How to Read Scripture Selfishly

The Fall started something in man, self-love, and only God can finish it. The Fall utterly damaged our perspective of the beautiful realities of communion with God. We are now tempted to see everything, literally everything, through the cracked lens of self.

Here’s where the plot thickens, because of that broken view, I now have the temptation to view God-things as me-things. In other words, we are so selfish, we turn the glorious opportunities to know God better into vain opportunities to please ourselves. For example, we read God’s Word like it’s about us, not God. Here are some ways we do that.

  1. We reduce the Bible to a shrink or emotional medication.
    Oh, I’m so discouraged. I’m so sad. I don’t feel happy anymore. I guess I should read my Bible. Now, the Word does instill courage, but not in the way these people mean it. When we are dehydrated and drink cool water, it has secondary effects that we enjoy. It satisfies, feels nice, gives energy, and tastes refreshingly delicious. Thus, we tend to appreciate it’s secondary effects more. And, we may forget the little part about dying without it. The Word has secondary effects. It refreshes, feels nice gives energy, and tastes delicious, but what is more significant is that we will die without it. Avoid turning Scripture into something that makes you feel better when it’s intended to make you be better. Don’t try to find empathy for little self-pity parties in the transformational Word. You might just find that it’s calling you to change, and that doesn’t typically feel nice.

  2. We read the Bible so that people will know we read the Bible.
    We have to otherwise people might believe us to be unspiritual. I mean, we have to give a testimony and speak up in small group, so we better read so we have something to say! How proud we are to trample on the condescension of Jesus by elevating ourselves’ in His mission. How selfish we are to read the words of God for the recognition of man. We are to live for the Creator, and too often we live hoping to impress the little creations. Read that you may know your great God, not that others may know how great you think you are.
  3. We view the Bible as a manual for self-change rather than an autobiography of the Source of change.
    The Bible is not out to make you a better you, it’s out to save you from you and make you a better little Christ. When Jesus saved us, we were canvases of black filth. We piled up our righteousnesses which were as gross as filthy rags and dumped them all over our life-canvas. Jesus came along, and with the purity of His blood wiped our canvas as white as a lamb, and now His mission is not to paint a better you on your canvas, but to paint Himself. Don’t reduce God’s Word to a quick-fix for your lust and pride, run to the Author, and He will begin the fix. It may not be as quick as you wish, but it will be completed, and we can be confident of that very thing. My friend Clive has some good observations here.

    “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
    C.S. Lewis– Mere Christianity

Read Scripture for what it is, God’s divine and loving truth to frail and unlovely people. Don’t fall into the snare of believing that God did what He did primarily for you. He saved you to glorify Him. Don’t also believe that He gave you His Word primarily for you. He gave you His Word so that you could know Him and by knowing Him bring Him glory better, and we just get all the beautiful benefits of grace along the way.

Don’t get it backwards and read Scripture selfishly. Read God’s Word for God, and you will know the joy that ministers to every need of your soul. Pray with David that your eyes would be opened that you may see wonderful things in His Word, and refuse to look through the damaged lens of self.

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