There’s a common misconception that both Christians and non-Christians have when approaching the Bible and it is this: the Bible was written for us. Yes, for me. It was written as a How to Lead a Good Life book, it was written so that we can criticise it, it was written so that we could have something to hate, it was written entirely and exclusively for our benefit.
And this view is expressed in a hundred different ways. It is expressed by non-Christians when they say: “I didn’t really like the Bible” or “I don’t agree with x part of it” or “Oh, you don’t believe the Bible do you?” or “It’s not really applicable to me today” Underneath all this statements is that fact that they are thinking: what do I think about the Bible.
And it’s expressed by Christians as well. When we skip all the passages on Old Testament law, when we get bogged down by ancient history, when we wonder why we haven’t learnt some fantastic new way to live our life. Even worse, it is expressed when we ignore books of the Bible we don’t feel are relevant, when we refuse to accept biblical truth because it contradicts our view, when we cherry pick bible verses to support our particular viewpoint. If, as Christians, we think the Bible is about us then we really need to get our thinking straight.
The Bible is not a ‘How to...’ guide; it is not a dole-out-moral-lessons book; it is not a handy hints collection. It is not about you. There’s no ‘me’ in Bible. There’s not even an ‘I’. No, the Bible is the Word of God. And that should totally revolutionise how we approach it. We do not go to the Bible to get a new moral lesson. We go to the Bible to study the revelation of God.
When Isaiah the prophet was proclaiming God’s Word he says:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labour on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.”
Isaiah 55 v 1 – 2
He invites people to come and listen to God’s Word because it is the richest of fare. We go because we are thirsty to know more of God not because we want to learn how to be a good person. We should read the Bible because we have a burning desire to read it rather than because we ‘have to’.
Isaiah then goes on:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
Isaiah 55 v 8 – 11
We do not take what we can from the Bible. Instead, God uses his Word to accomplish what he desires. We need to get the cause and effect right. We cannot take anything from the Bible on our own. How can we when God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are higher than our ways?
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 2 v 14
The truth is clear – without the work of the Holy Spirit then we can learn nothing about God from the Bible. We are so lost that God must work in us so that we understand his revelation.
The Bible is not about you. It is about God. We come to it to learn about him and in doing so learn what he requires of us. We do not go to it to learn about how to live a good life.
What does this mean practically?
Well, we must recognise that we all naturally err to a self centred view of the Bible. We need to pray and ask that we would have a God centred view. Rather than asking what can the Bible teach me? We ask: what can I be taught by God about God?
We must make sure, without being anal about it, not to skip over Bible bits just because they don’t seem relevant. We must submit to Scripture not try and force Scripture to submit to us.
I was so vain I thought the Bible was about me.
It may describe me (for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Rm 3v23), it may confuse me (Revelation, I’m looking at you), it may have commands in it for me (Ten Commandments), it may set me a moral standard (Sermon on the Mount), it may and does encourage, rebuke, teach and challenge me but on every single possible level it is about God.
I am only described in the way I am and was in my relationship to God. It confuses me because God’s way are not my ways and his thoughts not my thoughts. It only commands me because God has ‘written his law on my heart’. It only sets me a moral standard because I am to be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect. It only encourages, rebukes, teaches and challenges me because it forces me again and again to see how great, majestic, loving, good, kind, just, righteous, wrathful, holy and perfect God is.
You’re so vain you probably think the Bible is about you. But it’s not. It’s God’s Word.