Friday, July 13, 2012

It's Just Jesus

I don’t often have posts that relate solely to my faith- although, I’m not sure why, since it’s a huge part of my life. That’s probably another post for another day… today I’m going to share with you one of my deepest, darkest secrets. I’ve only admitted this to one other person in the whole world. The only reason I’m bringing it up now is because the older I get, and the more I grow in Christian community with my brothers and sisters in Christ, the more I firmly believe that I am not the only one with this secret. So here it is:

I don’t really like reading the Bible.

Huh. That seems so much less “deep and dark” typed out on a page. ‘Such an unassuming little phrase. ‘Much less climactic than I expected.

The problem is that it IS dangerous. I’m a follower of Christ- a believer. I should want to read the Bible. I should crave it. I should get so wrapped up in it that I cry and leap for joy all at the same time. If I truly believed the message that it brings, I would desire His word, right? Yes. Right. No argument there. And you know what? I do. I believe that message. I believe it with all my heart. But I still don’t enjoy reading The Word. So where’s the disconnect?

Maybe it’s the weight of this book I don’t truly understand. It’s one thing to read parts of a book over and over and think it’s true. But Christ calls me to base my entire life off of this book. He wants everything I do to be rooted in the truth. He wants me to live with Him and walk with Him and worship Him forever. He already knows me, and he wants me to know him too so that I can understand the weight of his sacrifice. And He wants me to do it through a book that I just can’t get into… I mean, let’s be honest, it’s a little bit slow-moving- even boring at times. I always take the “small doses” approach just to “get the gist of it.” So many “thees” and “thous” and someone who “begat” someone else… come on. Cut to the chase, brother…

Here’s the thing: I’ve been a Christian for thirteen years. I “walked the aisle” at church camp one year while doing the ugly cry in front of hundreds of other teenagers. And then that was it. I was “saved”, right? No additional training needed. God was supposed to take over from there I guess. I don’t know. What I’m saying is that until very recently, I had very little concept of what it meant to hear the gospel straight out of God’s word presented as THE Good News with no additional message needed. What I got were a lot of sermons that made me feel good. They were centered on ME and included verses related to a theme that made me feel good about myself and my Jesus.

My understanding of the Bible was that it was full of individual verses, the purpose of which was to make me feel good and give me answers. There were verses that told me, “God’s going to give you everything you need,” and, “if you have faith (plus care for the poor/ volunteer at church/ read to the elderly/ donate money to charity) I will heap blessings on you,” and of course, “hey, you’re perfect just the way you are. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” THAT was the good news. Yes, Christ died for me so that I could live forever, but the best part was that He was going to take care of me now.

And so began a cycle: I began to rate my Bible-reading experiences (which, admittedly were few and far between even in my teens) based on my comfort level after reading a couple of verses. It went something like this:

Did that verse apply to my specific situation?

If yes, great. That was a successful reading. My good deed for the day was done.

If no, God must not be talking to me right now. Surely I did something to anger Him. I mean, that verse didn’t apply to anything going on in my life right now. It didn’t even make sense… Why would God give me such a bland, boring, random verse that doesn’t answer my question about where I should go to college? Ugh… This thing doesn’t even work right.

So here I am as an adult, attending a church that I love and I’m hearing the Gospel every single Sunday. Not a sermon on “The Four F’s of Faith” or “Giving Joy to Get Joy”. The Gospel. And it’s finally starting to click. Oh, THAT is the Good News… That’s it. Jesus is the Good News. It’s not works, it’s not that fuzzy feeling I get when I do something nice, it’s not getting what I want after praying for it, and it’s not a single verse on the page that may or may not clarify whatever situation I’m working through. To quote my pastor, “It’s just Jesus. It’s just Jesus. It’s just Jesus… nothing else.”

We don’t need fluff. We don’t need to fill the void with works. We don’t need self-help books or seminars or debates about theology. We need Jesus. And that’s it.

As it turns out, all of those “random” little verses? Yeah, those are part of one big story. The story. The truth about Christ’s beautiful, holy blood spilled for my wicked sinfulness. Christ crucified. Slaughtered… taking a death that I deserved… and then being raised from the dead. I’d say that’s good news.

I’m not going to say I’m reading my Bible every single day for hours on end. I’m not going to say I don’t occasionally feel a little defeated or confused when I do read my Bible. But what I will say is that I understand now why I read. I remind myself that this story is not about me…
It’s just Jesus…