Christians come in all shapes, sizes, and maturity levels, and the more honest we are, the more fun we are to be with, even if what we’re saying or working through is painful. The other day, someone told me:
“I’m so afraid that Jesus is impatient with me. I don’t read the Bible much, and I don’t know what it says. I don’t think that Jesus can use someone like me.”
Sentences like that always make me ache inside.
It’s not that there’s a problem with the sentiment, it’s that the person mentioning it has been a Christian for many, many years, and attending church, and Bible studies, and small group meetings, for just about that long. If this stuff worked, I thought, then why isn’t it, well, working?
While it’s easy to blame the individual (that’s what businesses and corporations and organizations and governments and establishments always do), perhaps it’s time to look at what we’re telling that individual to do, specifically, when it comes to advancing his or her spiritual life.
“Read this book,” we say, handing them the latest in Celebrity Christian Cr –, um, pap. “We’re having a small group study on it, and we’re going through one chapter each week.”
Gracious. The whole process sounds mind numbingly boring. The last several times I’ve been in the Christian books section of a store I’ve paged through the multi-million-copy best seller that just about every evangelical church in the country has done manifold weekly studies on, one agonizing chapter at a time, and I just can’t manage a paragraph before I feel like getting an egg salad sandwich, something I’ve never actually eaten because the very sight of one makes me nauseous.
Fare such as this (the book, not the sandwich), however, is what we regularly feed the minds, and spirits, of believers – even “seasoned” ones who should be mature by now — in the name of “growing as a Christian.”
“Growing as a Christian is something that Jesus wants us to do,” we read in our weekly gatherings. “He wants us to be strong in our faith as believers.”
Paul’s Not Impossible to Understand
Well yes, that’s true, but Paul said it better when he commented, in Colossians 3:1-2:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Further reading of the passage encourages us to put away a fairly complete list of inappropriate, but highly human behaviors, and exchange them, instead, for Godly ones, not a task we are up to on our own, but then again, God doesn’t expect us to do these things without His help.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing gratitude in your hearts to God,” Paul concludes at the end of the passage.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” – that’s the secret, you know, one that doesn’t require years of specialized training before we can start, nor one that devours 18 or so weeks of our lives, one chapter at a time.
Celebrity Teaching versus Truth
If as many people who have read “study” books would invest as much time and effort into reading the Book that the other books give the illusion of talking about, perhaps there would be less guilt, less insecurity, less spiritual agony by people who are well taught in the teachings of Celebrity Christians, but not the Bible.
Read the Bible. Just the Bible, which, ironically, in many “Bible” studies is not the central focus. While it’s tempting to think that you can’t understand it all, that’s okay – because nobody, not even the people who write books about how to study it, understand it all, nor does everyone agree on what every verse means. If you trust yourself enough to read the Book that is written in your own language, and do so regularly, you may find insight into passages that you never knew you could have.
You, yes, you, can make discoveries from this rich, relevant resource.
Afraid that you’ll misinterpret or get something wrong? Well, if that doesn’t bother the Celebrity Christians, don’t let it bother you. When you enter into study diligently, with a humble heart willing to be taught by the Master, He’ll find ways to guide and correct you.
At the very least, when you read God’s words, you read His promises, many of which have to do with His being there, His being merciful and kind and patient, His love for His children, and you won’t have to live, chronically, with the doubts of the woman I mentioned earlier in this essay, because when you make a regular point of reading sentences like this:
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 1:6)
“I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” (Isaiah 41: 10)
You encounter and appreciate the nature of our Father, a nature so oppositional to anything we are accustomed to dealing with on this earth, that we can’t fathom it, at all, unless we learn about it from its primary source, God.
So . . . read His book. It’s a best seller.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. You know, there are a lot of people who call themselves Christian in this world, but they’re satisfied with serving a substitute Christ, as opposed to getting to know the real one. So they read books that talk ABOUT the Bible, but never the Bible itself.
Or, if they do read the Bible, they never do so on their own, relying, always, on another human being to interpret it for them. This is not the path to becoming a strong Christian, which may explain why — while a lot of people call themselves Christians — very few are mature ones.
That doesn’t have to be you, or me.
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The Misfit Christian (the more you study the Bible, on your own, and absorbing its truth into your daily life, the less you will fit into the world around you. This includes the world of the establishment church.)