At Gateway Church in Austin, we began a series called Epic: The Big Story of the Scriptures. Our hope is that each of us would discover the message God has for us through the Bible.
I kicked off the series this past Sunday with Epic: God’s Love for All People (video and notes).
To reframe our view of the Scriptures, let me take you back to a simpler time – 1992.
That may be before you were born or before you have much of a memory. Or maybe you remember 1992 quite well.
At that point, you did not have to disrobe to make it through airport security.
It was also before laptop computers, cell phones, and even before Al Gore invented the internet.
It was a simpler time. The Dallas Cowboys were poised to win their third, fourth, and fifth Super Bowls. Michael Keaton was Batman. And Will Smith was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Why do I want to take you back to 1992?
Why does anyone want to go back in time?
There was a girl.
Isn’t it always about a girl?
In particular, it was this girl.
Her name was Debbie, but later she chose to go by Deborah – her given name. Named after the warrior princess in the Scriptures. She was beautiful, intriguing, and she had a heart for God like no one else I had ever met.
She was an amazing girl, and I wanted her to be my girl.
There was a problem. She lived in Irving, Texas, and I lived in Waco. She lived 100 miles away. Without the internet or money to make long distance phone calls, I pursued her using parchment and pen.
To reach the heart of this girl, I wrote her a letter, placed it in an envelope, and chose a stamp to ensure its delivery.
In those days, we did not call it “snail mail.” We simply called it “the mail.”
The goal of my letters was to win her heart. The goal of my letters was a relationship with her.
So why start with this love story? Because our love stories give us a glimpse into the greatest love story of all – God’s pursuit of humanity!
Like a love letter, The Bible is designed to connect us to the One who loves us.
My letters to Deborah included poetry and stories about my life but also stories about others. This way she got to know me and how I treated other people.
Love letters don’t just say “I love you” over and over!
For just a moment, whatever resistance you may be feeling, or whatever your experience has been with the Bible. I want you to consider having an open mind.
What if what keeps us from experiencing all the Bible has to offer has more to do with our view of the Bible than the Bible itself?
Some of us have hit a ceiling in our spiritual growth. We think we have arrived, or we think that this is all there is. We come to closure too soon on who God is in our life or what God wants to do in your life.
We need to become more open-minded to the possibility that God has more for us!
To make matters even more complicated, many of us have given up on the Scriptures, haven’t understood the Bible, or haven’t made spending time in the Scriptures a priority because there are spiritual forces opposing us. The darkness in our heart, and the darkness in the world around us does not want us to discover the mysteries that are revealed in the Scriptures.
Paul writes to the church in the city of Corinth. He reminds them that when we choose to fully surrender our lives and follow Jesus, through the Spirit of God and through God’s revelation to us through His Word: we can understand the character of God and even the mind of Christ! His thoughts can become our thoughts! He reminds us that we are those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed! Mysteries not to keep hidden, but a mystery to share with all who want to know!
Through the stories, poetry, histories, prophecies, and songs written by men and women who encountered God and even spent time with Jesus, God reveals Himself to us. We discover God’s character. We discover the best and the worst of humanity. We discover people just like us – broken and messed up who can experience healing and become heroes for others when willing to let God work in their hearts.
Some of us have come to closure too soon on who God is and what He wants to do in our lives.
- The Bible is not a giant “Don’t Do” List – a book of rules to make us feel guilty.
- The Bible is not a series of boring stories that have no relevance in our lives.
- The Bible isn’t just a book to read like any other book.
- The Bible is not what you probably think it is.
So let’s consider what the Bible says about itself:
“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” – Hebrews 4:12
The Bible is never to be used as a weapon to bludgeon people. Instead, the Bible is more like a scalpel that does work on us to heal us from what ails us.
Don’t just read the Scriptures, let the Scriptures read you.
We can grow to trust God and His Word fully when we surrender our opinions, our experiences, our pre-concieved notions, or even our politics or ANYTHING that we impose on God or impose on the Scriptures.
The goal of the Scriptures is not to get more information. The goal is transformation – understanding who God is and living a new life under His leadership and with His guidance.
Applying the Bible means trusting God and trusting God means a real relationship with God. That is the goal of the Scriptures.
I didn’t just want Deborah to read my letters and think highly of me or reach out to me just when she was in trouble. I wanted a relationship with her!
Erwin McManus puts it this way:
The Scriptures are a portal into God’s presence!
God is reaching out to you and me and revealing Himself to you through the Scriptures so that you and I might have a real relationship with Him.
A friend shared the following with me after I shared this analogy this past Sunday: