Christ-centered Bible study spurs spiritual growthby C. Walter Overman
God’s Word is always profitable for spiritual maturity, yet too often believers who faithfully read the Bible still fail to grow in their faith.
During the recent 20/20 “The Scriptures Come to Life” Collegiate Conference at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., addressed the lack of spiritual growth among believers.
He said many believers read the Bible as a self-help manual from Heaven instead of reading it in light of its overarching Christ-centered plot line. “I’m convinced most of us read the Bible wrongly,” Tchividjian said. “It’s possible, and in most cases probable, that we read the Bible all too often and miss Jesus.”
Tchividjian illustrated his point with a sermon from Luke 24:13-35. He said the disciples on the Emmaus road are a perfect illustration of what happens when believers read the Bible and fail to see Jesus as the central figure in the biblical narrative.
The Emmaus disciples were dejected and filled with despair because they did not recognize the true mission of the Messiah. They believed the Scriptures were all about them, to alleviate their personal struggles and sufferings.
When Christ-followers today make the same error they come away with similar results. “Unless we go to the Bible to see Jesus and His work for us, even our Bible reading can become fuel for our own self-improvement plan,” Tchividjian said.
Although the Bible includes imperatives for how believers should live and act, and many times demands a change in behavior, the basis for a command is always rooted in who Jesus is and what He accomplished through His atoning death and resurrection.
“The focus of the Bible is what Jesus did for us, and let’s not get that backwards,” Tchividjian said “Often times we think the entirety of the Bible is about what we do.”
That kind of view prevents spiritual growth because it removes the focus from God’s grace and replaces it with a self-help attitude. Tchividjian said the Bible does not push believers to ask self-help questions; rather, when Christians read every passage of Scripture from a gospel perspective it changes the nature of their questions.
“When we read the Bible we need to ask God to grip us by the Bible’s radically disproportionate focus on God’s saving love for sinners, seen and accomplished in Jesus Christ,” Tchividjian said.
When Christians firmly believe the gospel, and read the Bible in light of its overarching Christ-centered redemptive theme, the abundant life that can only be found in Christ Jesus becomes a reality. It is the avenue by which believers are empowered to live out the commands in Scripture and by which the Bible comes to life.
“Let’s make sure when we read the Bible the imperatives we read do not get center stage,” Tchividjian said. “What we do is always grounded in what Christ has already done.”
All four plenary messages can be seen here