Reading the Bible is one of the most difficult things for a Christian to do. It’s challenging because it takes discipline to read it every day. It’s far too easy to get busy and let it slip. On top of that, a lot of Christians find it kind of boring. And lets face it, there are parts that are exactly thrilling.
Of course that doesn’t mean those parts aren’t useful or important. It’s just that this isn’t exactly the next Harry Potter. Because of things like this, many Christians never read the Bible.
I personally love reading the Bible. It has re-shaped my understanding of who God is. And the more I study it, the more I realize the Bible is real. I’ve written about my own experience reading the Bible many times. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times that I feel myself struggle to stay focused.
There are days when I would like to read the Bible written in a bit more contemporary style (such as The Message). I’d also like to read a Bible that was chronological, as the Bible skips around a lot (at least if you read it cover to cover.)
That’s where Jesus Wants to Save Christians comes in.
Authors Rob Bell and Don Golden write, in what they call, a New Exodus perspective. To boil it down, New Exodus refers to the fact that Jesus led a new exodus for Christians in much the same way that Moses led an (old) Exodus for Jews.
Prior to reading Jesus Wants to Save Christians I hadn’t really considered this before. I knew the details, and I even knew some of the similarities. But I had never taken the time to really consider what that looks like. Or what that would mean for my life.
And it’s this life change that we’re most interested in here at R3. That’s why I was so intrigued by Jesus Wants to Save Christians. It provides a useful framework for understanding our own journeys, and our own lives. And it’s built around four major events within Jewish history.
- Egypt - Egypt was a place built on the concepts of slavery and oppression. It was a country that didn’t value people. That didn’t value God’s creation. And didn’t value life. As the book describes it, “Egypt is what happens when sin builds up a head of steam.”
- Sinai - Sinai is where God breaks his silence (up to this point he had only spoken to a few people). Now he’s speaking to everyone. It’s during this time he truly sets his people free. It’s about grace, forgiveness, compassion, love, trust, and caring. It’s about getting a new beginning. It’s about all the things Egypt wasn’t.
- Jerusalem - This was God’s kingdom. A chance for people of faith to show the world what it means to live a life of faith. But it all fell apart. Sin crept back into the story and Solomon, instead of using his wealth and power to advance God’s kingdom, used it to create luxury and palaces for himself. Or as Bell and Golden say, “in just a few generations, the oppressed have become the oppressors.”
- Babylon - Exile. That’s what happened here. Israel was destroyed by their enemies and the Jews go back into exile. Exactly where they started many years before in Egypt. Exile is all about forgetting your purpose. It’s about losing sight of why God has given you blessings – not to gain wealth and power, but to use wealth and power to advance the Kingdom.
It’s these four things that stick in my mind. These events may have happened on a grand scale. But it also happens on a very individual scale.
How many of us have been rescued from a figurative Egypt? Maybe we lived in terror from someone who abused us. Or we lived a life consumed with sin, lust, and temptation that took us to a very lonely place. Or maybe we were just consumed with greed, and found our lives destroyed by money. And yet, for some reason, God rescued us from our personal Egypt’s.
The danger in all of our relationships with God is losing sight of that miracle. It’s forgetting the grace and forgiveness. The world is crafty, the enemy is smart, and we will get tricked (all too easily) into becoming the oppressors. Instead of showing the world what it means to live out a life of faith, we show them exactly how not to live. And so greed, lust, temptation, abuse, anger run rampant in our churches and our lives.
It’s that structure that I take from this book. It helps me see this pattern in my own life. And encourages me to stop it at all costs. I don’t want to go into Exile. I don’t want to forget the amazing things God has done in my life.
As you can tell the thing I liked most about Jesus Wants to Save Christians is how it provides a new way of looking at the Bible. The Bible is one of the best ways we can connect with God. And anything that helps to improve that connection, that relationship, is worth pursuing.
A word of caution though. I found this book difficult to read. Not because it was complex or heavy. But because of the writing style Bell and Golden use. Let’s just say it’s “choppy.” Fortunately this isn’t an English class, so we don’t need to grade them on that. But if you’re going to read it (and it’s worth reading) you should know what you’re getting into, grammatically speaking at least.