In my childhood, everyone shared a knowledge of our community. So, direction could be “turn right” or “find the big tree,” in a rapidly changing culture this really doesn’t work. Think about it. If you’re in a room full of people, each of them facing which ever direction feels normal, then some tells everyone to turn right, well, they’re all still facing their own directions.
We can only follow God by knowing God.
If I’m facing east and you’re facing west, then “left” isn’t really any help for either of us. This is why we have to use absolute, concrete terms to find our way. We need true north if we are to find our way. Spiritually, morally, and ethically we need absolutes. I don’t want to scare you, but, by definition, every believer has to be a theologian. We can only follow God by knowing God, and we can do this by orienting ourselves to a third level of context, theology. What does this mean? Well, in a nutshell, we need the context about what a particular verse or section of Scripture is saying in relation to God’s absolute and eternal truth. What are these verses saying about God and creation, sin and redemption, mankind and the Kingdom?
This sounds incredibly hard, and it is, which is precisely why we have the Scriptures, the Spirit’s guidance, the Community of Faith in the local church, and resources written and recorded by those gifted to teach and instruct us. After a while, you will begin to see the bigger theological picture of the verses you are reading in the overarching story of redemption. More importantly, you will begin to see how virtually every facet of God’s Word is designed to more clearly reveal the Divine Author at its heart.
How do we engage the words of Scripture then? Well, we have to find those absolutes. We have to dig into the theological revelations of the words we read and study. While the Bible will undoubtedly stir emotions and feelings in us, we cannot feel our way to God. We can’t base our lives on how we feel, because that can change moment to moment. Instead of asking ourselves or others how verses make us feel, we should ask questions like:
What does this text reveal about God?
What do these verses say about me/mankind/creation?
What do they teach about God’s relationship with me/mankind/creation?
How does this fit into the overarching plan of redemption? Is it teaching about sin or salvation?
Is there a specific moral or principle that it is teaching?
There are countless questions like these you could ask, but the main thing you’re trying to accomplish is to orient yourself theologically. We have to find what the verses reveal about God so that we can know God better and follow Him more closely.