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Pointers along the way #503

Clever ideas
- Jacob Ninan

The Bible is God's word to us. He wants to speak to us as we read it. It is not just to give us information about Himself, His work of creation and the history and future of mankind, but also to tell us what He wants us to do here and now, how we can relate to Him, how we should live, how to receive His blessings, etc. When we read the Bible, that is what we should be looking for primarily, what God is trying to tell us personally in our life, rather than other peripheral issues.

If this sounds too simplistic, let me clarify that studying the Bible to gather all the information that is necessary for us to know God and His dealings with man is no small work. A lot of time and effort are needed in order to continually study God's word in this manner. For some people that is the task God has given them. But even while doing that, let us not lose sight of the higher goal of hearing God speaking to us in the practical situations of life using His word. Theology is good, but applied theology is far greater.

When we read the Bible are we looking for material for sermons or articles? In that case we stand in danger of making up impressive 'truths' with which to dazzle others, without checking first of all whether what we are saying is really true or how it can bless the others. How much better it is if we listen to God for our own edification first and our outward ministry comes from an overflow of that (1Ti.4:16)!

Many people are bringing out their own clever ideas from the Bible. For example, if someone tells us that in Jesus' days a needle's eye referred to a narrow wicket gate through which camels could get through with difficulty, it sounds impressive as knowledge. But it detracts from the seriousness with which Jesus was trying to show how difficult it was for rich people (those who placed their confidence in riches) to enter the kingdom of God (Mt.19:24). If the preacher emphasised the practical difficulty rich people faced in this connection, we could have learned not to place our confidence in our natural strengths or wealth. If a preacher tells us about the prayer shawl the Jews used and the significance of its intricate design that may be impressive. But if he asks us to pray with that we (at least the men) would be disregarding God's instruction not to pray with our head covered (1Co.11:4). If someone talks about the significance of the ram's horn (shofar) and asks us to play it in order to bring down God's blessings, we would be going back to the Jewish customs and practices like the Galatians (Ga.4:9). If someone uses computers to search the Bible and discover hidden codes there, why do we allow ourselves to be taken up with them, instead of reading what is plainly written for all to see? Let's not allow ourselves to be impressed with useless ideas however clever or deep they appear to be.

If Satan cannot succeed in leading us to sin, he tries to distract us from the real truth of God. Let's be careful.


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