This picture has been floating around the internet for a while. I find it both humorous and shameful at the same time. Humorous because I have witnessed people doing this. Shameful because I have done this very thing. I’ve taken scripture out of context and used it to prove a point, undermine someone else’s point, or condone my own wrong behavior under the cloak of God’s Word. Yep, shameful.
This is not a new phenomenon. The enemy has been twisting God’s words since the beginning. Using slight, almost imperceptible changes to tempt Eve into sin. Eve then twists the word even more to entice Adam to sin. Satan used God’s word to even tempt Christ. Jesus responds with the full force of God’s truth and Satan has to leave. We like to twist scripture to bludgeon people or to pardon our own actions and attitudes.
The past several months, I have been reading and studying a lot as I co-write a Bible study on hope and prepare for teaching on the book of Romans. This is not new to me. I’ve been studying, writing and teaching for several years. But what struck me afresh is this : words matter. God’s Word matters. Every word matters. Every word has weight and meaning.
If I wanted to (and I don’t), I could rip verses out of context to either condemn that which is good and condone that which is evil. I could justify so many destructive behaviors just by cherry picking “God is love” out of the Bible.
Here is the rub: you and I must take the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD into our lives, hearts and spirits. All of it. Not just the parts that resonate with us. Not just the parts that condemn the behavior of others and their sins. Not just the parts that talk about love and forgiveness. ALL OF IT.
There are some irksome passages in the Bible. Verses that tell me to love my enemy, forgive those who did wrong to me. Passages that tell me sin brings conviction and consequences. Verses that tell me to leave punishment and vengeance to God. Tough stuff.
There are benefits in our lives when we consider and take in the whole counsel of God. Here are just a few:
- A productive life. We are called to be productive. I’m not just talking about your job. I’m talking about spiritual productivity. Fruit. Good works. Colossians 1:9b-10 says “…We ask God to fill you with knowledge of His will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.” That is the productive Christian life. Ephesians 2:10 says “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” We are called to be intentional about our spiritual growth and productivity. Reading and seeking to understand Scripture is how we learn to live lives that bear fruit. We learn what the “good works” are that Christ has laid out for us to accomplish. We cannot know where to go and what to do if we don’t read the directions!
- Wisdom In today’s world, there are a lot of opinions but not a lot of wisdom. Here is a hard truth: our opinions are not always lined up with the truth of God’s Word. If my opinion or thoughts on a topic do not line up with Scripture, then I AM WRONG; not the Bible. By the way, same goes for you too. Proverbs 21:30 says “There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” Our thoughts, our plans, our insights are NOT of greater depth than our Lord’s. Do you want to gain wisdom? Seek the wisdom of the Lord through His Word. James 1:5 says “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.” Ask with an open heart for the Lord to reveal His wisdom to you.
- Stability. Godly wisdom dovetails right into a stable life. Do you want a faith that is solidly built on Christ? Do you want to be able to stand in the middle of a storm and know you are on the sure footing of God’s Word? I quoted Ephesians 2:10 earlier, in the following verses 11-13, Paul is telling the people that Christ wants his followers to be equipped for service to build the body of Christ, while working toward unity and maturity. Verse 14 says this “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.” That is a stable life of faith. The believer who knows what the Bible says and is not influenced or turned to false doctrines by slick talkers.
- A life of excellence. Please hear me: I am not saying we will be living on Easy Street. There is no such thing. We all have struggles with sin and hardships that we go through. We can live a life of excellence through these times. 2 Timothy 3:16-17All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. The Word of the Lord gives us the framework to live out our faith through doctrine. Scripture shows us our sins and calls us to repentance. The Bible instructs us how to live righteously. That is a life of excellence. The person who listens to correction, adjusts their course, repents and continues on with Jesus lives a blessed life. Proverbs 12:1 puts it so succinctly “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge but whoever hates correction is stupid.” I don’t know about you; but I don’t want to be stupid.
I’m challenging myself to regard the words of the Bible with greater respect and to seek His wisdom in those very words. I want to use the Word to grow, to gain wisdom, to stand firm in faith and to live a life of excellence.