I remember having Bible studies (to be honest more like arguments) with my first college roommate. We had the same freshman Bible class together and we both liked being in the room to study so we had a lot of discussions centered around what we heard in Bible class each day. I was determined not to lose this fight and knew that I could find just the right verses to whip him into shape. He would bring up something and I would study to give him the appropriate answer. It turns out I just knew I had a verse for everything. Given enough time and a concordance I could do textual gymnastics until I came out with a winning answer that fit my tradition.
One of the things that I noticed about myself and my process for presenting my case was that in an effort to find the winning verse I often had to skip over other verses that challenged my conclusion. Some of those verses may have even supported his conclusion. If I was going to win the scripture war I couldn’t mention those verses and that was exactly the problem. I wasn’t in the discussion to find the truth. I was in the discussion to declare my tradition the winner over his.
The reason you read the Bible impacts what you receive from the Bible.
If you read the Bible to prove yourself right you will make it happen (in your own eyes).
If you read the Bible to confirm what you already believe you will find that too.
If you read the Bible to beat people up or to prove yourself superior to others in every way, you will find that as well.
Now, none of those things are truly supported by the text but if your mind is skewed hard enough and you are filled with enough pride and arrogance you will not find the time to camp out on the verses that challenge you and your beliefs.
However, if you read the Bible to find Jesus you will find him there. You really will and it will be glorious. You will be humbled. You will die to yourself. You will learn to live well and love well and consider others better than yourself. You will give up on winning because it never was about winning to begin with. It was all about dying and that doesn’t sound like winning. This sort of dying is the death of all in us that truly needs to die so that something new has room to grow.
You will never bear good fruit from reading scripture with a motive or intent to use it to produce bad fruit.
When I started to read the Bible more the way it was written I started to see things I had missed before. Paul didn’t write to the Romans 2 or 3 sentences at a time. He wrote a long letter with several different themes included. I have found that if I read a chapter at a minimum the text becomes richer and more meaningful. Every good English language Bible has texts divided in some way so that it’s easy to read a complete section.
You are precisely correct. You get what you are looking for. And I also agree, we should be looking for Jesus, not something to prove up our presuppositions.
Spot on Royce. Context is key. Realizing Jesus and Paul were actually Jewish helps us understand things better as well.