Have you ever had to work on a project that required you to wear one of those white dust masks? Working with insulation is a good example – when it’s hot inside, the mask makes things even hotter. Over time, it can become more difficult to breathe, but you keep wearing the mask, knowing that using it is still better than inhaling fiberglass into your lungs. After working for a while, though, there’s a great feeling when you can step outside, pull up the mask, and take a deep breath.
Having fought with mild asthma, I can relate to situations where our own bodies prevent us from getting enough air. For that matter, I suspect that my car feels the same way before I finally cave in and get the engine air filter changed – from an old dirty filter that has been blackened with contamination from the air, to a fresh, white filter that is ready to let in as much air as possible.
Sometimes, I think that we take in God’s Word through a filter, too. We can get so used to listening to others, or reading comments about the Bible, that we end up getting only filtered views of what the Bible says itself. (This is in addition to any mental filter that we apply to the Bible, limiting what it says to us – based on our own expectations, experiences, and attitude. However, that’s a topic for another day.)
To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with getting exposition and explanation of the Bible from others. This has been an important part of the Body of Christ since the start of the church (see Acts 2).
However, each person who shares his or her findings from the Bible does so with a filter of some kind. Like placing colored cellophane over a picture, we may get a little “greener” perspective from one speaker, or a little “bluer” view from another author. Taken in total, we can get a pretty good idea of what the Bible says, but only by piecing together a lot of viewpoints, and trying to determine which fraction of each message (or the points that were left out) came from man, rather than from God. This ends up being like looking at something outside through the mesh of a window screen: details get lost and it can be difficult to reconcile specific images while we have the blur of the screen across our field of view.
These filters can accumulate, too, as one person shares what he or she gained from another person’s comments on the Bible. Like a signal that is digitally processed through many algorithms, or a digital picture that has been compressed, resized, edited, and annotated by multiple programs, the message may still be accurate in general, but isn’t complete or detailed.
We can still learn many great things about the Bible this way, but sometimes we need to skip the filters, and dig into the Bible directly. Like taking off the dust mask, we should always take some time to breathe in the Word of God directly, without anything between us and what God says.
This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.
Joshua 1:8 NASB
In the end, we should be able to discern and share the truth ourselves, without help from others. This doesn’t mean we stop studying, learning, and listening to others, but it does mean that our own knowledge of God’s Word is enough to determine how much of what we hear is fact, and how much is opinion.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15 NASB
Breathe deeply from God’s Word, today.
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7 NASB