Get ‘er Done? Or Get Closer to God?

MEME - John 3 v 21

(Suggested Reading: John 3:1-21)

Last year, I invited women to join me in reading through the Bible in a year, something I’ve enjoyed doing since 2005. But when health complications impacted my energy levels, I had to make some changes.

After much prayer, God showered me with peace. Accepting my slower-than-a-tortoise pace, I started savoring each God-breathed word in Scripture by highlighting key words and phrases.

I focused on words I hadn’t realized I’d skimmed over, due to my familiarity with the text. And when I read one of the verses I’d memorized years ago, the emphasis I discovered as I highlighted the words brought me to tears:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NIV, emphasis mine)

How had I gotten to the point where these words landed with a thud in the empty well of my heart?

How had I forgotten the sacrificial pain endured by the One who died for me, rose for me, lives for me, as He forever guarantees my eternity in the presence of His loving grace?

When did I start focusing on slurping up the words of Scripture, instead of spending time with the Person who reveals Himself to me and affirms His love for me through each God-breathed syllable?

I’m not the first person in history, and probably won’t be the last, who has confused knowing Bible verses with knowing God intimately and personally receiving Him as ultimate Lord and redeeming Savior.

As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have prided himself in memorizing the Scriptures. But his late night venture demonstrated a longing for more.

Proudly familiar with the Scriptures, Nicodemus came to Jesus cloaked by darkness and carrying a bag full of assumptions.

“Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:2, emphasis mine)

Minimizing Jesus’s identity blocked Nicodemus from seeing that only God in the flesh could perform those miraculous signs that perked his interest.

The fulfillment of all those Old Testament prophecies pointed straight to Jesus as Messiah.

Still, Nicodemus clung to false-understanding.

It’s easier to believe what we think we know, what feels safer to say out loud, what doesn’t set us up for risking rejection, heartbreak, or the need to admit we need change.

But Jesus led this seeker to the familiar Scriptures that circled right back to the One who stood before Him.

Jesus didn’t stutter when He said, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up . . .” (v. 14, emphasis mine)

Nicodemus had the story of Moses tucked into his bag of Bible knowledge. He could probably recite the verses backwards, with a smug smirk on his face.

But could it be true “. . . that everyone who believes in [Jesus] may have eternal life” (v. 15)?

Could Jesus referring to what happened with Moses and the Israelites in the desert, mean that He confirmed God’s plan was put in place before the beginning of time?

Could God love the world so much that He acknowledged all people deserved death and earned wrath, but still chose to offer the priceless gift of forgiveness through repentance and freedom through Christ, resulting in eternal life?

Yes. Yes. And, by God’s endless grace, Yes.

“But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (v. 21)

God saves us, because there is no way we can save ourselves.

The Father never altered His original plan as He paved the way for the Spirit to connect the dots that led to Jesus as the awaited Messiah and Savior of the world.

Death never stopped being a requirement for life to be received through the Risen King, our living and loving God.

Even today, in a world where evil glorifies people shrouded by sin, death remains a required part of the deal.

Death of self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-reliance, and self-centeredness. Death of our sinful nature.

As we foolishly grieve over the death of these things that prevent us from experiencing an abundant life in Christ, God faithfully waits for us to seek Him, to know Him, to love Him.

Like Nicodemus, we can become so familiar with Scripture that we miss getting to know the only One to whom Scripture reveals as the Savior this world desperately needs−Jesus.

Skimming through the Bible or neglecting the daily reading of Scripture, we risk missing out on the big picture God paints through His whole story.

Some important words can fall through the cracks when we dash through assigned readings in a foolish rush to get ‘er done, instead of to get closer to God.

But if we approach Scripture as living and active, asking the Holy Spirit to shed the light of understanding on each and every God-breathed word of truth, our personal love-encounters with Christ will changes us forever.

Lord, thank You for knowing us and inviting us to know You more. Please help us approach prayer and Bible reading as an opportunity to meet You face-to-face and bask in Your constant presence with absolute wonder, grateful praise, and a complete willingness to submit to Your authority in courageous obedience. In Jesus’s name, amen

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How does your approach to Bible reading change when you focus more on getting to know God instead of getting ‘er done?

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Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.

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12 thoughts on “Get ‘er Done? Or Get Closer to God?

    • You are such a blessing, Janet. As you know, our wisdom comes from God. It’s a blessing to be able to share His truth, as He continues to reveal Himself and His Word to us. I pray we will both keep seeking Him, so we can share His Word with Spirit-empowered courage, clarity, and confidence in Him. You have the gift of encouragement, Sister.

  1. Oh, it’s totally different. And you’re right. It’s easy to rush through a devotional or Scripture reading so we can say we did and then miss the point altogether. Thank you for this reminder.

    • Colleen, there were times when I read through an assigned text from a Bible reading schedule and checked off the chapter, then realized I didn’t even really read the words. Familiarity with the text made it easy to say, “Oh, well, I know what it says already.” I was basically “listening” to God without paying attention.

      It’s hurtful when I’m talking to people and they’re on their phones or distracted by something else, or worse, when they’re gazing off into space as if I’m boring them or checking their watch. Yet, I did that to my loving Father so many times. (Tears) He was talking to me, and I was nodding my head without hearing a word He was saying. I’m so sorry, Lord.

      Our amazing God is so loving, so merciful, so full of grace, that He remains patient with me. I like how you say He remembers we’re dust. :)

      But when I think about how many times I’ve ignored Him while He was trying to speak truth into my heart, I ache and thank Him for being so forgiving.

      I often get distracted, you know that. So, now when I open the Bible, I ask God to speak to me, to reveal Himself to me, to show me what He wants me to know. He knows my mind’s tendency to wander. So, I ask Him to help me focus on Him, to really listen to Him, to open up His Word expecting to hear from Him. Oh, what a difference that has made, Sister.

      Sometimes, I feel like I’m reading His story for the very first time. Those moments are priceless!

      I know it’s a process, and I’ll probably struggle with these things for the rest of my life on this side of eternity, but I pray we’ll accept God’s grace and that He’ll help us continue to approach Bible reading as an opportunity to truly hear His heart beautiful voice . . . and that we’ll respond to Him with complete devotion.

      This year, I want to fall head over heels in love with Jesus every single day!

      Would you like to join me?

  2. Words of encouragement and God-given wisdom. Thank you, dear Sister. Your writing always speaks to my heart..Many blessings to you! 💜

    • Oh, Chrissy, you have such a gift of encouragement. The Lord has used your kind and gentle words to refresh my spirit and help me persevere in obedience and faith. Thank you, Sister. Thanks for affirming that God can use our small offerings to touch hearts in ways we never dreamed possible. We know only God can do that! What a blessing to be invited to serve Him in such a way. As we both use the words He gives us to share His love and truth, I pray we’ll remember that nothing we do for the Lord is useless (1 Corinthians 15:58). I believe in you and am thankful we’re on this journey together. To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise!

  3. I read through the whole Bible back in the ’70s. At that time I also did several studies on topics and since then have done lots of book studies, etc. (I’ve been around for a while.) Now, I’m reading through the Bible in as long as it takes. I do one OT book and then one NT book with a friend. Going slow is really opening my eyes to God’s purpose and Jesus’ love. However, just like the Israelites, I forget so easily. I trust God to remind me, when I talk to Him, of what I know that applies to each circumstance I face. Thank you for bringing this up, Xochi, and for all the serving you do in sharing your prayers and devotionals.

    • Thanks for sharing your chapter a day system, Jane. It’s important to find something that works for us, and it really helps to have a friend join us for the adventure.

      I love how you wrote: “Going slow is really opening my eyes to God’s purpose and Jesus’s love.” In this fast-paced, instant-gratification-seeking culture, it’s easy to fall for the temptation of believing more is better, fast is more effective, and finishing is success. We can easily forget spiritual growth is a life-time process. In doing so, we can also forget Jesus is a Person, the second Person in the Trinity, the One who not only died for us but lives for us, the Risen King who is and was and always will be the same, and who is always with us.

      We wouldn’t rush through lunch with our best friend, yet we settle for so much less than what God has intended to give us when we check out watches and tap our toes as if spending time with Him is a burden and not a blessing.

      I appreciate your constant prayer and encouragement, Sister. I look forward to growing with you.

  4. I so agree! There’s a difference in “doing our daily devotions” and meeting with the Lord! I think of one as “fast food” to know we’ve eaten rather than sitting at Jesus’ feet and being nourished.

    • Great visual, Karen. Your comment about how we approach “doing our daily devotions” reminds me of a saying I’ve heard that affirms “we are human beings, not human doings.” Yet, we’re so caught up in doing that we fail to appreciate being, being in God’s presence, being loved, being covered by His grace. Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts, Sister. Your voice makes a difference.

  5. I can so relate to this, Xochi. The same thing has happened to me lately as far as Bible reading goes. I used to read 5 chapters in the OT and 5 chapters in the NT every morning and sometimes a Psalm or Proverb chapter as well. I got through the Bible a couple times a year that way (maybe more). I think some of it was a bit of panic (“There’s so much to know! There’s so much to learn!”) that I felt if I wasn’t pouring it in by the gallon I wouldn’t have it in my tank when I needed it. The past couple years I’ve slowed it all down (especially if I’m reading Paul!). I can take my time more and sip and savor as I go. I think I sit just as long with it in my devotion time, but I don’t worry about “gettin’ her done” so much. Thanks for the post.

    • I appreciate your transparency, Terry. I’ve discovered that when I need to hear from the Lord, He often brings up a verse that I didn’t even know I’d memorized. Has that ever happened to you?

      Last week, I told Alan that I missed reading through the Bible in a year. Familiarity with the text is important to me. So, God willing, I’ll be following the Our Daily Bread reading plan in 2018. But this year, I’m going to enjoy the slow pace as I continue highlighting my study Bible. Isn’t it great to know the Lord isn’t grading us on speed-reading or memorization skills?

      Whether we’re reading big chunks to keep up with a reading schedule or savoring the text slowly, I’m learning that our attitude is the key element to determining if we’re approaching Bible reading to get to know God or just getting ‘er done.

      It helps me if I start with prayer, asking God to reveal Himself to me before I even open my Bible or a devotional.

      Whether we’re sipping or gulping every God-breathed word, I pray our focus will be on knowing Him, loving Him, and listening to Him instead of skimming over Him so we can earn a gold star for finishing on time. I look forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for us as we seek Him daily in 2017. I hope you’ll continue to share your insights with me through the comment section. It’s a blessing and a privilege to be growing with you, Sister.