Open the Bible with Your Master Key
A master key unlocks any door, and there is a master key for understanding the Bible. The key to understanding the Bible is to put into practice what you already know.
Jesus highlighted this when he said, “For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever doesn’t have, from him will be taken away even that which he has.” (Matthew 13:12)
Practice Makes Perfect
The way we truly learn to do something is by putting it into practice.
One job I used to dread was sealing around the bath with silicon. My attempts at creating a finish were more akin to modelling the lunar landscape than a prize exhibit for the House Beautiful magazine. I decided to do something about this, so I looked at a series of YouTube videos. However, my efforts didn’t improve because I didn’t change what I was doing. After my latest failure, I decided to try it using the techniques I had researched. My first attempt was a vast improvement, and a later effort resulted in a neat smooth, attractive finish. I learnt more about how to do this as I was attempting to use the new technique.
There is no point in reading a Bible if we are not going to attempt to put into practice what we learn.
As we seek to do what we have read, we gain more understanding of the issues involved and what the Bible says makes more sense.
Our Hearts are Changed
As we seek to respond to what we read our hearts, become transformed, and we can receive more from God’s word in the Bible.
Pharaoh knew God had told him to let the Israelites go, but he repeatedly refused to do this. Every time he disobeyed, his heart became harder and harder. God then judged Pharaoh by further hardening his heart (Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 14:4, 7). There came the point when he could no longer receive with understanding what God was saying.
Jesus came to his people the Jews, repeatedly, many of these rejected him. At first, he taught very clearly and plainly until they accused him of being empowered by Satan. At this point, Jesus started teaching them in parables, using stories with a deeper meaning. Jesus explained the more profound truth of the parables to those who responded. Jesus revealed to his disciples that he was teaching in parables that those who were not willing to do what he said would no longer understand.
“Therefore, I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don’t see, and hearing, they don’t hear, neither do they understand.”(Matthew 13:13)
It is God Who Reveals
This revelation is not dependent on our intelligence and mental abilities. It is dependent upon our response to what we already know.
“Now the natural man doesn’t receive the things of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to him; and he can’t know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
We can only understand the Bible as God chooses to reveal things to us.
We can learn what the Bible is saying for our lives. As a young child who was slow to develop reading skills, I only had access to the 1611 version of the Bible in small print. I not only read the book of Revelation, not an easy book, as a nine-year-old who was struggling to complete their first Enid Blyton book, but it massively changed my life.
We now have modern and reliable Bible translations explicitly created for children and other versions created for people with learning difficulties. Let us not exclude anyone from opening a Bible and seeking to hear what God is saying to them.
My first experience of a Sunday School broke every expectation of what four and five-year-olds could learn. Yes, it was fun, varied and visual, and it moved at a fast pace, but it also did not dilute Bible teaching. One weekly activity was Bible ABC involving the equivalent of reciting as a group in alphabetical order a series of Bible verses. The adults carried this, but the children gradually became familiar with these verses over months. It was short enough to maintain pace and interest, but I have never forgotten those Bible verses.
“One who has my commandments and keeps them, that person is one who loves me. One who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.” (John 14:21)
Brainpower Does Not Always Mean Understanding
Some of the greatest Bible scholars had the least understanding.
The scribes were experts in the Old Testament. They had dedicated their lives to teaching and studying in a very rigorous way. Despite all their education, they ultimately failed to understand who Jesus is. It was not that they didn’t know; instead, it was that they did not do what they had read.
Many of the people who recognised who Jesus is were not sophisticated in their education. However, their hearts were receptive, and they were willing to respond.
Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. The only thing he knew was that once he was blind but now he could see. When the man met Jesus a second time, he learnt more and responded more. The authorities would not accept that Jesus was from God, and they became increasingly hostile. This story concluded that those who acknowledged they were blind ended up seeing but those who would not admit their blindness and thought they could see became even blinder.
Jesus said, “I came into this world for judgment, that those who don’t see may see; and that those who see may become blind.” (John 9:39)
Remember Don’t Forget
If we do not put into practice what we have read and learnt, we forget.
“But be doers of the word, and not only hearers, deluding your own selves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror; for he sees himself, and goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of freedom and continues, not being a hearer who forgets but a doer of the work, this man will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25)
I have learnt New Testament Greek in my life twice. The whole point of knowing this ancient language is to be able to read untranslated versions of the New Testament as opposed to viewing things through the translations of others. After learning the first time, I did not go through the process of learning how to use this knowledge to read the Greek Testament regularly. I quickly forgot what I had learnt. I had to go through the painful process of re-learning the language, but the second time I was careful to establish a daily habit of reading the Bible in its original Greek. Not only have I retained what I learnt, but I have also learnt much more.
For some years, I worked as a senior lecturer in a university. Part of what I did was to run courses with people on various subjects. Those students who retained their learning were those who took the extra step of putting it into practice. A tremendous amount of training does not achieve the desired result because it needs action. Training is not the answer to an issue alone but using it.
Using the Master Key
When training to be a teacher, we had an expression for anyone who was reading something without understanding. If we said someone was, “Barking at print”, they were reading out loud accurately but had no memory or comprehension of what they had said.
How can we avoid barking at print what it comes to the Bible?
We have to have a plan as to how we are going to read our Bibles, but we also need to have a plan for how we put into practice what we have learnt. In the following weeks, we will be exploring how to read and apply.
At A-Level, I studied both pure and applied mathematics, theoretical and practical science, as well as physics both theoretically and practically.
In school, my metalwork lessons alternated between theory and practice. I remember reading about how to harden steel one week and then practising going through the process of heating and quenching metal in different ways to achieve different results.
We need to get into the habit of applying what we have learnt in the Bible.