I’ll keep this post short, sweet, and to the point – THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.
The vast majority of Christians haven’t read their Bible. While not necessarily surprising, it is disturbing. Why? Because the map to understanding the nature of God is given freely to us. His Word is given to us BY HIM! That seems significant, right? If God Himself inherently inspires an entire text about Him FOR US, shouldn’t we read it? It just makes sense.
Let’s not forget that the disciple whom Jesus loved (John) referred to his Rabbi Jesus as the Word. Instead of reading the Bible, however, Christians tend to take the pastor’s word for it. Well, Jonah being swallowed by the whale is a cute story. Jesus was beloved by all, and it was only a select group of evildoers that prompted His death on the cross. Blah, blah, blah – it’s all about Jesus, His love, and God’s love for us.
In a way, that might be true. A majority of the Bible’s main theme is love. The inane nature of God is love. God is love, but there’s a different between what us Americans view as love, and what God defines as love.
What is love to you? Buying roses for a spouse, taking a date out on a night of his/her choice, or something shiny worth a bunch of money might scream love to most Americans. While those gestures are sweet. It pales in comparison to the love of God. His love is sending His firstborn Son, His child, to die on the cross for us. Jesus so loved His father that he emptied Himself out, took on the form of sinful flesh (though He never sinned), and He died the most brutal death imaginable on a wooden cross. Jesus asked for the cup to be passed from Him in the garden, but He pushed forward with the plan, because HE WAS OBEDIENT TO HIS FATHER. That’s love. That’s biblical love.
Here’s my point: Love is such a superficial concept to most Christians. Without studying the Bible, you’re left with a penny – or a drop of the ocean as our pastor says. Agape love is forever an enigma to you, because you’re unware of what it truly is. And it’s not just love that we fail to better grasp when we’re stuck in our boxes.
For one thing, the Bible is not all ponies and rainbows. It’s a tough book. It’s full of flawed individuals chosen by God to not only further glorify Himself but also to partake in His covenant.
So many of our fellow believers succumb to the million-dollar guilt complex built by our own modern-day secessionists – Christians who hijacked our religion, and moved it farther away from the Bible. Have you ever heard this? “I could never live up to Moses. I could never do what Abraham did? I’m no David!” PLEASE, READ YOUR BIBLE! These men were so flawed that it’s not even funny. Moses didn’t get to see the Promised Land, because his faith faltered in God. Think about that: Moses faltered in his faith. The man who spoke to God face to face (it’s in Deuteronomy – look it up!), who parted an entire sea, and who rescued God’s chosen people faltered in his faith and was cut off from seeing the Promised Land.
Moses was flawed. Don’t get me started on Abraham. You should be relieved when you read about these individuals, but you’d only be relieved if you start to think outside of the box. Every children’s lesson and sermon has told us how “faithful” these men were, but if you truly read the Word, you’d see that they’re just as flawed as you and I.
Question the experts! For a solid century, we’ve been told that the Gospel of John was written to the church. That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard; however, I read J. Vernon McGee’s analysis of John (which was his worst by the way – I felt like he was mailing it in) long before we began studying the book for bible study, and that’s what he said! McGee said that the book was meant to be a comforting one for me, you, and all the Christians of the world.
Then, I began to study the Gospel of John with my favorite bible-study gang (we’re not literally a gang, but we are pretty cool), and my eyes have been opened. I thank God every day that He gave me eyes to see, and I continue to pray for Him to reveal to me what else He wants me to see. Pastor Latta leads our study, and he points things out that seem revolutionary, but when you go back and study the verses again, you realize, “Wow. That just makes sense!”
If people like our pastor didn’t venture outside of the box, we’d be stuck thinking the Gospel of John was written to people like us. Now, is their some application in there for us? Sure. Is one of the most Jewish books in the entirety of the New Testament (I’d argue it is the most Jewish.) written for us? No.
How will we learn if we take the words of others as gospel (pardon the pun)? Our pastor is always encouraging us to study and learn for ourselves. It’s been the most rewarding experience of my life. Thinking outside of the box is freeing; it feels right. The modern-day church wants you think inside of the box, but continue with that logic. The modern-day church is moving farther and farther away from God, so why should we just take their word for it? We shouldn’t. We should learn the Word for ourselves.
Do you really think God would give us His Word so it could be characterized by man as cute stories? God had nothing better to do, so he came up with a bunch of kid stories to teach us how to love, to treat one another, and to better the world. One thing I’ve learned that’s stuck with me is this – the Christological Principle reigns supreme. What that means is this: Every word in the Bible typifies, symbolizes, MEANS SOMETHING about Christ. Christ is the foundation – He always will be. Instead of viewing the stories as separate tales with their own moral theme, view them as God’s way through his different voices to teach us about His Son, Christ.
When you’re reading about Jacob wrestling with God, ask yourself, “What is this trying teach me about Christ?” Instead of seeing it as a part, see it as a part to a whole – the whole being Jesus. When you’re reading about the first Passover, ask yourself, “What is this trying to teach me about Christ?” When you’re reading about the life of Job, ask yourself, “What is this trying to teach me about Christ?” When you’re reading about the trials of David, ask yourself, “What is this trying to teach me about Christ?” You get the picture.
I don’t care if you’re a hundred years old. I don’t care if you’re fifteen. I don’t care. Be willing to study the Bible. Be willing to learn. You could study the Bible continuously for the rest of your life, and knowing both the wisdom and humor of God, we’ll probably have more questions than answers. Who cares? So what? As Christians, we crave that relationship with Christ. We want to sit at the feet of God, look up at him with pure awe and wonder on our faces, and say, “Abba, I love you.” On top of giving His Son for us and endowing us with the Holy Spirit, He also gave us His Word. Read it. Study it. Get out of the box and learn. It’s better than fresh air, folks. I promise you that.