My entire life has been based on the teachings of one book. The way I act, the way I respond to others, the thoughts I have, the things I am allowed to do and not to do have all been based upon a book. From a young age, I knew my family followed the Bible, but I didn’t fully understand why we followed it. I knew the
B-I-B-L-E was the book for me. I knew it was God’s Word given to His people. But, I understood it as a list of dos and don’ts, rules and regulations, cautions and commands. If I did the stuff it told me to do, and didn’t do the stuff it told me not to do, I was on God’s happy list. And if I didn’t do the stuff I was supposed to do, and did the stuff I wasn’t supposed to do, I would face the angry wrath of God. For me, the Bible was a rule book. I wasn’t focused on a relationship with God, but on His rules, and the consequences that came with those rules. And with that rule-based understanding of God, I lived with uneasiness and anger for most of my life, because I understood from painful personal experience that no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t always keep all of the rules. I was a Christ follower, a Christian with a capital C. And I had it all wrong.
I am thankful God opened my eyes to see that His Word was given for my benefit, and not used as a means to destroy me. It was given to help me understand His desires for my life. It was given to shield me from the heartache and destruction I would bring upon myself left to my own sinful desires. He knew I couldn’t find the right way on my own. I needed His guidance, and His Word was given to bring about good in my life. But, that’s not the only purpose of His Word. It was also given to reveal who He is. I needed to know of His greatness, His character, and what He has done for me. I needed to know who I am without Him and what that means for my life. I needed to know who I am in Him, and what His purposes are for me. I needed to know of His love and the close, intimate relationship He desires to have with me. His Word told me everything I needed to know about Him. It showed me who I am and that His love for me isn’t based on my performance, but instead on His kind intention and the good pleasure of His will. His Word also told me that He has enabled me with His Spirit to follow Him, because He knew that on my own I am totally incapable. How incredible! His Word also told me how He will seek after me, correct me, forgive me, and restore me when I fall away from Him. And how He continues to love me and be faithful to me. When I began to see Scripture and realize these truths, I realized the book that my life has been based around for my entire life is an incredible treasure.
Have you ever seen the antique shows where someone had this antique in the attic for several years and decided to clean out the attic and get rid of what they think is just a piece of furniture? It’s usually dusty and dingy, having been forgotten for decades. It doesn’t really have any significance in the life of the individual. As the show goes on, they sometimes discover that the piece of furniture they hoped to get a couple hundred bucks for is worth far more than what they could have ever imagined. It’s one of a kind. Its value is great - so high, in fact, that many collectors would make significant financial sacrifices to have it. The owner generally reacts with genuine amazement, and suddenly their awareness of what they own brings an entirely changed attitude toward their formerly neglected item. Now that its value is properly understood, it no longer sits in the attic collecting dust, but on full display in the house to be admired and appreciated. It is polished, cleaned, used carefully, and cared for by its owner. This illustration pales in comparison, but once I understood the true value of God’s Word, my mind about it changed in a similar way. I realized why my dad wanted me to memorize it. I realized why I was to carry it around with respect, and I realized the great importance of sharing it with my children and others around me. The value, the respect, the treasures that lie within God’s Word are immeasurable, and with great excitement I want my children and others to see and understand the Bible’s true worth. I want them to see it for what it truly is - not just a set of rules, but God’s revelation of Himself - the world creating, bondage delivering, sin redeeming, peace providing, salvation securing Shepherd of our souls.
So, now - just like my parents did - I encourage my children to learn and memorize Scripture. And I am careful in my approach, even in my methods, to help them understand the reasons God’s Word is so special. Sticker charts, reward systems, and post-it notes of Scripture taped on every surface may help memorization, but militantly drilling words into the brain without cultivating understanding in the heart is an exercise in futility. And, there is certainly some value in dedicating a time of day or a day in the week to be set aside to meaningful study of God’s word, but the Christian life is one of continual meditation on the word of God. To compartmentalize our thoughts of His word to a few moments every week is to live a double-minded life. Not that we go around spouting out Bible verses in the King James in all our conversations, but when we speak to others the very way we talk to them is governed by His Word. God’s word speaks not only to the way we talk, but also to the things we purchase, the quality of our work, even the attitude we have toward our work. It shows us a proper understanding of the creation, the beauty of nature, and how we are to care for it. Scripture isn’t given to simply be memorized, or to be used as a “play by the rules book”. It is to be a part of who we are and everything that we do. I talk to my children about how important Scripture is because it shows them what is good for them. It shows them what God desires for their lives, and it will help them all the days of their life. I tell them it helps them to understand the person who loves them more than anything or anyone else. I share with them that within it they can discover their worth, their purpose, how they are to live and do life, their freedom, their forgiveness, how loved they are, and so much more. We learn verses that help us when we are scared, feel alone, or are angry. And most importantly, it teaches us about the greatest person who ever lived, Jesus Christ our Savior. The word of God is an endless source of wisdom, help, understanding, and instruction for us.
That’s not to say it’s all roses and rainbows. I have to live out what I teach my kids. The problem with the Bible being part of everything we do, who we are, and how we think is when we learn it as a family it reveals our sin. That isn’t always fun when our kids know we have done wrong. When I sin in their presence, I have to talk to my kids about it. I have to apologize to them. I have to demonstrate repentance to God when I sin. It’s a humbling experience. But, the word of God is a light. It guides our path. It shines in the darkness, and it reveals sin. When we do wrong, we don’t like for our sin to be revealed. But, the beauty of it all is that our children see how to repent of sin and be restored in fellowship with God. Every child of God still deals with sin. Our children need to see in our own lives how to respond when we do.
The life of a christian home shows our children the Bible isn’t all about learning verses purely for the sake of memorization. It isn’t a tool to be used against someone to win an argument or control their behavior. The Christian life is to live this book out. It is to live a holy life and to seek after Him with all your heart (Psalm 119:2). It’s loving the people He has created, and caring for them and their needs whether it be spiritual, emotional, or physical. It’s believing that this book is more than a book of rules, but a book of words that bring life. My hope, as we often say in our church, is that I, my children, and all those who I love and work with, hide God’s word in their heart that we might not sin against Him. (Psalm 119:11)