Before Bible Discussions Will Benefit Us, We Have to Read by the Same “Rules”

I had a great Memorial Day. First, I got to sleep in, which was important because Trina, my 18-month old, had a little accident on Sunday night and woke up several times throughout the night because of it. Don’t worry, it wasn’t major and she is doing much better now. Second, since the rain was held at bay, I was able to do some landscaping work. I had to build up our front flower bed, which involved hauling a bunch of landscaping bricks up the hill through my yard and redistributing a bunch of dirt. My arms, legs, and back are a bit sore today. However, to top the day off, my family was invited to a good friend’s house for a cookout and volleyball. What a blast.

However, I learned last night that almost no one knows the rules of volleyball have changed. In fact, you probably aren’t aware they have changed. Don’t worry, until Tessa started playing for a local league, I had no idea. You may believe that in volleyball you only score on the serve. Not anymore. Actually, someone scores every time. Whoever wins the rally or the volley gets a point whether their team served or not. You may have thought a volleyball game was played to 15 or perhaps 21. Not so. It is now played to 25 with one exception. If you are playing a match, you will play best 2 out of 3 or best 3 out of 5 games. In this case, if the series goes to the final tie-breaking game, that final game is played to 15. 

I tried to tell the other players, but they mocked me and acted like I was out of my mind. I encouraged them to Google it. If they did, they’ll find what I found–new rules.

I also learned something else last night, something more important than just the fact that almost no one knows that the rules for volleyball have actually changed. I learned that in order to play a game, you have to agree on the rules. We got started and the other team served. My team won the point. Then I served and my team won that point. I called out the score, “Two serving zero,” and everyone accept Tessa, my son Ethan, and one other player went berserk. We had to spend 5 to 10 minutes determining exactly how we were going to play. As old habits die hard, we played the old way. However, at least we all had a standard by which we could judge the game. Even if we didn’t like the standard (Tessa hated it), we knew what was expected and how to play.

This reminds me of most Bible discussions today. Too often folks just plow into a discussion about whether or not something is right or wrong and they get nowhere. They leave the discussion and simply can’t understand why the other person didn’t get it. Usually, the problem is they were playing by different rules. They don’t disagree simply because they disagree about the one issue. They disagree because they read the Bible differently. If I can describe it this way, they’re using different sets of rules.

II Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”

God gave us the Bible so we could serve and glorify Him through the good works He has planned for us. However, before we can have good discussions about those good works, we need to be playing by the same rules. Before you get involved with someone else about a Bible discussion, back up and discuss how to use the Bible. You might be surprised the differences you find and you might have some more fruitful discussions with people.

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You Do Err, Not Knowing the Scriptures

In our discussions with others concerning the Bible or other subjects haven’t we heard the following statements before? I know in my heart that this is right. Or, I think this is right. Or, I’ll ask my pastor or Bible teacher about this, I want to see what they say about it. When we come to questioning what is right or wrong, shouldn’t there be some concrete bottom line information that is the truth about the questions we have. If it is the “I feel” or “I think” scenario, don’t we all have different feelings and thoughts about religious topics that affect our attitudes and spiritual goals. You have just as much right to feel and think about a certain matter as I do or vice versa.           

There must be and is a standard that is recognized and accepted as the final and only authority on what is right or wrong. Most will agree that this is the divinely inspired Word of God.           

Man needs this standard just like we need the standards of time, weights, and measures. We accept these with no basic differences but when issues and questions come up concerning religious belief we must ask, “What does God say about it in his Word?”

Do not the Scriptures imply that they are the standard, the bottom line that we can agree should settle the question or what is scripturally right or wrong?                       

God’s word says in 2 Timothy 3: 16,17(KJV) “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good works.”           

2 Peter 1: 3 (KJV) says His divine power has given us everything we need for life and Godliness through our knowledge of him.” Psalm 119:105 (KJV) says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

The question asked by the Sadducees in Matthew 22: 23 prompted this reply by Jesus  “Ye do err not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God.” The source of their error was ignorance. Consider Acts 3:17(NKJV), “Yet now brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance.”

Note the question asked by Pilate in John 18:38, “What is truth?” The answer is found in John 17:17. “Thy Word is truth.” Isn’t Jesus’ reply so easy for us to understand? Not my word or yours or anybody else’s but God’s word settles the matter.  May we conclude from the above that our Faith should not stand in the wisdom of man but in the power of God (cf. 1Corinthians 2:5).

Does this not settle the matter as to where we must go to determine the answers to our differences? In Jeremiah 10:23, it states, “It is not in man to direct his footsteps.” If not in man to direct, then who? Consider the aforementioned Scriptures in Psalm 119:105.

Let us not follow in the people’s path in Hosea 4:6, “ My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge because they have rejected knowledge.”  

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I Need to Hear the Same Message Over and Over Again

While in Lafayette, Georgia, I’ve preached two sermons that looked at Philippians 2:3-4, applying them in two different contexts–marriage and the local congregation. This repetition has reminded me of something I wanted to share with you.

As a preacher, I sometimes have an idea for a sermon but then think, “I can’t do that one; I preached on that already.” That may have even been 5 years ago. Certainly, I shouldn’t be lazy, rehashing old study to keep from having to do work today. However, I’ve preached these two sermons in numerous places. Each time I do, I usually have to say, “I’m preaching this again, because even though I’ve said it to me before, I seem to have forgotten and need to be reminded.”

The messages from God’s word are not lessons we hear once and have internalized and mastered. Oh no, I need to hear these same messages over and over and over again. Don’t worry, I won’t start repreaching all my sermons. However, I will encourage us to go back and keep studying or restudying. As Peter said in II Peter 1:12-13, we constantly need to be reminded of the Biblical messages.

Whatever you think you’ve gotten down, go back and study it again.

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We Need to Keep the Bible Passages in Context

Earlier this week, for my work on giveattentiontoreading.com, I read John 5:18 and was again impressed with the concept that one can prove anything he wants if he is willing to take enough Bible passages out of context. “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (ESV).

There it is; the Bible proves it. Jesus was a law-breaking sinner. He broke the Sabbath. Or did He?

This passage does not tell us what Jesus did. Rather, this was what the Jews thought of Jesus. They viewed His lawful miracles on the Sabbath as Sabbath violations. They also viewed His statement about doing His Father’s work as blasphemy, but this didn’t make Jesus a blasphemer.

The point of all this is when we study the Bible, we cannot just take each verse for its face value without consideration of the context. Who was speaking or writing? To whom were they speaking or writing? What was the purpose of the greater surrounding passage? How does this verse fit in that greater purpose? What was the significance of the statement within its historical context? These are all questions we must ask before we just make a statement about a particular verse all by itself.

Throughout my time as a Christian, I have heard this point made repeatedly with an accusatory finger at all those denominationalists out there who take things out of context. However, we need to think primarily about our own study. We can just as easily be guilty of this very thing.

For instance, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Christians start off a congregational assembly commenting about Jesus’ presence because where two or three are gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of us (cf. Matthew 18:20). Or, even worse, suggesting that they don’t actually have to meet with a congregation but can just meet with a few Christians on the lake because where two or three are gathered…

Look at the context. This is not defining when we have a sanctioned assembly. Rather, it is talking about when two or three witnesses bring testimony to the church about an impenitent sinner. If they are doing this with the authority of Jesus it is as if Jesus Himself is bringing the charge against the sinner, therefore the congregation has authority to act in discipline.

How easily we can take things out of context? Let’s double our efforts to study thoroughly and keep things in context before we spend too much time pointing at everyone else.

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