A friend asked me, “How do you read the scriptures and make sense of them?”
My answer is simple: Read them as though the entire thing is about Jesus. Because it is.
“Here he is, God’s Passover Lamb! He forgives the sins of the world! This is the man I’ve been talking about, ‘the One who comes after me but is really ahead of me.’ – John 1-29-30 MSG
My litmus test for everything in the Christian agenda is: “What does this have to do with the finished work of Jesus?” Every sermon, every mission, every stance… What does it have to do with the finished work of Jesus?
When I read scripture, I look through the lens of Jesus and figure out where the story is on the timeline. God is sovereign. Jesus is His masterpiece. Scripture is His love story. Some of it is preparation for the need of a Savior, some of it is the promise, and some of it is the declaration. It only makes sense in light of the truth of Who God is and what Jesus accomplished.
If you’re not familiar with the nature of God or what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross, then nothing will make sense. It might teach you something. It might guide you in a polished life, but it won’t set you free apart from Jesus.
“We ought to read the scriptures with the express design of finding Christ in them. Whoever shall turn aside from this object, though he may weary himself throughout his whole life in learning, will never attain the knowledge of the truth; for what wisdom can we have without the wisdom of God?” – John Calvin in his Commentary on the Gospel of John
John, in that scripture above, is excited about the fact that He could point to Jesus. Jesus “forgives the sins of the world“. That’s one huge thing. Did you catch the last part? He’s “really ahead of” him. Do you have any idea what that means? I can’t possibly cover all of that territory in one word-count-friendly blog. But, I’ll give it a start…
I hear a lot about social justice in Christian circles. People are forming coalitions to feed the orphans, the widows, and the poor. That’s awesome, but what does it have to do with the finished work of Jesus? Don’t misunderstand. I’m familiar with the scriptures and I’m on board with helping those in need. It’s just that if you’re incapable of administering the balm of the Gospel to someone you pass by every day, then you have no business using God’s name to dish out bread and fish to the hungry. You’re no different than the one who does good deeds in the name of a tax break.
These people are on Christ’s agenda because they’re in a unique place of feeling forgotten by Him. It’s the same as the one who is well fed, but crippled by their sin. They feel like Christ will have nothing to do with them. Jesus reaches out to the oppressed. If you can’t convince a maimed Christian that Jesus has justified him, then how can you convince an economically challenged stranger that God holds them in His hand? Meeting the needs of those in need is an expression of a deep belief, not an evidence of a stance of faith.
What does social justice have to do with the finished work of Jesus? When done with a Christ centered heart, it has everything to do with it. They’re too weak to fight the oppression on their own. You’re meeting someone in the midst of their despair and using what you know about the finished work of Jesus to convince them that God loves them, even though everything hurts. If you can’t apply the truth of that to a fellow Christian who has fallen, then you can’t apply that to anyone.
Christianity has a culture and that culture bends and morphs to whatever it wants whenever it wants. Some eras start a new country in the name of religious freedom (America). Some eras burn so-called witches in the name of purity (Salem). Christian culture is fickle.
I have seen people travel across the globe to hand out coloring books filled with the truth of Jesus while penning letters to old friends who sinned that denies everything the coloring book says. It’s as though the Gospel has been reserved for nonbelievers and taken away, as punishment, from fallen believers.
Jesus looked over his shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?” – John 1:38 MSG
I am convinced that God will use despair to reveal Himself. That means that He will not shield you from pain. He’ll reveal Himself within it. For those who mess up, their sin reveals their need for a Savior and it is the responsibility of the Savior’s bride, His church, to tell them that their need has been met.
What do you want? What are you after? Purity? Happiness? Riches? Recognition? Or just Jesus?
People have drifted so far away from the message of the Gospel that they completely annihilate the very people for whom Jesus died. They’re more concerned about the way they live their life than about remembering why they have a life at all.
“Come, follow me.” – Jesus, John 1:43 MSG
You can string a thief up on a cross of public shame, but while you’re turning on your self-righteous heel, Jesus is promising him a spot next to Him in Heaven. You can gather the roughest stones to publicly punish the adulterer, but while you’re flexing your religious muscles, Jesus is drawing a line and taking sides with her. You can refuse a seat at a table with a sinner, but Jesus will not only drink wine with him, but He’ll wash his feet before the glass is empty.
What in the world does your stance of faith have to do with the finished work of Jesus? You claim faith, but faith in what? Without keeping Him and what He accomplished at the center of your reason, it’s just religious crap and we’re better off without it.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.– 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 MSG