(614)833-0700 | [email protected]

Don't Make This Mistake When Reading Your Bible!

One of the most important things we’ve been learning at Grace Bible Church this past year is the importance of interpreting the Bible with Christ at the center. The people, places and things of the Old Testament point us to Christ – even someone as obscure as Naboth in 1 Kings 21. This is how Jesus taught his disciples to interpret the Bible (Luke 24:27).

But not only is it important to ask the question, “Which people represent Christ?” it’s equally important to ask the question, “Which people represent me?” In other words, there are certain people in the Bible that God says, “This is you. You are like this. I want you to see yourself in this character” And it’s our job to identify who those people are.  

For example, in the story of Naboth’s vineyard in 1 Kings 21, we know that Naboth is a Christ-type. But who are we in that story? Well, there are certainly aspects of Naboth that we can relate to: being persecuted for righteousness’ sake, being slandered, unjustly treated, etc. But the truth is, we usually have more in common with King Ahab. Like us, Ahab is covetous, deceptive, temperamental, idolatrous and he throws pity parties when he doesn’t get his way. You and I are King Ahab. Naboth is Jesus, for …

•He refused to compromise God’s Word and accept the enemy’s “deal”
•He was plotted against by evil men
•He was accused and condemned for being a blasphemer of God
•He was taken outside the city and put to death by his own people
•He died in abject shame
•He was vindicated in the end by God’s Word

Many of us, though, do the opposite. We see ourselves in the heroes and good guys of the Bible. Maybe because our whole lives we’re inundated with the message: “Be like Daniel, be like David, be like Moses, be like Abraham.” Or maybe it’s because those men are the redeemed, and we know that we too are redeemed, and so we naturally conclude that “I’m Daniel and the world is King Nebuchadnezzar.”

But that’s not accurate.

The book of Daniel was written to the Jewish people so they would see themselves in King Nebuchadnezzar. Like him, they spurned God’s Word and acted in pride and arrogance. Like him, they too would experience a humiliating judgment. I’m not saying we never act like the Daniels and Naboths of the Bible and we only act like their wicked King counterparts. But, in general, we aren’t the good guys in the Bible. We’re the bad guys. Or, in the case of David and Goliath, we’re the cowardly Israelite army too afraid to fight the bad guys, and Jesus is the David who trusts God perfectly and defeats our enemy with breathtaking valor.

But this leads me to the ultimate place we overlook seeing ourselves: those terrible Pharisees. Have you ever heard someone confess in home group, “I need prayer. Recently my attitudes and actions have been just like the Pharisees - the guys Jesus was always angry with”? I'm guessing "no."

Most people see themselves in Jesus, and they hypocritically think others are the hypocrites. For example ...

The Left would see themselves as Jesus, fighting on behalf of the oppressed and the marginalized, and they would see the Right as the condescending, elite, hypocritical Pharisees who are only out for money as they look down upon the little people of the world. At the same time, the Right would see themselves in Jesus as well: fighting for freedom, standing against the godless Left who, like the Pharisees, have led our nation away from the purity of our beginnings and into a miry, perverse, corrupted pit.

Or, for example, consider people who have sworn off the church. They are so sickened by the hypocrisy. They too see themselves in Jesus - the righteous outsider, rejected by those, who of all people, should know better.

And I can’t leave myself off this list. I also tend to see myself more in Jesus than the Pharisee. After all, I’m the one proclaiming his truth with unashamed boldness. And I believe in the true gospel. But if I’m being honest, I’m probably more like the Pharisees than Christ. Like the Pharisees, I have plotted how I can receive the glory and be in the spotlight. Like the Pharisee praying in the temple, I have more of a capacity to look down on others than I'd like to admit. Like the Pharisees, I work hard to look good on the outside, but I don’t necessarily work with that same vigor when it comes to the rottenness on the inside. Like the Pharisees, I am threatened by those who confront my sin. I too can shamefully enjoy the lofty titles, seats of honor, and adulation. And, like the Pharisees, I’m often willfully blind to it all.

Redeemed Christians are an odd mixture of righteousness, unrighteousness, and self-righteousness. But the good news from God is this:

If we humbly and contritely admit we have more in common with the fearful, untrusting, unfaithful, corrupt hypocrites and lusting prodigals than we do with the admirable, heroic and faithful of the Bible, he will forgive us and start the process of turning us into the latter. 

This forgiveness from God then allows us to do something we weren’t allowed to do before: see ourselves in the heroes, good guys, and even Jesus himself. When we repent like this, God imputes the righteous life of Christ to us and views us as having lived the heroic, perfect life of His Son. We inherit a new identity. And although we must learn to read ourselves into the shady and fearful characters of the Bible, the new creation he’s made us into is our true self now (Romans 7:17). As Paul said to the flunking Corinthian church: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

And so the Lord beckons us: “Become who you are.”  

God wants us to read ourselves into the miscreants, reprobates and villains of the Bible more than we do the saints and victors. When we do that, God’s Word is no longer a book that feeds our spiritual egos, as it was for the false religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Instead, it becomes a banquet of good news that relieves our guilt and shame, safeguarding us from becoming a people who look at those evil Pharisees and say, “I thank you God that I’m not like them.”

No Comments