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Hearing and Understanding or Studying and Observing?

“Jesus said to them, ‘Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?’” (Mark 12:24-25)

“So, we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts!” (2 Peter 1:19-20)

I had always been taught in church the word “Logos,” Greek for the “Word” in the Scriptures, meant general knowledge or the written Word of God. A few years back when I joined a men’s group with the name Rhema, I discovered that was also used, yet it meant the spoken, uttered, Word of God to us. It could be likened more to personal revelation received from the Spirit. Perhaps the most famous use of the Rhema is in Matthew 4, where Jesus tells the Devil in the desert man lives on every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God. However, as I have now learned the two uses in the Greek are much closer in nature than I had been taught.

In 1st Thessalonians 5, Paul warns us to examine all things carefully, and yet how often do we assume the conventional wisdom is true? What was that definition of assume again? There are other such accepted meanings of words in the Bible traditionally taught that are misleading or outright untrue. Among them the most dangerous one, of which I have written of extensively because it leads so many in modern Christendom astray today is “grace” or Charis. Look it up. It will surprise you, because it has little to do with the “unmerited favor” definition widely taught today that allows so many to live godless lives thinking they are forgiven by grace.

While I found the definition for Rhema to be true, upon a recent discussion we had in our Rhema group I discovered the definition of Logos was a lot closer to Rhema than I had been led to believe. After closer examination I found nowhere in the Strong’s, or anywhere else, was the definition of Logos “written or general knowledge” to be found! According to Strong’s, Logos means something said, topic of discourse, account, communication, utterance, and the “divine expression.” In the verse from 2 Peter above, the “Word” here is Logos used in a prophetic sense. How could that be written or general knowledge? In James 1, we are told to receive the Word [Logos] implanted which is able to save our souls. Not Word read or Word studied, but Word heard, understood, and received so as to be implanted in our inner man. Furthermore, when John proclaims Jesus to be the Word [Logos] that was with God and was God. Was Jesus living or written?

What is the message here? It is simply to ask if we look at the Word as the Pharisees did, or as God wants us to? We hear many times as Christians to “get in to the Word, read your Bible, etc.” And while reading God’s Word is certainly necessary to our spiritual growth, for while we are doing it the door opens to God speaking to us, mere study without exhortation to seek the life in the living Word leads many to seek knowledge rather than understanding as it did the Pharisees with their sacred texts. In the verse from above in Matthew, Jesus asks the Pharisees if the reason they were so wrong about so many things they should have been experts concerning, was misunderstanding the Scriptures and the power of God. They spent their lives pouring over the ancient texts, committing them to memory and teaching them, and yet they did not understand them. The Scribes, another group Jesus often lumped in with the Pharisees, spent countless hours making copies of those texts by hand, and if they made so much as a single error, they had to tear up the page and start all over again. Over 300 times in those very documents, prophecies concerning Jesus’ coming, life, and death appeared. And yet when He did come, they refused to believe in Him. On the other hand, those who followed Him simply heard, understood, and believed. What does this prove? We can read etchings in a book, even one called the Bible, and still not understand the meaning or the power of God!

The wisest man I ever knew, Michael Wells of Abiding Life ministries, once said something I first gasped at when I heard it. However, upon further review I found it to be spot-on as was pretty much everything he said. He spoke of a church where he was once speaking, where a woman came up afterward and asked him what his daily Bible reading program was. She wanted his wisdom and thought that must be where to find it. He replied, “Woman, I have been delivered from daily Bible reading.” What?! He went on, “If you’re daily Bible reading isn’t leading you to intimacy with the One you are reading about, you need to be delivered!” One can almost hear Jesus saying the very same thing to the Pharisees. Michael used to also say, “There is nothing the nearness of Jesus cannot cure.” When Michael would visit towns, or the many third-world country hell-holes where he spent the majority of his time until the exotic diseases he would often encounter there eventually took his life, people would line up for counseling because he had answers no one else had. He understood the message and power of God, and that only comes through nearness to Him. His Word is not meant to draw us to etchings on paper, or traditions or teachings of man. It is meant as a living Word to be heard in the ears, discerned in the mind, and understood in the heart in such a way as to draw us closer to knowing a living God!

Isn’t the whole idea of receiving the Word, whether it’s spoken or written, to know God and for Him to know us? The religious people in Matthew 7 who, while doing so many Christian things, heard the words none of us want to hear from Him, “Depart from Me, for I never knew you.” If it’s so important, how do we know that we know Him, and He us? What do you call someone you know well and trust? A friend? Well, in John 15 Jesus told us clearly who He calls “friends.” It’s the people who simply “do what He commands us” (vs. 14). But didn’t the Pharisees spend their days trying to keep God’s commands [along with a few thousand others that men had piled on]? God doesn’t look at what we do as much as why we do it, for in that He sees whether or not we understand the message and the power of God. In light of this, in Matthew 6, Jesus warned His disciples not to fast or pray or tithe as the hypocrites [Pharisees] did, making a show of things in order to be noticed by men. That’s not keeping God’s commands in obedience, that’s keeping laws in observance.

The kind of command-keeping that makes Jesus know us is beautifully described in one of my favorite passages, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5). When you truly know God and He knows you, “It is no longer you who lives, but Christ lives in you” (Gal. 2). You simply must do what He did and if you do it can never be a burden because it is just who you [Him abiding in you] are! You will do it whether men notice or not. You will do it whether it brings you an income or not. You will do it because you can’t not do it! That is how we keep commands and they are not burdensome. And what are those commands He wants us to keep? He only left us a couple: love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6: the law of Christ). If it is Jesus who speaks to you, knows you, and you understand both Him and His power, loving Him and others is a no-brainer!

One of the many blemishes left upon God’s people by our current model of temple worship, and its doctrine, in this country is to witness so many “Bible readers” running around who are still babes in their thinking and intimacy with Jesus. They read the Word without searching out what God is trying to say to them through it, or with the intent of truly growing near to Him. So many Bible reading programs and formulas, with so little fruit displayed in the lives of the readers. And while we’re here Paul, when speaking of how church was meant to be done in 1st Corinthians 14, said people were to prophecy and teach so that “all may learn and all may be comforted.” “Learn” here means to understand, and “comforted” means to call near. If the Pharisees had listened to Jesus and read their texts with a desire to hear God speak to them, rather than to gather knowledge so they could be noticed by the people, they would have “understood and been called near” to a living God when He visited them in the flesh. Instead, they remained blind, hard-hearted, and arrogant through their knowledge of etchings on paper and observance of laws of men.

In John 5, Jesus sums this up well when He says to those Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. It is these that testify about Me, yet you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” The bottom line here is do we seek to hear God’s voice, understand, and therefore go out and employ a living Word intent on leading us into nearness with a living God? Or, do we search the Scriptures seeking a false eternal life and try to observe laws without understanding either the message or God’s power? If it is the former, then we are led into to being citizens of the kingdom of heaven on earth. If it is the latter, we are no more than modern-day Pharisees who pour over etchings on paper, seek only knowledge, and remain blind. When we read the written Word, let us not see it as the written Word. Rather, let us ask a living God to speak to our minds and hearts personally as to what He wants us to understand, and that to lead us in to a vibrant, living, and employable faith of abiding and joyously keeping His commands. Then we will know Him, He will know us, and we will understand the power of God and not just His teachings!   

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