Hello, I’m Jason.
I’m the author of the 1 John blog series. And I have a HUGE love of Scripture (the Bible).
So it’s a bit ironic that, as I’m writing this, I’m having a pretty hard time being active in my faith. I’ve been struggling to do things that help strengthen my faith: prayer, engaging in Scripture, etc. Instead, I’ve been spending far too much time on social media and video games, and trying to avoid studying for a Statistics final (which is what I’m doing as I write this).
Yet, despite these shortcomings, failures, and unfaithfulness, God has not moved away from me. Even when I feel far from God, Scripture assures me that he remains close by.
The parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15) comes to mind. It’s the story of a son who does everything wrong, yet in the end, the father welcomes him home with open arms. As the father celebrates his prodigal son’s return, he declares that this younger son “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32). This story reminds us that, even if we are like that younger son, we can be confident that God’s grace and forgiveness is enough to pull us back from even our furthest wanderings. These Bible verses give me comfort and assurance of God’s love and grace for me.
Something I’ve often struggled with in my faith has been a commitment to consistently read Scripture. I never really saw the importance of it until a year ago or so. But over the past year, I’ve learned so much about who God is. Each revelation leaves me in absolute awe. So many seemingly small and obscure stories are brought to life when we begin to understand their implications.
For example, the story of Jesus and the transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9) may seem like a random and weird episode. However, once we understand its role in helping readers recall the image of Moses in the book of Exodus, our understanding of who Jesus is deepens. It’s one of the many scenes that paint Jesus as a sort of new and better Moses. In the same way that Moses rescues Israel out of Egypt and provides salvation from slavery, Jesus rescues us from the powers of world and provides salvation from our sin.
As we start picking into all these finer details and discover more of who God is, we also begin to get a better understanding of what his will is. It’s one thing to hear a pastor expound on Scripture, but it can be so much more satisfying to read the text ourselves and locate these details on our own. It’s easy to listen to what others have to say, and although we should definitely respect the thoughts and opinions of our leaders and pastors, they are not infallible, they are not perfect, and they can make mistakes. This is not a call to revolt against your church but to walk alongside them. How much more blessed is a community of faith when we all seek to become knowledgeable in God’s Word and discern his will together.
Together, we can explore what Scripture has to say about our world right now. What does it look like to live through the pandemic in a godly way? To engage in racial justice? To respond to climate change?
Aside from comfort and understanding, how else does Scripture shape us? It challenges us and convicts us. One passage that comes to mind is John 15, regarding Jesus as the vine, and us as the branches: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). That’s pretty great. We’re told anything we ask will be done for us. That’s pretty crazy. But, it’s not an unconditional promise. There’s a key phrase in the beginning of the verse: “If you remain in me.” There’s a promise, but there’s also a challenge. This passage forces us to consider our position in God’s standing. Are our lives committed to Jesus? Are we really rooted in him? Are we remaining in Jesus? We’re forced to evaluate.
Don’t just take this from me, take it from Scripture. Take it from Paul when he writes to the church of Corinth: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5-6). So yes, Scripture gives us comfort. Yes, it gives us understanding. But most of all, it challenges us and makes us consider where we stand in God’s story of redemption.
- It provides us with comfort and assurance, even in the midst of our failures. Assuring us that God is near us and is welcoming of us, despite our circumstances
- It deepens our understanding of who God is and what he desires. Scripture grows our discernment of God’s will
- It challenges and convicts us, forcing us to make a decision and asking where we’ve put ourselves in God’s story
The ultimate goal is for us to allow Scripture to form us more into the image of Christ—someone who was rock-solid in his assurance of God’s goodness to the point of death—even death on a cross. Someone who wasn’t scared of challenging the status quo because he understood and knew God’s will. Someone who knew exactly where he stood in God’s kingdom yet did not use it for his own advantage, but rather took it as an opportunity to invite others into that kingdom. Let’s allow Scripture to form us to be more like Christ.
[Editor’s Note: This article belongs to our series on “What forms us?” Of course, it’s ultimately God who shapes us toward Christ-likeness. But we hope these reflections encourage awareness and inspire intentionality in how we live. For more articles in this series, click the #whatformsus tag.]