How can we as American Christians have so much access to the Bible yet not really know God’s story? Many of us know enough to recite specific stories, reference popular verses, and argue theological points. We may be well poised to win a trivia contest or theological debate yet we can often miss the greater narrative of scripture and its implications for both our personal stories and those of our neighbors. This issue has captured my mind for the past couple of weeks as I’ve worked on Chronological Bible Storying for our Nepali-American Gospel Community and attended a Story of God training led by Caesar Kolinowski.
Read what the Apostle John records Jesus saying to the Jewish religious leaders:
The Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. John 5:37-40
Sobering thought: these guys knew the Old Testament scriptures inside and out. They could recite the scriptures from memory and impeccably followed the law, yet they were blind to the Messiah and His mission. God was at work right in front of them, inviting them to join Him in His activity, yet they not only resisted Him-they opposed Him. They knew the scriptures, including the stories of their ancestors, the law, and the Messianic prophecies- yet they missed how His grand story intersected with their own.
Some thoughts that John 5 spurs in my mind:
- Our study of scripture should be rooted in the grand story of God found throughout scripture: creation->fall->redemption->restoration. If not, we will miss the implications for our own personal stories, as well as the stories of our neighbors, our communities, our culture, and this world.
- If our study of scripture does not lead to following Jesus and joining His mission, it will lead to pride and blind legalism. The long-term consequences are often mistaking religious moralism for a vibrant gospel-centered life.
- Knowing scripture does not necessarily mean that God’s word is abiding in us or that we are tuning into God’s voice. We can easily mistake knowing the written words for knowing the Living Word (Jesus).
- We can easily create ideals that sound scriptural yet actually run counter to Jesus’ message and mission. Just because we can attach a chapter and verse to something does not always mean we’re handling the word of God correctly.
- God is always at work, bringing life where there is death and light where there is darkness. The question is never whether God is at work, but whether we’ll allow the Spirit to open our eyes and give us the faith to join Him.