I was introduced to it when I was a kid.
Before then, I thought that grown ups just knew things about Jesus and Moses and Abraham. I can still remember my mother opening up a Bible to the part where Jesus died on the cross. It was revolutionary for me to find out that you could read about that and not just hear about it around some campfire. That was over three decades ago. I’ve walked away from it at times. I’ve disobeyed it. I’ve ignored it. But I’ve never been able to get away from the Bible.
It was a comfort to me as a kid when I read what Jesus had to say about the family.
It was a rock for me back then too when I would get scared in the middle of the night.
It was the textbook many of my mentors used to train me.
I’ve seen it transform marriages.
I’ve seen it change churches.
It changes me each week that I open it up to prepare my next sermon.
But I hear some church leaders today talk about the Bible with embarrassment. They’re ashamed of the unusual stories of giant fish, giant madmen and giant pathways through a raging sea. They blush at the parts that have grown culturally unacceptable. They water down the offensive parts.
I’m no church historian but I’d like to know when this happened. When did it become acceptable for people who call themselves Christians to not like Christianity very much? One time I heard a comedian make a joke about an organization named RAD, Rockers Against Drugs. He said that rock and roll musicians against drugs was sort of like Christians Against Jesus. I don’t think that RAD is around anymore but Christians Against Jesus seems to be alive and well. Jesus himself isn’t the problem. Many of these leaders love to talk about Jesus. Their Jesus. Just not the Jesus that’s in the Bible. Just not the real Jesus.
Paul saw flashes of this in his day. The Bible has never been hip. It has always had its detractors. Sometimes the very ones who claim to love the man at the center of it the most, are its loudest critics (2 Timothy 3:1-9). But Paul didn’t then tell his readers to abandon the Bible for something more culturally acceptable. No, he reminded Timothy that the Bible is God’s message (2 Timothy 3:10-17). And then he told Timothy to preach it (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
In a culture where hardly no one, even church leaders, wants the Bible, the Bible is still what we need. Anything less is pointless.
I’ve been made fun of all of my life. Most of the time, I was asking for it. I was a C+ student, and a C- athlete with a funny haircut and an even worse complexion. That used to bother me. But it hasn’t for a while. I think that some church leaders are still bothered by the fact that they don’t get to eat lunch at our culture’s equivalent of the high school cafeteria’s popular table. But the very core of our faith is foolishness to the world. If we take out what the world finds absurd, we are left with a good man who said good things but who is still lying in a tomb.
As I’ve grown older and spent more time reading and trying to obey the Bible, I’ve come to a conclusion. I’m just going to take God at his word. I’m going to believe what he says. The Bible says that if I ask for wisdom in faith, God will give it to me. So I’ve been asking. And God’s been giving it to me. The Bible says that Jesus prays for me and never leaves me. So I’ve been living my life based on those realities. And it has helped me.
A lot of people who claim to be Christians, if they were honest with themselves, don’t like the Bible. They don’t like what it says, stands for or points to. They prefer what they wish that it said, stood for and pointed to. To put it another way, they’re okay with the Bible as long as the culture is okay with the Bible. And, inevitably, as the culture gets less okay with the Bible, guess what happens next?
I don’t know everything there is to know about the Bible. I certainly don’t obey everything that the Bible says at all times. But I’m trying.
Too many pastors have become content with acting like CEOs instead of, well, pastors. And it is really harming the church. Pastors who act like CEOs never really bring lasting change. The Bible does. So when we abandon the Bible, even while still talking about Jesus, the church quickly becomes just another organization where people are nothing more than numbers and relevance is the bottom line.
I’ve seen the power of the Bible on display.
As best as I can, by the grace of God, I’m living it.
So please read your Bible. And as you do, pray for the Holy Spirit to help you to understand it. Don’t let the culture interpret it for you. Use it to interpret the culture. If you read the Bible with a humble heart, at some point, you’ll know that it’s more than just a book. It’s a message from God. It’s a message that you may want to ignore at times. It’s a message that you will definitely disobey.
But by God’s grace, that message will never leave you alone.
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)