Old Testament got you confused? Can’t remember all the verses along the Romans Road? And when exactly did Saul become Paul? These are some of the questions I have struggled with at times this year, but I started a bit late. Let me back up before I go any further.
I trusted Jesus as my Lord and Savior in spring 2010. It wasn’t long before I started reading that book everyone had been talking about, even the ones that clearly had not read the book. I’m talking about the Bible. I had never read the Bible in entirety, and despite having been in church for most of my life, I didn’t know many things from the Bible. [For example, who robbed Peter to pay Paul? I don’t get the joke] Just kidding.
By 2012, I was living with my family in my home state where we were members of a new church. Somewhat Biblically literate by then, I successfully embarked on a ‘Read Your Bible In A Year’ plan. It was fun and I learned a lot through concentrated readings. (Warning: If you have never done this, pace yourself when you arrive at the Book of Leviticus. Don’t judge me; you know what I’m talking about.) After taking a different approach in 2013, I decided in 2014 to once again read God’s Word in 365 days or less. That’s where the problems began.
Having come to Jesus in my late 20s, I felt really behind and therefore really wanted to learn the Bible like the back of my hand. In doing so, I thought I would be able to help myself and others when confronted with all of life’s ills. Somewhere around late winter, I began feeling like I just couldn’t grasp all the information and I couldn’t keep things straight. Frustrated, I didn’t know who to turn to for fear of sounding like I was beginning to doubt God’s existence or Jesus’ resurrection. That wasn’t the case at all. I just want to know God and know Him well. It was only after a sermon on Matthew 22 that I found the comfort I needed.
In Matthew 22, the Sadducees and Pharisees are questioning Jesus, trying to catch him saying something incorrect. Having witnessed Jesus laying the smackdown on the Sadducees, a lawyer from a group of Pharisees (more lawyers) asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds by saying, ‘Love God with all your heart, soul and mind (verse 37).’ Jesus continues by saying, ‘This is the first and great commandment. The second is, ‘Love your neighbor.’
The man preaching this sermon went on to talk about how these people confronting Jesus were consumed with all sorts of things involving God and holiness, some things from the Bible, many other things not from God’s Word. Knowing this, Jesus wrapped up all of the Old Testament (remember, this is before Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection) by saying, ‘Love God and love your neighbor.’ When you throw in all the theology and trivia that we strive to know, Old and New Testament, this is still what God wants believers to do.
I felt relieved when I heard this sermon. Here I was trying to soak in every little detail about the Bible, but that’s not what God wants. Yes, we should study to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15), and yes, ‘blessed is the man who meditates in the law day and night (Psalm 1:2).’ Still, God ultimately wants us to do two things. Love Him with our every fiber, while also loving our neighbor.