By Jake Stone
Recently, I saw many social media posts regarding one of those inspirational-type calendars that people put on the window sill. This particular day referenced Matthew 4:9 as a type of promise that we should cling to. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours. (Luke 4:6 ESV) Well sadly, these are the words of Satan to Christ during the temptation in the wilderness. Satan promises the kingdoms of the world in exchange for Jesus’ giving homage to the devil. I think the makers of the inspirational calendar missed the point! While that is humorous in many ways, it is also very disheartening to consider how many evangelicals are reading their Bibles without any guidance in how to really read it, study it, and interpret it.
I have resumed my educational journey (yes, I need your prayers!) and my class on biblical hermeneutics continues each week to stir me up in thinking about how neglected our Bible reading is. By neglected I am not referring to us not picking our Bibles up (although that is a major problem) but that many believers are not really reading their Bibles. Five minutes or less cruising quickly through a passage to just check it off your list as having accomplished a good deed is one of the reasons evangelicals are saying things like that inspirational calendar. So often we take the Bible and make it subject to our opinions, feelings, traditions, and emotional leanings on a daily basis. Instead, the believer is to be in subject to the Bible. The text is to be king and rule our lives whether it is the pastor engaged in biblical exposition or you are reading in your quiet time.
So how can you correct this problem? One crucial mistake often made is we are so ready to make an interpretation or an application without really grasping what the passage is saying. Slow down! Have you noticed the verbs in the passage? Have you stopped to see how this passage fits in the chapter, the book, or the testament it is located in? Can you say that you have a truly in-depth understanding of the text or is it merely superficial? If you believe that these words on the pages of our Bible are inerrant, breathed out by God, and the final authority of our lives; should you not study ever part? Is it not important to live in the text before I make a call on what it means? You must get it right when it comes to speaking on behalf of God. Every time you say this is what the Bible says, you are telling someone that God said this. If you cannot say for sure that He said it; leave it unsaid! Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15).
Jake Stone is Pastor of New Testament Baptist Church in South Mississippi. You can follow him on Twitter @JakeStone89