Sometimes, I find it hard to read the Gospels. I grew up hearing and reading all the stories of Jesus. They feel so familiar. I scim over the passages because I’ve heard them over and over again. I don’t see anything new, so I keep going to something else.
I find, in recent years, I lean towards reading other passages of Scripture like the letters, proverbs and psalms. I asked myself this question. “Why do I have such a hard time reading the Gospels?”Here’s what came back to me:
Often, I’m reading Scripture to see what I can get out of it for myself.
As a “good” Christian disciple, I study the Bible looking for what’s going to help me be more Christ-like. What can I apply to my life? What’s going to make me feel joy and live in peace? That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? The Bible is our guide, our road map, our instruction manual. We are supposed to be learning, absorbing, digesting the Word of God and living it out! I do. I love it!
When it comes to the Gospels, however, the focus is solely on Jesus. Yes, so much truth and teaching can be harvested and gathered for me to apply to my life. I’m not diminishing that at all. They show us who Jesus is, how he lived, his example for us to follow.
But sometimes, I need to simply read the Bible just to get to know Jesus- that’s it!
So, that makes me ask another question, “In other areas of Christian life, how much of what we do is for God, or is it for us?”
Music…do you listen to that Christian music because it makes you feel good or is it bringing you into God’s presence?
Church….do you go to church to see what you can get out of it or what the service can do for you? Or, do you prepare yourself for what you can give at church?
Bible studies, volunteering, attending classes, events, communion…do you do all those activities because of what it can do for you or how it makes you feel?
In ministry, are you studying, praying, searching for only what you can use in your sermon or your class? Do you consume Christian material only so you can have something to output?
If we’re not careful, those of us who live in a Christianized culture can fall into the rut of doing these good and right activities because that’s what is expected of us as “good Christians”. We can do these things out of obligation or “that’s just what we do” mentality. We might even be selfishly thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’ We can get too focused on what we’re doing and forget about Who or Why we’re do it. Sounds a bit like the religious Pharisees, doesn’t it? ouch.
I’m guilty of this……I’ll read an article and reference it for a blog post. I’ll hear something on the radio and think ‘I’ll use that in my Wed class’. I’ll hear somebody say something and I’ll think ‘that will be good for the next worship service’.
Of course, all these activities, disciplines, and pursuits are what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, we need these disciplines to keep us going in the right direction. We’re always going to be human, and we need these tangibles to help us develop a relationship with God. I’m not suggesting we throw out our studies, music, or activities. No! We need to do these things….yes God grows us and develops us. And YES, we are supposed to seek Him for what to say and do in life and in ministry. He uses all of these practices to communicate in us and through us. But be careful not to fall into the rut of using these things solely for your benefit.
Here’s what I’m doing. I’ve started reading the Gospels again with Mark. I’m reading slowly, asking questions, and noticing details. What was Jesus feeling? How did he react?
So ask yourself: am I doing this to draw closer to God or to make me look or feel more “Christian”? Am I consuming this material only to have something to output to others? Am I spending time with God just for God’s sake?..Am I getting to know Jesus?…not what I can get out of Him but simply to know Him.
Here’s a study guide to help you ask questions as you read the Gospels with a fresh set of eyes. Click on this study guide: Class notes
I’m looking forward to getting to know Jesus better. Hope you are too!