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Monday, February 20, 2012

The Bible warns us about the Bible - I Timothy - pages 215-226


I Timothy 4:13,16
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching…Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
This  Reading the Scripture lately has been nothing short of breathtaking.  I literally cannot wait to open the Bible to happen upon nuggets that I’ve panned out before.  Devoting myself to readin the Scripture is one thing, but to ready it with others in public has taken it to another level altogether.

But the Scripture cannot be treated like a frog in fermaldihide, stretched out with tacks and dissected in a science lab.  For one, it’s not dead.  For another, it is a means to an end, not the end itself.  Jesus is the end, if we read and don’t encounter him, we are participating in an empty exercise.

We have to watch our lives and doctrine closely.  If the Word doesn’t affect our lives…what’s the use?  This text seems to indicate that you save yourself, but you also save the people listening to you when you realize that the God’s Word and your World have to both be engaged when you’re reading the Scripture.  I kill ourselves and our hearers when doctrine is divorced from life.  You are supposed to read the Bible, but the Bible is also supposed to read you.  This is when Jesus comes to life and the word pulsates with passion.

I love the passage that talks about moving beyond the words to the Word.  Moving beyond the principles to the person.  Moving past the data to the drama.  This is Jesus giving a backhand to people that knew the Word like the back of their hands…

John 5:39-40 (New International Version)
39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

This might sound heretical, but it must be said. One of the most creative cults spearheaded by the enemy is found in the company of people who idolize the Bible. Instead of being a road to Jesus, it becomes a roadblock. Cross-referencing. Greek word studies. Doing "devotions". Debates over doctrinal disagreements. Systematic theology. Bible memorization. Reading through the Bible in a year. Crafting creative sermons. The list goes on and on. I fear this world most because I'm in ministry and have come to understand the difference between the God of the Word and the Word of God. You can easily get lost in the latter and lose the former. I'm not trying to divorce them from each other, but I think it's vital to make the distinction every now and then.

Just like anyone, I love what I can get my hands on and my mind around. Since God can be somewhat illusive and mysterious, it's easy to sink your teeth into the Scriptures and forget to feed on God Himself. You can take a verse and play around with it like a hacky sack. You can sculpt an idea and develop a line of thought that gives you a distracting sense of pleasure in and of itself. You want to know how I know this? Because I'm running the risk of doing it this very moment. I'm taking a verse and expounding on it with clever little spins of spice. I can put together sermons for weeks on end without encountering Jesus. I can use the Word as a pacifier to give me a false sense of security that I'm close to God.

Remember, in this passage, Jesus is talking to professional Bible quizzers. They sat on those little electronic pads and prided themselves in being the first to stand and speak of the fine print, what was written between the lines, the infinitesimal nuances of every jot and title recorded in the text. They were the masters of Theology. And Jesus told them off.

I wonder how many get lost in the maze of Scripture and never find their way to Jesus. I wonder how many pride themselves in knowledge without knowing. I wonder if the Bible has become my little lump of play dough to shape and craft and squeeze and hold. It's just too easy to let it become the end all. In fact, I think the flesh would rather interact with literature than bother itself with the messy ups and downs of unpredictable relationship with an living being. You can open it, shut it, leave it home, carry it around, put it in your pocket, download it onto your ipod, or just plain forget about it. You won't hurt it's feelings because "its" don't have feelings.

But Jesus, he's a different story. He doesn't like to be carried around in our pockets and played around with like a lucky rabbit's foot. He pursues us when we forget about him and is rarely ever found in the place where we thought we left him. He can't be opened and shut at our command and he won't be relegated to a slot in our schedule. He's not black and white, He's alive and well.

If we stop at the Scriptures, we will have missed the point. For the Bible is only the fork, Jesus is the feast.  




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