“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.” – 1 Corinthians 2:12-13 (ESV)
Do you remember the other day when I shared about the time when I new I was a Christian and the commitment was understood and real? Until that point, I was not indwelt with the Spirit of God. The moment I new and understood Jesus Christ’s atoning work on my sorry behalf, the Spirit entered into my very being.
In the verses today, Paul is writing a letter to the church at Corinth. They are believers, like I am. Believers of Jesus Christ have the Spirit of God indwelling them at the moment of their salvation.
As we mature in our faith and read the Word of God (the Holy Bible) we begin to understand some things in there that we may not have understood before. This is a sign that we are being attentive to the Spirit’s teaching as he imparts truth from God to us. The Holy Spirit is who helps us to interpret the pure Word of Scripture. Sure, we can access commentaries all day long. If they are any good (and there are many) then those volumes contain the information gleaned by the authors’ time studying that Word with the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Here’s where we get into trouble sometimes. In our impatience to comprehend the Bible, we may tend to skip it and go straight to the commentary instead. When we do that we are failing to allow the Spirit to lead us in truth. Sure, we’ll get something from what the respectable author says, but we may not really understand it. Furthermore, we are likely to forget it by next week.
So, you can tell I’m a big proponent of doing the legwork yourself with the help of the Spirit.
If any of you reading this have done science projects, here’s a summary statement from an analogy that I have often heard in respect to studying the Word. In order to accomplish the project, you can either buy it already made online OR you can go through all the steps of the scientific method to truly OWN the research and the project.
Here’s a nightmare story.
I had been asked to speak for a group when I was a newbie at doing such. In my haste to prepare the notes and all, I tried to make it like another speaker who I admire greatly. I was so caught up in it, that I neglected to ask God what He would like for the ladies to hear and I neglected to invite Him in the planning process. The morning of the event came and I was so nervous (typical). I drove to the place and went in psyched with myself for how similar to “her” style and delivery I was. When it came time for me to speak, I went to the front and began what was probably the worst talk I have ever done. Eye lids were closing, humorous quips were bombing, and watches were being checked. Those are ultimate signs that it’s not going well.
I wrapped it up and took my seat ashamed. When the closing prayer was done, I could not get out of there fast enough.
Driving home, I asked God why it bombed. The Spirit within revealed to me that I had not really invited God in on the talk and that those words I had spoken were mine, not His. My efforts to tie in Scripture had been disjointed because I had not asked the Spirit to guide me in Truth as I sat down to pull bits and pieces from it. It was a flop.
Since then, God has given me other opportunities. He’s gracious that way. He could have closed the door, but in His mercy, He kept working with me and still is doing that. I learned much from that time that is applicable not only when I prepare to speak, to teach the weekly Bible study, or to simply read the Word for my own study or for devotional meditating.
Here are my tips:
- Every time you open the Word, invite the Holy Spirit into your time in it. Ask him to illuminate the Word so it makes sense in that moment and so that you can remember it. Ask him to meet with you over that Word in whatever amount of time you have. Ask him to teach you things from that reading that you can apply to your life and not just plop into your head for puffy head knowledge. Ask him to free you from distractions (phone ringing, to-do lists popping in, and other interruptions).
- Read the Word and not the notes. Most people today have study Bibles and I have noticed that we have a tendency to read a passage and say, “huh?” Then, rather than rereading it, we quickly look at the footnotes in our Bible or commentary or we skip ahead past the fill-in-the blanks in our Bible study to see what the answers are. My favorite Bible for my quiet time reading and my studying is my Bible that has only cross-references in it. The fact that the print is large and dark enough helps me to use it more, too, but I know that unless I read the straight Word, I may cheat the Spirit and go to an other’s interpretation instead and “buy the science project,” so to speak.
Finally, I know this is a long one, but it’s Friday… : )
Finally, when I have taught studies, my favorite ones to teach are those that cause the students to dig in the Word for themselves, no fill-ins, no conjecture, and no “how do you feel” type questions. Watching the light bulbs go on over their heads as they have been in tune with the Spirit’s teaching them is nothing short of amazing from my vantage point.
So, let’s not shortchange the Spirit’s teaching ability in our lives. Through patience and diligence we persevere in learning how to study without others’ interpretations. Then, as we continue to study with the Word and the Spirit and we move into seeing for ourselves what it says, we can use those valuable resources from trusted authors to check our own interpretations to make sure we are on the right track. They are the last resort. The Spirit is the first as he seeks to lead us in all truth.
Come back Monday. We’re not done learning about this vital ministry of the Spirit in the believer’s life as he seeks to lead us in truth.