In the last post we considered that knowing God means having a relationship with him and undergoing a process of transformation to become more like Jesus in the way that we think and act. God made us in his image, meaning we have the potential to be like him. We also have the potential to do the opposite: to do what we personally find enjoyable or agreeable while convincing ourselves that God also wants us to do it.
How can you be certain what God really wants you to do?
The obvious answer is to read the Bible.
Yet even then you are not necessarily free from your own biases and prejudices. It’s unfortunately easy to read the Bible in such a way that you don’t allow it to teach you, only to confirm what you already believe is true. Or to read the Bible in such a way that you see the blessings and promises of hope and life applying to you, while the judgements and punishments for ignoring God only apply to other people – people who don’t believe in the same God as you, or in any god at all.
The attitude with which you approach the Bible will determine what you are capable of learning from it.
If you approach with an attitude that declares you already know the truth and have all the answers, it’s unlikely you will learn much or allow yourself to be challenged.
If you approach with strongly held views about say, politics or economics, whatever they might be, it’s likely you will interpret the Bible in a way that agrees with the views you already hold, and you will not allow yourself to be challenged.
The Bible should always challenge you. If you come away from reading the Bible feeling comfortable and confident in yourself, or feeling excited about the prospect of God’s judgement coming on the wicked people ‘out there’, then you haven’t allowed it to do that.
How should you feel when you come away from reading the Bible?
Inspired to show love to others, to forgive and reconcile with those who have wronged you.
Comforted in times of suffering.
Corrected in your misunderstanding of God and his intentions.
Remorseful after personal failure, yet grateful for God’s mercy and determined to try again.
Awed by God’s creative power and wisdom.
Relieved and hopeful at God’s promise to rescue this world from our greed and lack of care.
Perhaps not all at the same time, of course! Yet how often do you feel any of those things after reading the Bible? And how often do you come away feeling nothing at all? Is reading the Bible just something you do each day to tick a box and say it’s done?
In short, if reading the Bible leaves you feeling the need to change and not only that but inspired to do so, then it’s likely you have managed to break through your own personal biases and preconceptions to catch a glimpse of how you look from God’s perspective.
We are promised that God will give us wisdom and understanding if we only ask for it:
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5)
We’ll look at this verse in more detail next time, but for now we can simply note the context in which this promise is given:
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2–4)
Trials and suffering are an integral part of how the Christian learns and matures. God never promised that we would be spared from these things. Yet he did promise that wisdom will always be given to those who ask.
So let us ask, and approach the Bible with an attitude of willingness to learn, to change and to be inspired to serve.