I get salvation, no matter what my actions are (the right thing is usually described as believing that Jesus died for my sins and Jesus alone is the route to salvation). But, you seem to be claiming that Jesus also looks at our actions, which would mean that salvation is not by faith alone.

David said...

@GCT - I maintain that there is only one interpretation of Biblical truth - the fact some folks get ship wrecked before they get it all down perfectly is simply the human condition.

Those who pursue God will deepen their relationship and better understand the truth of Scripture. For a lot of folks, Jesus seems to be a pass time and produces little in the way of spiritual dividends.

The point of the post is to stop trying to know about Jesus, and get to know Jesus. The book becomes an idol for so many.

Faith is the door by which we walk through to eternity in Heaven. (The seal). The fact that we get to go does not preclude the fact that our sin deserves punishment. Jesus paid the price for our sin, but there is a still a judgment and a punishment even if we don't serve the sentence by the Blood of Christ. Our sin does not evaporate by the sacrifice of Christ, it is just that the debt is paid in full by Christ.

I guess it is like going to court and when we are sentenced, they take Jesus away to serve the sentence for us which is death.

The idea that we can get "saved" and do whatever we want is not biblical. The idea that we can do something to earn salvation is also not biblical. It is by faith that we receive salvation by grace. It is not like some clown throwing lollipops from the center ring, shouting "good boy, today it's your birthday and we’ll overlook everything."

GCT said...

"@GCT - I maintain that there is only one interpretation of Biblical truth - the fact some folks get ship wrecked before they get it all down perfectly is simply the human condition."

David, I get that...I understand perfectly what you are saying, and I'm not disputing it. I'm just wondering how anyone can know that they have the correct interpretation.

"Those who pursue God will deepen their relationship and better understand the truth of Scripture."

There are Xians who also claim to pursue god and deepen their relationship who come to different interpretations than you. How do we differentiate between their claims and your claims?

"The point of the post is to stop trying to know about Jesus, and get to know Jesus."

Yes, I understand the point, and if our discussion is too far off topic, then we don't have to continue. Personally, I don't think I'm that far off topic though, as I think getting to "know Jesus" is entirely linked to the questions of how you do so and how you know when you are doing it.

"It is by faith that we receive salvation by grace. It is not like some clown throwing lollipops from the center ring, shouting "good boy, today it's your birthday and we’ll overlook everything.""

Ah, but it is like that, so long as you believe that there's some clown throwing lollipops from the center of the ring...so to speak...(Sorry, I couldn't resist re-using the imagery.) That's what salvation by faith alone means. It means that so long as you have the right beliefs (the right faith) that you are saved. It says nothing about actions and even precludes them being taken into account by the use of the term, "alone."

David said...

@GCT - You are a wise person. And one should question why there is not more unity in what the "church" believes. I find it amazing as well.

What I have noticed is that folks tend to "figure" out the Bible with some sort of logic which may sound good, but may in fact be flawed. You continue to ask how I know this. Here is a blog that I wrote to challenge church people in what they claim as true.

http://fireandgrace.blogspot.com/2009/01/do-we-really-believe-bible.html

and here is another:

http://fireandgrace.blogspot.com/2007/07/spiritual-gifts-call-me-thomas.html

In the end, we are not what we claim we are, but we know God, or we don't. Going to McDonalds doesn't make me a hamburger even if I say I am one. The details, unfortunately, are not required for citizenship in heaven. Sincere faith opens the door.

Regarding judgment: The fact that our sentence was served by Jesus does not preclude us from attending our own "trial" to face God for the reading of the charges.

There is a guy who wrote what I believe is the essence of this process, which I posted some time ago.

http://fireandgrace.blogspot.com/2007/07/one-if-by-sea-two-if-by-land.html#moore

GCT said...

David,
Thank you for the kind words.

"And one should question why there is not more unity in what the "church" believes. I find it amazing as well."

Think about how it looks to non-Xians, especially when each sect claims to have the correct interpretation.

"You continue to ask how I know this. Here is a blog that I wrote to challenge church people in what they claim as true."

Yes, I am asking that, and no offense, but I don't see the two posts you listed as answering the question. I do appreciate that you are trying to figure out what the passages mean, but I think my question is more of a meta-question than that. Let me see if I can re-phrase: All Xians that I'm aware of think that their interpretations of the Bible and what god thinks/wants/etc are correct. Yet, when one looks at the competing claims, it becomes apparent that somebody must not be correct. How do we differentiate between the competing claims and figure out which is correct? So far, the methods that you've outlined have not been able to determine who is correct, since all Xians that I'm aware of claim to be using those methods, yet still come to different answers.

"The details, unfortunately, are not required for citizenship in heaven. Sincere faith opens the door.

Regarding judgment: The fact that our sentence was served by Jesus does not preclude us from attending our own "trial" to face God for the reading of the charges."

OK, so if faith opens the door, what would god say at the trial? He would list off all of your sins and then he would determine whether you had the proper beliefs. If you have the proper beliefs, then all the sins listed wouldn't mean anything, if faith alone really does lead to salvation. Anyone could literally get away with anything and still go to heaven, so long as they have the proper belief that Jesus died for their sins. It's not about actions, it's not about doing right or wrong, it's not about morality, it's about what you believe. This means there's really no obligation to do right in order to get into heaven.

"There is a guy who wrote what I believe is the essence of this process, which I posted some time ago."

You may want to update your idea of who wrote what if this is correct. It doesn't change the idea behind the story, but the story is only fiction after all.

David said...

@GCT - I am with you - there is only one way to believe. The other two blogs are the method of refuting what I call "compartmentalized theology." Very often, folks overlook other portions of Scripture to make an "out of context" case. It's easy to do, but worse it replicates itself as the sheeple sit in a pew playing with their iPhones believing everything they hear and never looking into it.

Most Christians become people of principal - but only about 22% of American Christians really believe the Bible is the only moral authority. The leaves about 65% that a full of bologna. They just repeat what they heard from the pulpit and do not understand what is behind the "Christian" principal. They get far from hearing God, and it turns into an intellectual battle that no on wins. Even Martin Luther did that in spite of the advances he made in getting rid of religion and moving closer to the "being led by the Spirit" paradigm of real Christianity!

Church is primarily a social club with some feel good religion tossed in. I find 9 out of 10 churches pretty lame. I personally don't think Americans know what it is like to have the kind of need (poor) the Jesus meets. They just want the American dream 2.3 kids, a house and a good job with health insurance, and think that God is a spiritual bellhop who should provide - as if they are entitled. It's a bit childish.

My faith heroes are the ones that go out there and make a difference in the world. I am not saying they compromise Christian belief, but their faith is about doing the will of God in a loving way regardless of the cost. You see without God, it can't be done. The Crusades are a good example of that.

GCT said...

David,
"I am with you - there is only one way to believe."

Not to sound like a broken record, but how does one know what that way is?

"The other two blogs are the method of refuting what I call "compartmentalized theology." Very often, folks overlook other portions of Scripture to make an "out of context" case."

It's what another blogger I know calls being a "Cafeteria Xian." No offense, but I don't know of a single Xians that doesn't do this. Worse yet, they probably accuse you of the same thing when they disagree with your interpretations. Again, how can I, or anyone else, tell the difference between the truth claims?

"Most Christians become people of principal..."

I don't think Xians are (on the whole) any more or any less moral than anyone else.

"You see without God, it can't be done. The Crusades are a good example of that."

The Crusaders certainly felt they had god's backing. To me, this looks almost like special pleading or post hoc reasoning. IOW, it looks to me as if you are applying the term of "real Xian" or "with god" to those things you agree with and taking it away from those things you disagree with.

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