As some readers will know, I have a huge respect and admiration for Rob Bell, for his ideas and perspectives, what he believes Christianity to be and how we can communicate and live it out (and no, I'm not trying to look like him with my new glasses, before anyone starts!).
I was listening to him defend himself and his church recently, after they had received a lot of criticism. One thing he said really hit home.
He said that a lot of Christians have made the Bible their idol, like a golden calf. They have started to worship the Bible rather than focusing on how to live it out. The Bible has become more important to some than following Jesus, its become their idol. Christians can spend so much time and energy picking out phrases and lines from the Bible, and arguing about issues which in the end don't really matter.
Issues which while important, at the end of it all aren't at the root of the message of Jesus.
The Bible is God's word. It is inspired by God and authoritative. It shows us how God wants us to live and shows us the values that God has. It shows us what God has done for us and what He has done throughout history. It is useful for training, for guiding us and directing us. It is to be respected and it has to be used. It is a gift from God.
But it is not to be worshipped or made an idol in itself.
You see, the Bible is not the point.
It is a means to see the point.
God speaks now, He still speaks today. Many of you will have heard God speak to you. Those words He speaks to us are just as authoritative if they are truly from God.
The Bible is God's word for us. But its not the only way God speaks to us is it? God is bigger than just the Bible (I can hear the cries of heretic already!). He is bigger than everything, everyone, bigger than all things we can imagine or comprehend. Beyond our minds and imagination.
The Bible isn't the point
The point is God. The point is living like Jesus and the truth and power of the cross and resurrection.
Having the same values as Jesus.
Being a community that reaches out to serve, give, blesses and show the love of God to the world around us. Making a choice each day to live differently.
Being a community that does not judge or condemn or exclude anyone, including those they disagree with of our own faith, but welcomes and includes and forgives.
Knowing that through the cross and resurrection we have a new hope and the promise of eternal life in the Kingdom of God, whatever the Kingdom of God is.
That's what is important as a Christian. The Bible is merely a tool, a way of seeing and understanding God, a collection of books inspired by God and useful for training, equipping and encouraging people in their faith. A device for helping people to see a fuller picture of God and of what He wants for us.
The Bible is not the point. The Bible is not God.
Lets not limit God and the message of Jesus to the Bible. Lets not limit being a Christian to the Bible.
Being a Christian is so much more, and God is so much more.
We aren't made or designed to fully comprehend God. Its like trying to put a computer operating system requiring amounts of memory on to an i-pod-mini. It just can't do it. Its not designed for it.
God is like the operating system, we are the i-pod. We can use the operating system, its the background and the method we choose to live and work by and through. The Bible is one of the tunes that God gives us, to take with us, to use as a tool to help understand Him. Its almost like Multi-map, in that it shows you who and what God, the cross and resurrection is all about, and you can zoom in to the point you want to refer to, to examine and to try and navigate, and you can keep coming back to it again to try and understand it better.
But we'll never have the full operating system or be able to fully comprehend it. We just aren't designed to.
People try to limit God to the Bible and the visual signs He performs today. People seem to want to have an organised and rigid explanation for everything.
The answer to everything, ultimately always comes back to God. We don't need to know everything about God. If we can't explain something, say so. Just say that you trust that God knows what He's doing. Sometimes things happen we can't explain and all we can say is that we don't know why but we still love and trust God.
But although we can never know Him fully, God still wants us to know and understand Him more. Because we can't comprehend God we can always learn more about Him. He wants us to.
We have to keep probing, questioning, re-examining the Bible, listening to what God is saying, seeing what He's doing, and what it is to be a Christian here. Today. Now. Wherever we are.
We have to keep on going, and never be satisfied or think we 'have the answer'.
We need to accept that God is more than we will ever be able to comprehend or imagine or understand.
But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to learn as much as we can.
That's why God gave us enquiring minds.
To explore, probe, question and think about what He has said, and to try to understand it better and in doing so understand Him better. To understand better what it means to follow Jesus and live like Him.
We keep on learning, we never stop learning, we never know it all or have all the answers. There is always more to learn about God and always will be. We should keep trying to learn more and have the humility to know that we will never know it all, and that there are some things we will never totally understand about God.
And at the same time we need to live out what we learn and put it into practice every day, relying on God to guide, direct and strengthen us.
It doesn't mean we have to be religious nuts or Bible-bashers. It doesn't mean we have to quote the Bible all the time in every conversation we have. That's not it at all. That's going to make us look weird and strange, and alienate people.
But we need to just live it. Do it. Put it into practice, and just keep on learning. There's a time for talking about it, and God will show us when that is.
What an adventure we are on with God in learning about Him, and the great thing is it just keeps on going, we keep on learning and growing and doing. It excites me even writing about it.
Its God, not the Bible, that we worship. The Bible is hugely important, but its not the point.
God is the point. God is the reason for everything and what everything comes back to.
Let us never forget that.