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The Bible is a love story. It is a huge, continuous story through 66 books describing who God is, what God created, and why. It is the love story of God meeting us where we are at; rebellious, sinful, failing, guilty, striving yet never reaching. God meets us with His rescue, His salvation, His favor, His grace, His mercy, His goodness.
The main character is God and He can be found on every page. When we read and study the Bible, while it may certainly help us, it is there for us to hear from God. Through His word God teaches, challenges, encourages, and yes also rebukes us, to better equip us to do whatever tasks He has specifically designed us to do.
The Bible contains the only true, stable, unchangeable standard of behavior; the one set by God. We learn about His standards in the Bible. Many people accept that as truth, and many ridicule it and decide to set their own standard for behavior.
However, while many like to coin the Bible “the blueprint for living”, it is not. To suggest that it is, diminishes it’s power and love to a rules manual, an operational book.
Let us look at it this way, if the Bible is the “manual for life” it makes me (or you) the center of life. The whole reason for going to the Bible then is so that “I” or “you” can know how to live. Yes, sounds noble because our default seems to be “what do I have to do?”
In this scenario however, the Bible becomes a means to an end, us striving to make ourselves better. Again, sounds noble, however the story of “me, me, all about me” is NOT what the Bible is about. When life becomes me centered and me powered, even when we give lip service and verbal credit to God and His power, it is legalism. Ouch!
Well, what exactly is legalism? Following God and His ways becomes reduced to principles or rules that we apply. In the end, God and His Grace, God and His life changing power, along with the love relationship between God and His human creation, is taken out of the picture.
The Bible tells us of the perfect standard that God is (which also helps us to realize that while we learn God’s will for us in how He would like us to behave, we will not in this life down here on earth be able to reach His standard as His standard is nothing less than absolute perfection). However, every book in the Bible is love filled, mercy filled, grace filled, as it contains His gospel (besorah, good news) message. The deeper this message seeps and sinks into us, the more we will reflect just who God designed us to reflect, Him!
When the Bible tells me to work out my salvation, it does not mean to go out and get what I do not have; get more patience, get more strength, get more joy, get more love. Growth happens by working out of me what God has already placed in me; living out the reality of what I do have. I become more spiritually mature when I focus more on all that God has already done for me, and less on what I need to do for God.
This is how we are called to work out our salvation: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.“ Philippians 2:12-13
The litmus test is this; if you are thinking more about what you need to do, than what God has already done, your focus is on yourself, and not on God.
So, what has God already done? All this talk about the gospel, what does it all mean? So glad you asked! I will send you over here to bring you deeper into this material.