Idols of Faith

Bible-1

Let me start by saying I've been arguing with my spirit this morning for the last half hour about writing this.  Sometimes Blogs don't have the same ability to communicate as an "in person" meeting, and there's always a risk that something might be taken out of context, or misunderstood.  So please understand, I'm trying the best I know how to communicate a growing problem I see in the world of Christendom.  It's a trend I've been noticing for years, but after reading the last half of John 5 this morning, I noticed the trend was in Jesus' day too.

Before I get to the meat of this post, let me assure you, I believe the Bible is God's Word. 

I believe God inspired the writers of the Bible to write what they wrote.
I believe the lessons, values, stories, historical evidence, prophecy, poetry, wisdom, and all the genres in the Bible are as close to understanding God as we have today. 
I teach Biblical apologetics, and I help students see the truth of the ancient work of antiquity.
I read the Bible, as much as I can.
I have an appetite to know God as best I know how.
I believe Genesis to Revelation and everything in the middle. 

Ok, now that we have that out of the way…let me tip toe into an issue we need to deal with.

It all started this morning when I read Jesus as He was trying to disclose His identity at the end of John 5.  He said things like, ""I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (v.19)

And He said, ""I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned" (v.24)

But then out of the blue He addresses the religious leaders of the day and says, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life." (v.39-40)

This is where it gets a bit hard to understand, and please know, I'm a BIBLE FAN!!

The Pharisees of the day based all the social, economic, spiritual, and legal parts of the nation on the law of Moses.  They spent an inordinate amount of time learning the law, testing the law, and abiding by the law.  Yesterday I showed you how they were upset at Jesus, because He healed the man on the Sabbath day, and they considered that to be work and in violation of the law.  In other words, the LAW WAS THEIR LIFE!  The law, and being linked to the family of Abraham, was the basis of knowing God.  And the law was found in the words on the page.

Paul reiterates the need for the law in Romans, and He underscores the importance that we understand the reason God gave us the law and the prophets.  (Romans 2:17-38) So the law and the scriptures are of great importance in the life of a believer, but Paul says the inward transformation is more important.

If the law and the scriptures trump your vision and search for Jesus, you're missing the point.  We know that you can see the message of Jesus in the scriptures, but if the emphasis is on the letters, and not on the spirit, then you're all together missing  out on Jesus'  mission.  The law and the scriptures tell faith believers and non believers about Jesus.  They declare the teleology of the coming Messiah, and they must be read in context. 

BUT…

If your love for the scriptures blinds you from knowing the true Jesus, then you've failed and Jesus says, "you refuse to come to me to have life."

I've seen believers buy into this "Bible Worship" before, and I understand where they're coming from.  If the Bible is God's Word, then it is the most sacred of all texts, and sometimes the worship of God can look like making an idol of scripture. 

But…

The nature of God through the Bible is described as the Father, The Son, and the Spirit. It never refers to God as a book or being limited to a book.  It never limits God to the law.  It never declares God as an "in the box" type of entity.  And we must be careful not to limit God.  We must be careful not to become Bible Worshipers, but rather; Jesus Followers. 

Jesus says, "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."  He is outing the notion that knowing God is equal to one's diligence of study, and inviting them into a wonderful relationship with Him.

So today, let me ask, do you think by diligently studying scriptures that you have eternal life? Or is it by knowing about Jesus that you might enter into a belief and following type of relationship?

Verse 37-38 says, "And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent." 

That seems to indicate, no matter how much scripture you have stored up in your heart, unless you believe in the one the Father sent; you don't have life.  I know for a fact, some of the most dedicated Bible Scholars don't believe in Jesus. 

"We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.  If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us." (1 John 4:13-16)

I guess I'm writing all this today just to encourage you in that your time in the Word is important.  Your time understanding the key components of the Faith can't be understated.  But if you think by some merit system, God finds eternal life in the words on a page, then you're missing the point.  This faith is not about the rules and regulations that you can accumulate.  It's about Loving God with all your heart mind and soul, and loving your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus says, "All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments."

Let me write it again….

I believe in the Bible from Genesis To Revelation.
I believe in the study of God's Word.
I believe the Bible is the closest thing we have to knowing God.
I believe its necessary to understand the text, and seek to know God's lessons for us today.

But we MUST NOT miss the point. 
We must not become Bible Worshipers above the spirit God gave us in His Son Jesus. 

We MUST BE Jesus Followers in order that we know and experience the life He came to give us, and be a part of His Kingdom.

5 Comments

  1. great thoughts!
    my pastor is wrestling with the very same issue. He just released a book “Finding The Groove” by robert gelinas in which he talks about how our faith is like jazz.
    he says scripture study needs to be more than a science project with a scientific outcome. we overemphasis interpreting it rather than it transforming us. Not only knowing but doing it. We need to bring back the “art” of studying the bible.
    Not just asking What is the context? who is the author? what is the outline? who is the audience?
    but ALSO asking, What is he DOING? How can I express this similiarity in my own personality and situation? (i.e. if Nehemiah is praying and confessing the sins of his people, then when was the last time that i prayed for the sins of my people)
    It’s like exploring BOTH the art and science of hermeneutics. Sadly, we’ve preferred the science (and knowledge) of it all that has led to puffed up minds with little feet to our faith.
    James 2:14-16 has a word of thought for that.

  2. …we’ll have some fun talk about this on Monday and Tuesday
    …I think that we who call ourselves “Christians” probably have more idols that we know
    …so, one more time, Andy, you’ve hit another spiritual nail on the proverbial head
    …deeply appreciate your willingness to dig into God’s truth and make it more real for the rest of us
    …keep this up!
    …we are looking forward to having you here in a few days…woo, hoo!!!

  3. …one more thought from our friend, N.T. Wright
    Some people are always going to be offended when you actually teach them what’s in the Bible as opposed to what they assume is in the Bible.

  4. I absolutely love this post. Scripture is the revelation of Jesus, not a code for living. All Scripture must be interpreted in the light of Jesus fulfilling the Law, yet taking on the penalty of breaking the Law for the rest of mankind, who couldn’t follow it, and granting to us the gift of His righteousness through our faith in Him.
    John 5:38 states that the Scriptures testify of Jesus not a code of behavior. They should point us to Him and our dependence on Him to even live in the behavior that righteousness requires. The Law showed we can’t do it on our own. We need a Savior to do it for us.
    Jesus is the living Word. He is who we should be seeking when we study the Bible. It is the revelation of God’s love for us reavealed in His Son. What a wonderful God we have!

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