Beyond Chapter & Verse


Here’s an old post salvaged from the old DI archives from a couple years back.  Enjoy! 

I love the Bible.  But I’ve never been good at citing “chapter and verse” as they say. Have you ever met those Christians who always need to have a verse cited to back up every statement made? When reading a powerful testimony, or a great non-fiction Christian book, they want footnotes with Scriptures to back up every paragraph and point. If we’re not quoting Scripture in our witnessing encounters and conversations with those outside the faith, they question our evangelistic methods. Are we really “biblical” if we don’t saturate our language with biblical references and constant Bible quotations? Have you met these folks?  

Let me encourage us all to move beyond this simplistic notion that having an arsenal of memorized Scriptures passages is the highest and most mature level of Christian thought and conversation. It’s not.  I know many Christians who can quote verses but clearly aren’t living them. God’s Word has not taken up residence in their hearts.  Their head knowledge is detached from their heart’s desires.  Sometimes it seems like we like to “use” Bible verses as a holy stamp of approval on our own beliefs or agenda. 

But don’t get me wrong: I believe wholeheartedly in the power of memorizing Scripture. One of my favorite memory verses is Psalm 119:9-11:

How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your instructions! With all my heart I seek you. Do not allow me to stray from your commands! In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you.

So, I try to hide some powerful promises in my heart, to call upon at opportune times. It’s important to “always be prepared to give an reasonable answer for the hope that lies within us” (1 Pet 3:15).

Yet, you will rarely hear me quoting passage and verse in ordinary conversations about faith. Some may say I need to get back to the Bible. I want to encourage us to seek a deeper saturation with Scripture than merely proof-texting — that is, pulling out isolated verses whenever convenient to make a point. The deeper saturation I speak of comes from steeping ourselves deep within the entire Story of Scripture, inserting ourselves within the divine drama being told throughout history through God’s prophets, the apostles and the eye-witness accounts of the life of our Savior Jesus, and finding ourselves swept up into the world of God’s unfolding Story. We don’t need to get the Bible into us as much as we need to find ourselves completely lost in the activity of God as revealed in the Bible!

Friends, its not hard to throw isolated Bible quotes around and use them as weapons to break down others’ arguments. Perhaps there is a time and place for such an approach — say, at a theological debate. But in our everyday journey as revolutionary followers of Jesus, we need to go much deeper than this. We need to swim in the seas of God’s wisdom and revealed truth. We need to go beyond rational arguments, to having our entire mind and imagination rewired and shaped by a God’s-eye-view of things.

fish bowlAs C. S. Lewis put it, we all need to undergo a “baptism of the imagination” where we live biblically, think Kingdomly, and interact Christ-fully without even thinking about. We need to become so familiar with God’s Word that we view all reality and circumstances THROUGH IT’S LENSES rather than viewing reality from a worldly point of view and then trying to APPLY CERTAIN PASSAGES to that life. Two images help contrast these two:

FISH BOWL. The type of Scriptural mindset we ought to strive for is more like immersing yourselves in the entire narrative world of the Bible so thoroughly that we are like a goldfish swimming, breathing, and viewing everything through the waters of Scripture (i.e., Biblical Worldview) without even knowing its there. The fish doesn’t look at the water, but sees and experiences everything through it without even knowing it (i.e., “quoting chapter & verse”).

SUNDAY DRIVERS. Many of us, however, don’t see the world through Scripture like a fish sees reality through the water he swims in. We instead live quite independently from Scripture, like a car traveling down the road of life doing their best to find the best route home. When we get lost, confused, run into unexpected construction, or travel twisty and treacherous roads, we turn our eyes to God’s Word as helpful road signs or a road map to help us through that particular stretch of the road and get ourselves back on the right track. Once the crisis is averted and we’ve reoriented ourselves, we then continue down the road as before without much ROUTE66thought to God’s guidance. In this view, the Word serves as helpful information when lost, but it is not part of us, not in us, not shaping us, not the lenses through which we view the world or the holy waters in which we move and live and breathe (e.g., Acts 17:28).  

Is our entire mind being transformed and rewired by a deep saturation in God’s Word? Does our familiarity with God’s Word inform our very imagination? Or, are we simply operating out of the grid of the world, absorbing the worldview of the popular culture and throwing some Bible quotes on top as a spiritual-looking frosting on the cake? Are we swimming in the Word, or are we reading it as helpful road signs in times of trouble?

Just because we quote Scripture doesn’t mean our life is completely steeped in the larger narrative of God’s redemptive drama. Just as we can lose sight of the forest when we’re surrounded by the individual trees, so too can we lose sight of the larger story of God’s unfolding Story when we are too focused on the individual Bible verses.

Let’s dive in and get soaked with with the Word, and begin viewing the world through it’s transforming truth!

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