How do we stop ourselves from getting too wrapped up in what the author is saying and how they interpret/use scriptures in their book?! How do we, as sheep, know when a scripture is being used out of context if we ourselves are not aware of it being used incorrectly?!
1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.”
When reading the Word of God or coming to Him in prayer there is something we must understand. We can over complicate it very quickly. We do this in various of ways but God didn’t give us instructions or call us to relationship and then make it so hard the average person couldn’t get it. However, like speaking any language, there are things we can learn to make it easier or to get into it with deeper understanding.
Though scripture is absolute truth, it is translated from other languages. This shouldn’t frustrate us but it can teach us. I heard a pastor say once, “The scripture wasn’t meant to be read and understood in everyday language. So, we should read it in simple language.” The New Testament was written in what’s called Koine Greek. It was a form of Greek commonly spoken in that time. Believe it or not, Jesus spoke in language that the people understood. Probably with colloquialisms and all. This is one of the biggest reasons I am somewhat against reading scripture in public in outdated languages like the King James Version. I’m not saying it’s wrong per se, but people who insist on this typically miss the fact that most modern day people cannot understand it. If our goal is to train people, we miss it indeed by doing this. I have personally witnessed many people get confused over that translation. If the version of the Bible is confusing to the hearer, it has ceased to be effective and only someone religious in thinking would insist on it.
You asked an interesting question. You said, “How do we as sheep…” You must remember, firstly we are all sheep somewhere. Secondly, the scripture is for sheep, it was written for sheep. I say that to encourage you, truth is not far from you. However, as I said, as with any language sometimes we need training and that is exactly what church is for! This is why we offer so many opportunities to ask questions. Whenever I’m with a leader in the faith, I always seek to ask questions. First and foremost we should ask of God who is always willing to help, however He did give us pastors for a reason.
I think that what you were really asking though is, how if you don’t know the history and the context as someone who may not be trained in them do you understand all of that. The answer is simply faithfulness and time. Jesus said in John 8:31, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine.” Continuing in the the Word is to continue learning. To be a disciple is to be a student. A good disciple stays open to learning, knowing that they have more to learn.
The best way I learned was to be faithful to church and diligent in what was taught. When I first came in to our churches I thought I knew stuff about scripture. I had a lot of wrong ideas because I simply studied the Word by myself, occasionally consulting the internet for clarification, and holding onto what seemed good to me. The problem with this is I got deceived on a lot of things quite quickly. Just a note, you can’t trust a lot of what you find online! Without a church, without a pastor, I was confused and astray. However, when I came to church, I connected and decided I would learn. I took notes every service and then on my breaks at work throughout the week I would go back over those notes. I would listen to sermons from trusted individuals often too.
I did something else and this is a biggie, are you ready? I asked my pastor questions! I asked a lot of questions! I am amazed at how few questions people ever ask me as their pastor. As a baby Christian and even today as a mature Christian, I can hardly wait to ask questions about the Word. I love discussing the Word, reading the Word, listening to things about the Word! I love God’s Word and this is why I learn, but also why I’m blessed. See I recognized something early on, that the Word of God is truth and if I could just learn that I’d be free! Doesn’t the Bible say something like that? (John 8:32 😉)
I am amazed at how many people in my church, when they get opportunity to talk to me do one of two things. 1) They talk about nothing at all (i.e. the weather, politics, how so and so annoyed them) or 2) They will talk for a half hour straight without one question. They will give me dissertations of their week or month or life but never really seek true counsel. Most often I just smile and let them go. God didn’t put me or any other pastor in a church because He didn’t intend on using us. It is up to the people to decide if they will make use of the office. You don’t need just another Christian friend in your pastor, you need a pastor!
One of the things I hated when I was learning (and I still am), is when I wanted answers but didn’t get the chance to ask them. I vowed after I became a pastor to be one that was accessible. Sometimes because I am, I think people get too used it and don’t take advantage of it. One of my favorite things is sometimes on Sunday’s after most people have left the church, there will be a few stragglers left behind. They tend to be people who know that you can get into the good stuff if you stick around. We will just be sitting talking and people will pull up a chair and listen and ask questions. We have some of the best conversations in those times. They aren’t planned, they aren’t by invitation, they just happen because someone is hungry.
So, to sum all this up, be a good student. I don’t say these things because I think I’m something, it’s just some of what I’ve learned. John 3:27 says, “John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.’” I didn’t make me a pastor and no one truly in that office did either. But God has given these gifts to bless and increase our lives. I still relish the opportunity to sit with my pastor when I get a chance. And I’ve learned to be someone he desires to sit with for hours and talk and it has only blessed my life. Study what’s been taught, fellowship with faithful believers, and ask lots of questions. God has given us so much potential, we must choose to tap into it!