I recently read through The Jesus Storybook Bible with my four boys and loved it! Not only do I deem it required reading for parents with small children; I consider it a must read for all ages. The message isn’t only for the 4-7 year old audience but one that needs to be grasped by young and old.
I think it is so valuable because it emphasizes the macro-story of the Bible over the details and micro-stories within. Don’t get me wrong. The micro-stories are important but I am thrilled that my boys will know that the Bible is one massive story of love, rescue and redemption as they learn the individual stories.
Reading this book reminded me of the beauty of the Bible and I thought about the different ways that the Bible is often approached. The approach is key. If we approach something from the wrong premise then everything that follows is going to be off. For example, if I approach playing football like it is a basketball game then it will not matter how well I pay basketball; I am going to miss all that comes with playing football.
So if the right approach to the Bible is the macro-story of God, what are some of the other ways we approach the Bible? Or to ask the question another way – What is the Bible not?
The Bible is not a book of disconnected stories. All of the stories within Scripture point to God. They reveal a God with a master plan and ultimately point to Jesus. Take the stories of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 22), Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 45), the healing of Naaman (II Kings 5), or Jonah at Nineveh (Jonah 4). They are great stories on their own but they all foreshadow the way in which Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice, the rescuer of His people, requires a surrendered heart and the extravagance of His compassion.
The Bible is not a book of rules. God is not primarily interested in rules. There were some amazing rule keepers in the Gospels – they were the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. These were the guys with whom Jesus was most harsh. He was pushing against the notion that rule keeping is the bottom line. Life with God isn’t founded on rules but relationship. Relationship is the basis of a life with God and out of that will come a desire to embrace and obey the ways of God and reflect our membership in His family (I John 5:2-3).
The Bible is not a book of heroes. We sometimes think the Bible is a collection of stories laced with flawless Biblical superheroes. Take a closer look though and you won’t find any. You will find people like David the adulterer and murderer, Noah the drunkard, Jacob the liar and Rahab the prostitute. Are these the people after whom we are to try to model our lives? Maybe we are actually supposed to see ourselves in them and again realize how much we need Jesus!
The Bible is not a book of principles. One of the statements that grates on me is, “I used [insert verse here] to get [insert desire, need or dream here]”. Are there promises in the Bible? Yes. Is the Bible a book of promises that amount to guarantees that we hold God to? No. To approach it as such is to say the Bible is a self-help manual with some cool stories wrapped around some sweet if/then principles. Our American culture loves to turn everything into a product. The Bible isn’t a product to be “used” but an invitation into a cosmic redemption story.
The Bible is not about you. The Bible is about God. Obviously it has profound impact on us but it is not primarily about us. We are quick to make life all about us. Isn’t that the American way? Actually it is the human nature way. To center life around ourselves. Actually all of life including the redemptive work of Christ begins with, is sustained by and ends with God. (Romans 11:36, Colossians 1:16-17).
At Mill City we see the Bible as the timeless, cosmic story of God’s redemption, rescue and selfless love. When this is how we approach the Bible then our goal is determining how we fit into this story. I think that is beautiful!