This is the fourth (and last, for now) post in a series of posts on “idols” in Christianity. I have specifically been exploring those idols that are stealth, in that by themselves they are necessary and beautiful parts of the fabric of Christianity – but can sometimes be valued in our hearts and in our practices ahead of the Triune God.
I wrote about the idol of Salvation HERE. In that initial post I detailed the context and definition of the word “idol.” It may be helpful to read or re-read that part of the post before moving on.
I then wrote about how we can make our pastors and preachers and ministers idols HERE.
Most recently I wrote about how we can turn our “church” into a god HERE.
Today’s article will focus on how we as Christians can turn (gasp!) the Bible into an idol.
I believe the Bible is God’s Word to us. It is living and active and can convict, sharpen, heal, bring life and hope. It is profitable for instruction in righteousness, is infallible and is inspired by God Himself.
But sometimes an idol? Yes.
How many times has the Body of Christ been severed over something the Bible “said?” In 2010 there were an estimated 2.18 Billion Christians world-wide. These followers of Christ are grouped into an estimated 41,000 denominations. Despite Scripture itself clearly telling believers that they belong to One Body, we have continued to divide that Body over and over again. Over what? Usually a disagreement about the Bible.
Brothers and Sisters, any issue (even an issue of Scripture) that divides the Body of Christ effectively places that issue in a loftier place than the Head of that Body – and that is idolatry.
How often is Scripture pulled out of context to support a belief or action? You can make just about anything sound “Scriptural” by proof-texting the Bible. Verses can be used out of context and pieced together to support something that is very far from the mind of God. Usually, this very practice has its root in a lack of of faith and obedience. If we examine history and our own selves closely, often it is our own unwillingness to actually believe what Jesus and the Apostles lay out for us in their teachings (in context), and so we fashion our own gospel to prop up a prideful, disobedient position.
Lifting Bible verses out of context and standing behind them to support a belief, practice, tradition, action (or non-action), etc. – is standing behind a god that is not the one true God.
How often is positive change expressed as contingent upon the Bible? The United States is increasingly a heathen land. The solution? – “Back to the Bible.” Our schools and children are a mess. What can turn them around? – “Get the Bible into schools.” Have a loved one who is lost? What is often prescribed as the antidote? – “They need to read the Bible.” The Church is in disarray and largely ineffective. What should we do? – “Battle for the Bible.”
You know, it is entirely possible to read the Bible, and even to know what it says very well – and not know Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He, and He alone is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6) He did not say, “This book you are going to write about me is the way, the truth and the life.” If the Bible has become our solution for hope and change – we have given it a place it is not intended to have.
Have you lived your life with the idea that the teachings of the Bible were your guidebook? Me too. While it is true that the Bible is indeed profitable for teaching and and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16), I do not believe that it is simply a manual of proper behavior. There were 700 something laws that the Israelites had to live by. These laws were of course impossible to adhere to 100% of the time. And that was kind of the point. Jesus said that He came to “fulfill the law.” (Matthew 5:17) The law was given to us so that we would realize the utter impossibility to live a righteous life. Jesus came to remove us from that law, to free us from it’s impossible demands, and give us new life, His Life. Even still, as New Testament Christians, too often we view even the new law as a rule-book or guideline for living. This is wrong, not to mention impossible still. Righteousness was given to us in the form of a Person, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17; 1 Corinthians 1:30) – it is not earned by a performance we carry out.
When we have a proper view of grace, that righteousness is ours via a Life that is not ours – Life in Christ – we will see that the Bible is intended to point us to that Life – to Jesus. It instructs us about Him! It is not about us, and what we are supposed to do (idolatry). It is all about Him and who He is. It’s about what He has done on our behalf. It is about His love for us. We are not meant to live by the teachings of the Bible. We are meant to LIVE by a Life of an indwelling Lord.
The Pharisees were experts on the Bible (the written Scripture of their time). They knew every word by heart. They were noted religious uprights and moral leaders of the nations. To find someone earnestly devoted to Scriptures and their teachings, you had to look no further than the Pharisees.
And they missed the entire point.
Jesus said to them:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have eternal Life.” – John 5:39-40
There are Christians who talk about the Bible more than Jesus, as if the Bible is an end in itself. This makes me sad.
When the Bible is used to divide Brothers and Sisters; to proof-text a buttressed-up belief; is positioned as a savior; or as a handbook for living – Jesus is minimized. When Jesus is minimized, idols exist.
Please don’t read any of the above as minimizing the Bible, or it’s place in our lives. I am in love with the Bible. It is vital to my Life. If I were stranded on an island and could only have one item with me – I would want my Bible. But my love for the Bible and those feelings come from loving and knowing more the Person of Jesus Christ that the Bible reveals to me. The Bible is nothing if it does not lead you into knowing Him and following Him.
And that brings me to the last example of how the Bible can be an idol…
We hide behind the Bible to avoid Jesus.
Bible studies abound – I get invited to a new one almost monthly. Much reading and memorization and study of Scripture happens in churches, small groups, libraries, schools – heck, with Bible on your smart-phone apps – anywhere and anytime.
This is good, but it is not bringing Heaven to earth.
Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” – Jesus, Matthew 7:24
All of the studying, reading, researching, remembering, and reflecting on the Bible are wastes of time if we fail to live by the Life it points us to. We must become doers of the word (James 1:22). The Word is God – and He now lives inside of you. He is speaking (sometimes through the Bible, even 😉 ), and He is looking for followers. And followers don’t just hear (or read) what they are told – they do it.
So often we buy the lie that we need to “know more” in the Bible before we can do anything for God.
Satan is very pleased with multitudes of Christians sitting in Bible studies all over the world – as long as they don’t act on what they see revealed to them in the Person and Life of Jesus Christ.
Satan will always be pleased when we idolize something, anything, instead of following Jesus.
I’m not in the mood to please him. Especially by worshipping elements of my faith that are dear to me. I am setting down the idols of Christianity that have and can be moved ahead of the Author of that Christianity. I am restoring them to their proper place – after, and as a result of, and in response to – my Lord Jesus Christ.
If you have been moved by what I’ve shared in these last few posts, won’t you join me?
Let us have no other god’s before us – not even, and especially gods and idols of our faith. Let us fix our eyes on Him alone…
…and never remove them again.