“The difficulty we modern Christians face is not misunderstanding the Bible, but persuading our untamed hearts to accept its plain instructions.”AW Tozer
This quote always gets me. Is God’s Word difficult to understand? You could spend years intently studying it and never run out of things to learn. the Bible is complex, no doubt. Is the best we can hope for just to glean some basic truths and leave the rest to the scholars? Or does the problem actually sometimes lie within our own heart?
We live in a strange time. Instant and immediate access to basically everything has turned us all into experts as well as skeptics. Christians pride themselves on asking the ‘hard questions’, but with no real intent on accepting the (sometimes hard) answers. The more information that becomes available, the more questions we have. It’s a paradox of our time. Questions aren’t inherently bad. The hook is that along with this burning desire to question comes a total apathy toward concrete answers.
We don’t actually want the answers, we want our answers.
Look at this passage from John where Jesus is speaking to His disciples. He’s just performed the miracle of feeding the thousands, and the crowds are ready for more. Jesus knows that He came for more than just filling stomachs, so He tells them that they must trust fully in Him as the bread of life, eating His flesh and drinking His blood.
“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “this is a hard saying; who can understand it?” When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, “Does this offend you? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words I speak to you are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.John 6:60-67
My first thought after reading this is that these poor guys were looking for understanding and got chastised for ‘asking the hard questions’. That’s not it. Jesus went to great lengths to perform miracles and explain the context of them to this crowd. They are really only following Him at this point because of the miracles. He’s trying to get them to see that there’s something beyond this physical bread and physical hunger, and He is it. When they told Him, “this is a hard saying” what they were actually saying was that this is just really hard to accept. The next verse has Jesus responding a bit harshly because He knew they were complaining. “Does this offend you?” is a very pointed question. If they were offended about the bread analogy, just think how their heads will spin when they see Him do what He actually came to do!
They understood perfectly well what was required of them, but couldn’t quite get on board. What follows is one of the saddest verses in the Bible in my opinion: many went back and walked with Him no more. He required total surrender and belief in Him as the one true way. They walked away.
Our flesh gets positively offended at the thought of surrendering.
It’s too hard to understand, we say… but complex is not the same as impossible. We are to dig deep, chew on the truth and “eat” the words that God has given us (Jeremiah 15:16). What an exhausting life it must be to never actually digest what He says… like chewing on a healthy meal and spitting it out. We need adopt a posture that asks but also one that is able to receive… a life that rightly divides the word of truth and accepts it (2 Timothy 2:15).
Read this and weep:
“The Bible makes a lousy owner’s manual. It fails massively at getting to the point. While we may wish for a clear, perspicuous text, that’s not what God gave us. Instead, God gave us a cacophony of voices and perspectives, all in conversation with one another, representing the breadth and depth of the human experience in all it’s complexities and contradictions.”Rachel Held Evans
If this is how I saw God’s Word, I’d literally never pick it up again. Purposely confusing, full of contradictions and unclear opinions? Ironically, this is from a book called “Inspired” in which the entire premise is to “learn to love the Bible again.” Call me crazy, but this is not a woman who loves the Bible. This is willful, purposeful, misunderstanding.
Peter reminds us in his second epistle to stir up our pure minds and not to be like those who willfully forget God’s promises and laws (3:1,5). The word ‘pure’ that he uses literally means ‘tested by sunlight’, meaning that light exposes any impurity or flaws. We need this light to test our wayward hearts.
“The Lord recognizes no good-natured “agreeing to disagree” so that the followers of the Lamb may adopt the world’s ways and travel along the world’s path. Our problem is to get our world-loving minds to make Jesus Lord in fact as well as in word“AW Tozer
Are we open to hearing what He says or have we already decided to ignore it if it isn’t what we want? The Bible is actually far more clear than we are comfortable admitting. Obeying and following Him will be offensive at times, it will be hard, and it will cost us something. I’m going to say it: there is no such thing as a ‘radically inclusive faith’, at least not in the way the folksy cultural Christians are calling for. There is one true faith that is offered to all who are willing to follow. Within that singular faith we find rest for our weary souls, joy through hardship, and a desire to actually travel fearlessly on the narrow path. The only thing available on the wide road is a flood of never-ending questions and debilitating doubts.
We say we want more of Jesus? Then we have to lay down our pride and our need to feel good and accepted all the time. Take what He says at face value and receive it. Let it become a part of who you are. Let it fuel you. His words are life, not death. They are blessing, not curse.
It’s not as hard as we make it out to be.