Posted by: Harry Sasnowitz | March 3, 2016

Is Your Bible Your Idol?

“Our worship of the letter of the Gospel has denied its power. Men are more concerned about who has the right doctrinal interpretation of scripture than they are concerned with whether or not the reality of the Gospel is being demonstrated in their daily lives.” -William Law

Have you ever heard someone say that Christians should be”people of the Book?” I have.

Honestly, that statement makes me cringe.

Through our faith in Christ, the very life and love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. We’re united with Him in spirit. We’ve been made righteous through His grace. By His divine power we’ve been given everything we need to live a God-honoring life of love and good works, thus impacting our world for good. All of this is ours because Jesus, through His finished work, ushered in a New Covenant…. a covenant whereby believers can share in the very life of God through the Holy Spirit within.

This New Covenant has FOREVER CHANGED the way that man can relate to, receive from and live before God. Rather than relating to God and living before Him through an Old Covenant “performance-reward” paradigm which drives us to follow law, code, routine, principles and precepts in order to “be blessed by God,” we can now live from a place of 100% acceptance and favor in Christ as His Spirit influences ours from within, producing a “faith obedience” for the fulfillment of His plans and purposes in our lives.

It’s an unfortunate truth that many people have been stunted in their spiritual growth by embracing “the Bible” as the center of their faith rather than Jesus Himself; living by principles and instructions written in ink rather than responding to the Holy Spirit written on their hearts… the very life of Christ to lead them and guide them into His plans and purposes for them.

I recently came across a John Hagee broadcast on TV. Hagee, in front of thousands of people at His church, lifted up the Bible and loudly proclaimed over and over as only John Hagee can, “The Bible Is The Owners Manual To Life!!” If Jesus were in attendance and approached Hagee after the service, I think Hagee would be surprised when Jesus disagreed. Jesus IS the life, and He is not an owner’s manual.

So, yes, when I hear people, or worse yet, Bible teachers say that we are called to be “people of the Book, I cringe. Such a statement gives the appearance of deep spirituality, but when analyzing it from a New Covenant perspective, it’s not very spiritual at all. It also reveals a painful truth about our brand of Christianity in America:

For many , the preeminence of the person of Jesus Christ has been usurped by “the Bible” as their source for “Life.”

The result? People order their lives around following the New Testament, trying to do all the things that are written in it. Worse yet, some even try to order their lives around following the Old Testament! We fill our mind with “Bible.” We read about grace, talk about love, and try to dutifully mimic the life of Jesus and His commands. We gain knowledge and do our best to obey what we read through our pre-determined self-effort, yet all the while we woefully lack experiential reality…. that is, the manifestation of His life in us, and through us, to humanity. It’s entirely possible to be a walking, talking Bible encyclopedia, doing all the things the Bible says…  yet still be relationally disengaged from God & others and be numb to the Holy Spirit…… exuding knowledge and possessing impressive theology, but having no Christ-life to back it up. Few things stink more to the world than a walking, talking Bible man who has “all the answers” but cannot adequately exhibit the love & compassion of Christ to his neighbor.

A friend of mine once said that modern day Christianity has become the “transfer of knowledge” rather than transformation by the Spirit. He nailed it.

Is your Bible your idol?

Thus far, you may think that I am “anti-Bible.” I am not. I have a Bible right here sitting next to me! The Logos  (written Word of God) is a valuable tool that God uses to encourage us in our faith. We can learn much about God’s character. We can read stories that attest to the majesty of God. We can read about the life of Jesus and embrace various promises written for us. We can receive correction and instruction through it. Our doctrine can be tested through it. The Holy Spirit can speak to us through it.

But the Bible was never meant to be the center of the Christian faith, or the source of our life. That honor belongs to Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Yet in today’s day and age, to even suggest to a faith community that the Bible isn’t supposed to be the focal-point of our relationship with God will, with rare exception, be looked upon with contempt. How dare someone even suggest such a thing! That type of reaction proves my point. Many have indeed come to worship the Bible, thinking (whether consciously or not) that it’s “the Book” that empowers their life…. failing to recognize that Jesus, the living Word, was made flesh, dwelt among us, and now dwells in the heart of those who have received Him. It’s His Spirit within us that empowers our life, and it’s that same Spirit which makes the Scripture come alive in our hearts. Truly, apart from the Holy Spirit, we wouldn’t even be able to understand the Bible beyond what our natural mind could comprehend.

The Bible-less Early Church

If I told you that the early Church had no Bible like we do today, would you believe me?

It’s true. There were none. There were scrolls in the synagogue that certain qualified people would read from, but they  weren’t even reading to reveal Christ…Jews for Jesus were being thrown out of the synagogue. It was possible for a Jew to own his own scrolls, but historians and scholars overwhelmingly agree that it would be very rare for a common Jew to pay a scribe to hand-write scrolls that he would carry around with him. Furthermore, most scholars agree that the literacy rate in Jesus’ day was somewhere around 10%, so the majority of believers wouldn’t even be able to read a Bible if one was available.

Question: Did they experience daily life in the power of Christ? Were they obedient to God? Did they grow spiritually and walk by faith?

Of course they did.

But how? What did it look like?

They were “hearing from God” through the Holy Spirit, and doing what He told them to do. They were sensitive to the promptings, the impressions, the “still small voice” of His Spirit, and responding in faith.

This all leads to an intriguing question. Can a Christian today still experience the Life of God, 24/7 on a daily basis, walk by faith and grow spiritually apart from daily Bible reading?

Absolutely.

From the beginning, the essence of Christianity was not mere “scripture obedience,” but a people infused with the very life and love of God who were manifesting His life to humanity. The fruit of our living in Christ should in every way be in accord with the will of God as revealed in Scripture, especially as it pertains to Jesus’ command to love one another. The problem lies in us trying to produce this fruit through Bible-obedience. The life of Christ cannot be produced through human effort. The end result will always be arid religion & legalism. The life of Christ is a FREE GIFT given to those who would receive Him by faith, and it manifests as we learn to walk in the Spirit…. to yield to our new life source within.

Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Nothing has changed. Welcome, my friends, to normal Christianity:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20, the Apostle Paul)

Yet there is such an overemphasis on reading and studying the Bible in our culture that many people aren’t even open to the reality that there is the person of the Holy Spirit who has been given to us to be our helper, our guide, our counselor, and our strength….. at any time, at any place, and in any given situation. The Holy Spirit speaks directly to the human heart, with or without Bible in hand.

Now, there’s some who think the Holy Spirit is not for today. “Oh, He spoke to and directed believers back in the early church, but that’s not for today…that was just for the times of the Apostles. All that stuff, and the gifts of the Spirit have passed away. For today, God has given us “the Bible” and this is the “full counsel of God” and that’s all we need and all we’re supposed to have to live the life God has called us to live.”

Utter and complete nonsense. And what a cop-out to walking by faith. The temple of the Old Covenant has been replaced by the indwelling of the New Covenant. Do we not know that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit are for today just like they were back then. If you’ve embraced the error of cessationism…. the teaching that the Bible is “the full counsel of God” and therefore all we need, and that this direct “hearing from God” and living in the power of the Spirit is not for today, I can assure you, it came from man, not from God, and I couldn’t care less what your pastor says. You’re being spiritually ripped off and side-tracked from experiencing your full inheritance in Christ.

Jesus Nails it

There’s precedent for what I’ve been sharing with you. The stark difference between “scripture-centered living” and Christ-centered, Spirit-led living is addressed no clearer than by Jesus Himself.

The Pharisees were the most scripturally literate people of His day. They were the “Bible experts,” so to speak. After being persecuted by them for healing a person on the Sabbath and claiming that God was His Father, Jesus exposes their dead, lifeless religion by proclaiming the following…. and what He says has implications for today:

“I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept glory from human beings, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts.” (John 5:36-42, emphasis mine)

Wow. To those who were the most zealous about living by the Book, Jesus declared they were 1) spiritually deaf to God’s voice, 2) void of God’s love in their hearts, and 3) destitute of the “true life” they claimed they had.

Friends, knowing and obeying scripture is not the same as possessing life. A.W. Tozer explains:

“The error of textualism is not doctrinal. It is far more subtle than that and much more difficult to discover, but its effects are just as deadly. Not its theological beliefs are at fault, but its assumptions. It assumes, for instance, that if we have the word for a thing we have the thing itself. If it is in the Bible, it is is us. If we have the doctrine, we have the experience. If something was true of Paul it is of necessity true of us because we accept Paul’s epistles as divinely inspired.”

To close, I want to leave you with a few more quotes. They strike right at the center of what we’ve been exploring here:

“Our worship of the letter of the gospel has denied its power. Men are more concerned about proving who has the right doctrinal interpretation of scripture than they are concerned with whether or not the reality of the Gospel is being demonstrated in their daily lives. And all because we assume, the Holy Spirit, having finished his inspiration of apostles and prophets for the writing of scripture, now withholds that same necessary inspiration and illumination from those who today read these Holy Truths.” -William Law

“This basic error is much encouraged by the pitiful reasoning of great Bible scholars and preachers who affirm that God no longer communicates with men except through the words of Scripture: and who, on the grounds of the completed canon, deny the reality of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration and communion presently active in the soul and spirit of man…. without the present inspiration of the Spirit, a man’s knowledge of the letter of scripture can be no more than ideas in his head.” -William Law

“For a generation certain evangelical teachers have told us that the gifts of the Spirit ceased at the death of the Apostles or at completion of the New Testament. This, of course, is a doctrine without a syllable of biblical authority back of it. It’s advocates must accept full responsibility for thus manipulating the Word of God.”  -A.W. Tozer

“Who could be a greater enemy of the Gospel than those leaders and shepherds of the flock, who write and preach against the manifest power of the Holy Spirit as it were as much to be avoided in our day as Paul said it was vital in his own.”  -William Law

“For what is Christianity but Christ living His resurrected life through the members of His body which is the Church.”  -William Law

Grace to all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Responses

  1. What a beautiful, well-written and on point post. In my early 20s, I had a conversation with a Muslim “pastor” who said “The Koran is to Muslims what Jesus Christ is to Christians”. Unfortunately, I believe many have lost that Christ-centered focus.

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback, Catherine. Yes, I agree. Thus the reason why we’re seeing such a mass exodus from institutional Christianity. People, out of their desire to impact their world, truly want to know Christ and His love personally and experientially, and are simply not willing to play “religion” anymore. “Holding to a form of godliness but denying its power” means something entirely different to me today than it did during my first 18 years within institutional Christianity. I think A.W. Tozer’s comment that I reference couldn’t be clearer in addressing the issue. If you want me to forward to you his full quote (very lengthy), let me know. It’s so well said.

      Like

  2. This is the most nonsensical article i have ever heard in my entire 40 years of christianty. Jesus Christ is the manifested word of God the Father himself. The bible is the written word of God. “The word became flesh”. How in the name of common sense can anyone make an “idol” out of the very words of the creator of the universe. This is nothing but silly chatter

    Like

    • Hi Robert, thank you for your feedback. Yes, the Bible is the written Word of God, and yes, Jesus is the manifested Word who became flesh. But what you failed to mention is that Christ now dwells within the hearts of His people by His Spirit, and that is what’s at issue here. One can be flawless in their theology, having extensive Bible smarts, attend church regularly, and even have a title or position within a local congregation, yet the real question is, “Is the love and power of Christ being demonstrated and expressed in our daily lives to humanity?” If not, our extensive knowledge, theological preciseness and perfect church attendance means nothing, and we actually betray the very gospel we say we believe in. I don’t think William Law or A.W. Tozer (referenced in the post) could have stated the reality of things more eloquently. “Bibliolatry” (worship of the Text) runs rampant within evangelical fundamentalism, and I didn’t invent the word.

      Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

Gods Leader

Equipping, Training, Fathering and Loving Leaders in His Body

Lifestream | Wayne Jacobsen

Live Loved. Live Free. Live Full.

Anakypto Afterthoughts

The Anakypto Forum on BlogTalkRadio

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift

Autism For A Lifetime

Finding Joy in the Journey

%d bloggers like this: