Although some of us have a hard time admitting it, understanding the Bible is something we have all struggled with at times. When we are new to a life that centers around Jesus and Scripture, this can become frustrating enough to slow down any process of growth or hunger to learn more. When the enemy gets his way, it can even be sufficient to make some of us give up.
Several people are not going to agree with everything I have to say, and that’s fine with me. The fact that they disagree doesn’t necessarily mean that someone is right or wrong, it merely demonstrates that each of us has our personal understanding of the issues. Yes, I have spent some time studying the Bible through means of seminary and theology classes, but I don’t believe an education is what qualifies a person when it comes to understanding the Bible.
As a Christian writer, I put a lot of effort into not applying what I have learned in a class towards my writing. While some people will only take something they have learned in a textbook or heard during a lecture as truth, I blend in better with the crowd of individuals who depend on the experiences life throws at us to understand something better. My goal is to write about my personal experiences in a way that inspires you.
When reading the Bible first became a serious interest of mine, it was something I was doing to pass the time. I was about six weeks into a seventh-month sentence at a county jail and walking in a huge square counting cinder blocks had already gotten old. This sentence wasn’t my first experience with incarceration, and it wasn’t my last, but it was the first time I was locked up long enough to consider going to college to earn a degree in theology.
Reading the Bible while in jail provided me with several benefits. For starters, when I first asked my mom to buy me a Bible online and send it addressed to me at the jail, it instantly brought back my innocence in her eyes. Needless to say, there was an increase in my weekly commissary money the following week.
Secondly, the tough guys would see me sitting at a table reading God’s Word in the day room, and they decided against giving me any problems. I became someone they felt they could confide in like I was automatically closer to Jesus than they were. Last but not least, it was a big book. There was plenty of reading to do, and I had nothing but time on my hands.
Day after day was spent reading, underlining verses that seemed like they were important, but I had zero understanding of what it was I read. I tried multiple ways of reading Scripture. After starting on the first page and beginning to read as if it were a novel, I gave up at about the third chapter in the book of Leviticus. I decided to start over and begin with the New Testament, but by the time I finished the Gospel of Luke I decided it was the same stories just written over and over again in a different sequence.
I can’t exactly say I experienced a whole lot of change over the next five and a half months because the day of my release I left Jesus in the cell and headed straight to my favorite bar. I did take the Bible home with me, simply to show my mother all of the underlying I did during the time like it meant I was a new man. It did create a desire inside of me though, something I would return to each time my life started spiraling out of control. OK, back to the reason you are reading this. Like I mentioned before, this is what I have come up with based on my experiences and those of several people I have grown close to over the years.
It’s pretty common for me to receive a text or a message on Facebook from someone looking to gain a better understanding when it comes to reading the Bible. My first response will usually be, “Why do you want to understand the Bible?” You have to look at this question for exactly what it is. Allow me to elaborate.
Understanding the Bible is not a reward to be won. It is not a prize you receive for “trying hard enough.” It is also not something that is going to save your soul and keep you from burning in hell. It’s not something you have to do to receive God’s favor. It definitely will not wash away your sin and make you a new person. The ability to comprehend the Bible is a blessing that someone will fully appreciate with an open heart and an eagerness to learn about and grow closer to Jesus. Nothing more and nothing less.
Let me give you some feedback on why I say this. I spent hundreds, maybe thousands of hours in an orange jumpsuit reading the Bible and was more confused than ever. I would not only read, but I would lay on my bunk at night wide awake trying to make some sense of what I was reading.
I want you to keep in mind why I was reading the Bible. If this is something you are currently struggling with, what are your motives? Better yet, what is your motive behind the motives? Mine were easy. I needed to impress my mom to receive money every week, I needed a way to make the bad guys feel they needed me around, and I was bored.
Without going into too much detail, it was about a year and a half after being released from jail that I began reading Scripture on a daily basis again. There were no bars or guards in uniforms, but life was even more of a struggle. I was a resident in a recovery home for men suffering from addiction. There hadn’t been any theology classes or seminary curriculum yet. I wasn’t even going to church on a regular basis.
However, there was one significant difference than when I was in jail. I wanted God. I had heard so much about people experiencing a personal relationship with Jesus, and I wanted this more than anything. For once in my life, I was tired. I don’t mean I needed a nap. I mean I had a loaded shotgun in my mouth, and because of the length of the barrel, I couldn’t get my finger on the trigger and was too drunk to use my toes. I’d been drinking to the point of blackout every night for ten days straight, but God made sure I could remember every minor detail of that night.
Back to understanding the Bible. When this becomes a goal we set out to accomplish, reasoning is everything. It’s not a book to read before you make a decision, it’s an event you study to increase the level of intimacy you experience with the main character. To gain a better understanding and raise this level of knowledge on the subject, you have to be open to one single fact. From Genesis 1:1 – Revelation 22:21, every verse is about Jesus. Once you come to grips with this reality, you’ll start reading each verse through a different pair of lenses.
If you thought you were going to read one quick article on the internet and have all your questions answered, I’m sorry to say I have let you down. However, this is just part one of a three-part series I will be writing. Throughout my next two posts, I will discuss different topics such as methods I have used for studying Scripture during different seasons of my life, prayers that have been cried before opening my Bible to read, and lessons I’ve had to endure throughout the journey.
I wanted to open with what the Bible is about, what the author’s intentions were. I still can’t help but chuckle when someone asks, “Doesn’t the Bible stand for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth?” While understanding this one of a kind book will eventually lead to some drastic changes in the way one goes about living life, it is so much more than a list of instructions. If this were the only content, the Bible would be all about us. Until we realize that it is all about him, we’re unable to understand anything.