I’ve been thinking about the need to study the Bible. It is vital that we get to know the Lord; it must be a personal relationship with the human Jesus that leads us through the tangled ways of the World; it is vital that we live in accord with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter that Jesus promised us.
We can only achieve those things by an intimate knowledge of the Word. So the necessity of studying the scriptures is apparent. The dilemma is how to build that knowledge. Jesus said that the Comforter would lead us But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26 II Tim 2:15 Paul encouraged Timothy to study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. II Tim. 2:15 John taught us that we need no man to teach us… the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him I John 2:27 And yet, men insist on turning to Man for their instruction.
In the last 50 years I’ve had the opportunity to sit under the ministry of many men of God and meet many Christian teachers and leaders. I separated the two groups because I’ve seen a dramatic difference between them. The first group had a deep and abiding faith in God. Their confidence in the Lord was built by prayer and study, trials faced, sins put aside, worldly habits overcome, righteous living and victories won and an intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit. They had studied where the Sprit led them and built their knowledge of the scriptures as He dictated; they built their understanding based on the broad and solid precepts of the Lord’s design and honed into a specific edifice of His Planning. Their message was fervent, and filled with the deep joy in the Lord.
On the other hand I have known the products of seminaries and schools of theology and various courses of study who had set themselves to study on their own course under the auspices of men. They never had the abiding joy that was apparent in the Spirit-taught men. Their knowledge was vast; they could spend hours expostulating on the meaning of various texts; they could relate various references to Greek and Hebrew historical recordings; they could speak of viewing the writings of Paul and Peter and John in the light of cultural customs and mores; they had a ‘firm grasp’ of how the teachings of Jesus impacted on the population then and now; they could give a historical trace of the actions of Christians through the last 2000 years. They were fantastic and brilliant men (and a few women) but with no evidence of an abiding relationship with God and no overflowing joy in the Lord. I have no doubt that some of them DID certainly love the Lord, but the real joy was not there.
What is the difference then? How does the Spirit-led study and the man-directed study make a difference in the end product. The first is a vital and ongoing production of the Holy Spirit. The second is didactic and bound by exactly what they had been taught.
I can only compare it to the natural growth of a tree and that of a tree that is drawn as a representation of a tree by an unskilled hand. The natural tree grows slowly, expanding roots in every direction, putting out a deep, wide underground network of tendrils drawing life from the hidden, unfathomable sources of water there. While the upward growth may not be apparent for some time, but the strenght being drawn from the nourishing water and fortifying earth is producing a hearty plant. In the course of time when nature determines the moment to be right, the tree begins to expand above ground; the days, months. and years perhaps, spent in the hidden growth as dictated by nature is then apparent in the hearty growth that now spreads above it. The branches expand to offer fruit and shade and shelter to those in need. As David said he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper (Ps.1:3) and the Prophet Jeremiah reinforces it by saying: For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit Jeremiah 17: 8 The child of God led by the Holy Spirit grows in much the same way as those trees over years of reading the Word and trials of life and learning to trust the Lord for guidance.
The man-taught product reminds me of a tree drawn by a child. A solid firm trunk with perhaps a couple straight branches and a symmetrical globe of leaves, stands tightly on the green grass. It is a perfectly acceptable tree and everyone who sees it recognizes it for what it is, but it lacks the vitality of the one produced by nature. It is two dimensional and while it conveys the feeling of a real tree, it is static and incapable of growth. The natural tree is moved by gentle breezes and growth expands in varying directions. The man made tree is built block by block by human instruction and cannot vary its construction or move in response to be blessing of God. When confronted by the opportunity for growth it is bound by what it has been ‘taught’ and cannot change. It may feel the blessings of God, but is unable to move except within the directions indicated by their learned principles
And in the process of systematizing and carefully structuring their study of the Word these sincere, but misled, Christians miss out on the fantastic joy of having the close instruction of the Holy spirit. They end up with a vast head-knowledge of the Scriptures but famished heart knowledge. They demonstrate the scripture in Revelation: a measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny. Christ compared the Word of God to bread and when Man parcels out the components of that bread phrase by phrase and sentence by sentence with his own seasoning added the hearts of honest men and women are starved.
They have allowed Man to measure out the Word of Life to them instead of feeding freely at the feet of Jesus, taught by His holy spirit. My soul grieves for them—honest hearts, misled by Man’s wisdom.