There’s a bit of reading to get you primed here. Take turns, going around the circle in your group each reading the paragraphs in succession (yup, even those of you who feel more comfortable keeping quite).
From the Gospel Fluency Handbook:
Another way to grow in seeing Jesus as the Better is to get to know the larger story of the Bible. We walked through a condensed version of it in Week 2. So many people read the Bible as a bunch of individual stories. Sure, there are plenty of stories in the Bible, but the point of the whole Bible is to tell the one true story—the true and better story of the world. It is the story of God and his redeeming love. It is the story of his pursuit of us to rescue and restore us to relationships with him, each other, and a renewed creation.
In one sense, the whole Bible is the gospel—the good news that God has come to rescue and restore humanity and all creation in and through the person and work of Jesus Christ. And every part of the Bible either points forward or backward to Jesus, because he is the heart—the center—of the story. The entirety of the Bible also shows how desperately needy every single person is for God’s salvation.
Jesus is the point of every story, the fulfillment of every longing, the completion of everything that is lacking. Every character, story, and theme points to him, because it’s really all about him. So how can you learn to read the Bible this way? I recommend you go through the story of God together as a group regularly. There are many ways to do this. I am increasingly convinced and concerned that most Christians can’t tell the whole story of the Bible. Therefore, they likely can’t show how it all leads to Jesus as the Better.
I would also strongly encourage you to commit to regularly reading through your Bible—the whole thing. So many Christians have never read their Bibles. Sure, they have favorite sections they read over and over again, but they haven’t read the entire book. As a result, most don’t know the whole story, so they often wrongly interpret Scripture out of context. When you don’t know the whole story of God, you tend toward making the Bible about you and not about Jesus. I would highly recommend that you commit with others to do this. I have found that people are more successful in reading through the entire Bible when they do it with others in their small group or missional community. This allows them to learn together, as well as to hold each other accountable for their reading.
As you get to know your Bible more and more, look to see Jesus in every text by looking for the typology of Jesus in every story or situation. The Bible is not just recounting the story as it occurred, but in such a way as to create an anticipation, a longing, for a better person, a better solution, a better fulfillment—a better Savior. In his providence and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God insured the Scriptures would include numerous “types” (prefigurings) of Christ and would create a vacuum of longing for him to arrive and fulfill our greatest need. Learn to read the Bible, both alone and in community, while asking these questions: 1) How is this person or situation a type of Christ? 2) What is lacking in this story that only Jesus can fulfill? and 3) What is the longing or the hunger that is created here for Jesus to satisfy?
Don’t settle for substitutes. Don’t try to be a substitute. Jesus did better than anyone or anything. Jesus does better than anyone or anything. And Jesus will do better than anyone or anything. Jesus is the Better everything! Don’t look elsewhere and don’t give one another anything or anyone else. Remind one another of these truths about him in a gospel-fluent community. And be reminded yourself as you submit to others speaking into your life and experience that Jesus is the Better. Give each other Jesus. He’s better.
This reading technically advises two methods of rehearsing the gospel with others: by considering the Story of God (explained in week 2), and diving in and reading the whole Bible. The point of both methods, though, is the same: whether you’re looking at themes of the Bible or specific texts within it, this week’s first way of rehearsing the gospel together is finding Jesus in the story. To apply the concepts of this reading in your everyday life, pray that God will open your eyes and guide you, then answer the following questions together.
Considering the content you read, in your own words describe how you can read the Bible in a way that looks for Jesus as the key to every text. (If you’re confused about this—especially regarding the Old Testament, before Jesus was born—ask others to help, or ask your community to talk about it when you meet this week.)
While some followers of Jesus don’t seem to know the Bible well, it’s also not uncommon in some veins of Christianity today for someone to be “Bible fluent” without being gospel fluent.
Being “Bible fluent” means we know the words, stories, and even commands of Scriptures, and at times we can teach, preach, and even try to obey those words, stories, and commands. “Bible fluency” is a great and needed goal for the Christian life. However, we often become “Bible fluent” without seeing Jesus in the Bible, and without relying on God’s gospel work for all that the Bible teaches. By itself, “Bible fluency” leads to moralism (doing good things and living well by our own power), or to guilt and shame (when we fail at doing good and living well by our own power).
For example, Philippians 2:1-11 encourages Christians to be humble toward others; it even looks at the example of Jesus’ own humility as a model for our own. Without understanding God’s work and the gospel’s power in our lives, “Bible fluency” leaves us on our own to follow Jesus’ model and become humble. Anyone who’s tried this realizes it’s a double-edged sword: if we try to become humble on our own, by making our own rules, changing our own mindset, or anything else, we might succeed—but often only for a season, and by the means of self-created legalism. In many cases we ironically end up prideful because of “how humble I’ve become”! Or we might realize how prideful we are and feel hopeless by our failed efforts which can lead to guilt and shame. Only God, working in us through the truths of the gospel, has the power to make us truly humble: knowing the Bible isn’t enough to accomplish that; we need the gospel! Only by trusting in God’s power and submitting to the Spirit’s work, can we truly follow Jesus’ example and become more humble.
Knowing the Bible without knowing God and his gospel is not true Christianity. What does it look like to read the Bible through a gospel-fluent lens? In his providence and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, God insured the Scriptures would include numerous “types” of Christ and would create a vacuum of longing for him to arrive and fulfill our greatest need. Learn to read the Bible, both alone and in community, while asking these questions:
1) How is this person or situation a type of Christ?
2) What is lacking in this story that only Jesus can fulfill? and
3) What is the longing or the hunger that is created here for Jesus to satisfy?
For more practice in this skill, compare Jesus to inanimate objects, too: the rock of Moses, manna, the temple, light, water, fruit in the garden, animal sacrifice and more.
As you rest in the fact that Jesus is the key to every theme and text of the Bible, read—and pray that God will help you believe and rest in—this truth: “Jesus is the point of every story, the fulfillment of every longing, the completion of everything that is lacking. Every character, story, and theme points to him, because it’s really all about him.” Consider writing out your thoughts and prayers as you reflect.
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