The Bible has been on my mind a lot lately. It has survived all these centuries and additions and translations. Its timeless relevance never ceases to amaze me. Honestly, I am falling in love with it for the first time in my Christian life (that’s twenty-one years of merely flirting and having flings). I have tried over the years to connect with the Word and get as excited about it as other seem to. When that failed, I tried to pound it into my routine like a puzzle piece that just wasn’t quite right. I thought that if I committed to reading it, I would begin to love it. And you know, that sort of worked. There is something to be said for those who put their bible reading into their schedule and carve out time in their day to be in God’s word. The thing about that is I have to love something or feel a special attachment to it for it to become a priority.
So how does one fall in love with the Word?
Recently, I have been reading the book, Fashioned to Reign. The author spends many chapters looking at some key verses in the New Testament that restrict women and he is diving deep into cultural context and the original language and purposes for the letters written to the first-century churches. In chapter 4 of the book, he paints a beautiful picture of how the Word of God and your relationship with Him go hand in hand:
The Bible is written in such a way that you need the Spirit of God to give you wisdom about how to apply the Word of God.
It is only when we understand the heart of God that we can apply the knowledge of the Scriptures in a way that embraces His purposes.
I have been chewing on this concept for several weeks. I began to think about the way I absorbed or even thought about the words I read before I was awakened to an active relationship with Holy Spirit. (Yes, I know people say the Holy Spirit―I don’t). Now that I have an intimate, daily relationship with God and his divine gift of Holy Spirit, it’s like going from seeing in black and white to color! These scriptures are not about reading and learning what not to do. It can be troubling if you are looking at the Bible as a cover to cover instruction guide for living a Christian life. Most of the ancient book is meant to paint a picture of the nature of God. It is a historical account of things that took place, not examples of how it is to be done. We need to see what God redeemed through the life and death of Jesus. You cannot appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made when you disregard the transgression. He paid the highest price because people were making a mess of things. There is a lot to redeem.
We also see examples of people whom we would never imagine being qualified to be used by the Creator of the world rise to the occasion and through His Spirit, they make history! If that doesn’t inspire you, I don’t know what will.
The New Testament is also not a book of rules. There are stories and historical accounts and parables. They paint a picture of hope and call all who declare Jesus as their Lord to a risky life of radical love. We could spend the rest of our lives just trying to do a better job of the greatest commandments.
In Mark 12:30-31 (NIV) Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Now I happen to have a great affection for the words of Jesus. He is the purest vessel that God ever used to speak to His people. He calls us to a pretty radical life though. He calls us to be counter cultural, but not in the ways that too many of us like to be. There is not one time that Jesus stood in the city square and informed people walking by that they were on a one-way trek to Hell. He only ever seemed to condemn the religious zealots that used their religion and tradition to exclude others or put them down. He also had pretty harsh words for those who used their religious authority to push others around. You know who he had compassion for? The least of these, those ensnared in their own sin and operating out of lies they believed about themselves. The outcasts of society had Jesus’ heart. He ached for them and spent much of his ministry being the emotional salve that they so desperately needed. I find it interesting that he didn’t waist his breath or his short time on Earth being a mole in the synagogue and trying to create change from within the confines of religious leaders at the time.
I am seeing this all in a new way. I used to read the passages of Jesus and try to take in the words as the dos and don’ts of my religion. The further I get into this crazy life, I realize I don’t have a religion. I have a relationship with an active, living God and when I read the historical accounts of Jesus’ time, I am not reading a list of sins to avoid. I am learning the nature of God. I am seeing the heart of Jesus in those passages. Jesus was the embodiment of hope displayed for the world. He loved radically and went after the forgotten and downcast. We are to do the same. Love radically and go after love for others. Nothing else matters. Not politics or religion, race or sexual orientation. It just doesn’t matter more than radical love. If you aren’t doing the greatest of commandments, then the lens through which you execute everything else will be flawed.
So back to the question of loving the Word. Changing my mindset about what the Bible is and what its purpose is for my relationship with God helped me. I wanted to read it for the picture it portrays. That comes with taking it all in―even the parts I don’t quite understand. I rely on Holy Spirit for discernment and wisdom concerning how I live my life. Sometimes He reveals truth through the Word directly, and sometimes it comes through a sermon or prayer time. I love reading and getting into the Word for how God uses it in my life, not for the sheer act of reading it.