I’ve grown up reading the Bible. Maybe you have too. Can’t really ever remember not reading the Bible. I don’t keep track, but I read it all the time. I love the Word. The stories of the Old Testament. The wisdom of Proverbs. The God who fights for his people. The faithful prophets in the times of rebellion. The beautiful, worshipful psalms. And then into the New Testament: the coming of the King, his life, death, and resurrection. The spread of the church. The letters of Paul. The looking forward to heaven.
All this talk of my Bible reading can sound like pride. That’s because so many of us (me included) can count Bible reading as a mark of value. I don’t think its pride if I talk about rereading my favorite novel for the 10th time. But I am tempted to count Bible reading as spiritual discipline, as a good work, the very act a ‘means of grace.’ I have this thought that the reading itself will change me, will do something more than reading another book. I have this thought that the words that I read will be used by the Holy Spirit—somewhat mysteriously, even magically—to change my heart and grow me.
Reading the Bible then becomes ‘my part.’ Reading it isn’t because I love the narrative tension of David and Goliath, or the irony of Jonah. It is to change me. And the mindset that I can get into is that the change is my earnest application of the tenants. My learning of principles and practice. Even the reading itself becomes part of this improvement mindset.
We’ve fought that at Grace and are sometimes misunderstood because of our stand against progressive spiritual improvement through hard work. Another word for what we won’t affirm is merit-based progress. You know, read more to grow more. Earn the growth by doing the work. Your effort plus God’s help leads to a better you. Our problem with this approach is, paradoxically, the Bible itself. What the Word actually proclaims is counter to our normal practice of self-improvement.
And so the message itself is why we excitedly affirm and promote reading the Bible.
Because the Bible is where you understand the story. Where you see God’s revelation. Where you encounter the Word who is Jesus. Where you are broken of you, and trust him.
That’s why we’re eager to examine the Gospel of Mark together. Because while the other gospel accounts might more easily shine forth with Jesus as the only center, from the I AM’s to the parables of prodigals and publicans, Mark reflects our conviction about the whole Bible. That it is all about the Son of God who came. Mark is relentless to show us, not steps to improvement, but our need to trust in this Jesus. This savior. This redeemer.
Over the course of the next months, we’ll walk through Mark’s presentation. I’ll put posts up as we go, with some highlights from what we’re teaching on Sundays, encouragements that the gospel is good news about Jesus, not us. You can also check out the church’s facebook page, where we’re putting up weekly short video posts on Wednesdays (“Whiteboard Wednesdays”).
So… read Mark, will you? And my hope is that we will be changed. Because of the relentless presentation of Jesus Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, we see what belief is: that the only hope we have is this Savior for us.