Don’t you just love the internet? Sure, it has its downfalls, but it’s great having that much information just a click or search away. And therein lies the problem. There’s so much information out there that it’s becoming more difficult to distinguish between truth and hearsay. Anyone can start a website, YouTube account, or blog and prognosticate about anything and the gullible will believe.
I have a friend who uses the internet to validate their opinions on just about everything. Notice that I said they already have their opinions established before doing their research. The bad part is, we can always find what we’re looking for if we look hard enough. There’s always enough information, that if misused or taken out of context, can be used to back up whatever stance we want to take.
It’s sad to say, but we use the Bible the same way at times. We go verse hunting to support our hidden agendas and preconceived ideas instead of approaching scripture with a humble attitude and a surrendered heart. Many times this isn’t done on purpose, but we unknowingly use scripture to support the doctrinal beliefs we’ve been taught or to take a stance on issues we’re very passionate about. It’s great that we would consult the Bible for answers, but to do so dishonestly does a disservice to the word of God.
First, the Bible should be read with a heart that is neutral. This doesn’t mean that every preacher you’ve heard was wrong in their teaching or that your previous understanding of scripture was off target. It means that we are fallible human beings who sometimes bring our selfishness into our religious beliefs instead of letting God rule our lives. It’s a constant battle to fight against the idolatry of self and be sensitive to the urgings and instruction of the Holy Spirit as we attempt to discern scripture. Neutrality is the key to making sure God comes first and man second.
Next, the Bible should be read with the context in mind. In my reading class at school, I am constantly teaching my students about context and word nuance and how they greatly affect the understanding of text. We learn that authors have reasons for writing in a particular style or using specific words, and discovering that helps us to learn the true meaning of the text. When reading scripture, we should read to understand the lesson being taught and the underlying message of the writing. We should not read just to dig for something specific that supports our opinion or read to find a particular answer that makes it easier for us to swallow.
Sometimes we only want to listen to the lessons that are palatable but not the ones that cause discomfort or sacrifice or the admission of wrong. The word of God is meant to cut to the heart of the reader (Hebrews 4:12) laying bare our real motives and helping us discover the wishes of Almighty God. Just as the Apostles were given the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 16:13), we are given the Spirit for the same reason. One of the greatest prayers we can pray is to ask for the assistance of the Holy Spirit in discerning scripture. I know that’s a prayer God will happily answer because it means we are willing to listen instead of thinking we already have all the answers.
Be sure to dig into God’s word more and do the research necessary to understand the context and historical significance of the writings in the Bible. Don’t take every blog you read or sermon you hear preached as gospel truth but with the Spirit’s help, rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) so that you may be pleasing in the sight of God. He has always searched for those believers who are teachable and he has always rewarded those who honestly search for the truth.