Every time I see that sentence pop up in an email, I feel the weight of truth punch me in the chest, then I’m nauseous because it fits, and it’s profound. Don’t just go to church and spend a few hours singing songs and listening to others talk about the relationship you should have with God–have that relationship! Be that person who knows and understands and then resembles God. God wants us to be like Christ–that’s the goal–the hope of glory is Christ in us: to love and care and be like God. So how do we do it?
The Bible says that God loves us and is already working in us and through us to do His good pleasure, so we are off to a good start. It mentions we need to be born again, casting off our old rebellious self, and it commends the reading and studying of the scriptures. If we were to imitate Jesus, we would get up in the misty morning, long before the daily pressures begin, seek out a place of solitude and read and pray. Jesus must have been up with the birds every day because it seems like He had the Old Testament memorized when debating the Jewish leaders. Today we have a multitude of versions to choose from or listen to and an endless source of references.
Not a Codebook
Adding one concept made a big difference in my studies: knowing the Bible is not a codebook. When I was young, I read the Bible as though it were merely a list of dos and don’ts. I was always looking for just one more rule to keep, for one more verse to memorize or one more fact I could remember; so I could be perfect. Then it dawned on me, God was God in both the Old and New Testaments, and He changes not. What was changing were the circumstances. Sometimes God was working with newly freed, ignorant slaves and vile, evil countries with despots, other times with religious hypocrites and autocrats, and still others with willing but ignorant people. We wouldn’t treat each group the same and neither does God.
The Bible is a compilation of carefully crafted case studies documenting God’s actions, both in heaven and on this rebellious planet. In many and various ways God has demonstrated His faithfulness and recorded the events of this great controversy in the Bible. It’s not a codebook; it’s a series of case studies.