Thabiti Anyabwile|4:54 am CT

Tweets and Links (Jan. 18, 2014)

A few of the things that encouraged and edified me this past week:












Thabiti Anyabwile|10:14 am CT

Accepting My Alternative Lifestyle

I had a very profound moment this week. I sat with a dear sister from the church, catching up on life and ministry. We spent the first half hour loudly praising God and exalting Him for His grace and mercy. Somehow we began to discuss some current issues in Cayman, together lamenting the pain and sorrow we see in so many lives. Then she said something that arrested me. She said, “I’ve had to admit that I am the one living the alternative lifestyle.”

That comment blew back the clouds and I could see in the clarifying light of biblical truth. A cog turned and clicked into place. I’ve been guilty of referring to a range of sinful behaviors as “alternative lifestyles.” In doing so, I’ve been assuming something about my own Christian identity and the state of the world that I ought not. It’s here that her comment helped me so much.

You see, all this time, like most Christians I know, I’ve been assuming that my lifestyle, a Christian lifestyle, was or ought to be the mainstream lifestyle. I’ve been relying on a certain kind of Christian privilege that comes from most people in the country thinking of America as a “Christian country.” That’s meant seeing sin as deviant–not only from biblical Christian norms but also–problematically–from so-called “American norms.” Despite my Bible belt upbringing, I’ve long known that “American” is not a synonym for “Christian.” I’ve had to stridently distinguish the two for Middle Eastern Muslim audiences who often conflate them. Yet, somehow, I’ve continued to think of America as in the main “Christian like.”

But Christians, as far as I can tell, have never been a super-majority in the country (despite the inflated membership figures used by major denominations). And though we can speak of a “Judeo-Christian ethic” as part of the warp and woof of the country, that’s still a far cry from the country being comprised of a majority of genuinely born-again Christian citizens from whom we could expect Christian behavior. In fact, the vast majority of citizens are persons lost in their sin and needing rebirth through faith in Christ. We are traveling through vanity fair, not living in the celestial city.

Truly, the Christian is the one living the “alternative lifestyle.” Or, we should be. Is this not what the Scripture constantly holds out to us as a description for how we ought to see ourselves and live? We are to “go out from their midst, and be separate from them” (2 Cor. 6:17). We are not to conform any longer to this world (Rom. 12:1). We may not have friendship with the world lest we make ourselves hostile to God (1 John 2:15-16). We “must no longer walk as Gentiles do” because “that is not the way we learned Christ!” (Eph. 4:17, 20). We who are in Christ are new creations (2 Cor. 5:17). In short, we are the strange ones that this fallen world does not recognize because it does not recognize our Lord.

The world goes on its merry way skipping toward judgment and wrath. In these last days, just as Jesus said, men are marrying and giving in marriage just as they were in Noah’s day when the flood came. Rather than arguing for the assumed privilege that comes from nominal Christian identity, we who live an alternative lifestyle should work harder than ever to make Jesus known so people may escape the wrath to come. We have an invitation to give: Come to the water of life. Come, eat the bread of heaven. Comehave life more abundantly. Come live–not for unrighteousness and which ends in death, but for righteousness in Christ which leads to eternal life! Christ Jesus came into the world born of a virgin, Incarnate, lived a sinless life to become righteousness and holiness from God for us (1 Cor. 1:30), then offered himself to God as an atoning sacrifice to satisfy God’s wrath for those who believe (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Those who receive this Christ enter an alternate life, an alternate reality, full of love, truth, forgiveness, joy, holiness and hope. The world needs this, not our privilege.





Thabiti Anyabwile|2:51 am CT

Praising God for Two New Church Planting Works

Our Lord continues to move in our generation. He’s been bearing His arm in the salvation of peoples and individuals. He’s been pouring out His Spirit in revived thirst and hunger for His word. The Lord has been making advances in cross-cultural missions. And, by His grace, the Lord has been building His Church through the planting of local congregations.

Cool sometimes masks deeper substance. The popularity of church planting has sometimes made the actual work of church planting seem faddish rather than spiritual. But the Lord is doing a deep and wonderful work in establishing new works. I’m rejoicing in this move of the Spirit in our day. In celebration of God’s grace, I want to bring a couple of new works to your attention, works in their infancy that would greatly benefit from our prayers and support.

Come Study the Bible with Us

Last October, I had the privilege of interviewing Leon Brown, pastor and author of a new book on evangelism called, Words in Season. I deeply respect and admire Leon’s zeal in evangelism, love for the lost, and dedication to the Lord’s church. So I’m greatly encouraged to learn that the Lord has placed on Leon’s heart a desire to plant a Bible study in Richmond, Virginia.

Here’s an introductory video (2 min):

Risen Christ Fellowship (Philadelphia, PA)

Many of you will know shai linne from his work as a Christian hip hop artist. The Lord has given shai a love for the beauty of holiness, solid skill in handling His word, and a burning desire to see the city of Philadelphia brought to their knees in worship. Those qualities are coalescing in a new church plant called Risen Christ Fellowship. Joining shai is Brian Davis and a host of other saints longing to make Christ known.

If you’re in Philly or South Richmond you may want to contact these brothers and support these works.





Thabiti Anyabwile|6:14 am CT

Reading the Bible Like Jesus: Matthew 4:1-11

Perhaps one of the best-known passages of the Bible is Matthew 4:1-11, where the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. The account has everything: drama, suspense and conflict on a cosmic scale. We read that passage with a palpable sense of the universe hanging in the balance.

Most often I hear Matthew 4 preached as an example of how to overcome temptation in the Christian life. To be sure, it teaches us much about temptation and resistance. Occasionally I hear preachers and Christians turn to this passage and debate whether it was possible for Jesus to sin. What interests me today is how Jesus read the Bible in His struggle with Satan’s devices.

Note how Jesus read His Bible in a God centered way.

First, Jesus hangs on every word of God. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (v. 4). The words of God’s mouth are the bread of Jesus’ life. Every word. Not a few words. Not the words particularly easy to accept. Not the words that make Him popular. Our Lord Jesus read the Bible in order to live by every pronouncement His Father made. He understood the scripture to be theopneustos–God breathed. He understood that the words on His scroll were words that “come from the mouth of God.”

Second, Jesus read the word in order to trust God, not test God. “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (v. 7). The Lord found in the Scriptures reason to believe God, to rely on Him. Facing Satan’s temptation, he knew there was a significant difference between trusting God and testing God. One humbles itself under the word of God; the other humbles the word under our desires. Jesus never sought to stand above God’s word–always below it, in obedience to it, gladly. He trusted the Father as the word of God called Him to  do so.

Third, Jesus read the word to clarify that God alone is God, to worship God properly. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve”‘” (v. 10). It’s possible to hear God’s word while listening to and serving our idols. Isn’t that what Satan was doing as he quoted the Scripture and asked Jesus to worship him? But not Jesus. He read the Bible as an act of worship. He found in the Bible reason to worship God alone. No rivals. No counterfeits. No idols. No exceptions. He purposed to serve the Father only. He read the word in order to bow to God. This is why the Devil leaves him in verse 11. There was nothing in Christ that could be satanically used to draw Him away from the true worship of the Father in order to trust anyone or anything else.

Until recently, I don’t think I’d ever recognized just how God-focused Jesus was in this passage. The Lord’s ears were glued to God’s mouth (v. 4). His hopes rested on God’s heart (v. 7). His service belonged to God’s throne (v. 10). Each time the Lord applied the Scripture He actually applied himself to God.

Watching Jesus use the Scripture in Matthew 4 reminds me of several things I need to observe in my own Bible reading.

1. I need to learn to hang on every word of God. How often we find ourselves debating which parts of scripture apply? Yet it seems Jesus would have us debate not if they apply but how they apply. The if is settled. God speaks; we heed. Indeed, we ought to hang on every word, awaiting the life that comes from it. I too often read the Bible with an “I’ve read this before” or “I know what this says” attitude. I find it difficult to “hear again for the first time” and I find it all too easy to skim the words on the page in distraction. So I need to pray–more than I do–”Holy Spirit, let this next word be life to me! Let me feed on it like bread! Let me hear it as a word straight from the mouth of God!”

2. I need to recognize how critical to sanctification knowledge of God’s word is. Jesus lives by every word of God. His reading translated into His living. That was critical in our Savior’s temptation. Thus He was able to use a three-fold strategy for resisting demonic temptation: (1) Hide God’s word in your heart so you can live by it; (2) Trust God implicitly so you don’t take matters into your own hands; and, (3) worship the Lord God alone so you can refuse all idolatry.

3. I must give careful attention to proper interpretation. Have you ever noticed that Jesus was the first to quote scripture in this encounter with Satan (v. 4)? Then Satan follows up with a subtle twisting of God’s word. Perhaps the Enemy would have been content to leave God’s word out of the temptations had not the Lord raised it. But when Jesus quotes the Scripture, the Adversary felt certain he could overthrow our Lord even on biblical grounds! He must certainly feel confident he can do that with us. When we endeavor to live by the word of God we face the temptation of distorted, self-serving misinterpretation. That temptation was not in Jesus, but it is in us. So I’m reminded of just how vital careful interpretation is.

How is your Bible reading going so far in 2014? Do you find yourself reading the Bible like Jesus? I’m fighting to.





Thabiti Anyabwile|2:34 am CT

One of the Most Significant Days in Church History: Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday

Today, January 13th, is celebrated around the Muslim world as the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday. In the Muslim world the day is called “Mawlid.” The earliest roots of the celebration dates back to the 8th century when the birthplace of the prophet was turned into a place of prayer. Public celebrations date to the 12th century. The public introduction of the prophet’s birthday as a religious celebration was, in part, an attempt to counter Christian celebrations of the birth of Christ and to strengthen Muslim identity. Today Mawlid is celebrated in most of the Muslim world, Saudi Arabia being the most significant exception due to the influence of Wahhabi clerics and leaders.

Signs of its popularity can be found as close at hand as Siri:


But why regard Mawlid as a significant day in church history?

Well, quite simply, without the birth of Muhammad there would be no Islam. And, at this point in history, Islam represents one of the most significant religious challenges to the claims of Christianity. Not since Christianity’s earliest encounters with Judaism have Christians faced a religious and cultural identity as tight as Islam.

Vast areas of the world that were once home to Christianity are now solidly Islamic. Islam, a missionary religion like Christianity, reminds the Christian world that it can no longer take for granted its position as a world religion. Lands once boasting some of the world’s greatest churches now feature some of the world’s greatest mosques. Places where Christians once worshipped freely are now places where the profession of Christ might cost you your life. There are other Muslim lands where Christian minorities may worship freely. But some of those lands were places where Christians once comprised the majority. This is not to stir any panic about immigration or Muslim birth rates. Muslim children are made in the image of God like all children and persons. I believe people should be able to immigrate and freely move around God’s planet in accord with the laws of a given land (Rom. 13), and that God even determines our habitations with redemption in mind (Acts 17). I’m simply making the point that since the 7th century Islam has been successful at gaining and holding regions that once were largely open to the spread of the church.

Islam presents the most significant worldview challenge Christianity has faced in centuries. The simple claim that “God is one” challenges the Bible’s Trinitarian revelation of God. In its denial of the deity, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, Islam rejects the basic Christian understanding of redemption and redemptive history. Islam claims that Judaism is the elementary school, Christianity the high school, and Islam alone the university of religious understanding. In that claim is a certain view of religious history, asserting that the final word from God and the perfect prescription for human living is found in submission to Allah–not faith in Jesus Christ. That narrative subsumes Christianity as a local subplot and makes Jesus a prophet to the Jews only, belittling the Christian claim while simultaneously recasting it to serve the ends of Islam. The narrative privileges chronological lateness and anachronistically reads Islam back into biblical history, making it a powerful script in a world widely ignorant of history and theology.

Islam provokes fear in the hearts of a lot Christians. That should not be the case. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). The Christian response to neighbor–whether perceived as friend or foe–is love, not fear. Yet, far too many Christians are suspicious and fearful when they see the hijab or the long beard. A steady stream of Arab Muslim terrorists in blockbuster movies, repeated images of angry Muslim mobs or smoking towers waters the worst of human imagination and insecurity. Here’s the deal: You can’t love people you fear. And, more than that, we can’t obey our Lord’s command to love–with all its radical implications–if we give in to fear. Perhaps for the first time in Christian history, that fear paralyzes the church’s witness and tempts us like nothing else to forsake our missionary mandate–a mandate which itself is an expression of love.

Islam poses one of the toughest missiological challenges to Christianity since the Reformation. The Reformation, with its world-changing schism between Rome and Protestants, featured a contest over the definition of the gospel and the nature of the church. The Reformers, as the name suggests, sought a church reformed by the word of God. Their theological heirs, like the Puritans, carried forward that hope of seeing a people formed by and constantly reformed by God’s word. The missiological task was to get the word–the gospel–right and to live visibly by its commands and precepts. The strong Muslim objection to basic Christian doctrine and western lifestyles (so easily mistaken for Christianity because of the church’s worldliness) have made it difficult to pierce the veil over Muslim hearts. Islam’s recalcitrance in the face of Reformation-old formulations has forced a series of healthy and not-so-healthy missiological developments. We’ve seen debates over whether or how to translate fundamental Christian terms like “Son of God” and whether Muslims converted to Christ must break from Islamic culture and practices or may remain inside them. Many missionaries and aspiring missionaries puzzle over how much authority to give the Qur’an or whether to use it in Christian evangelism. Meanwhile, much of the church seems unaware that these discussions return us to fundamental issues involving the definition of the gospel, the nature of the church and the cost of Christian discipleship.

All of this is to say nothing of the considerable cultural, economic and military realities created in the wake of Islam’s historical spread. I say nothing of those things not because they’re unimportant, but because they’re not chiefly the Christian concern. Here, too, Islam tempts the church. It lures many to entanglements with civilian affairs when our battle is fought on an entirely different front with entirely different means. We are citizens of earthly kingdoms in which we have many responsibilities and privileges. But most fundamentally we are citizens of the heavenly kingdom, to which we owe far greater allegiance and honor. Which brings us to a final challenge:

Islam tests our faith in the Gospel. Are we really confident that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation? Are we unashamed of the gospel? When we face a religious and cultural worldview arrayed in opposition to nearly everything we believe, with rival claims about the nature of God, the way of salvation, and holy living, are we prepared to recommit ourselves to the foolishness of preaching and trust that real power resides in “weak” words?

We just celebrated the Incarnation of our Lord. Unlike our Muslim friends and neighbors, we do not believe this was the birth of just another human being or another prophet. We believe God the Son, the eternal Son of God, veiled His glory in human likeness. We believe it was necessary for Him to bear our likeness so that He could become for us both a perfect High Priest to represent us before God and to become the perfect Lamb of God to take away our sin. We believe He was born with a singular purpose: to glorify God the Father and to reveal the love of God toward sinners through His perfect life, His death as a sacrifice in our place, and His resurrection for the justification and eternal life of all those who repent of sin and believe in Him as Savior and God. We believe that this narrative, this truth, demonstrated in space-time history, has power to change the human heart and the course of the world and eternity.

This gospel has changed us and the many brothers and sisters in Christ with whom we worship and live. Do we believe it will change our Muslim friends and neighbors? Do we believe there’s a better birthday celebration for our Muslim neighbors to embrace than that of the prophet Muhammad? I do. And if they come to celebrate the birth of Christ in faith, they’ll come to celebrate their new birth. At which point, the birth of Jesus Christ becomes the most significant day in the history of Islam.





Thabiti Anyabwile|2:21 am CT

Can You Guess Who’s Hands Are Preaching Here?

Last Sunday we featured the hand gestures of Matt Chandler. If you’ve ever seen Matt preach, you  know he talks with his hands. Today we feature another preacher who, though not as varied and expressive as Matt, uses his hands quite effectively. His glasses also play a role. Take a look and let me know who you think this is:






Any guesses?





Thabiti Anyabwile|8:53 am CT

Tweets and Links (Jan. 11, 2013)

It’s been a great week of using social media to find edifying and helpful thinks. Since google reader folded twitter has been my reader. That’s been both good and bad. I’ve read blogs less, but I’ve kept up with friends’ and colleagues’ reading more. At any rate, here are a few things I found and enjoyed this week:





Thabiti Anyabwile|1:59 am CT

Loving All Churches and Wishing They Loved Each Other

I’m continuing to read Anne Ortlund’s Up with Worship. It’s been a surprisingly convicting book. Ortlund “writes tight.” She squeezes a great deal of insight and heart provocation in short space. I’ve been pricked–helpfully pricked!–in nearly each of the chapters so far. Take, for example, these words describing the Ortlund’s ministry over the decades:

Ray and I have ministered for more than thirty years in four pastorates. (Is it wrong for a wife to state it like that? I’ve had a subordinate role, but I’ve been there!) We’ve been in an old country church, a young suburban one, a downtown city one, and one that’s new, experimental, and “beachy.” We’ve been in mainline denominations and independent fellowships. We’ve worked with budgets of thirty thousand to millions of dollars, and with congregations ranging in size from one hundred to thirty-four hundred members. We’ve pastored formal and informal churches, traditional and untraditional. We’ve loved them all.

During the last twenty years, God has also commissioned us to an umbrella ministry of conferences to churches, pastors, missionaries, and denominations all over the world. Under the auspices of Renewal Ministries, we’ve spoken to several of the largest Southern Baptist churches in the world; to Episcopal churches with chants and incense; to Mennonite groups in their bonnets and plain clothes; to Free Methodists and United Methodists and “G.A.R.B.s” and Presbyterians; to charismatic churches and anticharismatic. Ray has preached in lace beside an enormous crucifix in Lutheran Germany; he’s shed his wolfskin  long enough to preach beside a potbellied stove to seven hundred Eskimos. He’s served shorter pastorates in Kabul, Afghanistan, and suburban London.

I was reading along enjoying the tour, imagining lace in Germany and Eskimos in wolfskin. I was recalling my friendships across denominational lines and theological lines. I was reminiscing about the churches I’ve had the privilege of being a member of and the churches I’ve had the privilege of serving. Then she concluded the section with this:

We’ve loved them all and wished they loved each other!

Yes; I’ve loved all the churches I’ve known and the friends I have in other “camps.” But the second part–”and wished they loved each other!”–struck me like lightning. It wasn’t her main point, but it pointed mainly at my heart.

I’ve loved every church I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. But I can’t say I’ve wished they loved each other. Oh, I’ve wished churches could get along, stop fighting, speak kindly of one another, assume the best, engage their differences respectfully or even stay in their corners if they couldn’t find a better way of coexisting. But my ambitions and desires have fallen woefully short of longing that all God’s churches might love one another. I certainly haven’t thought of that as part of my worship of God. Ortlund exposed a gaping cataract in my heart.

Then I heard the Savior say: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Seems this “one another” might be thought of on both the individual and the corporate levels.

Do you long for the Lord’s churches to love one another?





Thabiti Anyabwile|10:18 am CT

Reading the Bible Like Jesus: Matt. 22:31

Reading the Bible is difficult work. Or at least it can be if we intend to do more than simply read it for enjoyment or duty. There are many things we have to overcome in order to read effectively: the flesh, fatigue, distractions, time pressures from various sources, cold hearts, clogged ears and so on. Even when we overcome all these obstacles of the world, the flesh and the devil, we still find our Bible reading needs adjustment in order to read as Jesus read.

Consider for example Jesus’ interaction with the Sadducees about the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33. The Sadducees try to trip Jesus up with a question about a woman who marries seven brothers. They don’t believe in the resurrection and suppose that such a situation would obviously falsify the resurrection since she can’t be the wife of seven men in heaven. Here’s how Jesus replied:

29 But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you  not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at His teaching.

“Ouch” to verse 29. That must have stung the Sadducees.

Then notice what Jesus does. In verse 30 he answers the silly question about marriage in heaven. If they knew the Scriptures and God’s power they would know that marriage is earthly but our heavenly existence is of another sort altogether when it comes to relationships.

But verse 31 is where Jesus teaches us to read the Bible. Notice specifically the question, “have you not read what was said to you by God…?” Jesus presupposes two things here that help us to read our Bibles.

First, Jesus suggests we should read our Bibles as a present tense, personal address. “What was said to you….” The text he quotes is Exodus 3:6, where God speaks to Moses from the burning bush. But Jesus says the Sadducees should have understood that as an address to them centuries later! That text had their names on it. And so every text we read, properly interpreted, has our name on it, too. It is addressed to us personally, even though it is not primarily about us. How would we read our Bibles differently if we approached it as if it were addressed to us? At the very least we would be enabled to approach the Bible with a new sense of personal investment and a sense of the Bible’s enduring relevance.

Second, Jesus suggests we should read our Bibles as a conversation with the living God. Notice again: “What was said to you by God…”. Then consider the Master’s quote of Exodus 3:6 to prove that God “is not the God of the dead, but the living.” God lives and He speaks. Most fundamentally we are not being addressed by human authors when we read the Bible. We are being addressed by the living God. At least that’s how Jesus read the Bible. The Exodus account becomes a word from God in print addressed to Sadducees and Christians centuries later. Jesus presumes we should hear God’s voice and discover God’s mind when we read our Bibles. Our reading is God speaking. That makes sense if we understand that God breathed out the Scriptures as the true Author (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

There are a couple things I have to do in order to hold onto these realities.

First, I have to keep reminding myself that God is alive and that He is talking to me. I find it so easy to approach the Bible as a book written by dead men. That’s not my self-conscious approach; it’s a creeping assumption that keeps dulling my mind. I keep forgetting that God is speaking to me, personally, as I read His word. I find myself thinking that God is speaking generally, to no one in particular, about things in general. I need to ready my mind with a sense of His addressing me personally and specifically or my Bible reading grows cold.

Second, I need to speak more often of my Bible reading as “talking to God.” I should more frequently say about my Bible reading, “God told me…” or “God said….” I tend to say, “the Bible says” or “Paul says,” which is fine, but it misses the deeper spiritual reality. If  I have read my Bible well–as a personal address from God to me, and responded prayerfully and thoughtfully–then I have been in conversation with God.  We shouldn’t use the phrases “God said” or “God told me” to speak primarily of subjective impressions, as so many do. We should primarily speak this way about our Bible reading, where God speaks infallibly and most clearly. I need to remind myself that I not only talk to God a lot in prayer, but He talks back to me in Bible reading.

Jesus is teaching me to read the Bible better than I have. I don’t know about you… but I need it.





Thabiti Anyabwile|8:14 am CT

Reading the Bible Like Jesus: Luke 24

How do you read your Bible? What’s your general approach? Aside from setting aside a specific time, identifying a suitable place, and choosing a practical reading plan, how do you prepare your mind and heart for the joyful task and privilege of absorbing the word of God?

Or, to put the question another way, who is your model for Bible reading? Do you read the Bible the way Jesus read His Bible?

Lord willing, in August of this year I’ll have the honor of speaking at the Bangor Worldwide Missionary Convention in Bangor, Northern Ireland. It’ll be my second visit with these godly and missions-minded saints. I’ll have the honor of giving two evening addresses and leading their daily Bible readings. I’ve selected as the theme for the daily readings: “Reading the Bible Like Jesus.” What I have in mind is a brief survey of passages where Jesus handles the scriptures and reveals for us how we should approach the sacred text. Here’s my assumption: We read our Bibles best when we read it the way our Lord read His.

Consider the famous passage near the end of Luke’s Gospel. Our Lord said: 

“‘These are my words that I spoke to you while was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem’.” (Luke 24:44-47).

How does Jesus read the Scriptures?

First, the Lord read the Scriptures autobiographically (v. 44). He makes a stunning claim 400 years after the close of the Old Testament: The Scriptures contained things “written about” Him. In fact, by citing “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms,” Jesus claims that there’s something about him in the whole of the Old Testament. There’s no part of Scripture where His story does not emerge. There’s no part of our Bible’s, then, that can be adequately read without coming to see Jesus in some form.

Second, the Lord read the Scriptures teleologically (v. 44). Okay, that’s my fancy word for the day. It means Jesus read His Bible with fulfillment in view. He taught the  disciples to consider “everything written about me… must be fulfilled.” The prophecies, patterns, types and history have an end point in mind, namely, Jesus. They point to Him; He fulfills them. The unique thing about this “autobiography” is that God wrote it before the life was lived. We write our autobiographies during our lives and after we’ve lived a while. God wrote the account of His Son over centuries and centuries before His Incarnation and earthly ministry. All of history was moving to Jesus’ climactic fulfillment. Proper reading of the Bible requires an instinct for getting to Christ and His fulfillment of God’s promises and plans. He is the end to which all history heads.

Third, the Lord read the Scriptures in a Gospel-Centered Way (v. 46). I know, “Gospel-centered” is all the craze these days. But it’s actually a lot older than faddish marketers make it sound. Being gospel-centered dates back to Jesus–and even further back since Jesus sees the gospel in the Old Testament Scriptures He read. Reading the Bible well means not only looking for Jesus but looking specifically for the redemptive purpose and work of Jesus. The Old Testament contains the prediction of Christ’s suffering and resurrection, and the hope of redemption   through repentance and forgiveness of sins. The Bible contains a missionary impulse and plot. Notice that this redemption is “proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” When we read our Bibles we ought to gather a sense of God’s salvation through Christ, of atonement, of victory over death and sin, of the centrality of missions and preaching the gospel, and the privilege of playing our part in the salvation history of God. Like those early disciples, we “are witnesses of these things” (v. 48).

All of this has implications for how we are to read our Bibles. Three obvious ones come to mind.

1. If Jesus read the Bible autobiographically, then we must read it biographically. In other words, the Bible is not about us. Not in the most immediate and important sense. The Bible is about Jesus and to read the Bible well means delaying questions like “What does this have to do with me?” or “How can I apply this to my life?” until we first thoroughly know what the Bible has to do with Jesus and how it applies to Him. If we read the Bible autobiographically we’ll actually remove Jesus from the story or relegate Him to a lesser role. What a tragedy that would be! We should read our Bibles the way John the Baptist “read” his forerunner role: “He [Jesus] must increase; we [the reader] must decrease.”

2. If Jesus read the Bible teleologically, then we must read it with visions bigger than our lives in mind. There’s a place–an important place!–for applying the Scriptures to our lives. We are to “live… by every word that comes from the  mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Yet, our smaller stories nestle in a larger over-arching story. The larger story focuses on the glory of God in Jesus Christ in the redemption and damnation of sinners. The larger story calls us outside of our smaller selves to live beyond ourselves and there truly become ourselves. It calls us to lose our lives so that we might find them. Any reading of the Bible that makes us more focused on ourselves and teaches us to shrink back or hold our lives dear is actually a misreading of the Bible. It is to read the Bible with our goals in mind rather than God’s. We’re made for bigger things, grander visions.

3. If Jesus read the Bible in a gospel-centered way, then we need to read the Bible in a gospel-centered way. The Lord taught His disciples to read their Scriptures in a way that revealed His suffering, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins. They were to read their Bibles in such a way that they would be repentant, constantly turning into this good news that redemption had come in Christ. We need to find that message on every page of the Bible so that we can treasure that message every day of our lives. We need to read our Bibles this way so that we may be the witnesses we’re called to be and proclaim the message entrusted to us. How wonderful it would be to be able to share the gospel with family, friends and the nations from every type of biblical literature in ways natural to the text! That’s our goal and that’s our privilege if we learn to read the Bible the way our Master did.

So, do you read your Bible the way Jesus read His?