The Problem with Reading the Bible

There’s a problem with how we read the Bible. We miss things. Important things. We focus on the wrong parts. We forget what’s core and remember the peripherals.

We read a passage like the fruit of the Spirit, and all we take away is, “Here’s an essential list of character qualities for me to begin building into my life. I better start working on this.”

We read that faith without works is dead, and we zone in on doing works without doing the hard work, the foundational work, of having faith.

We have the whole story before us, but we skip to the end without poring over the chapters that come before it.

There is an order to these things, to this life-with-Christ, yet unfortunately we have a tendency to mess that order up and then wonder why we’re so messed up. This clip from “The Matrix” illustrates our problem when reading the Bible.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poFPgp59EG8]

We are like Neo.

Neo is told that if he can “free his mind,” or have faith, then he will be able to jump a city block and do other seemingly impossible things. But before he has faith, he attempts to do what can only be accomplished with faith.

No surprise, he fails. No surprise, we do, too.

We read principles and commands throughout Scripture and we add them to our lives (just as the Pharisees did). We know if we are Christian, then this is how we are to live. But we have not done the foundational work that is required first.

We have not fully grasped or embraced grace. We are not completely convinced that God loves us as we are right now. We do not totally believe when Christ on the cross triumphantly cried out, “It is finished!” that it really is finished.

We are trying to live the Christian life without surrendering all of our life, without vulnerably trusting Christ with every area of life. We are trying to live the Christian life on our own, because we haven’t figured out yet how to abide with Christ or walk with the Holy Spirit.

So, the issue isn’t reading the Bible. The real issue is that as we read we tend to jump too far ahead of ourselves; we put the cart before the horse. Our foundation continues to be our own efforts to get it right, instead of getting grace… which means we’re not living by faith.

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?
Galatians 3:3

Question: Can you recognize in yourself a default tendency to move ahead without God? To try to get it right on your own rather than living by grace?

Our Issue With Grace

Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God’s grace 
and God’s grace alone for our salvation. 
It is difficult for our pride to rest on grace.

  Grace is for other people – for beggars.
  We don’t want to live by a heavenly welfare system.
  We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins.

We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there.

                      -R.C. Sproul

Thankful for Grace

Thank You, God, for Your saving grace.

Help me remember I’m neither too bad to disqualify myself
nor too good to qualify myself for relationship with You.

Remind me heaven is not mine to earn
nor is it mine to lose.

Both are Yours alone to bestow, and in Christ You have freely given.

This day, instead of striving to perform for You or obsessing over my sin,
I will simply look to You and live by grace.

Thank You for Your saving grace.

Accepting Grace

Tonight, I leave for the Dominican Republic with a group from my church. We’re going to serve the people there by playing with children, visiting schools, talking to families, giving some things away, and sharing Christ however we can.

Last week, someone from my church stopped in my office, and we talked about a few things related to the trip. Before he left, he asked me if there was anything he could do while I was gone, specifically mowing my lawn. I’ll only be gone a week, so it wasn’t too necessary and I declined. It actually would help me out a lot, but I couldn’t bring myself to accept.

What kept me from accepting this thoughtful offer? My pride. The fact I didn’t think it was necessary, and I didn’t want to put him out unnecessarily. The awkwardness of having someone else serve me.

The more I thought about this scenario and my reflexive refusal, the more I thought how it mirrors our difficulty in fully accepting grace.

Grace is a tricky thing. It is simple and profound at the same time. And I believe we can accept and refuse it at the same time.

We accept it in a general sense, but we refuse it on a deeper, very personal level.

Have you ever had to accept charity? It is a very humbling experience. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being on the receiving end of charity. And charity is simply grace on a smaller scale.

What aids me in refusing charity? My pride. The idea that I don’t really need this. The awkwardness of being served.

What keeps me from fully embracing God’s grace to me? My pride. The idea that I’m a good person and don’t really need too much grace.

Strangely enough I might learn something about accepting grace on this missions trip. We have been told the people we will meet love giving to and serving the missionaries who come to serve them.

As I go to serve, may I be gracious enough to accept grace and allow others to serve me. Then I might learn a thing or two about grace.

Do you ever struggle with accepting grace?

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

*Photo credit Audrey Augur

I come to God on my terms and on my merits. I perceive my standing before God to be based primarily on what I have or haven’t done. I decide whether or not I am worthy to approach God. I alone judge myself, and I do not take God or His Word into account in deciding my verdict.

I am one of two men. I am either full of pride or full of shame. I am prideful if in this moment I have a good track record of being good, disciplined or loving. On the other hand, I am ashamed if in this moment I am acutely aware of my inability to steer clear of sin and selfishness.

I come to God on my terms and on my merits… How foolish I am!

Contrast my modus operandi with the experience of the Prodigal Son and his older brother found in Luke 15. Both brothers learn a valuable lesson. The younger son discovers his poverty and inability to save himself. He comes to recognize his absolute need for his father, and he comes crawling back praying for mercy.

The older son is stunned by his father’s grace and mercy to the prodigal and cannot comprehend it. Why does his father not lavish love and attention like this on him? Of all people, he deserves it! He is full of pride and grows angry at the lack of “fairness.”

The Father’s love: One brother felt sure that he would never be able to earn it again; the other brother felt sure that he deserved it more than anyone else. Neither realized it was unconditional and not contingent upon either one of them.

Regarding you and I, God our Father has not moved. All this time, He has been standing at the edge of the driveway, looking up and down the street, waiting. And when I finally turn to Him and begin walking and He sees me, He comes running to me. I did not earn His love. I did not suddenly prove my worth. He made up His mind about me long ago; He’s just been waiting for me to realize it and come home.

As the writer of Hebrews tells us,

Dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.

Hebrews 10:19-23