How Does It Read To You?

     If you listen to or watch enough religious programming you can hardly come away without thinking there are a lot of conflicting opinions being proclaimed over the airwaves.  Contradictions abound and it is easy to throw our hands up in frustration over the confusion of ideas and competing beliefs.  The same problem exists in print media as well.  There are those who agree and disagree with the things I write.  What should you believe?
     It is a concern to hear someone who should know better say something completely unbiblical, or try to explain some difficult doctrinal view when it seems clear they do not understand it themselves.  And most of these people are well-meaning and sincere in what they preach, but I often feel like invoking the unwritten beatitude, “Blessed is he who has nothing to say, and cannot be persuaded to say it.”     
     In an interview with Christianity Today earlier this year Billy Graham said, “The central issues of our time aren’t economic or political or social, important as these are.  The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.”  That statement is both profoundly simple and profoundly true.  Debates will continue about the sovereignty of God and will of man in salvation, when the world will end, and when Christ will return.  But, those are all in the future, what about now?  How do you treat others?  That is the essence of morality.  What is the nature of your relationship with God?  That is the essence of spirituality.    
     The most divisive issues in our nation today are about morality and spirituality.  These matters are addressed in the Bible straightforwardly and in plain language easy to understand.  Morality addresses how we handle our relationships with others and spirituality addresses how we handle our relationship with God.  When it comes to Christianity it does not get more basic than this.  Of course, when our relationship with God is right our relationship with our fellow man will be right.    
     And all of this depends upon the viewpoint with which we approach the Scriptures.  There are scholars who believe the Bible is little more than a book of myths, a kind of collection of Aesop fables so to speak.  This perspective leads to an interpretation of the Scriptures that is highly subjective.  If the people, places and events recorded in the Bible are not a true historical account, then the meaning of the text is at the mercy of the interpreter.  After all, how can a fairy tale be accurately interpreted?    
     In contradistinction, there are scholars who believe the Bible to be a reliable historical record from which we can derive a factual account of the interactions between God and man.  To those who hold this viewpoint, the story of Adam and Eve is believed to be a true historic account; they are not thought to be mere characters in a fable.  This makes their marriage a reflection of what marriage is meant to be, not just some vague guideline.    
     Peter addresses this issue of the interpretation of Scripture in his second letter.  He writes, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy [proclamation] of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God (2 Peter 1:20-21).”  According to Peter we are not at liberty to interpret the Scriptures as we please.  When God “moved” men to pen His word, God had a very specific meaning He was conveying.  It is the responsibility of the modern day student of God’s word to understand what God was saying then, and how to apply it now.    
     A lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus responded, “What is written in the Law [i.e. the Scriptures]?  How does it read to you?”  Jesus’ first question was asked to glean if he was aware of what the Scriptures say about eternal life; and the second question was asked to determine if he understood their application.  When the lawyer responded, Jesus told him he had answered correctly.    
     When it comes time for each of us to give an account to God for how we lived, the questions will be similar.  Do you know what the Scriptures say?  How did it read to you?  Like an earthly court, ignorance will not be a defense.  Each of us has a responsibility to know, understand and live the Scriptures.  Reading the Bible has a way of dispelling confusion and shedding light on what is true.  After all, these aren’t fairy tales.

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