Monday, September 1, 2014

My Fascination with Bible Study

If there has been one consistent theme in my walk as a Christian, it is this: I love to study the Bible.  There are a few folks I know that don't quite get this, but others that do.  Once I started, really dove into Scripture, there was nothing that could compare.  Early in my re-started walk, an atheist friend asked me,  "If you were stranded on a desert island and could one have one book, which would it be?"

I immediately said, "The Bible," and he looked at me as if I'd suddenly grown two heads.  With his eyes agog, he asked me why and I said, a little sarcastically, "Because it's fascinating.  And it is really 66 books in one so you never get bored."

Probably not my best attempt at soft evangelism, but it was and is the truth.  I love reading the Word because it never fails to inform, inspire and restore my trust.  Even in the hard sayings, I know if I stick with it long enough, the Teacher (that is, the Holy Spirit) will let me in on a little understanding.

This morning, as I finished my long reading of Mark last week (read about it here), I went ahead to John.  That's not the easiest Gospel to dive into.  In the past, I've found the beginning of it....challenging.  What stood out to me were these verses: John 1:1-5, 9-11, 14, 16-18.

I'm reading from the Complete Jewish Bible and NIV Translation side-by-side, and in the CJB, those verses stood out like never before because they were set apart in context.  I'd never seen these verses standing on their own, only lumped in with the rest.  Being a somewhat visual learner, this was a huge help because I can now see that these are not only a prologue to John's Gospel but seems like an early church creed, or statement of faith.

I wrote them out like that at the bottom of this post if you would like to read it as I did.  Of course, I made some notes too - musings really.  Perhaps these words were created to fight heresy, like Gnosticism, that denied the complete deity of Christ (which the Church still fights in evangelism of Jehovah's Witnesses today).  Certainly these words build faith and would have reminded First Century believers, both Jews and Greek, of who Jesus really was.

Not just a great teacher or moral system adviser.  No, Jesus said He was God-incarnate, which is arguably the most important doctrine of our faith (the Resurrection and Atonement for sin rank right up there too.)  Without Him being God, His words, His actions lose their weight and importance.

Indeed, to strip Christ of His Deity is to strip the Christian faith of hope. 

John the Baptist's story is interwoven with these verses, calling out who he was, too.  John 1:7 calls him a witness.  He was a prophet, a prophet's dual role is to bear witness to God and bring forth His message.  That applies to every believer, really.  Our jobs are to bear witness to the Light of the World, as revealed in the Person of Jesus Christ and proclaim His Word.

We are to be witnesses and messengers; to live, not for ourselves, our own path, or our own gain.  We can't just keep the benefits of Light on the inside.  My favorite theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, called that way of being a Christian cheap grace.  Knowing Christ is to prompt us to live for the demonstration of the love we've found.  We've been delivered from darkness, once blind but now we have sight.  It comes at a cost to our own desires, dreams and understanding, which is why Bonhoeffer called the true way of following Jesus costly grace.

This creed from John, as I'll call it, is meant to help us not just worship and serve Christ for our own benefit (although we do benefit from it, spiritually, emotionally and mentally speaking.  Another theologian, John Piper, wrote about this 20+ years ago, in his book Desiring God.  He called it being a Christian Hedonist and I really like that idea too.)  But yet, we can't hid our light under a bushel (NO!)  We have to let it shine. 

Our lives are meant to respond to love, to put God's love for us into action. We are meant to align the rhythm of our lives to movement of Christ's redemption being revealed through the ages.  All of Creation is set up like this.  The Creator set the systems of night and day, weather, the water cycle, the seasons, into place.  They take their cues from Him. 

As should we.

This statement of faith I found in John 1:1-18 is very conservative doctrine.  To me, that's good.  Doctrine should be conservative.  Still it allows for love and how we express that love to be liberal.  I believe love should be liberal, out of the box, radical.  That's who Jesus was - fully centered vertically and fully expressed horizontally.

It is this kind of meditation, this high-level thought process that keeps me coming back to the Bible.  There is deep, core-shaking truth found through out.  It is the Truth expressed, the last revelation of the Father.  It is brilliant. And that's why I am fascinated with Bible Study.

Deep thoughts for a Monday, Labor Day 2014, huh?

In the beginning was the Word, 
And the Word was with God, 
And the Word was God.
He was with God in the beginning.(v.1-4)

All things came to be through Him, 
And without Him, no thing made had being.
In Him was life
And the life was the Light of Mankind. (v. 5, 9)

The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.
This was the true light, which gives light to everyone entering the world.
He was in the world - the world came to be through Him - yet the world did not know Him.
He came to His own homeland, yet His own people did not receive Him. (v. 10-11)

The Word became a human being and lived with us,
And we saw His Sh'kinah (glory),
The Sh'kinah (glory) of the Father's Only Son,
Full of grace and truth. (v. 14)

We have all received from His fullness,
Yes, grace upon grace.
For the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth through Jesus, the Messiah. (v. 16-17)

No one has ever see God, but the only and unique Son who is identical with God and is at His Father's side - He has made Him known. (v. 18)

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