[I just found this tucked away in the old Cru Cornell blog archive, and thought I'd repost.]
This blog post and subsequent 5-Minute Senior Message Brain Dump brought to you by:
- Petunia: A book I read in elementary school about this goose who thinks she’s wise because she found a book and carries it around under her arm.
- Pastor John of KCCE: “If you have never read all the way through the Bible, most of what you believe is lies." I’ll elaborate on that.
- How messed up I get when I don’t read what God wrote me for a long time. I’m a completely different person when I read (and internalize) my Bible in the morning.
- The Bible itself, for example Psalm 1 and John 15.
- The realization that if I don’t read my Bible, everybody and everything else in the world has a say in what I think except God. My classmates, TV shows, movies, my textbooks, magazine articles… all tell me explicitly or implicitly what’s important and worth-living for. They all lie. Only God doesn’t.
- The fact that the Bible gets more and more interesting and exciting the more you read of it, and the more you dig it up from the swamp of Christian cliches, “holy-speak" and cultural confusion.
The Bible is God’s word - whatever that means. I don’t mean to be irreverent. I say that because I think we Christians have created a class of words and phrases that we say and sing but never use in our every day lives, so we’ve forgotten what they mean. This phrase is important, so I’m gonna just say it over and over again:
- The Bible is God’s WORD. That is, in much the same way that Runaway Jury is John Grisham’s word, Harry Potter is J.K. Rowling’s word, Webster’s Dictionary was originally Noah Webster’s word, and Chemical Reaction Engineering is Octave Levenspiel’s word (no joke, that’s actually his name), the Bible is God’s. He has very intentionally written down what he thinks we need to know. He’s also written down a lot of things we’d really like to know, especially regarding his motives. He’s also written it down in such a way that we can find it interesting, assuming we’re not just complete bums.
- The Bible is God’s WORD (in response to your prayers). I wish God would just thunder answers to my prayers out of the sky, or skype me or something, but that’s just not how it works. That’s never been how it’s worked for most people, by the way. I may envy the Jesus’ disciples for being able to get straight answers out of Jesus directly (har har har), or Moses for being able to ring him up whenever he wanted, but for the vast majority of Israelites and us Christians, we will have to wait until death or the return of Jesus to talk with him face to face. There has always been a mediator. This is the way it works right now: you pray to God, and God really truly speaks to you by the Holy Spirit in the Bible with what you really need to hear. Don’t take this the wrong way, but it’s like you’ve got a chunk of God inside you doing the speaking, and the words he uses are those of the Bible.
- The Bible is GOD’s word. God is much cooler than those people I just mentioned. God (via Jesus), using whatever method, created the entire universe and everything in it. He cursed the world when Adam sinned. He did countless miracles and redeemed us from that curse, and Jesus took the throne after returning from the dead. He’s the most interesting person who has ever lived, and he wrote about it in the Bible.
- The Bible is God’s (THE HOLY SPIRIT’S) word. Not only did God write the Bible using Holy-Spirit-indwelt people so it doesn’t err, but he gives the Holy Spirit to Christians (among other reasons) so that we can understand the thing, so we will actually apply it to our lives (instead of letting it go in one… ear and out the other), and so it can be more than just “not boring". The Holy Spirit, through the Bible, gives us understanding of who God is. There is nothing better than that. Nothing God has created is better than himself, or more satisfying to the human soul. He made it that way.
I really wanted to excite you all about reading your Bibles, but so far all I’ve done is brow-beat you with a few good reasons why you should. It has been immensely helpful to me in the past few years to get concrete examples of God’s awesomeness in the Bible, so let’s just look quickly at two situations Jesus was in that we can all relate to - someone wanting to know about salvation, and someone trying to trap us in our words: (lots of my progression here ripped off from Michael Ramsden)
First example: [From Mark 10:17] “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
GOOD QUESTION. What would you say if some classmate of yours came up to you and asked what he should do to inherit eternal life? First, how would you feel? WIN. Best day ever. Of course you would say, “Why, my dear friend, in order to inherit eternal life ye must repent of thy sins and vouchsafe thy soul unto the Lord Jesus." When someone asked this question of Jesus, he said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone," and then essentially, “follow the ten commandments stupid." Then the guy says he’s kept the commandments, and Jesus pities him and throws him a bone: “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
What’s going on? Doesn’t Jesus understand the gospel? To make a long story short, yes. But he knows this guy is all mixed up. What must I DO could either be a sincere attempt to follow Jesus at all costs, or it could be a confused request for a way to earn his own salvation, and Jesus knows which it is. Jesus’ answer is therefor really cool: “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." “Good teacher, what must I do…" held within it an implicit assumption that this guy could make himself good enough to inherit eternal life. But if you must be good to go to heaven and God alone is good, then who is going? No one. In other words, this guy’s application to join the Trinity has been denied. He does not meet minimum entry requirements.
My point is, Jesus answers people right where they are with exactly the answer/question they need. There’s actually another instance in the gospels where Jesus is asked almost exactly the same question and he answers completely differently. Sometimes he’s harsh, sometimes he’s gentle, but he’s always right on. His answers and counter-questions are always brilliant and I encourage you to go puzzle through them.
Second example: [from Mark 12:13-17] The Pharisees sent some people to trap Jesus in his words. (It explicitly says that, so we know what they say is to trap him…): “And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?" Does anyone see the trap? Does anyone understand the cultural context this comes out of?
Israel was under Roman rule. If you pay taxes to Caesar, you’re supporting the oppressors. That’s morally bad, and of course the Messiah isn’t going to morally compromise. But if you don’t pay taxes to Caesar and tell others not to, you’re definitely an insurrectionist and must be killed. Win-win for the Pharisees, or so they think. Jesus cannot answer "yes" or “no" to this yes-or-no question.
So he doesn’t. “But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, ‘Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.’ And they brought one. And he said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?’ They said to him, 'Caesar’s.’ Jesus said to them, 'Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’" And it says they marveled at him. Why did they do that? Because his answer was pure poetry, and in a very compact phrase, answered both “yes" and “no" where it counted. Essentially, “God owns you. Render to God what is his. And as for the tax? Yes pay it, but give God what he wants - your very selves."
Convinced? Then please start reading your Bible. Start anywhere, and read however much in a day you can stand at the stage you’re at, as long as that’s more than none. If you have a plan you just can’t seem to get into, throw it away and start a new one that you can get into. Here are ten different plans, each of which has its own features and heritage. Some are pretty normal, differing only in the particulars, and others are unusual (like the Chronological reading plan). Please do pick one and start it wherever you are in the year, if you’re not on one yet:
If you’re like me, though, and having to read a specific passage on a specific day stresses you out so much that getting behind is a death sentence to your reading for the rest of the month, I recommend something like this:
I don’t know who “Professor Grant Horner" is, and like Challies, I’m a bit wary of anything called a “Bible Reading System", but I like the theory and the bookmarks. Anyway, it’s just a set of ten bookmarks, each of which has a list of books on it. Theoretically, you read one chapter from each bookmark every day, and the bookmarks walk through the books on their list and then wrap around. You get to compare lots of Bible with lots of other Bible, and if you miss a day or two or want to read extra, there’s no penalty, not even a psychological one.