What’s Enough For You?

Several years ago I asked a good pastor friend of mine, Chris Bayer, this question about the Bible: “If God never spoke to you ever again, would this book be enough for you?” He thought about it for a while then said, “No. I need God to speak to me to tell me who to pray for and who to heal and to do my ministry. I need God to speak to me.”

Now, as we were just getting to know each other I have to confess that at the time I didn’t really like his answer. You see, for me, no matter what situation I’m in I want my reliance on God’s word to be supreme. This is because the Holy Spirit is the author of scripture. What he says is timeless in its ability to transform lives. The Holy Spirit, if he were to speak something new, would never contradict what he’s already said, or anything he’s previously done. Therefore, I always go back to the Bible as my final authority for all in the Christian life.

Recently, however, something came to mind that has given me reason to back off my own answer to that question. If God never spoke to me again, would the Bible be enough for me?

No, it would not, for one simple reason (that ironically, I found in the scripture), and here it is: “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about me” (John 5:39).

As Christians we are engaged in a relationship with the Father, through the agency of his Son, guided and expressed by and through the Holy Spirit. The Bible, important as it is, and as much a priority as it is in the Christian life, isn’t one thing: it isn’t a person. The Father is a person. The Son is a person. The Spirit is a person. We are engaged in a relationship with the person of God. It would be like constantly looking at and admiring your wedding pictures but never spending time with your actual spouse. How stupid is that?

This gives us insight into what was wrong with the Pharisees whom Jesus had to so often confront. They worshiped the scriptures. But the scriptures, that is, the written record about God, is not God himself. If we devote ourselves to scripture (and we should), but don’t take the necessary step of expressing ourselves to the God about whom scripture writes, then we have lost the very point of scripture. What did Jesus say about those Pharisees? “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). For all of the diligence, time, and effort the Pharisees put into scripture they became so single-minded that they missed the forest for the trees. What else could explain a rabbi who seeks to harm Jesus after Jesus healed a man on the sabbath? (John 5:2-16). Really?

What is enough for you?

I love the scripture. I try to measure all of my life experiences and knowledge by scripture as much as I am able. The Bible is our primary guide to life and godliness. One time a friend asked me why God never spoke to him though he seemed to speak to others he knew. I asked him, “How often do you read scripture?” His answer was predictable. “Well, you know, I’m very busy, and there’s a lot to do,” and so on. I said to him, “If you’re not listening to what God has already said, why would he have anything else to say to you?” You see, scripture comes first. But scripture is not the end in itself. It leads, it guides, it points, and sometimes it screams to us about Jesus; not itself. Even Jesus said that the Holy Spirit, who authored scripture, would take what is his (Jesus), and disclose it to us (John 16:14-15).

Devote yourself to scripture. Read it. Study it. Trust it. But do so with a particular attitude that you do these things because what you want in your life is a vibrant, meaningful, expressive relationship with Jesus. But if it’s just about the rules and requirements then you will miss the point. Don’t let the Bible be enough for you. Start there. Let it point, guide, and reveal everything you need to know. And the most important thing you need to know is the person of Jesus.

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