(The following blogpost was originally published on 1/26/06.)
As a Reading teacher for Loachapoka Jr. High
, one of the content standards
that I had to cover included guiding students in "setting purposes for reading." Successful students understand that there are different purposes we must have for reading different kinds of texts. For example, students should read novels, plays, short stories, or poems for enjoyment or entertainment while they should read textbooks, newspapers, magazines, and reference books for information. But any given text may also have a more specific purpose applied to it as well. For instance, an author of a novel may wish his or her reader to identify with the development of the main character of the novel. If the student reads the novel constantly looking for some other type of information, he or she may fail to comprehend the entire point of the novel and he or she will be much less likely to remember anything from the novel.
In thinking of how to teach these concepts to my students, my thoughts turned to the Word of God. And as I began to think about the right purpose for reading Scripture, I began to meditate on the following words of Jesus recorded for us in the Gospel of John:
You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about Me. And you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. (John 5:39-40 HCSB)
In these two verses, Jesus imparts some crucial information on how we are to read the Holy Bible. First, we are to understand that Jesus Himself is the subject of all Scripture
. Second, we are to understand that our attitude in approaching Scripture must be that of a willingness to come to Jesus and receive eternal life. Wanting only to receive eternal life itself is not enough. The passage above is a reprimand to those religious individuals who thought that they could gain eternal life through an intellectual process of poring over the Scriptures. But something- the absolutely critical thing- was lacking in their studies. These religious individuals lacked humility. The people reprimanded in the above verses were full of Scripture knowledge, but they were also full of pride. As Jesus began to challenge peoples' understanding of Scripture- by helping others in ways that religious people thought were against Scripture (i.e. healing on the Sabbath) and by proclaiming Himself to be equal to God (see John 5:18
)- the experts in the Scripture pridefully turned away from Him. Jesus declared that these hard-hearted individuals would actually lose out on the the eternal life that they so earnestly desired. What these people lacked- and what we so often lack when we approach the Bible- is a focus on Jesus Christ: on who He is and what He has done. The right purpose for reading Scripture must be to come to Jesus Christ for the life that only He can give
. And this approach toward Christ through Scripture must be done with humility rather than pride; we must be willing to accept the message of who Jesus is and what He has done as it is presented in Scripture
, even if this message challenges our previously-held beliefs for:
God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6 NIV)
I implore you, dear reader- whoever you are who might happen to be reading this post- think back on the last time that you read Scripture or heard it preached. Did you read or hear the Scripture humbly seeking to come to Jesus and receive eternal life from Him- either receiving this life for the first time or seeking to grow in this life and in knowledge of Him- or did you read or hear the Scripture with some other purpose? Your purpose in reading Scripture could make all the difference in your eternity.
Labels: Bible study