I have a sneaking suspicion that this post is going to be one of those posts that people start reading, realize they're not interested, and so they skim through and ignore it. It will annoy some people, bore others, and turn off some, completely. It's also one of the posts that I've needed to write for a long time, but have procrastinated- because I know that when I write these things, I am doubly accountable for practicing it. I'm not too worried about it, though- because it is something that needs to be said and needs to be read. So I will write it, regardless.
I am going to be blunt, because I am exhausted and have no time to beat around the bush. I believe that overall, most first-world, modern day Christians have generalized God into a concept. I'm not saying that they don't believe in Him, because I know they do, but they have washed over His realness with a fog of theology and philosophy. We've compartmentalized His teachings. We've turned His commands into concepts and ideas. We've turned His statements into theses and suggestions. And the thing is... they all sound correct.
I see Scripture quoted everywhere, and I am inspired by reading it. I love seeing people pin and post verses everywhere- it's encouraging. But the more I read them, the more I realize that all the verses that are posted are really so similar. And to an unbeliever reading them on Facebook, they would be so confused. They do nothing to promote Christ to unbelievers, they are the verses that the church has publicized and quoted so often that they are now just daily doses of divination. They perk us up. They make us happy. They motivate us... a little.
Now, hear me out, I'm not belittling these verses. ALL Scripture is God-breathed. ALL Scripture is true, and from the Holy Spirit. My point is, that I think we are using it in a twisted sort of way.
How often do you see people post Matthew 5:20? "But I warn you- unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!"
Or what about Matthew 5:48? "But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect."
I don't think I've ever seen Luke 14:12-13 on anyone's cover photo. "When you put on a luncheon or a banquet, don't invite your friends, brothers ,relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind."
And CERTAINLY not Matthew 19:21: "Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
Why is that? Don't those verses just make you want to shout with joy, and dance a jig? Don't they make you feel accomplished and encouraged? Don't they just make you feel on top of the world? In all honesty, they don't. They worry us. Scare us. Concern us. Which is why we leave them in the Bible, and put the beautiful, more satisfactory verses on our walls and doors.
But is God's Word something that was given to us to make us feel good? That's a definite no. Hebrews 4:12 words it very graphically. It shows us that the Bible, in no way, was written so that we could feel good about ourselves.
"For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
God's Word compels us. It convicts us. It shames us to the point of repentance. It hurts us, but it heals us. How can we, in good conscience, be reading a Book that is meant to change our lives, and only pay attention to the ones that we interpret as "feel-good sentiments?"
So many commands of Jesus are ignored. Just go read them for yourself- you'd be shocked! God was specific in His commands. He didn't just give us generalized, vague, obscure "ideas" of what was expected of His followers, He told us! And here we are, uncomfortable with the idea that a King should give orders to His servants. Commandments are constantly ignored. The verses that S-P-E-L-L O-U-T our jobs are skimmed over, because we don't want to DO those jobs!
Read the Bible sometime. Do the Bible in a Year plan or something. But just read it through. Devotionals with quotes and jokes and cute little phrases are not necessary. Just read God's Word. Not people's words. Just read it through, day by day, and I guarantee you will be SHOCKED. Do you realize how many times the Bible talks about giving to the poor? More than 300 times! It is a command that God was NOT vague about. He wants us to give to the poor. He wants us to take care of the widows. He wants us to speak out against injustice. He wants us to help the orphans. He TOLD US SO!
I beg you to stop compartmentalizing God's commands. I am guilty of it, too, I know. But let's try to stop favouritizing the poetic Psalms over the compelling Seven Deadly Sins. Let's stop only reading the miracles and skipping Christ's explanations. READ the parts that make you uncomfortable. MEMORIZE the verses that convict you. Because more likely than not, it's THOSE verses that contain something that God is trying to get your attention for. It may hurt, it may even kill- but it will be so much more worth it than reading a verse a day without a change.
The Bible is to encourage us, but not just encourage. It's not there so we can just make it through the day feeling alright. You need to see the whole picture. The Bible is there to encourage us to fight the good fight. Yes, that means fight. That means follow Christ's orders, even unto death.
My challenge to you: Take God's commands literally, and take them seriously. No more vague, artsy quotes pinned up on your wall. Try pinning up a new verse today, no matter how weird or personal it may seem. "You shall not covet." "You shall not commit adultery." "Get rid of whatever causes you to sin." (Matt. 5:29-30) "Give more than is demanded." (Matt. 5:40-42) "Give to please God, and not to be seen." (Matt. 6:1) "Do not exalt yourself." (Matt. 23:8-12)
I could go on, but you get the picture. Someday, when we stand before the Throne to be judged once and for all, do you think God is going to remember your verse-a-day calendar that made you smile every morning and reward you for it? I'm thinking that He will remember when you donated all that money you had been saving up for a new computer and gave it to the family down the street struggling financially. Or the time you volunteered at the homeless shelter every week in the freezing cold. Or the time you housed the immigrants in town who could not speak the language and had nowhere to go. Or when you adopted the orphan.
And every other time you simply did what Jesus said to do.