There are many, many mistakes that we as Christians make. I know I’ve made all of them throughout the years, myself. But I’ve juiced it down to eight that I want to talk about today. So here they are.
1. Reading the Bible without prayer. Now, the Bible is a spiritual book, so it’s a mistake to read it like any other book. The illumination of the Holy Spirit is needed to accurately understand it, and to accurately apply it. Consequently, prayer before and/or after Bible reading, I feel is very important. And it’s something that we should be reminded about.
2. Getting tripped up by the things you don’t understand. While you’re reading the Bible, it is very common to come across passages or verses that you just don’t understand. And I believe it’s a mistake to focus on those things because it basically handcuffs you from reading the Scripture. It’s better to just move on from that point that you don’t understand, and then come back to it later, and consult a commentary, and see what some other scholars have said about it.
A lot of the mysteries in Scripture are resolved when we understand the historical context. Or we discover what the original languages are saying. So don’t get tripped up, don’t stop, don’t get stuck. Just move on, continue to read the passage, continue to read the parts that you do understand, and then go back later to those texts that you do not understand.
3. Reading too fast, as if you would read a fiction book. Again, the Bible is unlike any other book. You can’t read it like you’d read a novel. The best way to read and apprehend the Scriptures is to read it very slowly. And I would even encourage you to read a passage one, two, three times — at the same sitting. But reading slowly is important to grasp the Scriptures.
4. Reading it in a state of unrepentance. Again, the Bible is a spiritual book. Consequently, our spiritual state will affect how we read it and what we get out of it, and what we see in it. Therefore, if there’s something in your life that God has put His finger on, that you haven’t dealt with, then you want to deal with it before the Lord, because it will profoundly affect what you get out of the Scriptures.
When it comes to Bible reading, Bible study, Bible understanding, it’s not just a matter of the methods you use, but you yourself have to be in a right state in order to understand it properly.
5. Applying Old Testament laws and rituals that have been done away with, or fulfilled in the New Covenant. And this is a very large topic, but so much that’s in the Old Testament had application for that time, and it was either fulfilled, or done away with in the New Covenant. This applies to many of the dietary laws, it applies to many of the sacrificial rituals, it applies to the clothing rituals — the clothing laws — and on and on.
And it is a mistake to go back to the shadows, and reinstitute those as law when we have Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit; and this is the main point of the Book of Hebrews.
6. Failing to see Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. Leonard Sweet and I just released a book entitled Jesus: A Theography which looks at the entire Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ. And in that book, we show how the Old Testament, from Genesis to Malachi, speaks of, points to, witnesses to, testifies of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said this himself when he said, “All Scripture points to me.”
7. Reading the Bible out of context. Now this is a big problem. A huge problem. It’s important that you take some time to read the context and the historical setting of every book of the Bible before you actually begin, so you understand who the book was written to, when it was written, what the surrounding context of the writing of that book was, etc.
For example, if we just go over to the New Testament, Timothy — I and II Timothy are letters written to one of Paul’s coworkers wherein he deals with a specific set of circumstances and issues that Timothy was dealing with in his work with various local churches.
Colossians, on the other hand, is an example of a letter written to a church, a local body of believers, that was experiencing a specific crisis. Consequently, how you apply the things said in Timothy, and how you apply the things said in Colossians are going to be two very different things. One was written to a coworker, another was written to a church. Well that’s just one example among many. So understanding the context, understanding who the writer is writing to, what the circumstances was. What provoked the letter — if it’s a New Testament letter — or provoked the book — in the case of an Old Testament book — finding out what provoked that piece of writing is very, very important to understanding the content.
And finally . . .
8. Reading the Bible without taking it personally. And this is a very common mistake that preachers and teachers make. They go to the Bible to look for information, to look for sermon material, to look for message material that applies to other people. And as I’ve often said, the secret to ministry, the secret to effective ministry, is to take that which has applied to you in your own life, that which you have experienced, and that which has become food to you to give to other people. So, reading it personally is very important.