How did you learn to drive a car? Did you study and memorize an owner’s manual and away you went? Maybe some people learned that way and that explains road rage, ha ha. For me I was so blessed to have my grandfather teach me. He was very thorough, mostly patient, sometimes nervous but always loving. I sure miss him. We would go out on some country road and he would put me at the wheel and talk me through the basics of how to keep the wheels on the asphalt. He would say “look here, see that picture? Now keep that picture and you know the tires are on the road.” He often had books scattered on the back seat. They were Bibles and commentaries and such. He was a preacher so I guess it was part of his library. When I came to a stop, if it was too abrupt, some of these books would slide off onto the floor. He would say “you know you stopped too fast when all your stuff slides off the seat.” I don’t think that finer point was in the owner’s manual. If I got afraid of traffic or of going too fast he was patient and reassuring. If I got too confident in a corner and all the stuff found the floor again he didn’t yell at me but would say “I think that was a little too fast. You don’t want to scare your grandmother.” I still remember the roads the conversations the smell of his aftershave and joy in his voice when I got it right. Most days I think about how awesome it would be to do that all over again.
Years later I had the opportunity to learn how to fly airplanes. In the Navy the instructors were definitely not like my grandfather. They had their own agendas but were willing to share their knowledge and skill with the “new guys.” The best instructors knew the art of “demonstration.” We all wanted to do really well in training since that meant we would likely get to fly the cool stuff like F/A-18s (that was my ride). We would study and study, spend time in the “procedure trainer” or even a simulation but it never replaced the need for a demonstration. The instructor would take control of the aircraft and have you “ride the controls” through a particular maneuver. In this way you would learn what it felt like in the aircraft and what your body needed to do to replicate this maneuver. We had to memorize all the procedures verbatim including the periods and commas. Some of them I still remember 25 years later. But the knowledge of the procedure didn’t teach you how to fly an awesome loop or skillfully maneuver the jet into a gun solution or precisely arrive at a bomb release point. Some pilots never figured this out. They would rely on their “understanding” instead of learning the finer skills by mimicking their instructors expert demonstration. These were the guys that you watched out for.
When it comes to the things of God however why do we think that the “instruction manual” is where everything begins and ends? How is it we know so well the power of a relationship, a human-in-the-loop demonstration in this life but prefer a sterile, doctrine-based understanding of the source of all love? We have the most loving Father that died to save us and bring us back into relationship with Him but instead religion bullies us into memorization and instructions and rules and laws and “or else.” It absolutely boggles my mind. I guess I even use the Bible to make a point but hear me clearly…the Bible is His letter to us, it points to Him it does not contain Him. You would not cherish and worship a letter from your spouse over kiss, would you? Come on! It is so obvious but it seems most prefer the manual over the Man. Most prefer distance learning over one-on-one interaction. Most prefer sterility over messy. The worst of all is the enemy uses the “manual” to beat up the people in religion. It is the source of some of the deepest wounds. That isn’t what God planned at all.
It starts with understanding the two gifts God has given us, Jesus on the cross and Jesus in us. We have to understand that He has picked us and this is His plan to make His home in us. How can we not accept this gift of a personal relationship with love itself? Our spirit is joined to the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is accept it. It is a gift just waiting for us to grab it and hold on and cherish and never let go. Yay!
OK here are a couple of verses that I think you should read. Remember the Word (Logos) is Jesus and the Bible has some of the Logos written down so you can see it and spend time with it (Him) but it doesn’t replace Him.
Jn 5:39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (ESVST)
John 5:36 But I can provide a more substantial proof of who I am that exceeds John’s testimony— My miracles! These works which the Father destined for Me to complete— they prove that the Father has sent Me! 37 And My Father Himself, who gave Me this mission, has also testified that I am His Son . But you have never heard His voice nor seen His face, 38 nor does His Word truly live inside of you, because you refuse to believe in Me or to embrace Me as God’s messenger. 39 “ You are busy analyzing the Scriptures, frantically poring over them in hope of gaining eternal life. 40 Yet everything you read points to Me, and you still refuse to come to Me so that I can give you the life you’re looking for— eternal life! (Passion Translation)
Jn 17:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “ Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (ESVST)
Jn 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (ESVST)
Jesus said His sheep hear His voice. That doesn’t mean that His sheep know “how to pick the right translation of the Bible.” It means they could follow Him and know Him as they went on their journey through life. Jesus said that there will be those that come to Him in the end and claim all sorts of success in their “works” and “doctrine” but He will say He didn’t know them. I think knowing God is what this life is all about. My grandfather was an amazing teacher but Jesus is infinitely better. My instructors were pretty good at demonstration but it is no comparison to the Holy Spirit. My knowledge of doctrine and scripture and systematic theology is exciting but it is inconsequential compared to spending time with my Daddy in Heaven. So if I have to choose I say person over doctrine. My relationship with Jesus is my life. It is for now. Please take the free gift of Him. He is desperate for you.