This is the sixth lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
[Special note… see Mel Lawrenz’s “A Prayer for the Christmas Season” in text, printable PDF, or audio.]
Some people live their lives disconnected from reality. There is nothing solid beneath their feet because their view of life is based on some fantasy. They may have been raised on lies and so they perpetuate the pattern, believing that there is no one who tells the truth, so why even try to find truth? Or their fantasy-based lives might be a way of escape. Or it could be that they are so afraid of the world, or of themselves, that they create a make-believe world over which they have control, which is, of course, impossible. You can’t control a dream.
Not living in reality—being truly “in the dark”—is one of the most dangerous ways to live. It is to be oblivious to both our greatest dangers and our greatest potential. A false view of ourselves can come out of pride and arrogance, or it can be based on doubt or self-loathing, or it can result from hearing lies your whole life. Any false view of the self can only lead to disappointment.
This is why we need truth. Not just “truths.” The core truth about you is more than the sum of the “truths” of the date you were born, and the location, whether you’re married, have children, work a certain job in a certain organization, etc. The deepest truth about each of us is that we were created by a good God, who also has reached out to save us from all our lethal enemies.
We have access to biblical truth because of revelation. God the Creator has spoken truth in history, through the words of the prophets and the apostles, and, in fullness, through his Son. What we gain is truth that gives us a clear vision of reality, which is the basis for healthy and good living.
This is why we should want to “live the Bible.” It is the only way to live in reality.
This view is the exact opposite of the idea that the Bible is a book of fantasies. Some people say that they value the Bible even though they view it as a collection fantasies, because they are good fantasies or myths. But here is the fundamental question: Is the God of the Bible real? If not, no response is necessary. If so, the only thing that matters in life is how we respond.
The same logic applies to every other reality. Is it true that human beings are spiritual creatures able to have a dynamic relationship with the true God, or not? Is sin real or not? Did Jesus say he was the way, the truth, and the life, and if so, was this more than a fantasy in his head? Is the biblical description of evil an entirely correct vision of reality? Is there really a purpose in life to be found in Christ? Does following Christ lead us into ever clearer understandings of reality?
If the main assertions of Scripture are fantasy, then we should not put our weight on it any more than we should cross a bridge that is full of fractures and gaps. But if we believe the Old and New Testaments are revelations of the way things really are, then we can and should trust.
Living the Bible is about gaining a grasp of reality, and living in that reality at all times, including the unpleasant truths.
We can face the harsh reality of sin when we hear the corresponding reality that God has given a way of forgiveness and restoration. Imagine you go to the doctor and he says, “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that you have a dreaded and even lethal disease. The good news is that with a single injection, you will be cured.” It may be unpleasant to admit to the bad news, but the good news about the cure overwhelms the bad.
Being Scripture-trained realists makes us sober-minded, but also full of hope and joy. Not based on fantasy, but reality.
The final words of 1 John speak about the hard reality of sin and the domination of evil in the world, but also of the absolute protection of God and the promise of an eternal quality of life:
“We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:18-20 (italics added).
This understanding of reality makes believers realists, not fools. As 1 John puts it, knowing “the true God” is to know “eternal life.” This is the reason to live the Bible.
[Get Christmas Joy–A Devotional by Mel Lawrenz to read in December]
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and Spiritual Influence: the Hidden Power Behind Leadership (Zondervan, 2012). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.