If we study Scripture for the wrong reasons, we risk pride and self-righteousness. Reading the Bible through the lens of the cross helps us understand Scripture in context and teaches us humility and hope.
What is your motivation for reading the Bible?
The first and correct answer of course is to know God. However, perhaps more than any spiritual discipline, Bible study can become a blind pursuit of self-righteousness. Our quest for the knowledge of God can subtly become a way in which we compare ourselves to other Christians. We can come to believe that our great knowledge of Scripture means that we are spiritually mature. J.I. Packer, in his classic work Knowing God, writes,
We need to ask ourselves: What is my ultimate aim and object in occupying my mind with these things? What do I intend to do with my knowledge about God, once I have it? For the fact that we have to face is this: If we pursue theological knowledge for its own sake, it is bound to go bad on us. It will make us proud and conceited.
Those of us who love to read and study Scripture are in danger of being intoxicated with knowledge about God and coming to think of ourselves as a cut above other Christians. If we do, we will fail miserably at coming to know God himself and actually being transformed by the power of his Word.
The cross is the solution
The cross of Christ crushes self-righteousness within us and calls us to enter into the very presence of a holy and righteous God, where we can receive grace and mercy. It is this grace and mercy that transforms our heart as we soak in the Scripture. The cross represents more than Christ’s death. The empty cross represents the deity of Christ, his incarnation, his perfect life, his death, his resurrection, his ascension, and his reign at the right hand of the Father. It is before this cross that we must read Scripture.
The cross helps us understand Scripture
I often hear from people that they find reading the Bible to be boring. Why is that? How can the most important message in the entire world be boring? I would like to propose to you that it is because they have failed to read the Scriptures through the lens of the cross.
The cross is the centerpiece of the Scriptures and the defining moment of history. It is the essential context of Scripture that explains everything written.
For example, you would not be moved to action if I simply told you, “There is a basement—go to the basement!” However, you would be highly motivated if I said, “There is a tornado, go to the basement!” What is the difference? Context.
The cross is the centerpiece of the Scriptures and the defining moment of history.
Every story of Scripture is a story out of context if it is told apart from the cross. The Bible becomes informational, not transformational, when it is taught apart from the redeeming work of Jesus. Jesus taught that all of Scripture points to his life, death, and resurrection (Luke 24:44-45). This is why we must read the Scriptures in full view of the cross.
All of Scripture either points to a coming Messiah who will redeem us, describes how he redeemed us, or explains the effects redemption has on our everyday lives. As we read Scripture through this lens, its purpose becomes clear and its power is unleashed in our hearts.
The cross humbles us
When we read the Bible at the foot of the cross it prevents us from approaching Scripture in an arrogant way and compels us to humbly submit to its authority. When we read the word of God it will change our hearts (Heb. 4:12). It will either make our hearts harder or softer; closer to God or farther away from God.
Reading Scripture in view of the cross puts Christ at the center of the story and gives hope and restoration to our story.
The reading of the Word of God can make people arrogant or repentant, proud or humble. Jesus warred against the Pharisees because they knew the Scriptures, but they became arrogant and proud instead of repentant and humble.
Reading Scripture in view of the cross puts Christ at the center of the story and gives hope and restoration to our story. Reading Scripture in full view of the cross produces in us both humility and hope.
Humility in that it convicts us that we are great sinners.
Hope because it comforts us that we have a great Savior.
Humility causes us to submit to the authority of the word of God and trust that his word is profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17) for all of life.
Hope in that it redeems, restores, and reconciles us to God and each other.
The cross gives us hope
Reading the Bible can be daunting in light of all the “do’s” and “don’ts.” When we read the Bible at the foot of the cross it reminds us that we could never fulfill the Law, which convicts us but yet at the same time comforts us in the truth that Christ has fulfilled the Law for us (Matt. 5:17-20). Our reading of Scripture should not be done through the lens of do’s and don’ts, but in the shadow of the cross’s “done!”