Reading the Bible Spiritually
When I was 14 or 15 years old in Sunday School, I remember hearing for the first time Jesus’ sermon on the Mount and this one set of passages stuck in my mind:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
I, like other boys my age, interpreted this to mean sexual lust and playing with ourselves. This of course made me uncomfortable and afraid. Would God really require me to pluck out my eye and cut off my hand if I messed up?
First of all, it was disgusting and the thought of being maimed was upsetting. This seemed so unreasonably harsh. Plucking out your own eye or cutting off your hand?! I was revolted and afraid. How could anyone do this? But when I looked around and didn’t see or hear of any one-eyed or hand-missing Christians then I figured it was something no one really did.
Wanting to be a stronger Christian, it was a sore point for many years and one of those Bible passages that I couldn’t quite understand or accept.
Of course as time passed and I grew up spiritually, I realized that Jesus was explaining the seriousness of how we interpret things with our mind’s eyes and how the deeds of our hands is what determines if we will do good or evil. That if we know something is causing us to sin, then we need to stop it immediately and completely.
But when I was young, I could not see the spiritual meaning of this teaching because I was only reading His words superficially. I couldn't see past the literal meaning of His words.
Everyone knows that the Bible is a SPIRITUAL BOOK, but when we start reading, we are so earthly minded that we just can’t help but take what we read literally.
Jesus’ teaching contained numerous parables, but many people couldn’t understand them because they could only see the surface.
“And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given." - Matthew 13:10-11
EVERYTHING Jesus says is SPIRITUAL and has many layers of truth and deep meaning. The truths are revealed to those who desire to follow Jesus and seek to understand God.
Jesus healed the sick, the lame, the unclean and the poor and told His disciples to do the same, but how many of us understand that Jesus ALSO meant those who were spiritually sick, spiritually lame, spiritually unclean, and spiritually poor?
When Jesus was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), the devil asked Jesus why He didn’t just turn the stones into bread, Jesus responded “It is written: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Right off the bat Jesus is redefining the meaning of the word “bread”. He meant the spiritual teachings, wisdom and truths that God gives to us so we can learn, grow and be strong spiritually.
Yet, how many of us when we say the Lord’s Prayer, STILL think “Give us this day our daily bread” means ONLY the literal food at the table when we are having dinner?
Yes of course, we thank God for the food that keeps our bodies alive and well, but in the context of the Lord's Prayer, doesn’t it also mean that we should thank Him for the SPIRITUAL FOOD that He gives us everyday to keep us spiritually healthy?
Unfortunately, many people read the Bible only once and will not read it again, because they think they have learned everything there is to know. By reading the Scriptures only once, we never revise our first interpretations and miss out on a huge vault of spiritual knowledge.
A child cannot grasp what a teacher is teaching in the 2nd grade until he/she has first learned everything in the 1st grade. Everything builds upon the basics, but so many of us stopped learning after the 1st grade.
Even as an older Christian, I was bothered by this passage when Jesus said, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 5:17-20
Did it mean I had to learn and perform all the Israelite commandments, rituals, rules and traditions of the Book of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy? Did I really have to sacrifice doves and animals if I sinned? Wouldn't that make me Jewish? Did God really require that I do all these things in order to follow Him?
Then I thought about how Jesus was always concerned about the issues on the inside: our thoughts, feelings, motives and heart. Not on what we did on the outside. I realized all the rules, traditions and commandments could be done by anybody superficially but that same person could be selfish, hateful and evil. That is when I understood that true spirituality comes from the heart first. So when I pondered Jesus' love commandments:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." -Matthew 22: 37-40
I saw that everything God wanted me to know is summed up in His LOVE for us and the world. "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" is absolutely true.
When we love as Jesus did, our words and actions will become Godly works and will surpass the empty works of the Pharisees. When we love God and love others, we do things because we want to, not because we have to and when serve with LOVE, we will always do more than someone just doing what is required. That is when I came to understand what it really meant to serve God and how Jesus' sacrifice set us free from the burden of salvation by works but instead to serve Him with love and joy.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” - Matthew 11:28-30
There are so many things that God wants us to learn if we would only take a fresh look at His Word. If we have a desiring heart that yearns to know Him more, He will remove the "scales" from our spiritual eyes to see Him in His Splendor.
So the next time you read the Word, ask the Lord to show you His truths that are lying beneath the printed words but in plain sight.
Ask Him to reveal Himself and then read the Word of God again.
You will be amazed.
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." - Matthew 7:7,8
Get wisdom; get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Proverbs 4:5
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. – James 1:5
© 2018 Edrick
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