Where’s your Bible? Read it seriously recently? We talk about ‘reading the Bible’ but, aside from some favorite verses, many of us do not really engage ourselves with the Word all that much. There are plenty of reasons.
“It is hard work.” Yes, knowing the Scripture requires mental engagement, a certain level of intellectual rigor.
“I don’t understand it.” Just cracking open to a random passage often does create a ‘what’s that mean?’ moment.
“Only my Pastor really can get it.” That’s just wrong.
“I’m too busy.” OK, you and I both know that we have time to do the things we really want to do, so … yep, that’s an excuse.
One of the unspoken reasons that Christians do not actually read the Bible is that the God they meet on the pages of the Scripture frightens them! He not much like the grandfatherly benign Figure that is generally the image we develop from childhood in our churches. He can be angry. He actually judges sin. He has real standards that He expects us to meet. He’s holy, awesomely terrible, and does not always do what we think He ought to do. So, we read John 3.16 (God so loved the world…) and Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd…) and avoid the rest.
One of the reasons we are in such a mess in our nation is the basic ignorance of the Scripture and Truth that formed us. Not knowing the whole counsel of God’s Word has given us a small god, a weak deity, a god who somehow manages to get us into Heaven but who asks precious little of us other than some Sunday morning songs and pulpit platitudes that promise us a good and comfortable life.
Here are a couple of examples of our lack of understanding. Anyone who seriously reads the Bible will discover that God loves justice and demands it of us. He does not allow hatred, not even the subtle kind that is expressed in contempt for others. Try preaching about economic justice and see how that goes over in the average church. Get direct about moving beyond tolerance to actual ‘loving your enemy, doing good to those who hate you,’ as Jesus taught and listen to the reaction from the pew. Real Christians will care for the poor beyond keeping the food pantry stocked, working to bring about things like equity in pay. Did you realize that both the Old and New Testaments have much to say about that? So few of us really know the Bible’s truth about such things
The problem of Biblical illiteracy ranges across the spectrum of political convictions. Those on the Right tend to read only the passages that speak to personal responsibility, that govern sexual ethics, and that encourage personal prosperity. (And, those passages are true!) Those on the Left tend to read passages that speak to justice and equality while totally ignoring the parts about holiness and moral choices.
That is why we have churches that are unafraid to take up the defense of the unborn (which is a solid Biblical truth) while at the same time almost completely failing to wrestle with the importance of working for just legal systems. On the other side we have churches that will defend the sexual preferences of all (as long as they are loving) a position that is Biblically indefensible, while being spot on about the racial equality God requires.
The basic problem is that we have used the Bible
to recreate a God of our own liking rather than
allowing the Scripture to call us to conformity
with the Majestic Lord of Glory.
Even now, I am amazed to hear sincere Christians who bump up against some part of the Bible that challenges their world view or values arrogantly say, “Well, I just don’t accept that part.” Really? That is not the way it works. To be sure, study is required and interpretation matters A LOT. But, grasping the Truth begins with two qualities we do not like much at all – humility and fear. We must be humble enough to let the Spirit speak to us, even at great cost to ourselves. We must fear the Lord enough to accept His wisdom when it runs headlong into cultural values. Neither is easy, nor will such a life win us many friends.
The Gospel, Jesus said, will not make us comfortable nor will it make us easy to be around. A life completely given to God, that is surrendered wholly to Christ, is edgy. Jesus demanded that those who would follow Him must ‘take up their cross.’ Yep that means exactly what you think – get ready to die to Self, to preferences, to cultural pressure. He said that those who seriously follow Him should expect that their love for Him will set them at odds with others. “They hated Me, they’ll hate you. Is the servant greater than the Master?” That does not go down easily, does it?
Here is a word from the Word.
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:8-15, NIV)
So, where’s your Bible? It’s time to get it off the shelf and into your mind for God’s sake.