"Since leaving the assembly, I am reluctant to read the Bible. How can I recapture the joy of reading my Bible again?"
Dear Wounded Pilgrim,
In my last letter I talked about the depression that settles down on many after leaving the assembly. Many are reluctant to read the Bible, pray, etc. now, as they just don't have the same feelings about their relationship with God. We still want to believe in God, but some of us are filled with doubt, guilt, anxiety and a lack of purpose regarding our lives.
I think that at least part of this experience is because our faith was centered on the group and our performance in that group versus an individual relationship with God Himself. That doesn't mean we had no relationship with God, but that it was filtered through the assembly system, and as such was very distorted. What we need to understand what it really means as an individual to have a gift-based relationship with God. This means we really need to understand the grace of God and have that understanding reach our hearts and bring strength and healing.
Now, there is much to say about this, but recently I was asked about recovering the joy of reading the Bible, so I would like to zero in on this. I also had great difficulty reading the Bible when I first left. Not because I lost my faith, but because all I could hear was GG's blaring voice coming through, and it created a great reluctance in me to approach the Bible. I started reading books about the Bible and focused on themes such as grace, theology, how to study the Bible, recovery. etc. By this means GG's loud explanations of passages were replaced by the authors of these books. I began to see that GG's views were very strange and also not what the Bible was teaching; thus, I got my Bible back.
The devotional method we learned in the Assembly was what GG called "heart knowledge", and though he denied it, it was very emotionally based. He used the Word to produce guilt, a purpose that can be legitimate at times, but GG used guilt and fear to control and dominate God's people, versus God's true use of the Word which is to minister grace to the hearers.
According to George, the Word, when read in a devoted and disciplined fashion, was intended to purify one's inner life according to GG. Morning times were to produce an inner state of consciousness and cleanliness, preparing us to head out into the world in strength. Of course every honest person knew this process was a daily failure, but those who chose to deny it were promoted to leadership.
The first thing we must learn is to actually study the Word. (The often recommended book, "How To Read The Bible For All It's Worth", by Fee and Stuart I again mention). This enables us, for an example, to understand that God is notspeaking directly to us when he is pouring out judgment on Israel via Jeremiah.
But, what then of devotional reading? Can I just enjoy the Word and feel the joy of my salvation again? Wouldn't this provide the emotional lift we all need? Yes, and by learning to study the Word we can again recover this emotional connection to God and a happy life as well.
In future letters I would like to continue this discussion of how the Bible can be a source of devotional joy to us again. It will mean changing a great deal of our past thinking of how the Word works in our lives and indeed what it means to be a Christian. I hope that it will be a source of great blessing.