When I was in high school I was under a great pastor who taught me how to read the Bible more closely. He used to say things like “Therefore—what’s that there for? Go back and read before any verse that starts with Therefore”. He encouraged us to use a dictionary with any word we had any questions about. He would point out that if we would read the verse with the definitions of the confusing words in place of those words we would have a better understanding of the verse.
When I went to college, I was approached by one of the Christian organizations on campus and I immediately joined their group. I made a ton of friends and was asked to join one of their bible studies. I was so excited! I had moved 256 miles away from home and made new friends. I had found a Christian group to become a part of and learn more about God with.
As I was preparing for bible study I would use the tips my pastor from home had suggested. Then when I was in bible study the leader would say the verse meant something different from what I had taken away from it. I know that we are not all going to get the exact same meaning from God’s word because it is alive and the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it. So I would go back to my dorm and study the word more closely and still didn’t get what they were saying out of the verses. The leaders were suggesting that the verses had this definite meaning. No swaying or other possibilities. I struggled with what to do with this. “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians1:10). I knew then, and still know now, that I needed to talk with the bible study leader one on one. We talked about my disagreement with her teaching. She encouraged me to keep reading my bible and coming to group, but not to share my understanding of God’s word with the group. I didn’t understand that. Why can’t I share what God’s word is speaking to me in my life? Didn’t they know that “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). I then put my faith in God and voiced my understanding of the Bible in bible study. I knew that God wanted me to share this with the other believers in the group.
What I haven’t mentioned is that most of the people who join this organization are new believers. They do not have churches at home. This group becomes their church home. They haven’t been taught how to read the Bible for themselves. They do not know that someone may be leading them astray. So when I began to voice what God was showing me in His word it really changed some things for the organization. “It is fine to be zealous, provided the purpose is good, and to be so always, not just when I am with you.” (Galatians 4:18). I knew that this group may change lives forever, but I didn’t want them to lead others astray. I wanted these young believers to learn how to read and dissect God’s word for themselves. I shed light on how to do this and was asked to not join another bible study with the organization.
After being asked to leave the group I didn’t pursue a new group of Christians to fellowship and grow spiritually with. I continued to read the Bible on my own. I would attend church when I was at home and would view a church service online when I was at school. After graduating, I moved back home and read this verse: “You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.” (Galatians 5:7-8). This really hit me square between the eyes. I had let the organization deter me from finding another Christian group to join. I had let the negative experience with them keep me from experiencing great things with God in another fellowship of believers. I didn’t want to do that anymore. I knew I needed to join a church and find a great group of Christian friends to fellowship and grow with. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25). I could only do this by finding a church home and Sunday school class.
God has taught me a great deal through these years and experiences in my life. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14). To God be the glory for these experiences and times of growth.