“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” John 5:39-40
It’s possible for us to think that we know God when we really don’t. Many of the Jewish religious leaders had this problem. So do many today. How do we guard against such deception?
The Lord had just healed a man who had been infirmed for thirty-eight years, which would seem to be cause for rejoicing. But because Jesus had healed this man on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders, unbelievably, now sought to kill Jesus.
The Jews didn’t care that the man had been healed. All they cared about was that Jesus had broken the Sabbath—or rather their tradition regarding the Sabbath. The rabbis considered it fine to prevent a person from dying on the Sabbath but not to promote healing. According to their rules, Jesus had committed an infraction.
Equality With God
Jesus spoke plainly to the religious leaders: “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working” (John 5:17). With this statement He added insult to injury. Not only had He “broken” the Sabbath, but now He claimed equality with God. Then Jesus became downright direct: “The Father Himself testifies of Me. But you have never heard the Father’s voice” (see John 5:37). The Pharisees, by this time, were undoubtedly irate. They were God’s spokesmen, were they not? But Jesus told them that they were under a delusion.
A number of books have come out recently to promote a new type of Christianity. Their authors contrast what they call “old-school believers” and “new-school believers”—old-school believers being judgmental and unloving and new-school believers being wonderful, compassionate, gracious—everything the old-school believers are not. The author of one of these books told a story about a movie he had watched—one full of sex, violence, and vulgarity—and said that God had spoken to him more through that movie than in his past twenty visits to church. The author was proud of this fact. God never speaks to him in church, because that is old school, but God spoke volumes to him through this movie.
My thought, quite honestly, was that this poor guy doesn’t know what God’s voice sounds like. He was emotionally impacted by the movie, and he mistook his emotional response for the voice of God.
How can we know the difference between our own impressions and the voice of God? How do we make sure that we’re not deceiving ourselves, like the Pharisees, thinking that we know God when we don’t?
First, of course, everything we hear must be confirmed by the principles and truths in God’s Word. But in reading the Bible, we must go beyond its propositions and facts to a personal knowledge of Jesus. Some people focus on Bible doctrine and miss the gospel itself. The Jewish leaders did: “You search the Scriptures,” Jesus told them, “for in them you think you have eternal life. But the Scriptures speak of Me, and you are not willing to come to Me and find life” (see John 5:39-40). What an indictment!
These men were Bible experts, but they rejected the very One the Scriptures spoke of. Yes, we must study the Word and know doctrinal truth, but we must never forget that the Scriptures are not an end in themselves—they are the means to the end: knowing Jesus.
Search the Scriptures
Deception is on the move. This new school of Christianity says that we’ve had too much Bible study—we need to get out now and live the Word. Well, we certainly need to live it. But how can we have too much of God’s Word? Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). How do we guard against deception? Search the Scriptures, which testify of Jesus.
How is your time in the Word? Is it simply a habit, a discipline, an educational experience—or an encounter with Jesus? Reading the Word of God will move us to worship, to obedience, to love, to action, and to proclamation of the good news. If this isn’t true for you, ask God to open your heart to the person of Jesus, the living Word, and reveal Him to you in the pages of Scripture.