Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Many people are quick to claim they are Christian. However, many of those folks live as though they are atheists. You can say, “Oh yeah, trusting God is basic;” but do you really believe that? How would you rate your relationship with God? This is what the Holy Spirit has put on my heart for today, so let’s look through a checklist and see where you stand in your walk with God. Please don’t confuse this as a “works over faith” argument. That is not the intent at all; rather it is a look at the quality of your faith. Now, before you start throwing rocks at me for saying that, let me quote how James put it: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26). Any time works comes into play people start getting sensitive, but we shouldn’t overlook the importance of them. James answered arguments against works by writing,
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that- and shudder (James 2:18-19).
Unfortunately we can’t cherry-pick what we like from the Bible, and if James challenges our faith through works, then so does the Lord. So, is your faith better than a demon’s? Let’s look through the following list, and try not to let our pride get in the way of spiritual self-improvement.
Do You Pray?
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:13-15).
Jesus says that we who are saved are not just his servants, but we are his friends. Friends talk to each other. Do you talk with the Lord? Most of us only really pray when we are in great need or maybe we shoot off a quick pre-memorized prayer before eating. Asking God for stuff is perfectly ok. Jesus said, “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:14). But that’s not the full extent of prayer. Paul wrote to us that we should “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). Pray continually? How does one even go about doing that? Well, Paul already noted that we should give thanks for everything; he also wrote, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18). Besides advising us to give thanks to God for everything, Paul recommended that we also pray about anything. God wants to talk to you all the time, even if it’s just discussing with him what’s on your mind. Hold a conversation with the Lord, and expect him to answer. You might be surprised- not necessarily by a booming voice from heaven, but perhaps something as simple as a warm and strong feeling of peace when you’re stressed out. Jesus’ death opened the way for us to have a forum with God. Therefore it is written, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). You don’t have to go super holy or speak in King James language, just take some time to chat with God about what’s on your mind; asking him for stuff as the needs keep coming and thanking him as prayers are answered. If you never ask you can’t really be angry when nothing happens, can you? If you don’t have a prayer life already, I challenge you to follow Daniel’s prayer schedule. The Bible records,
Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before (Daniel 6:10).
Just three times a day, take a few minutes for God; you don’t even need to figure out which way is Jerusalem (as Daniel’s prayers were probably very restoration-of-Jerusalem-heavy). Two of the prayer times are easy: once when you roll out of bed in the morning and once when you lay down to sleep at night. I do my other main prayer during my Bible time- but you can put yours where it works best for you.
Do You Read the Bible?
God speaks to me frequently through the Bible. This shouldn’t be surprising though because Hebrews 4:12 tells us,
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
God is timeless, he saw everything as it would happen from the beginning; therefore although the Bible seems static to us, it was crafted in a way that it could grow and develop with our lives and always speak truth even as society moves forward. Paul puts it like this: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Not only that, but we know that true wisdom comes from God; and guess what? It’s conveniently written down in Scripture! How does one begin on the path of wisdom? Solomon tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). And that’s just a small taste of the wisdom that permeates the Word of God. Crack open your Bible and learn at the feet of some of history’s wisest! For the Lord says:
My son, if you accept my words
And store up my commands within you,
Turning your ear to wisdom
And applying your heart to understanding,
And if you call out for insight
And cry aloud for understanding,
And if you look for it as for silver
And search for it as for hidden treasure,
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
And from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (Proverbs 2:1-6).
Take note that even the Bible mentions how good a combination prayer and reading Scripture is! But aside from guidance and wisdom, the Bible actually helps fight sin in your life. When the devil tried to tempt Jesus, he rebuked Satan with the Word of God. History records,
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him (Matthew 4:8-11).
Rebuking the devil is pretty hardcore, but it is achievable through the Word of God. That’s why Paul told Christians, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The Bible is your book-shaped sword in which to slay evil. Therefore, I recommend checking it out.
Do You Go to Church?
The Bible notes, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). I’ve heard numerous pastors note that there’s something special about hearing God’s word- and not just from your own voice either. And in church you’re almost guaranteed to hear the Bible being read, as well as Holy Spirit-infused messages from the pastor. When God’s not talking to me through the Bible, it’s through sermons, so by not going to church, you might be missing out on the Lord’s part of the conversation. And so we find it written, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). The Bible also encourages fellowshipping with other Christians. Hang out with fellow believers; for wisdom says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Besides, having fellowship with other Christians is supposed to be enjoyable. Check out what it was like in the early church:
Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:46-47).
Even if you’ve had a bad church experience, try again (maybe at a different location). Get thee to a church!
Do You Tithe?
Here’s one that gets people riled up. The tithe is giving ten percent of your income back to God (through your church). Now pastors can talk all they want about the pluses of it and how really none of our money is ours and all that. I won’t. All I’m going to say is that this article is about testing your faith through your works and tithing is a literal test of faith; at least that’s how God presents it in Malachi 3:10,
“Bring the whole tithe in the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
‘Nuff said here.
In Haggai 1:5-6 we read,
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
If this sounds like your life, maybe you need to reconsider how you approach Christendom and your actual feelings about God. As Christians we fight a constant uphill battle (as our destination is heavenward) and there’s no easy fixes (the stuff in the list are just examples). Joshua knew this a long time ago and so he told the Israelites who were with him,
Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshipped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:14-15).
If following the Lord is too hard for you, don’t. But if you can’t deny the truth, then you may as well live the life that goes with it. Be diligent in your faith, Christian, and stand strong with the Lord.