During the height of the Roman Empire people believed that all roads led to Rome. In our study of the Bible, all texts need to lead to Jesus. If we are not grasping the wonders of God’s goodness and grace through our studies we are missing the entire point of study.
Timothy Keller makes an insightful comment regarding this in his book Preaching. “Any sermon that tells listeners only how they should live without putting that standard into the context of the gospel gives them the impression that they might be complete enough to pull themselves together if they really try hard.” Keller p. 60
Do you see what he is getting at? If we teach or preach from the Bible with the sole goal of getting people to live moral lives then we give the impression that they must do something to receive God’s approval. But, when we find Jesus in the text we are always reminded of our own need and how Jesus fulfills that need in our lives through His goodness and grace.
Moralism always leads to failure because if we feel like we are reaching our goals of living up to the standards, we tend to become self-righteous. And if we find ourselves failing, then we beat ourselves up for failing God and ourselves. Keller notes, “Only if we hammer home the gospel, that we are loved sinners in Christ—so loved that we don’t have to despair when we do wrong, so sinful that we have no right to be puffed up when we do right—can we help our listeners escape the spiritually bipolar world of moralism.” Keller, Preaching, p. 62
Many of us studied the Bible to understand doctrines and church teachings so we could better defend our faith in the church and its teachings. I remember doing in depth studies, stringing together texts from all over the Bible to prove certain doctrines. Though my intentions were honorable and in certain cases it is an acceptable method of study, the proof texting method can lead to some complications.
In that method of study we tend to only choose the texts that prove our point while ignoring the rest. Also often times the texts are ripped out of context and their historical setting. This leaves us with no real background on the meaning or the reason the verse was originally addressed to a certain people. Finally this form of study becomes an end in itself.
When we read and study the Bible, it would do us well to read the passages in context to the verses around them. Ask yourself the question of how the verse relates to the other verses in the chapter? But, most of all seek out what God is revealing to you regarding Jesus and His redemption for you.
Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In both the story of Jonah and Jesus on the Sea of Galilee a great storm comes up. In both stories the sailors think they are going to die and in each storm Jonah and Jesus sleep through it. In both cases the sailors have to wake the two men up and plead for help. In the case of Jonah they end up throwing him overboard and making a sacrifice of him. The result is the storm stops. In the case of Jesus He simply speaks and the storm stops. In both stories the sailors are left more frightened by this mastery over nature than they were by the storm.
It is interesting that in Mark 4:38 the disciples ask “Teacher don’t you care that we drown?” They believe that in their greatest hour of need Jesus is going to sleep through it and let them die. But the reality is just the opposite, when Jesus needed them the most in the Garden of Gethsemane they slept and abandoned Him. Yet He continued to love them unconditionally just the same. See, Jonah was thrown overboard for his own sin but Jesus had to face the greatest of storms—the cross for our sins.
The question we now can ask of ourselves is have you ever felt abandoned in the storms of your life? Have you ever felt that Jesus slept while you struggled on hoping for salvation while the waves of doubt and fear crashed over your head? Now we have hope, because Jesus endured death for us. He never abandons us or forsakes us and the proof is in the cross.
If we just read the story of Jesus calming the storm it would be a cool story about how Jesus has power over waves and wind. But, when we seek for the spiritual reality of the text and how it reveals Jesus grace our hearts are changed.
Don’t think you have to teach people dozens of doctrines before they become a Christian. They simply need to know that Jesus loves them and He will walk with them and direct their paths in ways that please Him. Practically every text of the Bible screams that truth out to us.
I have a friend who recently sat down for breakfast and before he knew it the owner of the restaurant was asking how to become a Christian. My friend prayed with her and encouraged her to give her heart to Jesus and she accepted.
It is the grace and love of Jesus that draws people to God, and I can tell you from experience that it is a lack of teaching regarding the glory, power and wonder of God that cause people to turn away from Him.
When we open our Bibles it should always be to find out more about Jesus, and when we share the Bible’s teachings it should always be Jesus.
* The persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…