Sorting out the Bible

How Jesus changes the way I read Scripture
Sorting out the Bible

Years ago, when my own memorized answers about faith were crumbling, it was then that I discovered the truth: The Bible is both more wild and more wonderful than I could have dreamed. The turning point in how I read Scripture wasn’t a crisis though—not really. Rather, this change happened because Jesus became the center of everything for me.

As I share in my new book Out of Sorts, it was as my discipleship to the man from Nazareth unfolded over the years that I began to realize Jesus himself is the Word of God (John 1), and so I needed to learn to read my whole Bible through the lens of Jesus Christ. Oswald Chambers, writing about centering our lives on Jesus, said, “We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One whom the Bible reveals.” Jesus himself put it this way as he responded to religious leaders who challenged him: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39–40, NIV).

A New Approach

When I was a child, I remember asking a Sunday school teacher if God had been “born again” between the Old and New Testament. I thought maybe that was why, to me, God seemed to change from the ancient stories of war and tribalism in the Old Testament to the Jesus I knew and loved—the God of lavish love spoken of so fervently by John, the bridegroom to a yearning bride, the one who had only to say “Follow me” for people to drop everything and run after him. In my childish reasoning, I thought that perhaps God had also experienced transformation like the rest of us.

I don’t remember my teacher’s response to my question, but I continued to carry that wondering with me: Why, in some parts of Scripture, did God sometimes seem so different from Jesus? It’s a complex question that isn’t easily resolved, but now I approach that question differently. It’s not that God was “born again” between Malachi and Matthew; rather, it’s that God became incarnate among us, and in Jesus the central truth that God is love was more fully revealed.

In Jesus, the veil between us and God was torn from top to bottom. God swept in among us here as Immanuel—God with us—and said, in essence, “Look here, if you want to see the Father, look to me—we are one.” (John 10:25–30; 14:9). Then that same Jesus laid down his life for us and rose again, curing the disease of sin that had separated us away from our true home.

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