Leave the wastelands of ignorant worship.
A woman shopping for jewelry, told the counter clerk she was interested in buying a cross. The clerk reached into the case, retrieved a small golden cross, and handed it to her.
The woman asked the clerk, “Can I get one of these with the little man on it?”
When I heard about the way the question had been so strangely worded, it made me wonder how Jesus would have responded. I don’t think He would have been mad at the lady. He would probably have answered as He did in John chapter 4, when He said, “You worship that which you do not know” (v.22).
Oddly enough, we can build quite a fortified religious life around a very little God. This includes the most serious areas of our lives, where God is much much smaller than we need Him to be. The year 2020 is almost gone, although the drama continues. If we’re honest, looking back on it, we’d have to admit in a number of situations it seemed like God was little. Covid was big. Money was big. Politics were big. Social causes and outrage, big. And so after the dust settles it can feel as though Jesus has been reduced to a little man you wear around your neck. Is it any wonder so many of us are perpetually underwhelmed by our own faith?
This is where the Scriptures come in as a game changer. They describe the God who exists, and do so in a substantially detailed way.
Consider John 1:1
“In the beginning was the word.” What is a word? It’s the verbal expression of a person’s invisible interior. Word makes known what is inside. The Greek word for “Word” is logos. It’s where we get our English word logo. A company selects a graphic, hoping that when you look at it, you’ll think about the central theme of that company. For instance, the “swoop” on the side of a tennis shoe should remind you that this company manufactures athletic wear that will cause you to overcome gravity. If you see golden arches, you should think of a french fry, a tasty treat. A good logo is all about expression.
How well does the logos express God? The verse goes on to say, “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Put another way, the Word expressed God so perfectly, that it was God. It expressed Him to perfection.
Now take a look at John 1:14. It says the same word that was in eternity with God “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
This Word, who was the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came down here in human form. In a world full of corruption, this Word had Glory. In a world full of revenge, ill-will, and dark intentions, this Word was full of grace. And in a world that has been submerged in lies and spin of every kind, this Word was full of truth.
Now, going a little further, when God breathed out this Word into specially prepared human writers, who then wrote it down, it became what we call scripture. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is breathed out by God.” If in eternity, and as a man on earth, the Word perfectly expressed the glory, the grace, and the truth of God, what can we expect that Word to do when it has been breathed onto paper? It’s going to express, describe God to us. That’s why the scriptures are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”
Whenever we pick up the Bible, we’re expecting the Scriptures to describe God to us in such a way that it will teach us, that is, banish our ignorance of spiritual things. It will also reprove and correct us, which may not be as gratifying as teaching, but it is necessary because of the way we go astray so habitually. Even more robust, Scripture will train us in righteousness.
When God self-describes, there’s a lot at stake for us.
That’s why in the very next chapter—2 Timothy 4:3-4—Paul warned us that, “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching.” It will be (and is), as though the teaching of Scripture will cause them to respond with revulsion. The description of God will become like Kryptonite to them. It will trigger and anger them, and they will not be able to hear it.
They will do something, though. “Having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions.” They don’t have a hunger for grace and truth and glory, but have a boundless appetite for gurus who will validate their lustful drives. The result? “They will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” Once the ear is no longer cultivated for truth, by default, it will always attune to lies.
Healthy Christians don’t turn away from Scripture. They turn to it, and soak in the description of God they find there. It’s kind of like one of those grow-in-water toys. The little girl in the graphic started off with the small alligator, and then after soaking it in water for about six hours, it became a large one. It’s sort of what we hope will happen to our faith if we regularly soak in the description of God.
Let’s talk about how this looks for you in actual experience. What if you decide to read through your Bible from cover to cover? What description will you encounter as you go along? What sights will you see?
First of all you will begin in the Book of Genesis and read through to Deuteronomy—five books we call the Mosaic law. In case you don’t like the word “law,” because it sounds like rules, well, for sure, in this section of the Bible, the Scriptures are describing God in the legal, and righteous sense. But they also describe Him in a foundational sense. All the other books of the Bible rest upon this foundation. You can’t not know the law of God and yet claim to have a healthy concept of God.
Okay, you’ve made it all the way to the book of Joshua. If you read from Joshua to the Book of Esther, you’ve completed a section of the Bible called history. You might think you don’t like history. Well, I admit sometimes history is all about memorizing dates on index cards, and trying to keep track of who did what to whom. But this is a special history, focused on how God interacts with His people in real time, and amidst actual events. Here, scripture describes to you how that looks, and the potentials and possibilities for your own life.
Once you’ve made it through the historical section, you’ll arrive at the book of Job. Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes don’t line up back-to-back, but they are all classified as wisdom books. Not interested in a lot of high brow philosophy? That’s fine, because in these books, the Scriptures will describe God’s mind about living in this world—not in the world that ought to be, nor in the world as you want it to be, but in the world as it is—a messed-up, backward, irrational place. In fact, you will encounter a lot of questions in those pages that you yourself have asked.
Once you’ve finished the wisdom books, it’s time for Psalms, and the Song of Solomon. These are classified as poetry, not as in English, where words rhyme, but according to Hebrew structure, and rhythm. Poetry might not sound like your bag, because you’re not interested in a bunch of touchy-feely sentiments. But even if you’re not particularly feeling oriented, you are still an emotional being. You recognize anger and happiness, because you often live there. In these books, the Scriptures describe God from within the emotions of joy, and sorrow, anger, and desperation. Yes, even of depression.
Now you’ve come to the book of Isaiah, and if you keep reading all the way to Malachi, then you will finish a section of books called “the prophets.” There, the Scriptures describe God’s heart, His feelings about things current, as well as His intentions about the future.
There, you’ve finished the Old Testament. You’ve gotten a foundational, legal basis for thinking about God, a history of God interacting with people, God’s mind about life in this world, and His presence within the context of emotion. You’ve also gained some insights into His heart concerning things now, and future.
It’s an Impressive, overall description, but still incomplete.
You’ll need to continue into the Gospels and Acts. That’s where the Scriptures describe God as the Word coming down to earth in the flesh—Jesus Christ—who demonstrates the redemptive love of God by dying on the cross and resurrecting from the dead. The attached book of Acts will then describe God’s mission to reach people with the news of that crucifixion and resurrection. This section constitutes the super dense core of the Christian faith, presenting the Lord Jesus as the centrality of Scripture, and the object of our faith.
Now you’re in the Book of Romans, and if you read through to the book of Jude, you will have completed a section of the Bible called the Epistles, or, letters. Here, the Scriptures describe God through explicit, detailed teachings—everything you need to know about the work of the Divine Trinity inside of people who have believed in Jesus.
Next, and last of all, comes the Book of Revelation, describing the God who completes His eternal intention. God doesn’t just start things. He finishes them, regardless of the opposition.
When you pick up your Bible, you’re holding in your hands the unique, substantial description of God. It is how He describes Himself in words, according to His proper dimensions, and in the right way. Yes, we often respond by complaining we don’t understand so much of it. For sure, the Bible isn’t easy. It is more than some kind of religious storybook we can master. After all, it describes the reality of a Person who is beyond this world.
As you’re wondering if the Scriptures are worth your time, you probably need to ask yourself, “Do I want to know what I worship?”