But as we [hopefully] mature in our faith, there are often times that we Christians find ourselves in disagreement over interpretation or revelation from the Bible. Ideally, I would hope that we could agree to disagree [in love] while still being willing to have an open dialogue and share in what we discern the Word and the Spirit are telling us.
That is where determining what we believe is so important to our journey with Jesus in faith. We must always use the Bible as our "go to" source; it is the Word of God; it is a picture of His Nature. And we cannot discern Him by cherry-picking verses. Rather, we are better served by stepping back and getting the "big picture".
There are so many ways that man has attempted to define God by his [man's] own standards. But, by seeking Him in His Word, it is indisputable that He is Spirit; He is Light; He is Love; and in both His love and judgment, He is a Consuming Fire. And if I am made in His image, then I should be desiring to become all those things, too.
Perhaps I didn't feel qualified to seek more since I had come to my faith late in life. But as I write this, I am struck with the thought that the Bible is just that .... the place that we meet God; where we are introduced to Him. But if I truly want to know Him, doesn't that require that I go a step or two further -- ask Him questions, seek more knowledge about Him, and develop a real relationship with Him? And the Bible is where we start to do that! It is where we gain insight about God and what He desires our relationship to be. It is where we get insight from men who shared their encounters with Him and their growth in relationship and knowledge. Remember, they didn't have a carefully constructed canon to base their faith upon; their knowledge came from experience with God! And it transformed their lives! I want the same thing! Is that wrong?
I know there are Christians who fear straying too far from accepted [or strict] interpretations of the Bible. I respect that. I never want my human mind to determine God's "big picture". But I also don't want to diminish Him or confine Him to a box called "religion". I want to allow my spirit to receive knowledge and counsel from the Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit that reveals God to us. I am reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote in the Epistle to the Colossians. He wrote to them to put off the old self and put on the new; that they were to seek the things from above where Christ was, seated at the right hand of the Father. They were to set their minds on things from above, not on things of this earth. They were to put to death everything that had become their idol, and everything that separated them from God. They were to "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Colossians 3:10).
But have some of us made idols of our religious doctrines? At the same time, I would also caution us not to be tempted by every new "prophet" or philosophy or teaching that makes sense to our rational minds. The Bible is to be discerned in the spirit; relying on the Holy Spirit to reveal the truths [that God wants imparted] to grow us into understanding and becoming more like Him.
Peter encourages the followers of Christ with a request that "grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord". He goes on to say, "His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence". And how are grace and peace to be multiplied? By the empowerment of the Holy Spirit! Paul confirms this when he writes to the Corinthians: " For we did not receive the spirit of this world system but the Spirit of God, so that we might come to understand and experience all that grace has lavished upon us. And we articulate these realities with the words imparted to us by the Spirit and not with the words taught by human wisdom. We join together Spirit-revealed truths with Spirit-revealed words. Someone living on an entirely human level rejects the revelations of God’s Spirit, for they make no sense to him. He can’t understand the revelations of the Spirit because they are only discovered by the illumination of the Spirit. Those who live in the Spirit are able to carefully evaluate all things, and they are subject to the scrutiny of no one but God. For who has ever intimately known the mind of the Lord Yahweh well enough to become His counselor? Christ has, and we possess Christ’s perceptions."
Why is it so hard for some Christians to think that Believers today can also join together Spirit-revealed truths with the Spirit-revealed Word? I recognize that there are other Christians [whom I know have their hearts sealed with the Holy Spirit] who will not agree with me that there is more to God's Word than what is on the written page. I also recognize that they will judge me wrong for perceiving something different than what they have been taught. And please do not misunderstand me ... I do not hold myself more righteous or greater in the Kingdom of God. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will illuminate the pages of the Bible, granting them greater understanding of His supernatural purpose for their life. I would never force my understanding upon another Christian, respecting their journey and where they are with the Holy Spirit. But neither do I accept condemnation for moving forward in the Spirit's revelations to my spirit. When I read the Bible, I know I am reading a supernatural Book and I expect to receive supernatural revelations from the Holy Spirit.
One of the gifts of the Spirit is Wisdom. This is the Holy Spirit acting upon our faculty of reasoning and our free will; instilling within us an attraction to the divine nature of God. But here's where our human nature comes in. We can choose to discern [from our spirit and heart, where the Holy Spirit resides] to respond to that attraction and calling, or we can fear being deceived; not trusting our spirit to discern the invitation of the Spirit to grow in understanding. That is a choice each one of us must make! And it saddens me that it can cause separation within the Body of Christ.
But the bottom line is this: Knowledge and understanding of God are a huge part of faith in Him. It is incumbent upon us to know who He is if we are to become like Him. To me, that means seeking counsel and wisdom and understanding from the Holy Spirit to reveal God's supernatural intention of His Word. Remember, we have access to the Logos Word, which is the constant, written word of God; the Bible. We learn about Him and His ways through strictly interpreting this written word. And then there is the Rhema Word, which I can best describe as God personally speaking to us through the Holy Spirit's revelation of the written word. We benefit from receiving the Rhema word in our hearts as a consequence of reading the written word with our minds.
Both are crucial to our Christian lives, and God's "living" word always corresponds to His written word. I believe the more time we spend reading and praying in the Logos word, our hearts will be opened and our spirits will be exercised in the Rhema Word. It is my prayer that all Christians would be open to the possibility that there is growth in understanding God and His Word. We may not always agree, but if we have the Holy Spirit in us there is nothing to fear. He will guide us and counsel us. And I believe He delights in seeing us pursue more intimate knowledge and understanding of God. If you decide that you are satisfied in your level of knowledge, then I will support you, just as I would hope you would encourage me to receive more Spirit-revealed truth, if I so choose. And I join Peter in praying that grace and peace would be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus, our Lord.
Philippians 1:9 And this I pray: that your love may abound yet more and more and extend to its fullest development in knowledge and all keen insight [that your love may display itself in greater depth of acquaintance and more comprehensive discernment] ...