So a couple of weeks ago I spent some quality time cleaning out cabinets and bookshelves and boxes in a general decluttering effort. Some of you who know me in real life may well be impressed with my spurt of industry. I know I am.
In the process, I uncovered stacks and stacks of lesson outlines from various Bible studies I've facilitated over the years, articles I'd printed off the internet in the name of research, notebooks from various conferences with what seemed to be full transcripts of the speakers' messages (what can I say, I am a copious notetaker when I take notes).
I threw nearly all of it away.
I also found pages and pages of scribbled notes and outlines where I'd brainstormed the next great book or article idea. Like many (or most) bloggers, I have harbored a not-so-secret desire to be a writer. A real one. Of the printed page that people pay money to read.
I trashed those as well. All of them.
See, around the time of my decluttering efforts, one of my blog friends posted a question about the proper interpretation of a specific passage of Scripture. She had heard it explained one way, as had I, and as she looked at the verses in context she began to wonder if that particular application was valid. Her question, a good one, prompted some good discussion in the comments (a blogger's dream). A link was posted to a critique of the doctrinal laxity of a leading women's Bible teacher.
I was scared to death.
I thought of the all those studies I'd facilitated, some good, some not so. I thought of my (so called) great book ideas, none of them good, all of them not so. I saw where I had been guilty of many of the same errors and overspiritualization of Scripture. I saw the subtle self-fulfillment message that permeated most of what I'd written and a lot of what I'd taught. I saw my careless mishandling of the Word of God.
I was ashamed. Conviction fell heavy and hard. I felt like crying. Maybe I did.
You may think me ridiculous, that I'm taking myself far too seriously. While I will freely admit that can indeed be my tendency, I also know that Bible has some pretty serious warnings for those who presume to teach. I also know that though I may have been sincere, it is obedience the Lord requires. Sincerity too, but I'm not convinced one trumps the other.
So you can see that when I wrote my post in criticism of that speaker I didn't do so in an attitude of superiority. I couldn't. I can't. I've been guilty of the exact same thing. I am, often, guilty of the exact same thing. So where does that leave me? Where does that leave any humble, sincere teacher of God's Word? We're all sinners; we're all bound to mess up, misinterpret, misapply, mishandle and mistake what we're teaching.
I'm not sure what the complete answer is (hence the weeks it has taken me to write even this much). I'm pretty sure it begins with a twofold commitment to humility and to a high view of Scripture. As the teacher, I must be humble enough to accept reproof and conviction in those areas I have misunderstood God's Word. Because I believe God's Word to be authoritative, I must submit to it and not to my own preconceived assumptions.
By the same token, as a student, I must be a Berean (Acts 17:10-15). I must examine what's being taught. I must test the spirits. Because God's Word is both sufficient and authoritative, I will hold what I'm being taught up to the light of Scripture. I will ask: Is it Jesus centered? Gospel oriented? Does it fit the context of the passage? Is the focus on me and my perceived needs or on Christ and His glory? If not, then in humility, I will confront the teacher as appropriate with gentleness and ask her to explain how her teaching conforms to Scripture.
This is what I hope--what I pray--the ladies in my class do. That they would know God's Word for themselves, that they would be Berean-like women of the Word, carefully searching the Scriptures daily to find out whether the things we discuss in class conform to the Truth. I want them to ask, to question, to examine--to hold me accountable to teach the Word with integrity.
Whether you sit in the teacher's chair or that of the student, be a Berean. Be humble. Be diligent. Cry aloud for understanding. Call out for insight. Seek for it. Search for it. Our God will surely answer the desperate, passionate desire to know Him.
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding