What happens when what I think the Bible teaches conflicts with what the Bible actually teaches? Like most people, I may simply pass over the parts that contradict my theology without even thinking about them. Even the disciples ignored the parts they did not understand according to their theology.
In Matthew 20, Jesus very clearly explains to the Disciples, as they traveled to Jerusalem for the last time, how He is about to die: Matthew 20:17 And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day."
I do not think Jesus could have made this any clearer. Minutes later, completely ignoring everything Jesus just said, James and John apply for the jobs of sitting at Christ's right and left side in the Kingdom! Imagine this scene, "I am about to go die for the sins of the world." "yeah, yeah, ok, whatever, oh by the way, can we have the top positions when you set up the Kingdom?"
How can this happen? The worst trap we can fall into when studying the Bible is thinking we know what it will say before it says it. The disciples believed Jesus was the Messiah, but they also believed the Messiah had come to establish the Kingdom, period. When Jesus spoke about dying and going away, it did not match their theology. Rather than adjusting their theology, the disciples ignored the parts they did not understand or which conflicted with their belief system.
I have a friend who is a skeptic. His biggest beef with Christianity is how so many different groups of "Christians" interpret the Bible so many different ways. I explained to him, the Bible is pretty self explanatory and pretty simple to understand if taken literally. The problem is, people choose to make the Bible fit their beliefs rather than making their beliefs fit the Bible. Another problem, which is a topic for another blog, is many false teachers count on the Biblical ignorance of their audience in order to exercise control by twisting scripture.
Mostly, we hold a false belief because we were taught it, either in a Sunday School class or from the pulpit. Some false doctrine is hundreds of years old and lingers because the source is so well respected, no on thinks to question.
Here is a small example, most people in my generation imagine the Baptism of Christ like this: Jesus walks up to where John is Baptizing, John says "behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" then John, after a brief discussion, baptizes Jesus. Guess what, John did not say the whole "behold the Lamb of God" thing until over 40 days after Jesus was baptized. How did we get this confused? Every year, around Resurrection Sunday, the Greatest Story Ever Told aired on television and depicted these two events as one.
Yes, this is a very minor thing, but it causes you to question what else you may be holding falsely. What else may we have been taught wrong and just ran with. The Bible is not some puzzle that needs to be deciphered.
Past all my rambling, my point is we have to read the Bible at face value. Lay aside your preconceived ideas and let the Bible teach you. If you come to a difficult passage, ask questions. If you know someone with the gift of teaching, that person lives for tough Bible questions! Usually, you will find the answer in another part of scripture as the Bible teaches the Bible.
The Bible is God's direct message to you. If your true love wrote you a letter, would you trust someone else to keep that letter and tell you what it said? Of course not! You would want to read it for yourself and probably re read it over and over. Sermons and books are good, but these should compliment your own personal study, not replace it. God actually tells us to learn His Word for ourselves: 2Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
Now, go live as Christ... and give the devil hell!