“We are not going to go there and look at the Bible…I know what the Bible says but my god wants me to be happy!” I wouldn’t have believed what I just heard! Thankfully my wife and others were with me. We were trying to encourage someone not to divorce her husband and scatter her children (she had already divorced at least two other men which took it’s greatest toll on her kids). There was no Biblical grounds for divorce she just didn’t like him anymore. To this day she maintains “her Christianity” and encourages others to do things that go against the Bible in the name of happiness.
The approach that either ignores the Bible or pulls portions of scripture out of context is dangerous. Take for example this picture. It is an inspirational calendar that contains a quote from the Bible. Luke 4:7: If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. Sounds inspiring when you look at that fragment. You feel like you setting under the teaching of a smooth self-help mega pastor. When you read the verse in it’s context however you realize that it wasn’t even Jesus who said it. It was actually said by the devil, ut oh!
Sound Bite Christianity
Today more than ever we live in world of sound bites that people use to spin ideas in certain ways in accordance with their own views and desires. Conservative and Liberal news sites use quotes from the same speeches and interviews and spin them in completely different directions. In doing so they completely miss the context of the view the people speaking intended.
We live in a postmodern and pragmatic culture which believes truth is either determined by the individual, or what works is true. Unfortunately Christians often spin a sound bite from the Bible, or even worse don’t think about the Bible at all when presenting or believing ideas about Jesus.
I run into people all the time who say things like “I will do it if Jesus tells me to” which sounds good on the surface until you realize they are responding to something Jesus already said to do in His word. When I hear those kinds of things I want to ask “which Jesus are you referring to” because the Jesus in the Bible already said it.
There is a reason the Bible was written. The Jesus we have access to is the One revealed in the Bible. It is the same Jesus who affirmed the moral commands of the OT and even took them to a deeper meaning which included our attitudes not just the behavior (Mt 5). It is the same Jesus who reaffirmed the exclusivity of marriage between a man and woman and His hatred of divorce. It is the same Jesus who said not one jot or tittle of the OT will pass away until the end of the age (Mt 5:18). Authentic Christians do seek to obey what He says which never violates what He has already said.
If we don’t understand this we will do what Mark Twain said, “God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentlemen, returned the compliment.”
Our approach to the Bible is very important. It is God’s inspired word. When we open the Bible we are stepping into God’s revelation and encountering Him on His terms. We are not there looking for inspiration or therapeutic sound bites to form our own truth. Jesus main way Jesus is washing us and making us into His image is with His word. Ephesians 5:25-27…just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, (26) so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, (27) that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.
Healthy Approach to His Word
It is helpful to keep in mind a systematic approach to Scripture which helps us avoid sound bite or personal preference truth. It helps us see the fuller context of God’s hear revealed in what He said about things. A systematic approach looks at all the references on a particular subject and from that perspective we get a fuller picture of what God thinks about it. If not we will tend to look at some scriptures to the exclusion of others and end up with a personal preference Jesus rather than the Jesus of the Bible.
I had an encounter with someone that desperately needed a systematic approach. He was pointing out all the things he didn’t like about how we administrated corporate meetings. There are only 10 verses in the NT that have instruction about our meeting together and when I suggested that we look at them as a reference point to our discussion his cup runneth over. My suggestion was met with a red faced angry response. “I don’t want to look at the Bible I want to talk about the things I have problems with.” Big problem!!!!
Having the Bible as our objective basis of the revelation of Jesus, a good systematic approach to scriptures, and putting verses into their context are important ways to avoid sound bite truth that attempts to make God into the image we desire. We want to follow “Jesus” no “my jesus.”
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