Skimming Bible Stories We Think We Know

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I’ve read this story about the two builders [Luke 6:46-49] countless times. I’ve read it so many times that I almost don’t read it anymore when I come across it in the Gospels. I skim it. I gulp down three sentences at a time because I already know what they say. I don’t want to read my Bible like that, but, honestly, sometimes I do (Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep, pg. 18).

Harris goes on to describe how one morning when he was about to skip over that passage in Luke he actually slowed down to read it. Not skim it. As he did, he saw something he hadn’t seen before. In the past he had thought that this passage was primarily about one builder that was a Christian and the other who was not. Reading the very first verse of this passage made Harris realize he hadn’t understood it very well. In verse 46, Jesus says, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” In Harris’ own words:

That question makes me uncomfortable because I can’t pretend I don’t understand it. And I feel that he’s talking to me, that’s he’s talking to religious people—people who claim to belong to God, people who say that Jesus is Lord. This is interesting because it clues us in to the fact that Jesus isn’t just contrasting religious and nonreligious people. He’s not just saying that atheists get their houses knocked down. He’s talking to people who claim to believe in God.

Jesus is calling the bluff of the religious. He says, Why play this game? Why call me Lord as if you care who I am or what I want when you don’t bother really knowing me or doing what I say? And then Jesus tells the story about the builders and their two houses. The homes they build represent their lives—their beliefs, convictions, aspirations, and choices (pg. 18).

After talking a bit more about this passage, Harris concludes with these words:

What hit me that morning on the beach is that digging down and building on the rock isn’t a picture of being nominally religious or knowing Jesus from a distance. Being a Christian means being a person who labors to establish his beliefs, his dreams, his choices, his very view of the world on the truth of who Jesus is and what he has accomplished—a Christian who cares about truth, who cares about sound doctrine (pg. 19, emphasis added).

After reading Harris’ words and re-reading Luke 6:46-49 I am struck with two things:

  1. How many Bible stories do I skim over that I should be reading? (I do this far too often, especially when a Bible passage is embedded in someone’s book)
  2. Am I building my life on the Rock? Am I digging down deep so that I may have a solid foundation to stand upon when trials come?

May the Lord, by His grace, help each of us to read His Word more carefully, less distractedly, and then make choices in life that fit the doctrine we just read.

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Overcoming BSL : Bible as a Second Language

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From Tim Kimmel over at the Desiring God blog:

With tweets, blog posts, predigested podcasts, and fingertip access each week to downloads of some of the most engaging Bible teachers in the world, it’s tempting to develop an on-going input of the Bible at the hands of others that overshadows, or even eclipses, input from personal time spent pouring over it on our own.

The drive-by options we have to phenomenal biblical insights can easily meet our need for spiritual satisfaction. Forget the possibility that much of it may be the equivalent of spiritual junk food — great insights and observations that feel good being consumed but can’t possibly provide a well-balanced biblical diet. Throw in some white noise from our preferred theological hot buttons, and the evangelical celebrity status of our favorite Bible teachers, and we shouldn’t be surprised that our primary connection to God becomes one or more steps removed from God himself.

What’s the solution? Kimmel offers these thoughts:

bible_as_second_langugeOur limitless access to prepackaged devotional, inspirational, and theological insights from others can unwittingly give us a BSL — Bible as a Second Language — orientation on God. But intimacy with him is better reached via a firsthand relationship through his word than through someone else’s translation of it on our behalf. There’s a place for both — God has given us teachers (Ephesians 4:11). We simply must be careful becoming so co-dependent on the one that we fail to do due diligence with the other.

I would not venture to legalistically propose what this personal arrangement should look like or how often it should be practiced. But I am claiming here that our relationship with God is always better served when it’s primarily gained by our personal interaction with him through his word than impersonally through the second-hand offerings of his word by others — regardless of how wonderful they may be.

The impact of the gospel in our hearts and its grace-covered application in our lives will always be easier to enjoy when we resist the temptation to keep the Bible as our second language and instead insist on turning it into our native tongue.

I know I’m guilty of “BSL” so often. To me, it feels so much easier to follow the blogs of Christian pastors and theologians I respect. Or to occasionally listen to or watch a part of a sermon by one of my favorite online pastors and call it good. I think that most of us struggle with this. But I think Kimmel is right: “our relationship with God is always better served when it’s primarily gained by our personal interaction with him through his word.” How do we help each other make the Bible our native tongue? One way I know is the following. Reader of my blog: please read your Bible more than you read my blog. Always.

HT: Tim Challies

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