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So, what IS the Bible, anyway?

June 7, 2010
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I wonder what comes to mind for you when you think of the Bible?  What is the Bible all about?

Some people have sentimentalized it as “God’s love letter to me.”  While this is true on some levels, it misses the heartbeat of the book.  Take a quick scan through Leviticus or Judges and suddenly it doesn’t feel too much like a personal love letter!

I have often heard people define the Bible as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.  Again, while the Bible certainly does teach me how to live, the vast majority of passages in this book do not leave you with a clear “do this” or “don’t do this” message.

The Bible can be confusing for many reasons.  Many people begin reading in Genesis and expect it to unfold chronologically as a story the whole way through.  Then they’re blindsided by Leviticus, and if they manage to push through to Kings and Chronicles they begin to feel as though they are reading repeats of the same stories [sometimes they are!].  Usually people give up at some point and skip to the New Testament.

Then we read through the parables and sermons of Jesus, and to be honest, they don’t always make sense to us.  We guess at what they mean, we highlight verses that seem particularly poetic and profound, and then we all play along like we understand.  The rest of the New Testament has loads of “underlinable” verses… and we just skip the parts that seem confusing or irrelevant.  And don’t even mention Revelation – that book is just weird.

Does that sound familiar to you?  I think all of us have felt like this at one point or another!

Let me tell you something that completely changed the way I read and understand Scripture.  Learning this helped to unlock some of those “weird,” “confusing,” and “irrelevant” passages for me.

The Bible isn’t about me.  The Bible is about God.

The Bible is God’s story.  66 books woven together into an incredibly rich and profound tapestry – some books are full of narrative (history told in story), some are laws, some are prophecies, some are letters to individuals and specific groups.  All of them are inspired by God – all of them are included for a reason.

While this book is not a simple story easily digestible in one quick read, it all forms one beautiful and grand narrative.  The story of a God who is, who was, and who is to come.  The story of a God who created humanity in His image, initiated relationship with them, and loved them enough to go to incredible lengths to redeem them from their own brokenness.  If we approach this book with the underlying questions, “what does this mean to me?  How does this make me feel?” – we will conclude that it is irrelevant and we will skip to the next part.  But if we approach with the questions, “what does this mean?  What does this tell me about God and His ways?” – it will revolutionize the way we read our Bibles, and it will revolutionize our relationships with God.

The Bible is not all about me.  The Bible is all about God.  I don’t read the Bible to make me feel good – I read the Bible to catch a glimpse of the greatness and glory of our amazing God.  And yes, that does profoundly affect the way I live.  Yes, it gives me a deep sense of the depth of His love for me.  But the focus is ultimately on Him – it’s His story, not mine.

For further reading:

So, Why Do we Have the Bible?

God’s Big Story – the story of Scripture in a nutshell

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60 Comments leave one →
  1. Trena permalink
    June 7, 2010 11:22 am

    Thanks for sharing about the Bible. YES!! As I get older and get more life experiences, I do realize that it is not about me. Everything is about God, His character, and as we learn more about Him, our lives are seen in the correct light. Excited to learn more as we Dig in God’s Word.

    • June 7, 2010 11:25 am

      Such a powerful lesson, isn’t it? Glad you are here for the Dig, Trena!

      Teri Lynne
      Psalm 19:14

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:55 pm

      Thanks, Trena – I think the older I get the more GLAD I am that it’s not all about me!! 🙂

  2. June 7, 2010 12:18 pm

    Wow- so true!

    Glad to see my favorite new site isn’t going to beat around the bush on the truth! 🙂

    • June 7, 2010 12:29 pm

      Did you really have any doubts, Sandra!! 🙂

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:55 pm

      We don’t know any other way to do it!! Why bother writing if we’re not actually saying anything! 😉 So glad you’re joining with us, Sandra – you’ve got so much wisdom to add!

  3. Robin permalink
    June 7, 2010 12:27 pm

    Great post and a great way to start. Reminding us that it is not about us, but about our big, beautiful, wonderful God! Thank you, Kristi!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:54 pm

      Thanks, Robin!

  4. June 7, 2010 12:39 pm

    Wow! So profound! Thanks Kristi, to be completely honest… I think this will help me with the Bible!! 🙂 You ladies are just beautiful!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:53 pm

      Ah, Chele – “I think this will help me with the Bible!” – statements like that are why I keep writing and teaching. It’s so exciting to dig in together!!

  5. Kristin permalink
    June 7, 2010 12:58 pm

    So it ISN’T all about me?!?! 🙂

    I can’t wait to dig deeper into HIS word and HIS story with women who are boldly, yet humbly walking in His ways.

    Diggin’ IT!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:52 pm

      lol – I know… isn’t that shocking??? 🙂 I’m so glad you’re digging with us!! 🙂

  6. June 7, 2010 1:16 pm

    What a wonderful way to start! I am definitely looking forward to reading more from you all!!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:53 pm

      Thank you, Joy!

  7. June 7, 2010 1:51 pm

    and I guess that’s one of the reasons we can have a hard time reading, memorizing or submitting ourselves to what is found in those pages. we want it all to be about us (at least, I know I do, in my sinful state!), so to learn about the Lord and His plan for us runs against our nature.

    I KNOW the Bible is about Him, and that’s not easy at all, know what I mean?

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:52 pm

      Absolutely, Monica – well said!

  8. June 7, 2010 1:52 pm

    This is a great overview of what the Bible is, Kristi. Thanks for getting us off to a great start!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:57 pm

      Thanks, Julie – truly my pleasure and privilege.

  9. June 7, 2010 2:25 pm

    this rocks – “I don’t read the Bible to make me feel good – I read the Bible to catch a glimpse of the greatness and glory of our amazing God.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard – well I didn’t get anything out of that. We are so selfish even reading the bible.

    great post – thanks!
    Stef

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 2:35 pm

      Thanks, Stef – so true that our selfish perspective blinds us!

  10. June 7, 2010 2:26 pm

    I like, “The Bible is not about me. The Bible is about God.”

    To get a personal glimpse or full of power view of His glory, mercy, grace, love and long suffering is something beyond words.

  11. June 7, 2010 2:44 pm

    Yep yep yep!!!!

  12. Stephanie Todd permalink
    June 7, 2010 10:55 am

    This is so true! I loved this lesson.. Non-Christians reading the Word don’t realize that they can have a sort of secret decoder, they could accept Christ and the secrets become revealed thru the lens of the Holy Spirit dwelling among them. Any true explorer would jump at the chance to have that kind of access!!!

  13. June 7, 2010 10:58 am

    Thank you for teaching me today, I have many times read the Bible for answers to what is happening to ME and measured “me” & felt failure- I’m sure we have all done it ESP: 1 cor 13 & put me in there-how ignorant and introspective- re-reading it with “Jesus is” and I would be worshiping & actually changing me
    I feel humbled, and it only day 1- I’m a bit nervous & excited
    🙂

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 11:04 am

      YAY, YAY, YAY!! Carolyn thank you so much for sharing this!! You’ve hit on one of my “pet peeves” – we tend to look at passages like 1 Cor 13 (and Prov 31, the Fruit of the Spirit, etc) as a “to do” list rather than understanding that we only become this through knowing Christ. Only He can do that in our lives… any amount of external effort on our part will fall short apart from His transforming work – and it is knowing Him intimately in His holiness and glory that begins to radically change us!

      So exciting – hang on for the ride! 🙂

    • Stephanie Todd permalink
      June 7, 2010 11:29 am

      As if you read my thoughts. This is so true, I always feel like a failure when I read certain passages again, and then just put it on my to do list, to try to model after them, to try harder. There is a better way to approach it, I will most definitely be seeing these passages in a new light. Asking the right questions will make all the difference.

  14. June 7, 2010 11:22 am

    Such a simple (in theory, not necessarily practice) paradigm shift, but it really makes all the difference, doesn’t it? Thanks for pointing out this essential truth in how we should approach the Bible! I’ll definitely try asking those questions the next time I read!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 11:24 am

      Awesome, Jennifer!

  15. June 7, 2010 11:33 am

    “it is His story, not mine”…exactly!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:12 pm

      And what a gift that He has made us part of His story! 🙂

  16. June 7, 2010 12:46 pm

    Kristi, thanks for getting us off to a great, God-honoring start! You hit the nail on the head. Ah, and I have to follow you tomorrow!!! Kathy

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:12 pm

      LOL – thanks Kathy. 😉

  17. stephanieshott permalink
    June 7, 2010 1:20 pm

    Hi Kristi,
    I love how you honed in on the fact that God’s Word is so much more than a love letter and so much more than what we can say in an acrostic. It’s so about God and not about us!

    Great way to begin our excavation! 🙂
    Steph
    Phil 3:7-14

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:27 pm

      Thanks, Stephanie!!

  18. June 7, 2010 1:29 pm

    Amen and amen, Kristi! Nothing else to say! WOOHOOO!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:32 pm

      🙂 Thanks, Tara!

  19. June 7, 2010 1:37 pm

    Yes, yes, yes!! Transformative truth … “The Bible is not about me. The Bible is about God.”

    Thank you for speaking truth! {And joining me on the Dig!!}

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:43 pm

      You’re so very welcome – thanks for having us!

  20. June 7, 2010 1:41 pm

    from one of the bible study leaders at my church:

    The bible is not about self discovery its about God discovery, its not a book about you, it’s a book about God. It is a fool who stands at the edge of the grand canyon and thinks at himself…..it is a fool who opens the bible and looks for himself….

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:44 pm

      Marci – I LOVE that quote. Thank you so much for sharing!

  21. June 7, 2010 1:47 pm

    Great post Kristi! Looks like you ladies are off to a good start.
    Ginger

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 1:52 pm

      thanks for stopping by the Dig, Ginger!!

  22. June 7, 2010 3:19 pm

    This is awesome~ and I love what you said about approaching the Bible with the attitude of “What does this teach me about God” versus “How does this apply to me.”

    I can’t wait for more of your site!
    Blessings,
    Lindsey

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 3:43 pm

      Thank you, Lindsey – that difference in our approach makes such a huge difference! Thanks for joining with us on the dig! 🙂

  23. Alexis permalink
    June 7, 2010 7:27 pm

    I agree with Lindsey…approaching Bible reading/studying with the question of what does this teach me about God changes everything!
    I am so excited about this new blog and thanking God that you have followed His lead about starting it!!!

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 7:29 pm

      So glad you’ve joined the dig, Alexis! We pray it will be a blessing and challenge in your spiritual walk.

  24. J-Dog permalink
    June 7, 2010 8:26 pm

    Holler. Great post. So simple, yet so hard to grasp sometimes. I dig it, yo.

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 7, 2010 8:33 pm

      🙂 Thank you!

  25. June 7, 2010 8:27 pm

    Awesome post 😀

  26. June 8, 2010 9:24 am

    I have just started a blog myself, and have began following people in my area of interest.
    I have been excited and impressed to come across a religiously committed group with strong faith and belief in the Bible.
    I myself am an Orthodox Jew who by profession is a Psychologist
    I learn the Bible (Old Testament) and texts on a daily basis.
    Some of my recent scholarly work is to undercover the universal truths of man as we learn it from the early stories in Genesis.

    I have read the article and the comments to the article in which there is expressed the appreciation for the Bible being about God and not about “me”.
    But, I have a two questons.
    1 – Does that mean I study the Bible to learn more about God’s ways ?
    2 – Can it mean, that because we as humans gave been given life by God, and are created in the image of God (slightly below the angels) that we are to learn and appreciate God’s teaching to incorporate it into our life and the how we treat others ?

    I look forward to hearing feedback to my email or my blog (www.morrismann.typepad.com/blog or morris.mann@gmail.com)

    Thank you

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 8, 2010 2:12 pm

      Morris – thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment. The Bible most certainly does teach us extensively about mankind, the nature of sin, morality, and how we should treat one another. However, even these things are based in the facts of who God is. For instance, in Leviticus 18-20 the detailed laws given to the Israelites are punctuated over and over with “I am the Lord.” The standard of what is right and wrong flowed directly out of who God is – and because He is altogether holy and righteous, our behavior is to fall in line with His character. I wrote more about this topic in this post: http://www.krististephens.com/2008/09/be-holy-for-i-am-holy.html

      So, yes, we do learn about how to treat one another. We learn the basis of morality. We can certainly study the Bible and seek to live “good moral lives.” But unless we come face to face with the reality of who God is we really have missed the point – we will always fail to reach His righteous standard in our own efforts alone. As followers of Jesus Christ we believe that the only way we can have true fellowship with God is to accept the work of Christ on our behalf – the perfect sacrifice, the ultimate Lamb of God, who is able to cover our unrighteousness with His righteousness. Like the Day of Atonement, when the guilt and sin of the Israelites was covered completely (temporarily), through the death of Jesus our sins can finally be covered. [Good news, because I certainly know how grievous my failures are when trying of my own accord to do what is right and good in the eyes of God!]

  27. June 8, 2010 12:21 pm

    Kristi! Get off my toes! 🙂
    This was an awesome post. What a great way to kick off.
    Great insight. Selfishness is one of my many weaknesses. Thanks for the instruction.

    Blessings,
    Marita

    • Kristi Stephens permalink*
      June 8, 2010 1:35 pm

      🙂 I think we all fall into this so easily! Hope your toes heal quickly! 😉

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