I was called out about something recently and I must admit, there’s no way around it, I was totally guilty. Still am. Crazy thing is, I’m going to keep being “guilty” of it. At least that’s the plan. And I hope I’ll be a “bad” enough influence on you so you’ll stay “guilty” of it yourself.
You see, I was told, “Oh, you’re one of those bible-toting scripture-quoting Christians!” And it wasn’t positive. Even crazier is who said it, which was — wait for it — another pastor’s wife! Another pastor’s wife!
My immediate response to her was, “Aren’t you?!”
That’s like one cop telling another, “Oh, you’re one of those law-enforcing, peace-endorsing cops!” Or like one employee telling another, “Oh, you’re one of those job-keeping, promotion-seeking employees!” Or even like the Belgium goalie telling USA’s Tim Howard, “Oh, you’re one of those record-setting, shot-rejecting goalies!”
What should be considered a compliment is uttered like a complaint, like you’re doing something wrong by doing what you and they are supposed to be doing. To have that complaint come from someone who is in the same shoes as you — the same role, the same challenges and, supposedly, the same purpose and hope as you — makes no sense and, worse, makes the accuser look like a hypocrite. Their own folly is exposed by the very thing they’re pointing their finger at you about.
I didn’t take it personally, though, even if the sister meant it derogatorily. Indeed, it is absolutely a compliment to be called a bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian. It means I’m being at least a little bit like those in the Bible who staked everything on what “thus saith the Lord” instead of on their own, each others’ or the masses’ fickle opinions and selfish desires. Sure, I got the twang. But I chose rather to take it as the compliment it should be while at the same time showing her her folly by reminding her she should be one, too. “Aren’t you?”
Who she is isn’t important and it would actually be unfair for me to say since our conversation was private. That’s makes her different than T.D. Jakes, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen or any other false teacher who makes outrageous statements publicly. (See Naming Names). In fact, forget that we’re both pastors’ wives. Any Christian complaining when another Christian chooses to rely on the Word of God, it’s almost unbelievable.
Almost. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine… (2 Timothy 4:3a). I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. That sister’s apparent diminished way of thinking about the Bible is increasingly pervasive in Christian ministries today. No, I was more disappointed, and I should have been. Something’s terribly wrong in the church when a true believer in Jesus risks ill will from a fellow believer for daring to think, dialogue and live according to His Word, and to encourage others to do the same. I actually feel sorry for her in her folly.
That’s why I must share with you, from a position of defense but much more from a position of humble beseeching, my seven confessions for being a bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian. My goal with this — as with everything I post on this blog and my Facebook page — is to spark new or heightened interest in the sheer awesomeness of God’s Holy Word. I’m not talking about worshipping the bible but worshipping its Author by learning and living by what He wrote. God wants us to be close to Him. But how can we be close to anyone we take little time to get to know? Prayer is essential. Fellowship with the saints is also important. But how can we really love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength if we’re not also hanging on His every word?
Confession #1 – I’m not there yet.
This article and entire blog God is using as much to speak to me as to anyone else. I, too, need to be reminded to read my bible, and to rely on the wisdom and guidance He provides through it. I have to fight the laziness, lack of motivation, day-to-day busy-ness, forgetfulness and occasional apprehension that can get in the way of personal bible study.
But beyond that, it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been a Christian, you will always have room to grow in your love for God, your desire to be close to Him and your efforts to put it into action in your daily life. Being a bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian at heart is foundational to that growth. Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Confession #2 – I don’t love anyone as much as I love Jesus.
I love my husband and kids beyond measure. So, like we all do with those we love, I show them. I show them affection, spend quality time with them, give to them, sacrifice for them, take care of them, tell them I love them, praise them, listen to them. I laugh and cry with them. I cook for them and go to the movies with them, which is my favorite pastime. Or I’ll watch every . . . single . . . Lakers game, from pre-season to playoffs.
But neither my husband nor any of our children ever gave me life — not the life I’ve been living temporarily here and not the one I will live eternally in heaven. None of them died to give me eternal life. None of them could. I believe they would give their lives to save mine, but none of them could ever save my very soul. Only Jesus Christ could do that and in fact did do that. And He did it while I was yet a sinner. That’s why He deserves my complete devotion, attention and obedience.
But God’s not tangible in this earth realm in the same way as my family. I can’t hug Him, cook for Him or root for His favorite team with Him. (What would I cook? And would He be cheering for both teams since He’s not a respecter of persons?) Thankfully, I can certainly sacrifice for Him, tell Him I love Him, spend quality time with Him and honor Him, all in so many wonderful ways. The most important way, besides diligent prayer, is by learning how to be a bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian.
Jesus said, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word (John 14:23a; see also verse 15) and Anyone who loves their father or mother [or] son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me (Matthew 10:37). His commandments — precepts, principles, wisdom, instruction, admonition, promises and encouragements — are spelled out in the Bible. So, I have them at my disposal to learn and obey and share as a way to express my love for Him. As much as my family is worth it to me, Jesus is worth it infinitely more.
Confession #3 – I am helpless, useless and hopeless without God’s Word.
What is it about All scripture is…profitable (2 Timothy 3:16) don’t Christians, including other pastors’ wives, understand? My very eternal salvation is affirmed by God’s inspired Word (cf. 1 John 5:11-13; 2 Timothy 3:15), and Christ’s empty tomb seals the deal when it comes to the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures. The Bible has all the authority, reliability and power every Christian needs to live and serve in His Name here on earth, and to have joyful hope for eternal life to come. No amount of inspirational psycho-babble from Oprah, Iyanla, Dr. Phil or their life-coaching wannabes, and no amount of materialistic positive confessions from your favorite prosperity preachers, and no amount of self-determined self-talk about your own self-worth can provide the same sustained level and depth of security, hope and peace through trials like a daily dose of God’s infallible Word. …[Y]ou have known the Holy Scriptures through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Confession #4 – I’m afraid of my own folly and shame.
May I never expose my own folly by complaining that a fellow Christian is acting like a Christian! Nobody wants to be a hypocrite. Of course, inevitably, since no one’s perfect, every one of us says or does something stupid as a believer. But learning God’s Word and doing our best to put it into practice will help prevent such folly and the shame it brings to us and to the Gospel. May I never open up the Word of God to be blasphemed!
It is folly and shame to belittle the very thing the Lord Jesus Himself said sanctifies us: Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth (John 17:17). The more I tote and quote the Bible, the more of God’s truth — versus my own folly — will be reflected in my words, walk and witness.
Confession #5 – I don’t want to be led astray, or lead anyone else astray.
I don’t want to be silly (2 Timothy 3:6) or simple-minded (Romans 16:18). I don’t want to be like a child, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting (Ephesians 4:14). I don’t want to be deceived. And I don’t want to be deceiving while I’m being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13).
The more I open up God’s Word, the more I learn His sanctifying truth — truth about the Lord, His character, His nature, His will, His precepts, His warnings and His promises. The more I learn God’s Truth, the more discerning I become to recognize truth and error, sound and false teaching, right and wrong. The more discerning I become, the less likely I’ll be led astray and lead astray others whom I’m supposed to teach or witness the Gospel to.
Toting and quoting the Bible helps to shield God’s precious people from false doctrines and protect us from the false teachers who use it to manipulate the vulnerable. Biblical illiteracy is chronic in the Body of Christ. As a pastor’s wife, a women’s ministry director and a Christian blogger, I don’t want to perpetuate the immaturity that plagues us, from the pulpit to the pew and from the airwaves to the world wide web.
Confession #6 – I want to be ready against the critics.
When someone challenges your faith or challenges a doctrine or practice you follow, it’s not enough to defend it by saying, “But I just know it in my heart…” or “Well, my experience is that…” or “I had a vision about it” or even “But my pastor says…”. Christians need to know, not just what we believe but also why we believe what we believe. And there’s no better source than the Word of God.
Often people criticize just to be controversial or manipulative, or out of pride and envy. But sometimes people really are seeking true understanding, and they don’t care what you feel, what you’ve personally experienced, what subjective vision you think you had after eating that left-over pizza, or what your pastor thinks. They want something solid, something objectively verifiable, something independently credible, not something easily suspect. Being equipped with a fitting bible verse is infinitely harder for the honest critic/skeptic to refute and dismiss because then they’ll be arguing with the Almighty Creator of the universe and not you.
If they’ll still reject you or belittle you, you can still walk away unscathed because you know it’s not mere man’s word they’re rejecting or belittling — if indeed it’s God Word in proper context that you’ve presented. You won’t be easily offended by the critics attacking you but rather will feel sorry for them and will know how to pray for them.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Being a bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian gives you the thick skin you need to stand against criticisms (honest or not) and persecutions.
Confession #7 – My very life depends on God’s Word.
My husband and I have learned first-hand that relying on the Holy Bible gives wisdom and strength for dealing with the stresses, fears, weariness and bitterness that can result from multiple betrayals, alienation, loss and disappointments and eat away at your physical and emotional well-being. Relying on the Scriptures is the most sufficient thing that gets you through the fiery furnace un-scorched and smoke-free. Unless Your law had been my delight, I would then have perished in my affliction (Psalm 119:92).
That’s why I don’t believe you can ever be too much of a bible-toting scripture-quoting Christian — except if you purposely quote it out of context, cherry-pick scriptures according to your own preferences and ignore the rest, or possess knowledge but lack love (1 Corinthians 13:2).
That’s why I love Psalm 119. It’s interesting that the longest psalm in the Book of Psalms and also the longest chapter in the entire Bible (176 verses) has almost every single verse make some sort of reference to the all-sufficiency of God’s Word — His laws, commandments, precepts, principles, wisdom, etc. Apparently, the psalmist was an Old Testament equivalent of a modern-day bible-toting scripture-quoting follower of God, too! If I’m going to heed anybody’s example, it will be his and not someone who belittles life-preserving reliance on what “thus saith the Lord.”
I praise God for the authority, reliability and power of His written Word! And I feel sorry for anyone who complains when a fellow Christian chooses to think, live, serve and witness by it and it alone.
How has knowing or not knowing the Word of God helped or hurt your Christian life, service or witness? Please leave your comments and I will endeavor to reply as soon as I can.