I couldn’t see the forest for the trees…
I was trying to answer a very simple question. It was a question that came up while trying to digest a series of pulpit lessons sent to me by an acquaintance. It really should’ve been simple, but the further I searched, the more questions popped up.
You know how it goes… “Google” a topic, and nine thousand pages later, all I managed was to find out was just how effective my firewall was at blocking inappropriate content.
Google had me so tied in knots, I needed backup and perspective. The caveat of technology is that it often leads me to UN-learning.
We used to turn to libraries, dictionaries, or encyclopedias for information. Books. With covers and without USB cables. But, the internet is the be-all that ends all. Right? Not so much.
The lessons at issue were written by a doctoral pastor, published, and widely distributed. Authorship was attributed to a spiritual leader, a theological expert with an alphabet soup of education. I was plenty intimidated, but his ‘theology’ wouldn’t ring true for me.
I needed clarification, so I fired off an email to the most practical guy I know: Uncle Jimmy. Uncle Jimmy has never failed me, yet.
When I received his reply, I told him I would probably hijack it, because he made perfect sense out of a convoluted mess. My original inquiry was theological. Turned out my frustration had very little to do with actual theology. It was all about common simplicity and transparency.
Christians must be very careful and discerning to not be caught up in interpretive teaching. No matter the rank or status of the source, we cannot blindly trust men to direct our path. Especially when their directives do not resonate well in our hearts. If a message doesn’t make sense, after we’ve taken the time to read up, and kneel down, we should feel confident in rejecting that message.
~ Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they want is to alienate you from us, so that you may have zeal for them. ~ Galatians 4:17
I was distracted and overwhelmed by a pastoral commentary, which led me to question everything I knew to be true about God and His word. God didn’t make . But men surely have made a mess trying to read God’s mind- instead of simply reading His Word.
~ See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. ~ Colossians 2:8
I am, as we all are, surrounded by worldliness. But we can’t let the world direct our eternity. We are in the world, not of the world.
~ Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules… ~ Colossians 2:20
So, then, Uncle Jimmy’s answer reaffirmed what my gut told me. He stated it so beautifully, I can finally see the forest among the trees.
“Trust Jesus. Tell others. Don’t spend so much time analyzing the ingredients, origin, and texture of the wrapping paper that you forget to unwrap the gift and enjoy it. Open the Bible and ask God to bless your study with understanding. Pray for clarity- the knowledge He wants us to have. He, alone, can guide us in understanding and unity.”
“In Acts 17:11, the Berean Jews received the message eagerly, and examined the scriptures every day to make sure what Paul had written was true. Did it line up with what they could discern for themselves, according to scripture? It doesn’t say they ran to the university to ask the scholars. There are plenty of well meaning “teachers”. But in this crazy world. I need less confusion- not more.”
Uncle Jimmy made sense, without telling me what God meant to say, because God already said exactly what He meant to say. And He intended for us to read His Word.
Back in Jesus’ day, education was reserved for only the highest of society. Scholars were not abundant. That Jesus was a “blue collar Jew” was a critical, pivotal point, in both fulfillment of prophecy, and as a necessary means to reach His people. He looked like them and lived among them; Jesus was relatable. When He went out among His people, He brought along other ‘commoners’: fishermen Peter, John, Andrew, and James; Matthew, a tax collector; and a likely physician called Luke. Jesus, in His earthly form, was common. He aligned with commoners, and He sought fellowship among commoners.
Think about it like this: You are building your dream home. Who is best qualified to advise you: your Daddy that followed his Daddy into the family construction business; or Great Aunt Martha, who lives in condo along the Jersey shore? Aunt Martha has no clue how to build a house, so why would you call her to ask if she has suggestions for the pitch of your roof?
A humble, common, human embodiment was necessary for Jesus to be relevant. If He had been scholarly, wealthy, and worldly, He could never have been our Fulfillment- our Messiah.
One ‘common’ person who clings to Jesus, trumps a whole room full of scholars who’ve spent years and years studying, splitting hairs, and doing mental gymnastics by picking His Word apart, then telling the rest of us what He meant for us to hear.
Even in this age of advanced technology, the best way to find answers is (still) to open the good book and read it. Do we need a PhD to decipher the infallible Word of God? Nope. Just as Paul the Apostle, we only need to hang tight to Christ.
~ I am not in the least inferior to the “super-apostles,” even though I am nothing. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:11
Scholars are awesome for providing historical data, word study, and cross references. Still, the Word does not change, and none of us are incapable of reading it for ourselves.
~ Now, Brothers and Sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, ‘Do not go beyond what is written’. Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? ~ 1 Corinthians 4:6,7
Always seek to understand truth as God gave it. Never be discouraged by interpretation or intimidated by religious academia.
Not all doctrine is truth. The only doctrine meant to be furthered by God’s Word, is God’s doctrine- nothing more, nothing less.
Be blessed, Y’all.