In a time when we seek after headlines, Facebook statuses, Twitter posts, text messages, and 30 second snippets, much of what we hear and see is often overlooked in the context which it truly encompasses. I don’t know if it is just because we are always in such a hurry, but it seems that if you can’t keep what you are saying between 140 and 160 characters then you are saying too much. This leaves a lot of room for miscommunication as well as ultimately missing the truth.
In the church, we also see this trend. Much of what people want is a condensed and packaged sermon or message that if you dare go over 20 minutes and don’t tell some dramatic story or illustration mixed in, then we are told that you will lose people’s attention. This is also true for those that embrace the concept that sermons must have “book-ends”; also known as a “sermon series”. People need to be kept captive in order for real impact to be made, is what they say, and this may be why it is assumed we need eye catching graphics and sermon titles that will intrigue people to attend our services and hopefully bring their friends along too.
With all this “hype” going on and people looking to have their ears tickled, wouldn’t we want to be extra careful that we don’t lead people astray by taking God’s Word out of context?? With all these self imposed constraints in how we share information, I have noticed a dangerous shift in recent days with pastors, churches, ministries, and so-called believers in general throwing out verses with little or no context and giving their own interpretation for an idea or agenda they may have. Many times the verses or passages they quote from are so out of context from the original intent that it makes you wonder even how they came to that conclusion outside of wanting to prove a thought they have had.
The same can also be found in this sermon series and “popcorn” type preaching we are seeing more of today. Starting with a topic or idea and then working backward to find verses or passages to fit this concept leaves much room for error. This ends up leading the listeners on a sort of rabbit trail in bouncing from place to place in the Bible, but usually ending up with nothing more than a nice out-of-context “feel good” sermon. This can be tough to discern for the average person in church because much of what is proclaimed sounds biblical and is cloaked in Christian terminology, but can ultimately misguide people to believe Christianity is nothing more than mere humanitarian work or a better way to live our lives. No repentance, no holiness, and void of anything really needing us to give our entire lives in pursuit of following God.
As many of you know, I often talk about Acts 17:11 where it says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” Not only were these Bereans eager to receive what Paul was telling them, but they also were called “noble-minded” because they didn’t just take what they heard as the Truth itself without first checking it out against the backdrop and true context of Scripture. If we are to seek to truly understand what it means to live according to God’s Way in real faith, we must also be diligent to check everything out against Scripture.
What I always do is when I see or hear someone talking about a certain verse or passage, I make sure that I go there and check it out. I read what was written before as well as what is written after trying to understand what was going on in and around the verse or passage. Many verses and passages cannot stand alone without further context. What I find is that many times what is being proclaimed is out of context either with the conclusions being presented or even worse has nothing really to do with the point they are trying to make. In the times the verses and passages are in context, I am glad to see the careful handling of God’s Word.
Context does matter. If we are to guard against being led astray, it is important that we don’t trust anyone on their words alone. We must check everything out against God’s Word. Don’t trust me, your pastors/teachers, authors, or anyone else for the matter without checking what they say against Scripture. It does take some work, but without being diligent to challenge everything and everyone we hear, we cannot have full assurance that what is delivered is the Truth. In doing so, we will not only hold each other accountable, but will also edify and encourage one another each day as we await the glorious return of our Lord Jesus Christ!!