(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
How does your approach to Bible reading change when you focus more on getting to know God instead of getting ‘er done?
Photo taken by and meme created by Xochitl E. Dixon.