He often served as an elder in the church, and even in years when he wasn’t on the elder board he wielded tremendous influence. I remember him telling us how bank employees spend a great deal of their training time examining and handling actual money with the goal of becoming so familiar with it that they can easily spot a counterfeit bill. Yet he used his influence to put the church on an unbiblical path, endorsing teachings and methodologies that smacked of pragmatism.
I still scratch my head over how someone who claims to be immersed in God’s Word can buy into so many deceptions. Yet I look at my own life and see how peer pressure and sloppy Bible study habits influenced my understanding of Scripture for many years.
On January 1, 2013, I began reading the Bible at Genesis 1:1 and Matthew 1:1. I completed the Old Testament last week, and hope to finish my second reading of Mark Thursday. I went very slowly, taking notes, highlighting with color codes according to themes and occasionally consulting commentaries (usually more than one, to avoid bias). I wanted a good overview of God’s dealings with His people. He gave me that, and so much more!
In the process, many passages I had always misinterpreted and misapplied became much clearer. The Lord has taught me how to read His Word in context and not to personalize promises that He intended specifically for Israel or for the apostles. He has helped me stop cherry-picking feel-good passages. Sure, I have much more to learn in my daily Bible study, but these past three years have made an enormous difference in how I understand Scripture.
As I decide on a reading/study plan for 2016, I pray that the Holy Spirit will show me how to better evaluate things I read and hear against His Word. Like the elder I mentioned earlier, I’ve always handled Scripture frequently. But now I pray to handle it well!