How to understand God's Word
READ TIME: 10 MINUTES
There's this story that stuck in my head since the first time I heard my daddy preach it. I must have been 6 or 7 years old, but it's a classic:
ONE DAY, A NEW BRIDE is making her first big dinner for her husband and tries her hand at her mother’s brisket recipe, cutting off the ends of the roast the way her mother always did. Her husband thinks the meat is delicious, but says, “Why do you cut off the ends — that’s the best part?” She answers, “That’s the way my mother always made it.”
The next week, they go to the grandmother's house and she prepares the famous brisket recipe, again cutting off the ends. The young bride wants to find out how this improves the meat, so she asks her grandma why she cut off the ends. Grandma says, “Oh darling, that’s the only way it will fit in my pan.”
It's safe to say that the mother has been throwing away the best part of the brisket for years -- tons of good meat tossed into the trash because they don't know the WHY behind the RULE.
How many "Christian" ideas do we believe because we know the RULE but not the WHY?
If we only know what we've been taught ABOUT the Bible, but don't The Bible for ourselves, then we are tossing out the best part every time. We're using old revelation -- not that it's bad -- just that God has fresh revelation for us. He's waiting to give it to us!
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you."
Not All Bible Usage Is Right
A couple of weeks ago, God woke me up in the middle of the night to brainstorm a blog post about ways we all misinterpret Scripture. It's not just Scripture though, and it's not just Christians. WE ALL have unique perspectives based on experiences we've had, how we've been raised, etc. Some of those experiences have taught us to see the Bible with clarity we haven't had before. But other experiences have taught us lies that contradict truth, and we carry that with us when we try to read the Bible.
I've heard racists use Bible verses to defend their hate.
I've heard sexists use Bible verses to defend their fears.
I've even heard well-intentioned people who simply lack true revelation. People who diminish the wretchedness of sin. People who diminish Christ's sacrifice. People who just aren't spiritually mature who are teaching people who don't know any better. People who are googling and relying on celebrities for wisdom instead of going to God.
It's sad. More than sad. It's distressing.
I'm called by the Lord to help train my readers to know God, to grow to recognize His Spirit, and to be able to understand the Bible for themselves.
If this sounds like what you're looking for, then keep reading. In fact, subscribe via the link on my home page. We're going to grow in godliness. Not just being able to read the Bible, but truly knowing God and faithfully following Him. I'm forming a tribe of women who want God more than anything else, and I want you to seize this opportunity!
A Brief Recap
This post is a follow-up to "5 Ways We Misinterpret The Bible".
For you who already read it, here's a little refresher on the ways we misinterpret the Bible apart from the Holy Spirit's guidance:
The Sinful Bias - I don't like to recognize when the Bible calls out my sin, and I'm tempted to skim past those verses.
The Cultural Bias - When the Bible was written, our humanity wasn't yet evolved to believe slavery was sinful. In today's times, we know it is. This begs the question: What other parts of the Bible were written to a society less evolved & humane than ours?
The Ceiling Bias - When I read the Bible, I add a ceiling over a limitless God based on my limited belief.
The My Will Be Done Bias - I tend to pick & choose which verses to dwell on based on those that fit my own will for my life, rather than God's Divine Will for me.
The Need To Be Right Bias - We all are defensive when it comes to our beliefs. If we feel attacked or questioned, we defend ourselves often at the cost of truth & brotherly or sisterly love.
Can you identify with any of these biases? I don't think there's a living, breathing soul who can't! I don't even think these are biases contained to Christians. I think this is a human problem in the way we comprehend reality.
Now that we've established that we all bring our own biases to the table when reading the infallible Word of God... Let's go to the Word to find some hope.
In this post, I'll outline how the Spirit helps us to study the Word. It's organized based on what the Bible says about it at 3 different times in the New Testament:
During Jesus' Life
After Jesus' Resurrection
After Jesus Left
During Jesus' Life
To have the Spirit of God we must first know the Son of God. Why? Because Jesus said in John 14:16:
"And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of Truth."
The relationship between the Trinity and us is that we first know Jesus, who makes a way for us to be in the Father's presence -- to know God the Father -- who then gives us His Spirit to live within us.
Later in the same chapter of John 14, Jesus explains how the Spirit will help us:
“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (v.26)
So the disciples are verbally hearing Jesus' teachings for several years, and He knows that human memory isn't exactly perfect... can I get a witness?? And Jesus promises that the Spirit of God will remind the disciples of what they've learned and heard. Jesus knew they needed help, as they would later record their gospels which would become the true Word of God that we study today! How crucial that they not misinterpret or jumble Jesus' words after His death. It's the same cruciality that we have to not mince God's Words when reading and quoting them.
After Jesus' Resurrection
Once Jesus died and rose back to life, His ministry on earth was coming to a close. It was time for Him to return to Heaven, and it was time for the Spirit of God to live in the hearts of believers. But before He left earth, He re-appeared to the disciples to encourage them in person one last time.
Jesus said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what My Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The first verse I emboldened is so striking to me. These disciples walked with Jesus for His entire ministry on earth. For years, they traveled, ministered, ate, and slept in the same places. There wasn't a whole lotta personal space. They knew Jesus better than anyone else on earth. Yet their minds weren't yet open to understand the Bible and how Jesus completed the requirements of the Law of the Old Testament. Interesting... Is it possible, if these disciples --who were Jesus' best friends-- didn't yet understand Scripture...is it possible that WE could know Jesus yet not fully understand Scripture?
I believe we will understand the Bible the more we read it, the more we apply it to our everyday lives, and the more we challenge our beliefs by taking faith risks. I understand the Bible way more today than I did 10 years ago, when I wasn't using my faith, I was just studying a book. Even in the last year my understanding of the Bible has grown so much just from taking the scary faith risk of quitting a stable, secure job to pursue God's calling for me to write. Verses that I "knew" in my head, I now understand in my heart. When I read Hebrews 11, this verse comes alive:
"By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." (v.8)
I feel like I can relate to Abraham, stepping out in faith and hoping God comes through. I've read that verse dozens of times, but now today it really means something to me. And that is what Jesus did for His disciples and what He promised the Spirit would do for us: To open our minds so we can truly understand the Word of God.
So How Do I Get The Holy Spirit?
If you're a believer, the Holy Spirit resides in you to encourage and teach you. Sometimes you might not feel the Spirit's presence, or perhaps you've NEVER really felt the Spirit's presence. I wrote this other blog post for you: How Do I Get The Holy Spirit? There's a lot of confusion in the Christian community about who does or doesn't have the Spirit, and what it looks like when God's Spirit lives in you. I wrote that blog post to bring light to the doubts that live in the dark. You may not "feel" the Spirit, but He lives within you. It requires exercise to train your awareness of the Spirit's work in your life. Just as it requires exercise to recognize how much your hamstrings work for you every day. But if you have a heavy leg day, the next couple of days, you are *highly aware* that your hamstrings work...with every step you take. It's the same principle. It requires exercising your awareness to become more aware. If you didn't check out that previous blog post, it would be a good place to start to demystify the role of the Holy Spirit in your life as a believer.
After Jesus Left
After Jesus left, the disciples were able to be filled with the Spirit of God. Jesus said it was good that He was leaving to rejoin His Father in Heaven, because He physically can't be everywhere at once to help all believers be encouraged and to discern truth. But once Jesus left, He promised the Holy Spirit would be able to do just that:
But [The Spirit of God] that you received from Jesus abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as [The Spirit] teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie--just as it has taught you, abide in Him.
1 John 2:27
We don't need to wait to ask a Sunday school teacher about his/her interpretation of the Bible. We don't need a hundred devotionals. We need to sit with the Word, meditating on it, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach us, just as Jesus promised. We need faith to believe that although I've tried to understand a certain verse before...and perhaps it didn't work last time...I choose to believe that God won't withhold truth from me. He finds no pleasure in hiding wisdom from me. He simply requires that we ask, and He will show us.
All of my biblical understanding comes from God. Some of it has come through good teachers. I'm particularly fond of Joyce Meyer, Ravi Zacharias, and Carl Lentz. But most of it has come out of my daily time with God, reading His Word, asking His Spirit to teach me. Because my source of biblical truth is from God Himself and not another person, I'm solid in my understanding. I don't have to doubt whether what I believe is true, because I know the Word of God for myself.
I want the same thing for all my readers. That we would crave God's Word. That we would be faithfully consistent to stay with the Word. That we would allow the Spirit of God to open our minds to understand the Bible and the God who spoke it into existence.
If this is a hard topic for you, because you've tried and tried to read the Bible...well I have a few tips.:
If you've struggled with comprehending the Bible, try a different translation. Try the Message or The Passion Translation, both of which are available on the YouVersion Bible app.
If you struggle with consistency, try a reading PLAN. "A goal without a plan is just a wish." Just like getting a workout plan helps to keep you consistent at the gym, a reading plan will help keep you consistently reading the Word. My favorite plans are from She Reads Truth. They have an app with daily plans that cost a mere $2/month. I've been more consistent using their plans than I have with anything else. And my husband uses the He Reads Truth app. We each read the same verses each day, which means we can discuss what we read together!
If you struggle with passion for reading the Bible, pray. The enemy will always attack your passion for spiritual disciplines -- whether you're a new Christian or you've been in ministry for decades. I've heard this problem from Christians at all stages of growth and maturity. We have to be on guard against the enemy's schemes to destroy our passion for God. Pray that God will bolster your passion for His Word. Pray that you would desire His Word like you desire oxygen. Be consistent, even when you don't feel like it, and your passion will grow. Trust me. I've followed the Lord for a couple of decades, and my passion wanes in and out. Consistency has kept me growing, though, regardless of my level of enthusiasm on any given day.
If you have any other tips for reading the Bible consistently, leave them in the comments! If you're looking for more tips, go read the comments! :)
I hope this blog post has been helpful for you to understand how the Holy Spirit works. If you learned something, *PLEASE SHARE THIS ON FACEBOOK* using the buttons below. I want all believers to understand the Spirit's role in Bible study and to rely on Him to open our minds to understand.