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?
Revelation 22 provides more evidence about the joy that is waiting for us when we to heaven. We hear about the river of life, and beautiful fruit trees that are going to heal the nations. There will be no more curse, and we are going to be serving God for all eternity. God will reign for ever and ever, and we will enjoy His presence forever.
Doesn’t that evoke something within you? Doesn’t that make you excited? It makes me feel like John as he closes out this book asking Jesus to return.
Rev 22:20 He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
Rev 22:21 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
CS Lewis wrote about this powerfully. He wrote about how remarkable it was that we have appetites and things that will satisfy those appetites. We’re hungry, and there is food. We’re thirsty, and there is liquid.
As you read about heaven here at the end of Revelation, I would hope that you felt the same kind of hunger I had for wanting to be in the presence of God. There is that appetite, and there is something that will satisfy. In fact, there’s only one thing that will satisfy.
You might think that heaven is just a fantasy. It is just a daydream of people who want to escape from the misery of reality. They want to hope that there is some ultimate justice, so they create a place of perfection where all of the good will make up for all the evil present in our world today.
In closing, let me then suggest this thought in response to this kind of hypothetical explanation. As we have learned, Christianity rises or falls on whether or not Jesus Christ was who He said He was. If Jesus was indeed the Son of God, we then have His word that He is preparing a place for us. There are many dwelling places in the house of God. If He is who He says He is, then heaven is real. That’s the bottom line.
If heaven is real, we’re going to find that satisfaction. As followers of Christ, that appetite for the presence of God is going to be satisfied. Someone once said that if you would be happy in heaven without God there, then you probably will not be in heaven in the first place. As Christians, that is where our desire is at. Sure, beautiful places and golden cities are excellent things, but being with God is what it is all about. We fellowship with God here on the earth, and we’re going to do it in person eternally.
Does it really get any better than that?
Revelation 20 brings us to the ultimate consequence of our belief in God. We have the judgment at the great white throne.
Rev 20:11 And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.
Rev 20:12 And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
Every one of us deserves to be judged by our works. That intuitively make sense. There are consequences to actions, and some of those have eternal repercussions. We all deserve eternal separation from God. If God is perfect, then we, as people who are not perfect, would not generally have access to God. After all, how can something imperfect enter into the presence of someone who is perfect?
Jesus Christ did that. Through his sacrifice, we are able to be saved. We’re justified by our faith.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
That is where we see the difference at play here. We are not saved by our own works. In fact, being judged by our works alone leads to disastrous results.
Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
We need to be written in that book of life. We are saved through faith. It is so important to understand this concept. It is not enough to be a good person because I know many good people, but all of them have done things that are wrong. No one is perfect, and without the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, we are told that works are not enough. We’re also told that we are going to be judged by our works. It is not as if God has changed the criteria from the time that Paul wrote Ephesians. It is impossible to have enough works, then we need something else are we are not going to see heaven. Faith is still what matters.
Revelation 5 provides us with a reminder that Jesus is not done with changing history yet. John sees a book sealed with seven seals, but no one is found who is worthy to open it until they come to Jesus Christ.
Rev 5:12 Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
Rev 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
Rev 5:14 And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Again, it seems that this is something that points towards the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. For those who want to believe that Jesus was just a good teacher who was not divine in any way, this passage seems to take issue with that claim. After all, if Jesus was just another human that the rest of us who had an unnatural dose of wisdom, then why would He receive all of the special acknowledgment in heaven? What would set Him apart from us that would make Him worthy to open the book?
Jesus was fully man and fully God. Even though it is somewhat hard to comprehend this type of union, He is undoubtedly unique. No angel or person could take His place. As we progress through Revelation, Jesus naturally has a large part to play, but here we begin to understand just how special He is and how He is the unique opener of the book.
Well, we made it to the final book of the Bible! Revelation is clearly one of the most interesting and controversial books in the entire Bible which people have disagreed on for years and years. Let’s see what we can do by going through it together.
Revelation 1 begins with John seeing Jesus Christ. He turns around to find a frightening vision of the Man that he had known very well during his time on earth, but John essentially passed out in fear.
Rev 1:12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
Rev 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
I want to highlight the candlesticks because later in the chapter we a given a direct interpretation from Jesus Himself that the candlesticks are representative of the seven churches this letter is addressed to.
Rev 1:20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
Jesus did preach that Christians need to be the light of the world, and as we will find out over the next few chapters, some of them were doing it better than others. However, even among the ones that were not doing well, and this chapter says that Jesus was among all seven of the lampstands.
This seems significant to me. Even when we are running away from God, we really are not. Maybe we are refusing to recognize that He is there or are trying to run away from Him, but as Jonah found out, it is really not possible to do anything on earth that will take God away from us.
As we read about what is said to each of the churches, it seems significant to me that God was still among them. Even if they were struggling, God was willing to forgive them. Granted, they had to ask for forgiveness, but it is not as if God gave up on them because they had shortcomings. God will be there for us as well.
Christianity is often attacked as a religion that was developed hundreds of years after the life of Jesus Christ. The obvious problem with that hypothetical situation is that hundreds of years is a long time for doctrine to be modified. However, in 2 John 1, it struck me that even early in the life of the church, there was the idea that doctrine was something worth preserving.
2Jn 1:4 I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.
2Jn 1:5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
The evidence seems to point towards the fact that John was legitimately the author of this letter, and if that is the case, then this was written at some point around 95 A.D. I point this out because John is referring back to a tradition here. I do not have a new commandment for you, but I want you to remember what we talked from the beginning.
This message of love came from Jesus Christ Himself. The rest of the book speaks about avoiding people who are coming and teaching misleading doctrine. As a result, it is easy to see here that there was a very strict commitment to doctrine in the early church. They cared about following Jesus Christ, and they wanted to remain faithful to that which was taught.
It is also significant that John refers to the idea that these people were walking in truth. Again, this is an affirmation of the Christian idea that Jesus is truth. John did not refer to Jesus as one of many truths. Rather, this exclusivity and even seen here.
Early in the history of the church doctrine mattered. Doctrine matters today. We need to make sure that we are faithful to what has been taught from the beginning and not how modern interpretations want to twist certain passages to make political points.
1 John 5 would be hard to reconcile for anyone who wants to remain as a Universalist.
1Jn 5:12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
1Jn 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
It seems rather straightforward here. This entire chapter is talking about having a relationship with Jesus Christ, and this is the summary of the first section. This seems to square with Jesus claiming that He was the Way. It is a rather straightforward dichotomy. Either we have Jesus and we have life, or we do not have Jesus and do not have life.
I understand that these types of statements don’t seem very comforting, and many Christians might be hesitant to take this type of position. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, salvation is a free gift from God. All it takes is a decision to follow Jesus Christ. You do not need to be rich; you do not need to be powerful. You need to recognize the reality of Jesus and make a commitment to following Him.
Second, while many people might argue that as Christians we should not be criticizing the religions of other people. Maybe it is all one mountain of truth, and we are simply climbing up different sides of it. Remember that this is not a position that we are taking because we feel like it. I believe what the Bible teaches because I believe that God is the best explanation for the way the world is. The Christian worldview makes the most sense. Therefore, I don’t take this position simply to disparage other religions. I take this position because the Christian worldview is the one worldview that corresponds best with reality, and you simply cannot erase parts that society might not be comfortable with. If Christianity is true, then the teachings of Christianity are true, and this is one of them.
Some people might be uncomfortable with this type of narrow gate to God. However, for Christians, we need to recognize that it one reason Jesus is so important is because He is the Way.
Nobody’s perfect. I know we say that all the time as a justification for some kind of shortcoming in our own lives, and on the surface, it is a true statement. 1 John 1 encourages us to go farther than that.
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Confessing our sin is important. Acknowledging the fact that nobody, including ourselves, is perfect is an important part of the Christian worldview. After all, we believe that Jesus came to solve the problem of sin, so if we are not willing to open our eyes to the obvious and realize that everyone has made wrong decisions, you have to wonder why Jesus would have come. Why would he come to solve a problem that wasn’t really a problem?
However, after we confess our sins, something very important happens. God is faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we are repentant of our sins, God is going to forgive us. That is not the question. Rather, the question is whether or not we are going to be willing to confess. From the time that we are small children who tried to avoid getting in trouble, we are very good at trying to dodge responsibility for what we have done wrong.
This chapter makes it pretty clear. Every person has sinned, and I am part of that group. Therefore, if I am part of that group, then I do need to confess if I want forgiveness. It is hard to admit where we have fallen, but the good news is that God will forgive.
2 Peter 3 brings us to the end of another book, and it encourages us to continue growing in Christ.
2Pe 3:17 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.
2Pe 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.
I think that many people have an incomplete picture of what Christianity actually is. A lot of people would say that Christianity is about avoiding sin. We are supposed to not do that which is bad. That is true on some level, but as we see here, there is also a positive component to it. It is not just about avoiding the evil things, but it is also important to grow closer to God.
Think about normal development. After we are born, there is very little that we can do on our own. It is not nearly enough for our human development to not go badly. We’re supposed to develop into children and eventually adults who lead lives that praise God. It is not enough to say that we are happy with remaining as babies because at least we are not going to develop into an evil person like Adolf Hitler. Rather, we want to raise people who are taught that evil is evil, and as a result, we get adults who do not become like Adolf Hitler. They are avoiding the evil, but they are also continually growing as is natural.
I don’t know if that illustration makes sense, but growth for a Christian should be an exciting thing. After all, as we mature, we’re getting closer to the greatest being in the universe. Why would we not want to do that?
2 Peter 1 explains why teaching and discipleship were always says an important part of the Christian community.
2Pe 1:12 Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.
2Pe 1:13 Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance;
2Pe 1:14 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me.
2Pe 1:15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.
2Pe 1:16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
Peter, as one of the disciples, knew Jesus before and after His resurrection. He was an eyewitness of the majesty of Christ. Therefore, he says that he would be negligent if you did not remind the people and stir them up because it is true. It is not simply a fable. It is something that is very important for them to know.
He also knows that he is going to die soon as Jesus showed him. In John 21:18, Jesus had told Peter that when he was older he would be taken some worry he did not want to go and have his arms stretched out. Clearly, this was alluding to crucifixion as John himself notes in verse 19. Because he understood that his death was imminent, he did not want the people to forget all of these important things after he was gone.
There are many religious movements or other types of cause-related messages that burnout after the first generation. Maybe those people were passionate, but they have a hard time regenerating that excitement in future generations. Peter explicitly says that he wants them to make sure that they were following the truth which he was an eyewitness of.
The implication for all of us is that we are a product of that truth. As Christians, we are still following that truth. Whatever, we ought to be grateful that Peter and the other early apostles were so dedicated to preserving the message among the brethren.