Friday, September 19, 2014

Bible Song

Heard a song that made some sense out of the world

There are a lot of things on U2's latest album I can relate to. (Hence the series of Songs of Innocence related posts). But the influence the Ramones had on Bono - as sung about on the first track of the album - is impossible for me to resonate with. Instead, I'll reflect on an early and constant influence on my life.

I was raised on the Bible.

My first memories of church are filled predominately with listening to Bible stories and memorizing Bible verses. Most evenings after dinner we read devotionals and memorized some more. Besides my family, there was nothing that influenced my childhood more than the Bible.

Over time, my identity was shaped by the stories and principles the Bible teaches. Of course the verses that summarize our beliefs most concisely (ie John 3:16) were the ones at the foundation of my memory base. But the Lord as a shepherd, Scripture as a lamp and righteousness as a breastplate were pictures that filled my imagination before cartoons ever did.

As I grew older my theology was developed subconsciously through continued memorization. Proverbs 16:9 and Ephesians 1 became go-to proofs of God's sovereignty. Psalm 19 drew me to creation when I was ever tempted to doubt. Paul's dedication to preaching the gospel in the midst of threats to his life were a model to imitate in endeavors to witness to my friends.

Now as an adult I consider the Bible as a source of truth, beauty and inspiration. Here are four reasons why I love the Christian Scriptures.

1. The Bible is Deep
I like to describe a Bible story as an onion. You can peel off the first layer, understand the basic story, and still have a long way to go before you get to the core. Take one of the most well known stories - "The Prodigal Son". Most are familiar with the youngest son and the eventual return to his father. But there's another son. Based on the context, the older son is of equal, if not greater significance to the point of the story. And that's just that story.

One could then also consider how the Prodigal Son fits into the Gospel of Luke, Jesus' ministry and the grand narrative of Scripture. Of course, that's just looking at it from a literary perspective. Imagine, if you will, that you find yourself in the story as one of the two sons. Consider that this story of lost and found, death and resurrection, could have strong spiritual significance. There is no lack of depth to the Bible. In fact, the more I read it, the deeper it is.

2. The Bible is Wide
Isn't it incredible that the book predicting, announcing and preaching God's plan of redemption also includes many other facets, all of which in some way revolve around the main theme? Right from the beginning we get a theological explanation of how the world, animals and humankind were created. But matters of hierarchy, authority, separation and goodness (just to name a few) are all explored in the opening chapters of Genesis. All these topics point to the New Testament, yet are full of meaning in their own right as they stand in the creation narrative.

Subjects like marriage, murder, building, family, slavery, history and redemption are all discussed through narrative - and we haven't even left the first book! Of course, interpreting the text is of absolute importance. But the main point here is that the fact that the Bible spans so many topics over countless generations and cultures is indicative of its complete relevancy to all of creation. The gospel it proclaims to the whole world is proof; Scripture matters to every person on the globe, whether they realize it or not.

3. The Bible is Rich
To describe the Bible with this term is to say that its depth and width overflow with valuable content. It's not an empty wordy space. Scripture is filled with stories, images, beauty and truth that speak to the person reading it. The suffering of Job, the despair of David and the dedication of Paul offer hope to people dealing with similar situations. Prophetic symbolism remind the reader of God's faithfulness and prompts them to respond with thanks, praise and genuine Christian faithfulness.

The Bible's greatest value is that it points to the ultimate treasure - Jesus Christ of Nazareth and the salvation that comes through him alone. Imagine you're an outcast, like the woman at the well (John 4) or Zacchaeus (Luke 19) and the person who was expected to change the world through military force decided to have a drink or meal with you. Chances are you'd take the content of the conversation seriously. In each case, Jesus offered more than expected. Though not the source, the Word of God offers the richest means of knowing the Author of salvation. Nothing is more valuable than that.

4. The Bible is Effective
The Bible claims many things about itself. Throughout my life I've found its claims to be true. For example:
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.
Throughout my life there has been no better mirror for my heart than Scripture. At times I've resonated with the hatred of Cain, the shame of David, the frustration of Ezekiel, the confusion of Peter and the passion of Paul. Yet more often than that, I'm just a regular guy reading the Bible. And even then, Jesus' teachings are incredibly challenging. His claims, while believable through faith, are difficult to live out.

But thankfully there's salvation for people like me. This sword that penetrates my heart, showing its greatest weaknesses, also fills it with hope and joy. The beautiful expressions of God's grace throughout both Testaments prompt me to try to live the sort of life Jesus did. Fortunately, I'm not alone in this endeavor. The Bible offers instruction and directs me to the Spirit through whom Scripture was ultimately written. In this way, the Bible is effective in communicating who God is, who I am and how I should live. I am witness to that.

Believe it or not, this post isn't meant as an apology. My intent isn't to argue for the validity of Scripture. I simply hope to communicate why I have fallen so in love with the Holy Scriptures. They point to the source of life. And my life has been eternally affected by them.

To quote Bono, I "heard a song that made sense of the world." That song is the Bible. 

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