Five Bad Bible Readers

How is your time in God’s Word?  Do you study the Bible with intensity, consistency, and passion? Many Christians struggle with spending time daily in God’s word.  A lot of times it is because we have the wrong attitude when it comes to reading the Bible.  Which of the following five people sounds like you?

1. Justifying Janet

Janet reads God's word just to make themselves feel good about whatever decision they have already decided. If they want a tattoo, they go to the Bible to see if its ok. If they want to drink alcohol, they find verses that prove their point.  If they want to date a person whose not a Christian they scrounge around finding any evidence in God's word that makes their own oppinion seem right. Janet’s approach to God's word is disastrous because she is not conforming herself to God's Word, she is making God's Word conform to her.

 2. Legalistic Larry

Legalistic Larry opens the Bible because he feels the pressure of his Pastor telling him he needs too. Larry is the kind of guy who will become filled with motivation at the beginning of a new year, pick out a Bible reading plan and force himself to do it day in and day out. Larry treats the Bible like an item on the “to do” list he needs to check off each day. He has no desire to hear from God or to know God better, he is merely reading his Bible because it is the right thing for a good Christian person to do. He reads his Bible out of guilt, not joy. And in the end Larry will become very good at reading his Bible forcefully and rigidly and thus become proud and arrogant, or he will struggle and feel worthless.

 3. Out-of-Context Oscar

Oscar opens up his Bible and finds some verses that he loves and enjoys. Oscar has a very minimal knowledge of God's word and comes back to a few verses that he knows and uses them over and over again out of context. This is the person who uses Philippians 4:13 as proof that God is going to let him win his Football game. Oscar tends to love the encouraging verses all the while ignoring the ones that asks him to do difficult things like, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mt 16:24) , "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me”(Mt 10:37) No, Oscar doesn't read any of these verses, he will just stick with the ones on his Christian Coffee Cup.

4. Passionate Penny

Penny gets really excited about reading the Bible for short periods of time. She will go to a conference and hear some awesome speakers and get really excited about reading her Bible when she gets back home. She will dive into the Bible throughout the day for about a week. Then the passion and excitement from the conference wears off like a druggy coming off a high, and pretty soon the Bible is back on the book shelf collecting dust. Penny has no consistency or discipline to keep going when it is tough, so she waits around till the next conference where she will get excited again about her relationship with God and studying His word.

 5. Academic Anthony

Anthony is the guy that loves knowledge. He loves to study and analyze the Bible. He is a proud expert on Bible trivia and can list off all 12 tribes of Israel in alphabetical order, by the Hebrew alphabet of course (English is for lazy Christians). Anthony knows all the background information about the Bible and he will not hesitate to tell you everything you want to know about the author and structure of a book in the Bible. He uses big words like parallelism when discussing Hebrew Poetry all the while failing to allow the text of scripture to change his heart and his mind.  Anthony's pride and arrogance in academics has put a wall around his heart and keeping the Holy Spirit from working as he studies the Bible. Although Anthony knows a lot about the Bible he doesn't really know the Bible.  Anthony sees the Bible as a textbook to study and analyze, but never truth to be applied.

Which of these five people are you most like? Which one do you most relate too? So often we approach reading the Bible like these five people. As a Christian we need to regularly study God's Word through prayerful reading, meditation, and application. Why? Because through God's inspired word, we get to know and savor our God and King. We get to see who God is and what he has done through his son Jesus Christ.  We get the opportunity to hear from God as he speaks to us, convicts us, and restores us through the consistent washing of His word. Be weary of reading your Bible like one of these five people mentioned. Be like the wise and blessed man in Psalm 1 whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night." (v. 2).

Take Delight in God's Word today and spend the remainder of your life meditating on His word and may we say, "With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!" (Ps 119:10)

The Miracle of Christmas: The Word Became Flesh

I don’t know if you have realized this or not, but it is Christmas time. The stores have stocked up with all their Christmas decor. Everyone is blasting Christmas music wherever the go.  Starbucks even has the red cups out.  It must be Christmas! However it is so easy to miss the miracle of what we are celebrating, the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The apostle John doesn’t neglect this amazing miracle as he writes in the beginning of his Gospel about the Word becoming flesh from John 1:1-14 Through out Christendom most people have been taught quickly that Jesus is the Word. In fact most people in their minds just take out John's "Word" and simply replace it with "Jesus".  Because we all know that is what John means…

But surely John is using the metaphor for a reason.  Surely it must have some sort of theological significance. The Gospel writers never seem to do half hazardly. Everything is done with precise detail and intentionality.

In fact, if one puts themselves in the place of a brand new reader to the book of John, with no presuppositions or preconceptions, John is almost building up tension and anticipation.  Whoever this "Word" is, he is someone special.  Immediately, John connects this "Word" to the creator God himself. Early Jewish readers would have picked up on the allusion to Genesis 1:1.  Instead of in the beginning God, John replaces "God" with "the Word".  Wow! Even from the beginning of this letter, John is highlighting the divinity of this "Word".  Whoever this "Word" is, he is not an ordinary person.  John intentionally places "the word" in this most precious position highlighting that this person is creator God.

Early readers, would surely know that there was a well known prophet named John the Baptist. He had grown in popularity as he baptized people and begin to preach repentance to the people. This man looked and sounded like the kind of prophets the people used to have, guys like Isaiah and Jeremiah.  He sounds a lot like them.

You see, the people had not heard anything from God for the past 400 years. God had a habit of raising up human individuals to be his mouth piece. These men, called prophets, would in essence proclaim the word of God. With the arrival of John the Baptist on the scene, I'm sure the rumblings of the people of Abraham begin to stir.

Could it be? Has God finally broken his silence? Is John the Baptist the Messiah we have waited so long for?  Has the Word of God finally come? 

The writer, John the apostle, (apparently John was a very popular name back then, much like today) makes it absolutely clear that John the Baptist is not the Word, he is simply a witness about this Word, this light that is to come.  John the Baptist himself was not this light, he was simply a witness to the light. He was preparing the way for the arrival of this special Word, this light that is the hope of men.

Beware, John is getting ready to give us a spoiler of the story in the next few verses. This Word, the creator God, is going to come into the world, but the world is not going to recognize him.  Even God's own people, who should be able to recognize his Word better than anyone else, is going to reject him. However, there will be those who believe, and these people are going to become the children of God. This people, who become the children of God, are not born from the flesh or even the will of man, but they will be born of God. John will continue this idea later on in John 3 when a guy named Nicodemus gets confused of the idea of being "born again".

John continues. This Word, this Godly essence and being, is going to become flesh and dwell among us. Take a moment and grasp the reality of this truth. God himself, is coming to the earth.  God himself is going to put on flesh.  God is going to become skin and bones. God is going to be born of a woman. God is going to come out crying like a baby. God himself is going to fall down and skin his knee. God himself is going go through the awkward stage of puberty. God himself is going to be teased as his words squeak as his voice changes. God himself is going to be mocked, teased, abused, rejected, and crucified. God himself is going to die.

The Word became flesh.

God became like us. He became our brother. He became one of us.

John also makes a point to mention that God is going to dwell with us. Now God has dwelt with his people before. In fact, John's language here brings us back to the idea of the tabernacle. When the nation of Israel came out of Egypt, God instructed them to build a tent, a tabernacle, in which he would dwell. He gave them specific instructions on how to build his dwelling place on this earth.  Within the tabernacle God dwelt with his people.

This Word, John mentions is going to dwell on this earth. The creator God is going to step in to his creation. Imagine a painter who literally enters into the world of his painting or an author who literally comes into the world of his novel, so God himself literally enters into this world. However God is not going to reside in an ark, a tent, or a temple. God puts on flesh. Skin and bone.

At this Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Word who became flesh. We have cheesy christmas productions at our churches. We force our children to dress up like shepherds and  animals. And if your a really cool church you put on amazing productions with real life livestock.  We have special services and sing the good ol Christmas carols. We drink our hot cocoa and peppermint lattes and argue with our neighbors how important it is to keep "Christ in Christmas", all the while we forget to be awed by the miracle that is the incarnation. God became a man. The all powerful creator of the universe humbled himself and became a baby. A baby who came to die for the sins of the world. May our holiday and Christmas activity never cease to dull our awareness to this most incredible miracle. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

Reflections on the 9 Marks Conference

This past weekend I attended the 9 marks Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. It was a wonderful weekend celebrating the Gospel and all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. The conference is unlike any other I've attended. Most conferences today are filled with dramatic lighting, loud and rocking worship bands, and innovative videos and graphics. However, if that is what qualifies as a good conference, than 9 marks conference would have been considered a failure. The format of the 9 Marks conference was rather simple. All it entailed were six Pastors who would preach from the Bible their sermon. When the pastor was done the rest of the pastors would sit on stage and discuss different issues in response to the sermon. That was pretty much the whole conference, one sermon after another. Although the conference might sound kind of boring, it was one of the most encouraging and worshipful times I've ever had at a conference. In reflecting why this is the case, I remembered what David Platt said a few weeks ago at a SEBTS chapel. He said in his sermon, "The word of God is enough to incite the worship of God." The danger many fall into, is the lie that big productions equal worship. Dropping tens of thousands of dollars on expensive equipment and incredible media do not necessarily incite God's people to worship. We must be careful not to worship our technology or professional productions, but to worship God himself. In fact, sometimes a lot of those things get in the way of true and honest worship. God's word is certainly enough to incite God's people to worship, but so often we think the opposite. We think expositional sermons are boring, or we don't want to give people to much of God's word in one sitting. It is almost as if we are trying to protect our people from being ravaged by the Word.

But oh, what a mistake that is. As the Word of God is proclaimed by the herald, the Spirit ushers us into worship. I've experienced this first hand this weekend. I've been devoured by God's truth this weekend. Having the Word rush over me again and again refreshes the depths of my soul and stirs a longing in my heart to glorify Jesus Christ with every fiber of my being and ever second of my existence. In your churches and in your worship services, don't negate the power of God's Word to incite you to the worship of God.

Is the Word of God held precious at your church?

Does the truth of God's Word incite you to worship?