A helpful guide to reading our Bibles more effectively!
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).
I love these verses because they remind me why everyone else will so easily follow false teachers!
I am not sure about you, but I often catch myself falling in the trap of reading the Bible as though I am one of the good guys in the story.
I read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as though I am on team Jesus. When I come across the disciples doing something senseless, which is often, I find myself shaking my head wondering how they could be incredulous!
When the religious leaders try to trap Jesus, I read hoping that He will show Himself to them and put them in their place.
I usually read Paul and the letters of the NT in the same way. I sit wondering how the Corinthians could have gotten it so wrong! You tell them, Paul!
When it comes to the OT, let’s be honest, we don’t read it much, but when I do, I do the same sort of thing. I wonder how the Israelites could have been so blind!
I mean Moses leads them out of Egypt and parts the Red Sea and they still build a golden calf! What? The prophets warn the Israelites time and time again, but they refuse to listen.
Why did they refuse to listen?
Well, one reason is that they had hundreds of their own prophets always telling them that everything was fine. They had gathered around themselves teachers “in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim 4:3-4).
Have you ever sat and thought: what makes me different? What makes me so sure that I am really on team Jesus, team Paul, or team Isaiah?
We say, “We believe in the Bible.” But, isn’t that what the Pharisees thought?
Didn’t they tell Jesus: “We believe in the Moses and the prophets.” And didn’t Jesus say to them: “if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me” (John 5:46).
Shouldn’t this cause us to stop and at least pause?
“But we are different.” Well, I hope we are.
The reality is that most Christian groups out there claim to believe in the Bible. Baptists, Presbyterians. Pentecostals. Methodists. Catholics. Non-denominational churches. Liberals and Conservatives.
The fact is that sometimes these groups have such radically different understandings of the Bible. So much so that they simply cannot all be correct.
The book of Jeremiah is a collection of oracles over the course of 44 years (626-582 BC).
Jeremiah cried out to the people of Judah to repent. He pleaded with them to wake up! They were living comfortably and Jeremiah was telling them things were not okay.
The problem that the prophets encountered was that no one was paying attention. Everyone was too busy listening to their own prophets. They were listening to those who said what they wanted to hear.
These false prophets encouraged the people that they were doing well and that God would surely bless them. They said exactly what the people wanted to hear.
This made it even more difficult for the true prophets.
The message of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel didn’t conform to what the people wanted to hear, nor with what the false prophets were saying.
“Truly we are the people of God and we are doing right. Besides all the ‘prophets’ are confirming what we believe! Sorry, you guys are wacky!”
Today, we can look back at Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, in light of the history recorded in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles (books which were ironically written by prophets and priests), and say, “wait a minute, it looks like the prophets were right after all!”
Here is an exercise: read Isaiah, Jeremiah, or any of the prophetic books, and assume that they were written to you. Then ask yourself: “how does this make me feel?” The answer is: probably not too good!
Now, do this with Paul, or James, or Jesus.
I wonder if the Church today is in need of another prophetic wake-up call?
Now, I say this not so that we just throw our hands up in the air and give up!
But because I want us to stop and ask ourselves: have we gathered around ourselves teachers in accordance to our own desires?” (2 Tim 4:3-4).
To be continued . . .