It was without doubt the stupidest thought that has passed through my mind my whole life long. I was in my early 20s. I’d been a Christ-follower for a couple of years, and in that time I’d read through the entire Bible at least once, and (if I recall correctly) the New Testament more than once. I saw my Bible sitting on my bedside table, and I thought, “I know what’s in there. Why do I need to read any of it over again?”
I haven’t thought anything quite that dumb since then. Not about the Bible, not about anything at all. It was my world-record stupidest thought about anything. At least I didn’t cling to it. Soon enough I got back to reading the Word.
Too Used To It?
I grew up in a church-going home, so I read the Bible some as a pre-teen and teenager, but I had no living relationship with Christ until I came to faith at age 18, late in the evening one January night. Everything changed. The next morning — pardon the cliche, but it’s true and there’s no other way to say it — the grass was greener and the sky was bluer. I felt freedom I’d never felt before. I knew with total confidence that I was forgiven and living a new life. Reading Scripture turned suddenly into an almost fiery experience of discovery and joy.
I wonder: Is it possible the grass is still greener than before, and the sky still bluer? It could be. Maybe I’ve gotten used to it, the way I’ve sometimes gotten used to the Bible, even to the point of wondering how much I needed it. Thankfully I kept on reading it. I’d heard the value of spiritual disciplines, and I’d seen that particular discipline lived out by my good friend and roommate John. I think sometimes God takes the feeling away for a season so we’ll learn to pursue Him, not the feelings.
One Surprise After Another! Church people, Even.
And man, am I ever glad I stuck with it! That was 40-some years ago. I can’t believe the surprises God has brought me from His Word since then. Take John the Baptist, for example. He wouldn’t even compare himself to Jesus Christ. I think he’s probably the best example of humility in the New Testament, if not the whole Bible. So it surprised me when I realized what he was really saying when he told the Jewish leaders’ investigators who he was. “The voice of one who cries in the wilderness, prepare the Way of the Lord.”
That’s not merely some Old Testament quote, though it is that. It’s pretty much the same as saying, “I’m the most important prophet to show up in Israel for at least 400 years.” Is that humility? Turns out it can be: Christians can be “Called to Be Great.”
I was surprised when I found out the phrase “fallen from grace” wasn’t about good people who’d turned bad. It’s actually about people who look pretty good. Church people, even.
You don’t have to look that far to find Bible surprises, though. I learned that when I discovered that the first four words alone are more amazing than I’d ever imagined.
Great Leader — With Surprises
The best surprises come from the life of Jesus, though. He’s an unexpected leader, for one thing. Would you want a boss who was always right, who never asked your opinion except to explain how you were wrong, whose approach was, “It’s my way or the highway”? You might if he really was right every time, but even that could prove stifling. I’ve studied enough leadership literature to know that’s “not the way to lead,” and it’s “guaranteed to fail.”
With billions of followers thousands of years later, you can’t exactly call Jesus’ leadership a failure! Could it be that He’s the only Person who ever really had that much genuine authority? That He was actually right when He said His way was the only way? That His love was (and is) great enough to break the “leadership rules”? It must be so — it’s the only way His movement even makes sense.
Great Friend — and Even More Surprises
I was surprised when I realized He was the only truly powerful person in history, and even the only one in all literature, who never used His extraordinary power for His own benefit. He used it only in love, and only for others. That’s astonishing. It drives me to worship Him.
I wouldn’t want you to think it’s only about the surprises, though. More often, reading God’s Word is like sitting and enjoying being with a friend, especially when I’m praying as well as reading. It isn’t exactly like that, obviously. He’s not just any friend, He is God. As a friend, He sets the terms. He’s the Friend in Charge. He’s also our Friend by faith, not by sight.
The friendship is real, though. And that’s why “I don’t need to read the Bible anymore” was the stupidest thing I’ve thought, my whole life long. It’s also why moving past that thought, and continuing to read and study God’s Word, may be the wisest thing I’ve ever done.