I often write, “What I need to read.” I hope the four gospels I challenged you to read are on your list of reading for this week.
This is the fourth blog of a new series about deciding to follow Jesus and developing a personal, intimate relationship with Him. You can review the series thus far by scrolling back through to find the first three.
When I write, it is often from a place of wanting to share with others what I have learned, whether it is something recent or something I have been chewing on for a while. Sometimes it is from a place of what I need to personally work on and need reiterated in my own life so sharing it with others help cement it in my head a little better.
Many who reject Christianity say Christians are hypocrites. Let me just say, we are! Just because I/you/we invite Jesus into our heart, doesn’t make us perfect but it places God’s Holy Spirit, who is perfect, into our hearts to convict us, lead us to repentance and to guide us. We will always sin but when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are marked with His seal of salvation for eternity. We will go to heaven, but salvation doesn’t bring about perfection here on earth. That’s to come when we reach heaven. When anyone becomes a Christian, God doesn’t expect perfection but He wants a relationship. The more we get to know Christ and read His Word, the closer our relationship is with God and the more He is able to change me/you/us into more of His likeness.
In previous blogs I have encouraged you to get a Bible and read the four gospels –– Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Four parallel accounts, inspired by God, about Jesus’ life on earth. If you have been reading these books, you have probably read about the scholars of the law, called Pharisees, who were humans that pretty much thought they were perfect.
Back in Jesus’ day, these men (only, no women) were members of a Jewish sect, distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, and commonly held to have pretensions to superior sanctity. A similar group, also known as the Sadducees, denied the resurrection, nor did they believe there were angels or spirits, but yet they acknowledged them all. They were a rigid group who were judgmental and concerned about appearances of recognition and honor. They were jealous of Jesus and denied who He was. Jesus called them out often for neglecting the part of the law that included justice, mercy and faithfulness. Basically, they were the “pot calling the kettle black.”
These men were quick to judge and stayed puffed up with their knowledge but they were only men, not God. Look at John chapter 8 with me for a moment:
“They all went home, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people were gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him [Jesus]. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any of you who is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her.’ Again, he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ ‘No one sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared, ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”
Note: Jesus did not excuse the woman’s sin, but He was also quick to point out the sin nature of all mankind, including her knowledgable accusers, and quickly dismissed them from their prideful place of condemnation of the woman.
While in counseling several years ago, I had to work through and come to grips with modern day Pharisees. I first had to cleanse my heart of being judgmental and examine areas in my own life where I had had a pharisaical mindset, rigid judgement. It was a humbling and holy experience for me. All Christians, non-Christians too, can be guilty of this judgmental spirit. It is an area we have to examine often. Our enemy, Satan, loves to slip in and trap us into thinking we are superior. Knowledge, as well, can puff us up.
I worked through the “Pharisees” that existed in my childhood to examine the “whys” of some of the people I had looked up to and learned from. These were folks of great influence in my life who didn’t handle Scripture appropriately. These people loved Jesus and did many great things as examples for me to follow, but there were some things they were just dead wrong about. It helped me tremendously to work through these things with a Christian counselor. I came to realize they were only accountable for what they knew and had been taught (they didn’t know what they didn’t know). Often their actions were learned behavior from people of influence in their lives.
Racism is one example that sticks out in my mind. I look back and now realize some of those people I admired and learned from were racist. Today, I can honestly say they have changed. The other example impressed on my mind is public mistakes. I will never forget the shame that was cast on a teenage girl who became pregnant out of wedlock. I admire her courage in choosing not to have an abortion, choosing instead to become a mother to her baby. But the shame that was cast on her by professing Christians, who I looked up to…was heartbreaking to me. In my adult life, as I owned my own faith, it angered me.
I also have had to come to grips, through counseling, with the mishandling of Scripture by those in authority (people who lead others in Bible study and from the pulpit). Some share inaccurate teaching and views of women in the home, in the church and the work place. This didn’t happen just when I was young; it still happens today. I was challenged in counseling to go deep with God, to dig deep into God’s Word and allow Him to expose His word accurately to me!
This is very much where I want to camp and encourage you, the reader. God is a personal God. His Word is unchanging and holy. His character is unchanging and God does NOT play favorites. If you are just starting to study God’s Word and develop a personal relationship, pray. Ask Him to give you understanding of His Word, the Bible, and to lead you to people who handle Scripture appropriately.
I was encouraged in counseling to pray these prayers and ask Him to lead me to those who could unpack Scripture concerning the role of women in the Bible and other areas. God has been faithful and HE will be to you. His desire is for you to know Him, to understand His Word and apply it to your life.
I challenge you with this…READ HIS HOLY WORD. GET STILL enough to start to recognize His voice in your life.
If God spoke through a burning bush to Moses and spoke through a donkey, then, today, I promise His Holy Spirit will start to speak to you as you invite Him in, as you confess your sins daily, and as you read His written Word.
MY challenge to anyone reading is to OWN your relationship to Christ. Go to His throne and not your phone. He says in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds and the one who knocks the door will be opened.” This Scripture refers to the good things God wants to give each one of us. The best gift in the world HE can ever give us is Himself and the accurate interpretation of His Word and how to apply it to our lives.
ASK, SEEK and KNOCK…you will not be disappointed. OWN your FAITH. You don’t have to know everything if you know the One who does. He does expect you to read His inspired Word in order to know Him better and apply what you have learned!
What’s on your list of “what you need to read?”