Saturday, June 2, 2012

John Wycliffe—A man who wanted all Christians to read the Bible

John Wycliffe’s last work was called Gospel Work. His latest biographer assessment of it is interesting.

She states,
“The drift of this last book on Scripture seems clear. There are no automatic, special, divine preferences for any particular class of Christian, priest or monk or friar; it is personal virtue which counts. The Bible is not reserved for the educated or the ordained. The Bible is for all the people of God.”
History states that the heart of Wycliffe was for the laity, so that they could own and read the scriptures for themselves.

Because of his passion for God’s word, millions of Christians have multiple bibles in their homes. And yet many Christians often lament that they themselves, though they own a bible, are unable to understand the Bible.

Here are 6 main reasons Christians struggle to understand the Bible.

***Please understand when I write “you”, I mean you, me…any Christian who struggles with this.

Reason #1—You do not ask for Divine help.

How often do you pray as you begin your time with God? How often do you stop and pray for the illumination of the Holy Spirit? Without His help, the Christian’s time will be stale.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
We need God to help us, to enlighten our minds, to chase out the corrupting influences of sin. For myself, if I am honest, the struggle is unleashing a prayer of faith, a prayer of expectation.

Or to say it another way, “Do I really believe in the promise of Isaiah 55?”
Isaiah 55:10-11 "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

Reason #2—You are lazy.

I remember in college hearing a pastor say, “Just start by giving God 1% of your day!” He went on to clarify for the mathematically-challenged in the group…this equals roughly 15 minutes each day. Now I am not criticizing this pastor or his challenge, but this is not enough. Baby Christians are capable of more than this. The 20 year veteran of the Christian faith is without excuse. And I can’t believe I going to say this (because it is what my 88-year old Grandpa always says), but “this generation doesn’t like hard work”.

I think my Grandpa is right.

Scripture is clear that the diligent student of His word finds a great treasure.
2 Timothy 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
Notice the key words: diligent, workman, accurate. This last phrase has always impacted me, “accurately handling the word of truth”. The word of God must be handled a certain way. Not flippantly or carelessly.

Let us not forget it takes time to be skilled in biblical interpretation. Does it not take a gymnast years to perfect a floor routine? Or years for a platform diver to enter the water with minimal splash? Does the Christian think that the Pilgrim’s journey to the Celestial City deserves less discipline than the temporal engagements of this present world, especially since the payoff has eternal implications?

So take the time to look up the definition of a word. Let’s be humble enough to ask for help for those who are farther in their journey. Let us not be content with skimming rather than the joys of absorbing.

Reason #3—You need to go buy some key resources.

There is really no excuse for the 21st century Christian, especially since there is an endless supply of great resources to be accessed with a simple touch of a computer key.

As an example, you may hear a Christian say, “I don’t get what is happening in Isaiah!” Well, get on Amazon and go buy a commentary on Isaiah or an Introduction to the Old Testament.

Even internet resources can be helpful, but the baby Christian should probably avoid using this tool. Rather, it safer to ask your pastor for the best (one or two) resources on that topic.

Reason #4—You do not have a reading plan

Is this vital for every Christian? I believe so.

Here is the sad reality for many Christians: No plan. No goals. No renewal of your mind. No maturity. 

Now I am not just saying you need a fancy reading plan (i.e. chapter of OT, chapter of NT, chapter of Psalms, etc.), but also using practical methods to help the Christian to engage the text. For example, having a journal for observations, reading the same shorter epistle every day for a month (i.e. Colossians, Philippians, I Peter, etc.) or maybe engaging in an important focused study of a particular word or theme of scripture.

I truly believe God is pleased when His children take the time to consider how to pursue Him.

Reason #5—You have forgotten the basics of biblical interpretation.

This is easy to remember. My seminary professor repeated this all the time. Context, context, context. When the reader understands the context, interpretation is easier to attain and therefore, application can be enjoyed.

Oh, by the way, finding the context requires the reader to pinpoint the “intent of the original author”. In other words, ask these questions.

What is the reason the author wrote this psalm, epistle or gospel?
What is happening in the narrow context?
What is happening in the broad context?

As I said before, this takes work but the payoff is worth the toil.

Reason #6—You are not meditating.

Biblical meditation is NOT eastern meditation. Eastern meditation seeks to “clear” the mind, therefore, encouraging the opposite of biblical meditation, which is focusing your mind on “things that are good” (Phil. 4:8), “things above” (Col. 3:1-2), actively setting your mind to percolate on the truths of God, which are found in His word.

Why is this so important? First, because meditation assumes a mental posture of prayer. Quiet, isolated, communicative silence with the God of the Universe. Second, it often promotes opportunities to listen and hear the voice of God (i.e. the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit, not an audible voice). Listening requires waiting and waiting requires trusting.  

How does this work? George Müller and George Whitefield are known as the examples par excellence.
“The passion of George Müller’s soul was to know fully the secrets of prevailing with God and with man. George Whitefield’s life drove home the truth that God alone could create in him a holy earnestness to win souls and qualify him for such divine work by imparting a compassion for the lost that should become an absorbing passion for their salvation. And—let this be carefully marked as another secret of this life of service—he now began himself to read the word of God upon his knees, and often found for hours great blessing in such meditation and prayer over a single psalm or chapter.” (p. 138-139)
So go spend some time with God today. I will join you. 

1 comment:

  1. Great reminders, Clint. Thanks for making it so practical.