What are you looking out for when you read the bible?
Perhaps you’re a doctrine geek, excited about discovering new truths in the bible. You want to understand. You want answers to the questions of life you have. Maybe you even want to win Bible Trivial Pursuits at the next church social! You’re interested in the big picture, the grand sweep of the biblical narrative. You want to worship God with your mind and you’re keen to have your intellect stretched by the great thinkers of the faith.
Or maybe not. Perhaps, you feel you’re much more practical than that. For you, the bible is more of a self-help book. It’s a book of therapeutic wisdom that offers practical advice for how to navigate your way through life. You’re looking for motivation to get you through the ups and downs of the Christian life. If there is a golden nugget of advice thrown in, so much the better. You’re not interested in information or facts, for you, truth needs to work, it needs to make a difference in your life.
Both of these approaches to the bible are instinctive and natural and there is much to commend them. Truth matters and wisdom matters. But might there be a better way to read the bible that holds both together whilst looking in a completely different direction? It’s worth considering. You see, for the doctrine geeks, faith can become a series of propositional statements, truth claims that have to be believed and arranged in a neat and tidy system. For those looking for wisdom, Scripture can quickly become a motivational book of morals, of rules for life. The bible is so much more than either. It is the story of God’s great salvation, his promise to renew the world. It is the story of Jesus, the Gospel. It is less about what you need to know and what you need to do. It’s much more about what he has done for you.
This matters because the Gospel is not simply the ABCs of the Christian faith, it is the A to Z. The way in is the way on. Repentance and faith is not simply a once in a life time decision to follow Jesus which is then followed by a lifetime of trying harder and doing better with a bit of help from the Holy Spirit. Repentance and faith is the way we are saved. It is also the way we change. Personal transformation happens whenever we repent of the lies we believe and the idols we worship and put our faith in the truth of the Gospel and worship the one true God who has the power to save.
So, when you open your bible and start to read, ask yourself ‘who is driving the verbs?’ Is it you or is it Jesus? Are you the main actor, the protagonist, the hero; or are you allowing Jesus to take the starring role? For example, how do you read a story like David and Goliath? Are you David? The one who with the help of God slays the giants in your life? The one with the courage and the faith to make a difference, to save the day? What happens when you come face to face with a giant you can’t overcome? Maybe, just maybe, when we read this story in the light of the Gospel, we should be honest enough to admit we are really with the Israelites, paralysed with fear in the face of the giant whilst David actually points to Jesus, the true King, who overcomes the giants of sin and death to grant us forgiveness and freedom. Now that really does change everything.