My neighbor always lets his weeds get 2-3 feet high. Sometimes as I am navigating down the footpath, a weed will rub against my leg and I jump in the air and quickly look down to make sure I’m safe. In my mind, I know that he never addresses the weeds. But even still, I look down because there is a small chance that a mosquito or spider or something else is crawling on my leg. I hate bugs.
When I was a pastor, I always encouraged people to look in the Bible to see the verses I was referencing in a sermon. It was important for me to point people to the actual scripture so that everyone could see what God says. Even though most of the time it is only weeds rubbing against your legs, every so often there is a mosquito or spider crawling on your leg. If you are looking in your Bible to see what God says, you can check for yourself. You aren’t trusting it’s a simple grazing of a weed. You’re able to know it is just a weed. This is important for your walk with Jesus—to know for yourself what God says. Yes, you won’t know it all. Yes, you won’t understand it all. But open up His Word and seek Him.
There are a lot of commentators of the Bible. There are thousands of pastors and theologians. Interpretations vary at times because people allow their own misconceptions and traditions to speak into the Word. People read what they want to read. People cherry pick. People have agendas. People are broken. I’m not suggesting that the last sermon you heard was wrong or that commentaries are bad. My pastor shared a great message from God this past Sunday, and my bookshelf is lined with commentaries. My suggestion, my desire for you is to always seek Him and His Word for yourself. Independent Bible reading and study should be a regular occurrence. What is God saying to you today?
“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” – Psalm 25:5 [ESV]
I am not a fan of blueberries. I will admit that if there’s a fruit salad, I’ll try my best to not grab too many blueberries with the serving spoon. I pick out the bits and pieces that I like and leave the blueberries for those who like blueberries, or for those who happen to approach the bowl after I took all the good stuff. Sometimes that means someone gets stuck with a lot of blueberries.
The problem with picking out the bits and pieces is you then do not get all of the benefits of the fruit salad. In the same way, we cannot pick out bits and pieces of God’s Word and think that is enough. Too often people want to select particular passages, certain beliefs, only some things to live by, only certainly things to follow, and leave the rest. Everyone loves grace. Everyone loves blessings. But God’s Word speaks of things like obedience, humility, sacrifice, loving those who hate you, and judgment.
If you are opening your Bible only looking for bits and pieces of what works for you, I pray that you will come to see that the Bible is not a bag of trail mix where you pick out what you like. God’s Word, every single word of the Bible, is amazing. Let us be grateful for each bit, each piece, every single word. Psalm 63 is one of my favorite. Read it right now and pray for that thirst of which the Psalmist speaks.
“One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.” – Romans 16:17-18 [MSG]
Today’s passage can teach us so much. Jesus knew that this man was clinging too tightly to his money. He tried to show the man that He could offer him something greater than temporal riches, true riches in heaven. The rich man found this difficult to hear and he could not do as Jesus commanded.
Notice what happens next. You do not read about Jesus changing what was demanded of this fellow. He didn’t say, “Yeah, I know that money means a lot to you so you go ahead and keep half. You don’t have to give everything away. Just give half.” Jesus did not do that. There were no negotiations. He did not change or adapt to give someone a more appealing offer to accept. That is never the case.
So then the question is why do we try to glamorize Jesus and change His Word so that people will make the choice to accept Him? Why do we try to lure people to be Christians with half truths and PowerPoint Presentations that entertain while misrepresenting? At the end of the day, what they are accepting is not Jesus. They are accepting the comfortable; cake-on-a-plate Christianity you show them, that will be so cherry picked the truth cannot be recognized. Jesus does not need you to make Him appealing. There should be no negotiations. Just show them Jesus.
“One day one of the local officials asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to deserve eternal life?’ Jesus said, ‘Why are you calling me good? No one is good—only God. You know the commandments, don’t you? No illicit sex, no killing, no stealing, no lying, honor your father and mother.’ He said, ‘I’ve kept them all for as long as I can remember.’ When Jesus heard that, he said, ‘Then there’s only one thing left to do: Sell everything you own and give it away to the poor. You will have riches in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ This was the last thing the official expected to hear. He was very rich and became terribly sad. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let them go. Seeing his reaction, Jesus said, ‘Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who have it all to enter God’s kingdom? I’d say it’s easier to thread a camel through a needle’s eye than get a rich person into God’s kingdom.’”
-Luke 18:18-25 [MSG]