For over a year I have been on a strange kind of fast. I’ve been reading through the Gospels over and over again while refraining from the Old Testament and the rest of the New Testament. It has been sort of a renewal project for me as I have sought to rediscover the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways. It wasn’t something I did intentionally, but it was more of a journey that God took me on. Each day I would get up and pray, “Lord, show me your way” and I would read a chapter in one of the Gospels as I made my way through them.
Getting Back to Jesus
It reminded me of my early days of following Jesus as a young teenager. I grew up in a family that was far from God. It was as a young teen that we experienced a kind of “oikos” (household) conversion. It began with my dad, but didn’t stop until my entire family became followers. It was during that time that I intuitively began to read the Gospels. My Bible had the words of Jesus in red so I read the red over and over again.
Since breaking my kind of strange fast I’ve started reading Acts. Today I read the first part of Acts 2 where people of all nations came together at Pentecost and heard those early Christ followers speaking in their own language. I couldn’t help but think of another event in Genesis 11 where God divided the people by confusing their language. I’m going to have to dwell on this one, but one thing is for sure; Jesus brings us together!
This was apparent this past weekend when I met with a group of people from all over the world for the annual meeting of a ministry that trains house church pastors in Iran and smuggles Bibles. God brought us together. I was overwhelmed by the living epistle that so many of the Iranians represented as children of those who had literally given their lives for Jesus got up and told their story. One lady’s child was taken by the Moral Police and as she stood before the Moral Courts she was told the only way she could get her back was to deny Christ. She refused to deny Christ and they refuse to return her child to her. That was over seven years ago. God is bringing revival to Iran and it is time for us as the body of Christ to come together and respond.
While I was on this strange kind of fast I began to approach the Scriptures through what I am calling the Spiral Method. It involves beginning with with the core of the Scriptures and moving out in a spiral manner.
The core passage is Jesus’ opening words in Matthew 3:1, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near”. As we know the word “repent” means to rethink. Jesus is inviting us into a whole new way. That’s why I have been focusing on rediscovering the simplicity and centrality of Jesus and his ways. By reading and re-reading the Gospels through the widow of this scripture I am coming to understand that I tend to see scripture through my own cultural lens. This is why Jesus also said in Matthew 13:13, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” I can no longer assume I get it because I grew up in the Bible Belt. The Bible Belt might be the very thing that keeps me away from Jesus and his ways. This new perspective forces me to continue my journey while asking the question, “What if I’ve been wrong?”
From this core verse of “repentance” I move to the “Sermon on the Mount”. It is in Jesus only sermon of this type that he begins to flesh out his kingdom. It doesn’t take long to realize that Jesus kingdom is radically different then the kingdom that the Pharisees, Shadducess, Zealots, Essenses, and Herodians envision. Matter of Fact it doesn’t take long to realize that is radically different then what you or I might have envision. It may even take most of our life to overcome our previous religious understanding and behavior.
From the “Sermon on the Mount” I’ve moved out to the rest of the gospel where I see Jesus living out the “Sermon on the Mount”. Over and over again he put’s flesh on his sermon. You want to know what it means to love your enemy, then look to how Jesus loved the Roman soldier at the cross. Jesus lived his message, it was totally integrated with his life.
This leads me to the last movement in this spiral approach to reading the Scriptures. Now I’m ready to read the rest of the Bible. For years we have agued over various interpretations of Scriptures. I’m sure we will continue to do so, but at the same time Scripture both Old and New Testament must be interpreted through the lenses of the Gospels. Jesus is our Interpreter! He is the “logos” (Word) that was from the very beginning. He is the “logos” made flesh!
That’s why I’m so excited about going back and reading as Paul Harvey would say, “The rest of the story”. While I won’t get it perfect, I do feel after this strange sort of fast that I’m more prepared to understand; Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Old Testament. Please don’t misunderstand I value all of Scripture as God’s inspired word, but in order to understand the inspired word we have to see it through the lens of an inerrant Savior.