I’ve been working on these “most important chapters” for about a week now, and I’m fairly pleased with the first three that we’ve produced. It’s not that you need to memorize them word for word, but you should definitely be able to give a synopsis of each of them in a minute or less, with any significant verses memorized.
I’m not a big advocate of specific memorization because everybody works from a different translation of the Bible these days. In my parents’ childhood, everyone had the good ol’ KJV, and Jesus spoke in Old English like God intended Him to! There are several versions that are frankly better for one of two reasons, depending on what you’re looking for:
- With modern discoveries and research, the NASB, ESV, and so forth are more accurate to the original texts as far as we can tell. If that’s what you’re searching for. You may have noticed I use the ESV for most quotations on this ministry’s website. It happens to be my own preference; it’s not heresy to use a different book than I use. (In most cases!) Thankfully, nobody’s making us read in the Aramaic quite yet, no matter how “accurate” that would be.
- Or, there are more colloquial versions like the NLT, the CEB, or the Message which allow you to read the Bible in more current English, without having to learn the King’s English to read what was undoubtedly language of a coarser nature in the first place.
I mean, think about it! Jesus didn’t deal with royalty, for the most part! He talked to lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, fishermen,… you know: salt of the earth people! He wasn’t going to overwhelm them with fifty-cent words; He would speak to them in simple terms they could understand. That’s what his parables laid out – He wouldn’t contradict His subject matter!
There’s another issue I wanted to expand on from yesterday’s post, if I could.
The juxtaposition within Exodus 20 struck me these last few days as I worked on it for the article. One of the things we all tend to say is, “Well, if God had led ME across the wilderness as a cloud or a ball of fire, and talked with me from the mountain top, and parted the Red Sea, and backed up the Jordan River, and knocked the walls of Jericho down with a sound, and so on and so forth, right in front of my eyes? You’re durned right I’d believe in that God from here ‘ntil eternity!!!
Sounds perfectly reasonable, doesn’t it?
But in Exodus 20: 18-21, we are confronted with the problem with our thinking.
“…the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.”
It’s simply TOO MUCH GOD for them.
It seems that most human beings are overwhelmed by the very concept of the true power and size of our Creator. For the Israelites under Moses’ care, their solution was to fabricate a “god” (little “g”) whom they could grasp intellectually. A golden calf, in this case, but most of us do this in some way, shape, or fashion.
I want you to picture God in your mind’s eye, right now.
Did you imagine an old, grey, bearded man of some sort?
He isn’t human! There IS no “man” for us to picture. Usually, when we “anthropomorphisize” God, we do so on the basis of a misunderstood verse in Genesis: Then God said, “Let us make man in Our Image, after Our Likeness.” What God meant was a creature with an immortal soul, not that has His Nose or anything like that. Can a God Who can span the stars with His Reach have conventional body parts? No. But we try to humanize Him because we literally cannot conceive of His Fullness. Anything we can do to “bring God down to our level”, we do – give Him a human face and body, give Him human flaws and weaknesses (like hoping He “grades on a curve” when it comes to getting into Heaven, for example!), or minimize the dangers of Hell or the penalties for sin.
But He has already “humanized” Himself.
He manifests as the Holy Spirit within us.
The Holy Spirit, in my mind, is the most personal, most intimate form of God. GOD THE FATHER is all-knowing, all-seeing, universe-spanning and all-encompassing. Jesus Christ is more personal, coming to us in human form last time and in slightly greater-than-human next time, when He will conquer all of the remaining (sin-addicted) portion of humanity not already in white robes in Heaven. But the Holy Spirit is a small, quiet voice that lives within us, teaching us, guiding us, correcting us through our own conscience.
How much more humanized can you get?
Man likes to have a god he can relate to, and that must be difficult when you see what God the Father is capable of. It probably made Him less likely for the Israelites to accept Him, not more, when He parted the sea or slaughtered the heretics in a magical earthquake. To accept God as He IS means to accept that you are what Moses calls us in Psalm 90 – ¨like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.¨ Strangely, for me, the God of the Universe living with me reminded me that I was not the greatest at – well, whatever – in the room; HE was. And that took all the pressure OFF for me. No longer did I have to live up to my self-image of being the smartest guy in the room – because now I never would be again. And I could never get so depressed about myself any more, because my self-esteem had an automatic mechanism in place now: if the God Who Created The Entire Everything Loved Me? How bad could I be?
So everything is fine, and everything is in a much better perspective for me since the Holy Spirit came on board. But I can completely understand how human beings can be catastrophically overwhelmed by the sheer SIZE AND POWER of God.
Douglass Adams understood this, too, even though he was an atheist. In one of his ¨Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy¨ books, he introduced a punishment called the Total Perspective Vortex.
The principle, he said, was simple. Since everything in the universe could be derived from every other thing, you could in theory derive the whole of creation from, say, a piece of fairy cake. (He was British.) So, if you plugged one end of the Total Perspective Vortex into a power source, and the other end into a piece of fairy cake, your victim would see the whole of creation – every single atom in the universe! – and himself in relationship to it all: an invisible dot, upon an invisible dot, upon an invisible dot. Infinitely small….
Human beings can hardly stand the thought of being insignificant. And God makes us feel insignificant.…until you realize what He thinks of you!!!
GOD LOVES YOU WITH ALL HIS SOUL! He sent His Son Jesus to die for humanity to come to Heaven, but even if you were the ONLY one who needed saving, Jesus would have gone through the entire process just for YOU, my friend. JUST for YOU.
God loves you so much that all you have to do to spend Eternity in Heaven is believe in and obey the teaching of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Bible, and you are IN. There are no hoops to jump through. There are no contracts to sign. There is nothing you have to do except do your best to obey and admit when you foul up; God will forgive you and move on. What an undeserved favor grace is!