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July 23, 2012 I started writing about a chapter of the Bible every day. I was about to enter my senior year at the University of Vermont. On October 24, 2015, the mission was complete. 1189 days in a row certainly didn’t make me into a perfect Christian, but there are a few things that stood out to me on the macro level that I want to share with you now from this journey.
- God is at the center of it all.
I think that there is a certain temptation that we often fall into where the chief purpose of the Bible is to be a self-help book. I need a proverb to give me advice. I’m not sure that is quite true. The Bible is a very helpful book, but it doesn’t seem like that is the chief purpose. Rather, it seems to me that the purpose of the Bible is to tell us the story of God. From the beginning of creation to the end of time, we hear about what God has done, is doing and will do. We hear this in the form of narrative, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, biography or parable.
This stood out to me as I looked at the various tags I have applied to each one of my posts every day. The top two are “God” and “Following God.” The Bible was primarily written to tell us about God.
- We need to respond to that knowledge.
If the Bible was written to tell us the story of God from beginning to end, we need to figure out what that means. God has made Himself known to us, but that could ultimately not make a difference in our lives. After all, the Bible could be nothing more than a piece of fiction. If it is that, maybe it has some entertainment value or some interesting thoughts to consider, but it ultimately will not change our worldview.
However, the Bible itself does not really give us that option. It requires that we make a decision. Whether we are looking at Abraham being willing to sacrifice Isaac or Jesus claiming to be the Way, we are not called to complacency. Rather, we need to decide whether we are going to follow God or not.
God is at the center of it all, but it is not enough to simply recognize that He is the protagonist. Rather, the knowledge that we learned about God necessitates a decision about whether or not He is worth following or not. The Bible was written to tell us about God, but some of the things we learn force our hands. Romans 3:23 brings out the problem and John 3:16 emphasizes the solution. We need to act.
- We need to be willing to work.
One of the top tags as I was writing through the Bible turned out to be “Controversy.” I did not break down how many times I used it as a descriptor of in-house debates between Christians or external debates with other religions, but there is plenty of controversy to go around when talking about the story of God.
I mention that in my highlights here because if the Bible is as controversial as I seem to think it is, then we’re going to run into plenty of people who disagree with us. That should not be surprising. However, what that means then is that we need to be prepared to have these discussions. We need to learn why we believe what we believe. 1 Peter 3:15 speaks about having a reason for the hope that we have as Christians.
If there is controversy, then it also means that there are not always easy answers. We all agree on what color the sky is because the answer is easy. The Bible is a little bit more difficult. However, if the Bible also is the story of God and demands that we make a decision about whether or not God is one worth following, then we need to be willing to do this hard work.
I hope that this blog has helped you out as much as it has helped me out. I know that I have learned more about God by doing this, and I hope it has given you something to think about as well. I really appreciate everyone who has read, commented and shared over the years. You are all such an encouragement, and I appreciate the support.
I’m going to be taking a brief hiatus from the blogging world. As some of you know if you read my bio page, I am currently an online student at Houston Baptist University, and this spring I will be working on my Master’s thesis before I graduate in May with my MA in Apologetics. Given the amount of time that I will need to dedicate to reading and writing for that endeavor, while I will probably still write and post on other outlets occasionally, I don’t know that I will have the time to write on the regular basis that running my own website would require. Down the road though, I am sure I will have a new project, but I am still in the idea stage for anything like that.
If you remember nothing else I have ever written, please remember this:
God is the center of the Bible, and God is the center of history. Jesus Christ is the most important man who ever lived, and He is the one and only Savior. By believing in Him, anyone can have eternal life. It takes a decision, and it is easily the most important decision you will ever make. We all have to answer that same question that Pontius Pilate asked, “What shall I do then with Jesus who is called Christ?” What will you do?
In Acts 3, Peter takes a very interesting tactical approach to preaching to the people of the synagogue.
Act 3:12 And when Peter saw it, he answered unto the people, Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?
Act 3:13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.
Act 3:14 But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you;
Act 3:15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.
Act 3:16 And his name through faith in his name hath made this man strong, whom ye see and know: yea, the faith which is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
I think that sometimes we are uncomfortable with difficult topics in church in general today. Peter clearly was not afraid of a burgeoning controversy. The people who were in the synagogue at that time listening to him would most likely be aware of what had happened to Jesus Christ, and some of them might have been present at the time of the trial and the following events.
Peter went on the attack right away. He spoke about topics that apparently the people did not want to talk about because as we will read tomorrow, he got in trouble for doing it. However, he was willing to tell the truth regardless of what people thought. That was more important to him than popularity.
That is a difficult thing for all of us because I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want on some level to be popular. We at least don’t want to be disliked at a bare minimum. I think we want to get along well with those around us, and I am sure Peter felt the same way. However, he knew that it was more important to communicate truth, and he had to tell these people who Jesus Christ really was and what they had really done to Him.
This seems to be instructive to us. Sometimes difficult topics need to be talked about. I’m not saying that we go looking for a fight, but Peter had to tell these people who Jesus was and what implications that brought about. It is more important that we are true to what God has taught rather than be worried about our own popularity.
In Jeremiah 35, we have a story about the lifestyle led by the Rechabites. They had been commanded by their forefathers not to consume alcohol among a wide variety of other countercultural beliefs like not farming and not building houses to settle down. They has been very loyal about following these directions, so even when Jeremiah, a prophet of God, offered them wine, they turned him down because they do not want to violate the lifestyle they had been given.
Clearly, if God told Jeremiah to offer these men alcohol, then the consumption of alcohol itself could not be a sin. After all, God is not the type of God that would set people up in that manner. However, these men simply did not believe in consuming alcohol, so they turned down his offer.
What is interesting is how God responds to this strength of commitment.
Jer 35:13 Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.
Jer 35:14 The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.
Jer 35:15 I have sent also unto you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.
I read in my commentary that these men, the Rechabites, were descended from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. These rules that were outlined clearly came from a good, Godly source but were not divine. I think there is a lot of wisdom in not consuming alcohol at all, and that is why I will not consume any. We can’t absolutely say that simply the consumption of alcohol is a sin as I said above, but it can make us susceptible to sin by perhaps impairing our judgment when used improperly, so I avoid the substance altogether. Other people may be more comfortable with using, and that is your decision. I just don’t even want to open the door; maybe I am weak, but I believe it is wise to avoid. However, whether or not you agree with my reasoning or not is somewhat irrelevant; the point remains that these people were committed to following a rule that was not divine in origin.
God compares them to the people of Judah. The Rechabites are willing to adhere to a law given by a mortal man which might be good or wise but is not divine, but God’s own chosen people would not listen to the law which was divine in origin. God sent prophets to remind the people who they ought to be following, and there is no doubt that there were plenty of miracles in the history of the nation of Israel to indicate the validity of the existence of God. However, they still rebelled.
Why was it so hard for the people to follow God? That is the dilemma, and I think that is the same dilemma today. It is so easy for people to follow way of life established by our mortal man. For example, how many people have tried to build a utopian communities? Granted, most of them eventually failed, but the point is that it is possible for people to live by rules of men. It is interesting that it is so hard for some people to live by the will of God.