Christianity is wearisome, and Bible study is boring.
Yes, I said it. But never out loud. Only in my private prayers did I dare voice my frustration and discouragement. Failure fatigue had worn me down. I’d lost my will to try even one more time to master the fruit of the Spirit, the “Blessed are Ye’s,” and the “Thou Shalt Nots.”
After almost twenty-five years of reading the Bible, attempting to apply it to my life, and failing miserably, the Christian life had come to feel more like a sentence than a pardon. A sentence of only striving, failing, and seeking forgiveness while carrying the guilt of being underwhelmed by my “abundant life” in Christ.
But what could I do? Walk away? I agreed with Peter when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
I had enough smarts—or more accurately wisdom from the Holy Spirit—to know the problem didn’t lie in Christianity and certainly not in God, but in me.
I reached for my Bible.
The answers must be within its pages. I’d never read it from cover to cover because, well, it’s ridiculously long. But I was out of options.
Before I resigned myself to accepting Christianity as a wearisome existence this side of eternity, I determined to read the whole Bible. If it took me a year, so what. I would read every note, comment, and even the maps in search of the secret to contentment Paul enjoyed despite shipwrecks, snake bites, and prison (Acts 27:27–28:5; Phil. 4:12).
Show Me Your Glory
I didn’t know when I opened my Bible to Genesis 1:1 that the desperation in my heart echoed Jacob’s: “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Gen. 32:26).
I didn’t realize when I called out to God, “Show me Yourself on every page,” that my heart’s cry mirrored Moses’: “Please show me your glory” (Ex. 33:18).
I never imagined that I only thought I knew God until His Word humbled me and Job’s confession became mine.
“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you.” (Job 42:5)
In that crisp morning hour as the sun rose and the coffee perked, I simply flipped to Genesis 1:1 and prayed, “Lord, I’m done learning how to live a good Christian life. I just want You. Show me You!”
It took me three years to reach the final page of my Bible, but it only took a few months for the Bible to transform me. God had answered my prayer. Oh, how He answered.
I Saw the Lord High and Lifted Up on Every Page
If you’ve read Genesis, you notice Adam and Eve appear in the midst of Creation and quickly steal the show. (Unless, like me, you’re ignoring them and just looking for God.) This time I didn’t focus on those two sinners and three ways to avoid falling for Satan’s lies like they had (which isn’t a bad lesson, but I didn’t want any more lessons).
Instead, I noticed the Almighty God of Creation. Or more accurately, I noticed the Almighty’s absence. Only two chapters into the Bible, something nefarious was afoot in the garden, and God was nowhere to be seen. Except, He had to be there. He’s everywhere (Jer. 23:24, Ps. 139:7–12). Hmmmm . . .
I looked at the garden disaster with more studious eyes.
This time I saw a God who waits to act when I would’ve rushed in screaming. A God who will allow pure evil to accomplish pure good. I saw a God who is utterly unlike us.
I’d only just begun my journey, and already I realized how little I actually knew or understood about the God who created me and saved me.
I kept reading.
Throughout the old familiar stories, God continued to reveal Himself in surprising ways. The Father, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus were threaded through every book of the Bible, not just the New Testament.
Bible scholars knew this long before Gutenberg ever bound a Bible, but I’d never seen it. I’d been too preoccupied with learning how to be a better version of myself (and failing at it) to see His unmatched character and overwhelming glory on each page.
But now I saw that the Old Testament isn’t just a long foreword to the real story that starts with a baby in a manger. And, more importantly, I discovered the Bible isn’t about me. It’s all about Jesus, who reveals the Father and is glorified by the Holy Spirit.
Show Us the Father and It Is Enough for Us
The disciple Philip was onto something when he said to Jesus, “Show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (John 14:8). It is indeed enough, but Philip had seen Him. He and the other disciples had walked with Jesus for nearly three years, and yet they didn’t understand that Jesus and the Father are One.
More than once, Jesus had told them He must be betrayed and die, but that He would rise again on the third day. But His disciples didn’t understand. And because of what they didn’t understand about Jesus, when the sun rose on that third day, they were cowering in a locked room rather than holding a resurrection party at His tomb.
Their ignorance about Jesus had driven them into fear, confusion, and despair. Our ignorance about Him drives us into the same traps today, even many who have been Christians for years. And we’re without excuse.
God hadn’t yet opened the disciples’ minds to see the full truth of who Jesus is (Luke 24:45). But today at the very moment of salvation, every Christian receives God’s Spirit. He knows the mind of God and is our teacher (John 14:26; 16:13–14; 1 Cor. 2:10–16).
Reading the Bible, but Missing the Point
Since God had given me His Word and His Spirit at salvation, why was I only now being transformed in ways I’d longed to experience? Because I, like the Pharisees of Jesus’ days, read the Scriptures but missed the point.
It’s not the sheer act of knowing the Bible that changes us. The Pharisees knew the Scriptures (what we now call the Old Testament). They quoted long passages from memory, taught them daily, and practiced countless religious traditions. And yet many of their hearts remained hard toward Jesus.
They’d missed the point that all the Scriptures—all the law of Moses they vehemently proclaimed—pointed to Jesus (Luke 24:27; John 5:45–46). They didn’t see who He is. And if we’re not careful, we’ll miss Him, too.
There’s simply no escaping it. If we want to grow in our faith, we must know God—His character, nature, and ways. But we will never truly know the God of the Word apart from the Word of God. The whole Word of God—even Leviticus. As pastor and theologian A.W. Tozer so brilliantly stated: “Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”
It’s Not about Mastering Scripture; It’s about Scripture Mastering Us
After I abandoned my fruitless attempts to master the fruit of the Spirit, the “Blessed are Ye’s,” and the “Thou Shalt Nots” and simply read the whole Bible to find God, everything changed. Well, I changed, because I finally saw the point of Scripture. It’s not so we can master the Bible. It’s so it can master us. And that’s when Bible study becomes an adventure and Christianity an abiding joy.
In Part 2 of this series, Jean shares three questions to ask when we study God’s Word to help fix our eyes on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and bring richness to our Bible study.