Bible Studies Gone Bad
Bible Studies Gone Bad
Bible studies – how precious, how needed, how grand an opportunity! We should cherish them, and we should support them! But be careful!
Our studies can too often be hijacked or detoured by a well-meaning brother or sister – the one who cannot really learn because he/she already knows everything. It becomes their obligation to impart their wisdom, because after all they have been studying the Scriptures for 40 years! After all this time, they have all the important passages under their belt. They are “solid as a rock” – they have never wavered, never changed! And this is because they’ve never needed to change, of course. So we will be treated to their rehearsal of their version of truth as they “contend for the faith”.
Or there are some places where Bible studies become a detailed examination of texts with exhaustive analysis of each verse, meandering word studies, or an amassing of a large number of passages to support a certain point [as if a single statement from the text is not enough, and 5 or 6 verses make it more compelling]. There is certainly a place, at times, for more detailed analysis of meanings, and there may be times when another reference CAN shed additional light. BUT we run the risk of missing what the text in front of us says if we always use it as a launching pad to go somewhere else, or if we get bogged down in the meaning of individual words to the point that we lose the impact of the whole sentence, or the whole paragraph, or the whole book.
And sometimes our classes can become sessions of simple repeating of moral exhortation. Over and over we call each other to be better wives/husbands, to pay our debts and our taxes, to be kind to our neighbors, to give a fair day’s work for a day’s pay, to avoid situations and relationships that are detrimental to our growth in Christ. All good things, and right things, but do they lift us to new heights of truth that God is holding out there for us? Are we really longing for and expecting to receive those things that are “exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think”? ARE WE? [Please read this one - Eph. 3:17-20].
We judge the class successful depending on how many are present, or how many we can get to say something. But then we go back home knowing nothing that we haven’t known since we were children. And perhaps worse, we leave thinking we’ve been in touch with what God was saying. But what has really happened is that our voices drowned out his voice.
We can easily lose our way in the reciting of our own justification, or even in very “right” discussions about our moral responsibility, while we miss being confronted and challenged by the sword of God. We open the pages, handle the surface of it, but what are we really seeking? Do we go expecting and desiring that it will pierce us, cut us, perform divine surgery on us? Or do we read about Jesus meeting the woman at the well, “uncover” what we’ve always known, and then go home without hearing God speak to us?
For most of us, the lessons we need are not just more rehearsal of moral issues, but higher motivation to surrender to His will - to be enlightened and enriched with glorious and grand truths that will surprise us and inspire us and make us rejoice – regardless of our circumstances. Our faith will certainly, at times, lead us to look inward, but more time focused away from self, and UP to our Lord, hungering and thirsting for His righteousness, will mean more abundant life! Are our teachers/leaders challenging us to dig deeply into the word for glorious new (to us) truth? Are we READY, eagerly seeking such? Or are we lazy and complacent, putting little effort, thought, or prayer into our studies?
In Acts 17, we read of those “noble” Berean Jews, who had prepared their hearts so well as good students of God’s revelation. When Paul and Silas came to their synagogue, and presented to them the word of the gospel, they received it with all readiness of mind, and searched daily in their Scriptures, to determine if the things they heard were true. When they saw the opportunity, they were ready for it! They were seekers – steady, diligent, eager, and hopeful of being led to greater spiritual heights.
Sometimes I read teachers so rich and helpful and provocative that I wish the entire world could hear them. But too many brethren are just feeding on the same old husks.
“Our Father, we long for your will to be done on the earth. In Jesus’ holy name, please deliver us into the hands of teachers and leaders who can keep us from walking in circles, who can deliver us from denial and from self-absorption; who can lead us - through the word and through their example - to be filled with your fullness by the Spirit of Christ. By your providence and mercy, lead us in our Bible studies to find richer truth and deeper beauty of holiness, so that our relationship with you will blossom, and so that we can with joy and purpose throw our hearts and minds into surrendering and sacrificing for your grand purpose for the world. Amen.”
June 28, 2008