An Unrecognized Factor To Understand the Bible

The Christian Bible has been an indispensable blessing from God to people everywhere for ages.  The United States of America was founded as a Christian Nation, and the universal acquaintance with the Bible was the reason for the establishment of universal public education.

In spite of this American Christian heritage, when I received Jesus in to my heart on May 15, 1976, I was almost completely Bible illiterate.  I had been raised in a Methodist church, and had converted to join the Roman Catholic Church at age 19.  In the process of joining the Catholic Church I learned from the old 'Baltimore Catechism' the fundaments of the Catholic religion.  But on May 15, 1976 I EXPERIENCED the fundamentals of the Christian reality - Christ came into my heart to be my new Source of life!

The next day the person who had been instructing me in my new life in Jesus suggested to me that I ask God to give me a "hunger for the Bible".  It sounded good to me, so I prayed that prayer - "Father, please give me a hunger for the Bible".  The result?  At that time I was finishing my second year in law school to become a lawyer.  I was able, in spite of my busy law school schedule, to read the Bible completely during the following twelve months!

But during that first year, God made it clear to me that I could not rely on my own understanding of the Bible.  I had to rely on Him to properly apply the Bible to my life.  The details of that lesson in 'Casting Down Imaginations' are detailed on another page of this site at Imaginations.

In 1978 I began to attend a local Congregational Church, and the pastor had a class to train future church elders in which he included deeper research into Bible passages using a Green/English interlinear Bible.  This allowed me to gain greater insights into what God wants to impart to me and the rest of His creation through His Holy Scriptures.

So now, as of the writing of this page I have home studied the Greek Old and New Testaments for about thirty-seven years, and as a result I have been able to glean truths from the Scriptures which I have never heard taught in the various churches which I have attended or para-church organizations which have touched my life.

But there remains a factor of understanding the Bible of which I have become aware which I have never heard taught by anyone.  It is what I call the 'Learning Curve Factor'.  It is part of the recognition of the difference between carnal and spiritual Christianity.

I first became aware of this factor by divine revelation.  In the summer of 1997 I attended the National Promise Keepers rally in Washington, D.C., and thereafter the local church which I attended continued monthly Promise Keepers men's fellowship meetings.  At one such meeting one of the church pastors arrived with scratches and minor cuts on his forehead.  As he sat down in the meeting we all asked the obvious question - "What happened to you?!"

He told us that he had just returned from his annual family vacation, during which his family members walked a trail in a park by a lake as they did every year.  The trail led by the lake and over a natural stone bridge over a stream which emptied into the lake.  As he crossed the stone bridge it gave away, and he fell into the stream and some small stones fell on him and caused the cuts and scratches on his head.  Then he made the statement which jarred my life:  "I have crossed that stone bridge for years, and always thought it was solid and safe.  But now I know better!"

God used that statement to show me that there are things in our lives which we consider to be solid and safe, but they are not.  They may work for years and years, but ultimately they will fail.

About that time I was reading in the Bible about King David.  He was known as 'the man after God's own heart".  Yet in his later years he entered into temptation of sexual sin with a married woman named Bathsheba, and his life and family and kingdom were ripped apart by the scandal.  He committed not only the sin of adultery, but also murdered her husband, and tried to cover up his sins, and nearly succeeded.  But God brought him to account.

The result was that King David admitted his sins, repented of his sinfulness, and recorded his summary of this major episode of his life in Psalm 51.  I know it as the Brokenness and Contrition Psalm.  It contains the following verse:

Psalm 51:17  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

It then occurred to me that this huge change in King David's heart had affected his previous writings.  For example, David had previously penned Psalm 61 which begins as follows:

Psa 61:1  To the Chief Musician. On stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. Hear my cry, O God; attend to my prayer.
Psa 61:2  From the end of the earth I cry to You when my heart is overwhelmed; Lead me to the Rock higher than I.

When my heart is overwhelmed.  That sounds like a crises situation.  My heart was overwhelmed on May 15, 1976, and in my desperation I was open to the monumental decision to ask Jesus Christ to come into my heart to take over management of my life.  Not a decision to be taken lightly.  It turned out that desperation was a good thing for me at that time!  And God made sure that I also was broken and contrite at the time as well.  He had the person who was telling me about Jesus give me this KEY to brokenness and contrition - she told me that my whole life was one big SIN because I, like everyone, had always lived for myself, and not for God.

But I have known Christians, including pastors, who experienced crises without becoming broken and contrite. 

DEFINITION TIME:  By the way, brokenness simply means that I realize that I can never lead a happy and successful life without God, and contrition means that I realize that it is my fault that I am not completely happy and successful because I have been leaving God out of my life.

BACK TO THE STORY:  The realization I had was that King David had been the best of carnal believers in God all of his life until God called him to account over the Bathsheba 'incident'.  Then, as a result of him experiencing brokenness and contrition, he became a spiritual believer!  This was what might be called a 'sea change' in his life.  He became really humble, and appreciated certain adversities as gifts from God to keep him humble!!  2 Samuel 16:6-11

THE CRUX OF THIS STORY:  I realized that it would have been better for Psalm 61 to say, "When my heart is broken and contrite, lead me to The Rock that is higher than I" rather than 'When my heart is overwhelmed'.

ANOTHER EXAMPLE:  I was also led to read the account of the Apostle Paul's arrest in Jerusalem recorded in Acts 21.  Paul had previously been told by the Lord to leave Jerusalem because the Jews would not receive his testimony about Jesus.  Paul argued, but Jesus said, "Go!"  Years later Paul goes to Jerusalem and the disciples in Jerusalem recognize that the Jews still hate Paul.  So they advise him to go to The Temple in Jerusalem with four other believers who had taken a vow, and follow the Jewish rituals of cleaning so the the Jews would see that Paul is still practicing the Jewish laws and then the Jews would leave him alone.  Paul follows their advice and ends up in prison and bound as a prisoner on his way to Rome.

The question raised in my mind was this:  was the counsel of the Christian elders to Paul to go through the motions of observing the Jewish rituals spiritual advice or carnal advice?  The intention of this advice was to nullify the hatred of the Jewish leaders and people toward Paul.  The result of Paul following their advice was exactly the opposite.  I came to the conclusion that the Christian elders' advice was carnal rather than spiritual advice from the Heart-Knowing God.  God's advice would have worked.  It's as simple as that.

The impact this had on my use of Scripture in my life was this:  It confirmed to me that I need more than ever to trust God with all of my heart, and to stop leaning on my own understanding - even of Scripture!!  Just because some Christian leader gives me advice, or orders, does not mean that God wants me to take that advice!!!

Then I came across a verse which showed me that this was practiced by Paul.

1Co_16:12  As regards our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come to you with the brothers, but it was not altogether his will that he come now. But he will come when he has opportunity.

Here we see the Apostle Paul 'greatly desiring' Apollos to do something, but Apollos was not yet willing.  I understood that to mean that Apollos was following the leading of the Holy Spirit, and Paul recognized and trusted the Holy Spirit to get Apollos to the right place at the right time!!  So much for 'following orders'!!

And that is the Unrecognized Factor of Bible Study which I find so liberating and refreshing.  I am truly free to follow the leading of the Spirit because I have committed my ways to our Heavenly Father, and He is able to establish my paths accordingly.  But He is not free to do so if I am still taking control of my own life.  It's a matter of faith.  Don't you agree, dear reader??

Unfortunately my freedom has not been accepted by the church leadership, and has resulted in the termination of my membership from my church of choice, but I would rather obey God than obey people who have not yet experienced brokenness and contrition.  My acqaintenances who have experienced brokenness and contrition seem to find my freedom as refreshing as their own freedom!!

WARNING!  The current church system of Bible study is defective to the degree that it relies on our own goals, understanding and willpower to live the Christian life.  I believe that we all need to be intentionally crucified with Christ by claiming His cross, death, burial, resurrection and ascension as our own cross, death, burial, resurrection and ascension in order to truly be set free from ourselves so that we can freely live for God.  See Galatians 2:22.  I believe that God does as deep a work in each of our lives as we want Him to do, and then He waits for us to ask Him to help us to dig deeper and deeper until we really and truly have nothing that separates us from Jesus as the foundation of our lives.

Faith is not like sin.  Sin is automatic to the human race, but faith is an exercise of our will to get God to do what we cannot do for ourselves.  Yes we all need to be saved from our sins, but we also all need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, and we all need to be buried in water baptism, and we all need to be saved from our delusions and the enemy's deceptions, but this does not happen unless the Good News of Father's provisions for these aspects of eternal life are brought to our attention.  Father, please bring every lost truth to the attention of everyone who needs to know what the possibilities are for each creature in Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord!!

In the same way that the Toronto Revival was and is an aspect of God which was not known to those who were seeking more of God and knowing that there must be more, our current knowledge of God cannot limit us to the unlimited possibilities which our Heavenly Father has in store for us.  As a close friend likes to say, we don't know what we don't know!!  So I recommend this prayer for one and all:

Heb 13:20-21  Now may the God of Peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the Sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.