Loving God with the Mind, Part 3

In the previous posts, I have introduced the indispensable nature of academic study for the development of our Christian faith. In this post I would like to demonstrate how underlying attitudes can contribute to inaccurately interpreting the Bible.

I think one of the most common fallacious attitudes among professing Christians is that since they know the Gospel, that is enough for them and they are now "squared away" in their eternal destiny and "free" to pursue other things. But what does the Bible say about this attitude? It communicates to us that salvation is the initiation, not the consummation of true faith. In other words, we are essentially commanded to have a vibrant growing faith, not a superficial satisfied one.

In fact, the old covenant people of Israel were to be consumed with the worship and adoration of Jehovah God and they were to live in constant awareness of His ever-present glory. For example, in Ezekiel, there are over 50 references to the necessity for Israel to "know The Lord". There was no room for a "compartmentalized" faith. Every aspect of their individual, familial, and corporate life was to be in light of the presence and honor of God. One cannot know this without a committed and thorough study of the Old Testament.  But many current day Christians never even read the OT, let alone study it with rigor. Many who do refer to it do so for anecdotal, self-serving pick-me-ups.

One example would be the citation of 2 Chronicles 7:14, "If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land." This verse is not directly applicable to an individual modern country like the US. We can only know how to interpret this verse and accurately apply it through an academic process that must be learned.

Another example is the misuse of Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope." Many greeting cards even use this with good intentions but it simply creates an emotional feeling of a "warm fuzzy" toward a god who is mostly existing for our personal comfort.

These texts, like all other such OT texts must be approached with a clear understanding of the original author's intent to communicate a specific meaning to the original audience. Therefore, we can only know the meaning of these passages after investing some amount of time and research into who these people were in their cultural background and the context of their lives. Once we know what it meant to them, we can discern what it means to us as New Covenant believers. This may sound complicated and unachievable but that is not the case at all, even for common people. I encourage you to become curious about this process and seek to learn it. There are many very good resources to teach these concepts and disciplines to laypeople like you and me. One that I recommend is the book, How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth, by Gordon Fee.

The singular requirement for a true student of God's Word is a willingness to learn and be changed. This willingness is manifested in the dedication of time, energy, and focus for this very worthy and beneficial endeavor. I hope and pray all members of Covenant Baptist will be convinced of this rewarding academic discipline for the purpose of accurately knowing our God.

Ever learning,

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