**This post was originally published in FBC Thorndale’s monthly newsletter.**
Verse memorization is a vital part of spiritual growth. It helps us in times of need when we’re unable to sit down and scour the bible for what we’re searching for, or when we’re helping a friend who needs immediate encouragement. It’s part of disciplining ourselves to seek God first in all things, rather than looking for answers in other places. Taking verses out of context can be damaging to our thinking, as well as our walk with Christ. There’s a meme floating around the internet that says, “Someone called me pretty today… well, they said I was pretty dumb, but they still called me pretty.” It’s all about context. THIS is what it sounds like when verses are taken out of context.
However, with “Lukewarm Christianity” more prominent than ever, verses are taken out of context constantly. It’s easy to take an uplifting verse in the Bible and apply it to your life without considering whether or not it actually applies to the situation. Yes, we CAN do all things through Christ… God willing, though. Put into context the ever so familiar verse is more about enduring through a struggle or coping with a loss, rather than overcoming a simple feat or winning a sports game.
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:1-13
See, in context, this is Paul saying to be joyful and content in Christ. We should make it our mission to not just memorize verses as stand-alone ammunition when handing out advice or making decisions, but to know what was happening in the bible when those words were used, who said it, and whom it was said to.
“Ask and you shall receive” is another commonly misused phrase. In context, this is said after a conversation between Jesus and His disciples. The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray and He teaches The Lords Prayer and then continues to speak to them. The examples he gives us to ask for in prayer are not material things or a win from your favorite team. We’re to ask for forgiveness, guidance, and to live how He wishes us to live.
2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3 Give us each day our daily bread,
4 and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”
5 And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’;7 and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence[c] he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” Luke 11:2-10
Context is important. It’s the key to understanding the Bible and it’s the lock the key fits into for righteous living. Asking God for a new car or a nicer house with the idea that asking and receiving is how our relationship with God works will leave you empty and unfulfilled. As will assuming that all things we want are possible through Christ instead of using the verse to learn contentment in all circumstances when pursuing what God has asked.