I’ve been reading the New Testament straight through every morning, and I’m at Revelation. Normally I do Old Testament/Psalms-Proverbs/New Testament, but for some reason awhile back I just went with the New. The best thing about going straight through is that there is an overview, a big picture, that comes into the mind. Errors in thought, or exaggerations of certain doctrines, are corrected. Holes are filled in. A digital audio editor I know, referring to the way we scrutinize details and then move to the big picture, calls this “zoom-in/zoom-out.”
Prayer beforehand is definitely required. The Bible was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and requires that same Spirit to interpret its depths. Many theological problems arise when we try to figure things out on our own.
When I read the Gospels I touch the heart, soul, mind, and Spirit of Jesus. They put me in contact with the kind of person He is. I see what He likes, what He dislikes, what makes Him glad, or angry, or what makes Him weep. I see how He relies on the Father, and maintains communion with Him, going out early to pray. I see His consistency in loving others, His harsh words to the legalistic mindsets, His shepherd-heart that fights for the truth, in love, against all deceptions. I see how a real Man lives, and how a real Man dies and forgives. And I see how a true Man resurrects.
In reading Acts I see how that real Man begets spiritual children, sending the Holy Spirit. I see the outworking of the Holy Spirit in the life of the early church, and the turmoil He generates when He comes into contact with this world system. He literally “turns the world upside down.”
In the letters of Paul, the Apostle who is for obvious reasons given the floor in much of the New Testament, I find the righteousness which is of God by faith. I see exactly what happened at the Cross – that I died, and was resurrected, because God put me in Christ there – not “positionally,” but actually. I see that I am a new creation, holy, that I am now in union with the Lord Jesus Christ, who lives in me by the Holy Spirit. In Paul I find the explanations of my identity in Christ – the how, why, what, when, and where of who I really am. And I find, as in Jesus, a holy disdain for self–righteousness, for merely living under the Law by our human effort, for trying to attain a sanctified life by our own human strength and wisdom. In the later parts of most of his letters I also find what a holy life looks like – showing love, hospitality, loving my wife as Christ loved the church, wives respecting husbands, being a diligent worker.
Through James, Peter, John, Jude, I find the prompts to avoiding being lazy and lax about holiness. 1John especially struck me this time through, that if we are not loving others we aren’t really walking in communion with God, and that the power to live above sin comes from abiding and resting in Christ. These epistle writers protect us from the distortions that can arise through misusing Paul’s letters, and vice-versa. Through them, we can make no mistake: A holy life, which is simply love-for-God-and-others in action, is required. The only way to get there is by reliant faith which expresses the righteousness which comes from God within us, flowing through the channel of reliance, trust, faith, abiding in Christ.
Reading the Word through in this way tears down false theological constructs in my mind and eliminates errors in my thinking. I see now how I used to linger in my favorite books or passages, ignoring or skimming over other passages in my immaturity. This is the source of my former theological construct of “Jesus died to pay my sin-debt so I could be forgiven” which left me with a past event (forgiveness through the Blood) and a future hope (when we go to be with Christ and have glorified bodies, etc.), and no power in the present moment.
This time through has proved to me once again that the Word is a many-layered document, endless in its applications to our daily life. It stirs up the Holy Spirit within us, and prompts us to commune with God, to exercise our faith-will, and through that to walk as Jesus walked.
I’ve just hit Revelation, which I’ve not read in awhile. As Ecclesiastes says, “Here is the conclusion of the matter…” Revelation protects us from feeling too much at home in this present world-system. I’m interested to see what effect it has on me this time through.