“Why won’t you attend Bible study?” a man asked me once.
“Do you hate studying the Bible?”
Seriously, when you get a question framed like that, it’s best to just talk about the weather. The person asking will never understand the answer, because their eyes are closed.
Bible study, which really means nothing more than reading the Bible, is another one of those activities that has been appropriated, and defined, by the establishment church, so that too many people, when they hear the words, think this:
1) A group gets together — at home or in church — and sits in a circle.
2) A leader “facilitates,” which means that he speaks, everyone else listens, and a limited — very limited — amount of discussion is allowed.
3) Generally, a book other than the Bible accompanies the study as commentary, teaching, support, and instruction.
4) If there is no attendant book, the leader’s voice is the final one on the meaning of the passage.
But Bible Study, in its pure form, means just that: you, the Christian, read the Bible, as slowly or as quickly as you wish. You choose the book within the Bible that you want to read, and you can skip. It’s remarkably freeing, and to make it more so, I encourage you to dispel three common, but errant, myths about reading the Bible:
You Need Help
Myth #1 — You can’t do this on your own.
The idea that only certain people — pastors, elders, deacons, pastors’ wives, missionaries, Celebrity Christians, televangelists, speakers, or book authors approved by the secularly-owned “Christian” publishing houses — are qualified to teach spiritual truths is a lie that just won’t die, because we keep feeding it.
“What if you get something wrong?!” others ask in horror when you mention that you read the Bible by yourself, relying upon the Holy Spirit as your guide.
As a practical answer to that question, I encourage you to wander — very briefly — through the Christian section of a bookstore and ask yourself, “Is ALL of this stuff spiritually accurate?”
Since the obvious answer is no, you are then led to the very real possibility that some of the authors, pushing their products, “are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women (Paul’s words, not mine), who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” (2 Timothy 3:6-7)
And, how do you spot these people? Well, let’s close the circle:
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 43: 16).
In other words, the better you know what’s in the Bible yourself, the more adept you will be at spotting the misuse of it by others.
Stay in One Place
Myth #2: Don’t move on from one verse until you fully understand its meaning.
While this sounds logical, it’s pretty much a recipe for frustration, especially when you run into a verse like Deuteronomy 20:16:
“However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes.”
This includes women and children, which is a fairly bothersome concept for many of us. If you can’t move on until you understand this, then you’re stuck on Deuteronomy 20:16, that is, if you didn’t get stopped at Genesis 22 in which Abraham was instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac. We’ve all heard various interpretations of why we shouldn’t worry too much about this incident, but never any adequate answer to,
“But what about Isaac? What lasting effect did this event have upon his relationship with his earthly father, Abraham, and his heavenly father, God?”
There is a temptation to accept a less than acceptable answer, simply so that one can move on, as opposed to saying,
“Whoa, God. This is a difficult verse, and I don’t see how it can be in line with your grace, mercy, and love. But I know that You are true, and there is an acceptable explanation. Please, in your timing, show it to me. Until then, I rest in knowing that you are all good.”
While the average atheist will call this a cop-out, when it comes to God, we either accept that He is all good, or not. We also accept that He is all knowing, and that sometimes we simply don’t comprehend what He’s talking about. The various end times prophecies in Daniel, Matthew, and Revelation come to mind, and when we insist upon a proper answer at the proper time, we’re in danger of accepting pat answers by . . . well, Celebrity Christians who make money off of telling us these things.
You? With an Original Thought?
Myth #3: Don’t even imagine that you could come up with an interpretation that no one has yet had.
Speaking of Celebrity Christians, I gleaned this piece of wisdom out of a book concerning how to study the Bible, by a Celebrity Christian who teaches others what the Bible says.
For some reason, although her interpretations are adequate and suitable to be placed in a workbook, yours, and mine, are not.
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go,” Isaiah 48: 17 tells us.
Now while God can, indeed, use commentaries, and videos, and Scripture notes, human teachers, and outside resources to teach us what is in His word, He also teaches without those resources. You’ll never know how much you can learn, however, until you take the training wheels off and let Him give you a little push.
I assure you that He will show you something that — while some human being, at some time, in some place, has maybe learned before — will definitely NOT be in line with much of what you are taught in an establishment church setting. Our Celebrity Christian author would have you reject this, and accept — passively — what you are told by others.
Christians, let’s quit being so compliant, tacit, obedient, and accepting of everything we are told, and the first and foremost step toward that is reading the Bible — by ourselves. In many places, this very act is illegal, which should spark the question:
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where I don’t hate Bible study — I just avoid, at all costs, church establishment small group meetings that purport to be the same thing.
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