Updated: May 22
“You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.”
I recently had a conversation with someone about deconstruction and it’s causes… it was an interesting conversation… I brought up how social media and “TikTok” videos have had incredible influence in planting seeds of doubt… about how the Church needed to teach and discuss apologetics and entertain questions about faith from the genuine searcher…
What I found interesting is his reply…
My friend quoted the very same statistics I referred to but his analysis was that the reason people were leaving the faith was because Christian’s were no longer reading their Bible… I sat there kind of stunned. To be clear I did enjoy the conversation… because conversation is important in driving truth and healing. I replied that actions follow beliefs… that, in fact... one cannot expect that actions would precede belief. My friend could not connect what I was saying… I drove away and as has happened so much in recent months I found myself downloading todays post on my drive back home.
Many years ago when I was struggling with some addictions and a severe depression as well as deep doubts about myself and parts of my faith.
At the time I attended a bible study group with other men. Every week I’d come into the group and I would try to share my anxiety, my struggle with sin, my anger and my heavy depression… every week I would go through the motions with this group. I appreciated a number of these men as they sought to encourage me in my faith.
I held a deep respect of the leader of the group… who tended to avoid advice and chose to try to encourage and pray for me without condemnation. That was certainly appreciated… but as often happens in some small groups there is often one person who has the answer and who had no known character flaws… this group was no exception!
I won’t use real names… so let’s call the man I’m referring here “Pedro”. Each week we would have a turn to share what we needed prayer for, or wanted to express thankfulness for… and each week Pedro would start out saying how thankful he was for his wife and how thankful he was for the Bible which by the way he read faithfully every day during his devotional time early in the morning. When I shared my struggles and depression he always suggested to me it was because I did not read my Bible enough or did not have enough faith… I always felt uncomfortable in that setting.
Now… a little backstory… I spent a few years as a wholesale agent to the Christian Bookselling community. My company never got super large but I managed make a living for several years before being unceremoniously pushed out of the business by bad receivable debt and multinational competition. Honestly, I made some serious mistakes… the lessons I learned there however walk before me today so I’m thankful for those years.
The reason I’m sharing this however is because at the time... I trusted people very easily… if someone claimed to be a “Christian” and was not shy about it… I believed them.
If they faithfully read their bible I would even believe them more… but then soon I ended up not getting paid by these people I trusted… worse yet… when I was finally forced into insolvency and called up my vendors to notify them of my situation I had some vendors I owed as little as $300 that said I would burn in hell — I remember those vendors to be very religious and knew they also were avid bible readers.
For this reason… getting back to that bible study… when Pedro started up about his deep faith and his faithful bible reading my BS meter was going full tilt… I shared that only with my wife at the time.
Several years later Pedro left his wife for another woman, ended up in some shady situations… all the while he continued to go to Church… and I am certain he read his Bible and spent time in devotions every day faithfully.
My point? Bible reading apart from a love relationship with Christ does not create better Christian’s… as a matter of fact… sometimes it makes worse ones.
Does this mean we should NOT read the Bible? A thousand times NO!!!
We should most certainly have a strong desire to read the Bible… and to pray… we should sense a pulling into relationship with Christ through both bible reading and prayer... just as a healthy marriage will mean constantly discovering new to us things about each other so to a healthy relationship with Christ should inspire us to seek Him more!
Why would we not want to know what others have succeeded at or failed at in their relationship with God? Also why would we not want to know about our God and his nature?
While we should want to read our bibles, and also pray… these two "acts" are often treated as magic spells… as if doing either or even better… both… will magically convert the sinner to walk morally, with faith… and end all struggles with sin!
Queue the end credits and watch the horse drawn carriage drive into the sunset because our problems are over!! This magic book did it!!
This abracadabra, unfulfilled type of Christianity does NOTHING to present the gospel to a dying world.
It is shallow
it is works based
And it creates shallow - works based believers that treat the Bible and religious disciplines like some sort of magic book of spells.
This kind of slot machine faith teaches the young believer that their relationship with Christ matters less than the dogma or “incantation” from the Bible that they incite.
Such dead works do nothing to change a life to make it holy or to heal past wounds. It is no wonder that new age practices are infiltrating the Church… we have taught our kids new age by our religious dogma.
I'll compare the relationship with Christ to marriage… this is perhaps the easiest way to portray how ridiculous our thinking is in regards to disciplines. Imagine for a moment that we treated our spouse the way we treat our relationship with God...
Imagine with me that your spouse gave you her diary... in this book would be everything that she loves, her heart exposed... all of her relationships good and bad open for review and analysis...
Now imagine if you read this book religiously but only used the book for how it benefited you... everything you learned from this book only served a purpose to get you what you want from them... or to "market" your interest in our spouse so they are pleased with the effort.
That is how many believers approach the Bible... we treat the Bible not as a diary to understand Gods nature, his heart, his desires... to KNOW HIM BETTER... but rather as a guide to get what we want from God.
Imagine the struggles a marriage would have if it functioned like this.
There are things I do almost every day for my wife… I make her coffee, I ensure I tell her often I love her, I place the toilet seat down… you get the picture. Now, imagine I approached this relationship with her with a checked box mentality… each day I allotted exactly 15 minutes of conversation with her, I allowed her to speak for 1 of those fifteen minutes… and the things I did for her were kept track of by a clipboard I kept by my bed. She can see the clip board….
How do you think she feels about our relationship in the case above? Do you think she would love me more? I doubt it…
Let’s go deeper… do you think that I will remain more… or less faithful to her if I have this kind of relationship with her?
Should we read our Bible?
Yes…. A thousand times yes… within the Bible are found words of life, affirmation, one can certainly hear Gods voice… but without a love relationship with Christ - the Bible becomes just words on a page that can be manipulated.
Going back to that depression… while I was in this low place… I could barely function. I had difficulty staying awake long enough to pray… as a matter of fact I often fell asleep at bible studies during prayer time… if I did read the Bible it was by listening via audio… sometimes I would fall asleep listening to the Bible. The Bible alone however… was not what changed me… it was a growing conversation with and a love relationship with Christ that created within me a changed heart. He led me through the darkness, walked with, and spoke light piece by piece into my darkness… until I could feel again… I could see light again.
The Bible is not some magic book of potions we can claim at will. It’s words do not magically heal. It is certainly God breathed… it is a history of Gods relationship with men… the good, the bad and the ugly… it is also prescriptive in some parts… but most of all… the Bible requires RELATIONSHIP with it’s true author to understand it. We are reading in a sense - Gods Diary...
To be clear… I am not trying to discourage bible reading. What is evident to all is that Bible reading is not indicative of living for Christ any more than reading a drivers handbook makes you a better driver.
Lets look at jesus words here as he summed up the whole Old Testament with these two commandments… found in Matthew 22
“‘You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Note that Jesus did NOT tell the listeners to go and read the Bible… which would for the listener have been the Old Testament… he simplified it by summing it all up with these two simple commands. He implied that he was expecting the listener to at least have a basic understanding of the Old Testament teachings… but he was very much simplifying those teachings. Note as well none of the Pharisees and teachers disagreed with Him.
Another time Jesus mentions the Bible is in John 5:
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
Digging further into John 5 verse 39… the word search is the Greek word “ereunaó” which means to diligently search, examine carefully while seeking to know”. This would indicate that even if one search’s the scriptures with a genuine desire to know truth… that without coming to Christ for his lens of Truth we will miss it.
I’m reminded of that scene in the movie “national treasure” where the main characters are trying to read an old map but they can’t until they have the right lens… Jesus is of course infinitely more than a mere lens… but the analogy still holds.
From these passages we can see very clearly the two things we must have to walk in obedience to Christ…
We must have a relationship with Christ that places Him as center of our life. We must come to Him as our savior, our peace, our guide and our wellspring of life. We must love Christ wholeheartedly and with everything we have!
We must love others AND ourselves and at the SAME level as ourselves.
The Bible has not been available for the vast majority of believers in the history of men… and yet there are numerous examples of Godly communities that functioned faithfully living for Christ… conversely within North America the Bible is the number one best selling book and yet we have so much division, backbiting, outright sin and hatred both inside and outside the Church!
Let’s cap this off today with this word from Jesus from the sermon on the mount. As I mentioned in another post… if we just followed that sermon and nothing else we would already be better people.
“seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
Jesus as functional Lord in a living relationship!
Relationship with ourselves and others based in genuine Love
Disciplines (bible reading, prayer)
Flip these around and we have legalism…
Change the order and we have potential for apostasy or Gnosticism.
If we follow Jesus… we may have dry spells where we need to understand that it’s going to be tough for awhile…
the Church needs to learn to walk with the downcast in their brokenness.
We will do the things Jesus did
stand against injustice
feed the poor
heal the sick
care for the downtrodden
and yes we will grow in our love for the Bible just as Jesus and his disciples did…
and… in the same manner that we breathe… PRAY. It will be natural… it will begin to flow throughout the day as if it has a life of its own…
Let’s be the change…