By Kathy Johnston
As I pondered how to write this blog about what I learned “digging into the Word” this year, I struggled to summarize all the lessons and how they have changed me. I can definitely say, though, that the following truths have become increasingly clear:
God is holy.
God is good and he is faithful to his Word….always.
God does not change…his character is the same in Genesis as it is in Revelation and everywhere in between.
God has a specific plan, and his plan will come to being regardless of whether we reject him or accept him.
God is incredibly loving, just and patient with his children.
God’s ways are perfect, even though I can’t always understand them, and he is worthy of my trust.
There is nothing that God can’t do.
It’s a life changing and powerful thing to read through God’s word from beginning to end. I won’t deny it’s a daunting task. I’ve done it a few times in my life, but this time was different for me. My focus this past year was that I would see God and his character revealed as I read. I didn’t want to read the scriptures just to fulfill the daily quota. Instead, I wanted to see God and his personality, what he is like. I wanted to read it through from beginning to end as one story, not a whole bunch of “bible stories” or chapters and books. I often would remind myself to ask the question, “What part of God’s character do I see revealed in what I’m reading today, and how does this portion of scripture fit into the whole story of creation-fall-redemption-restoration?” I could see a recurring theme of people falling into sin; confessing (sometimes it took way longer than others!), repenting, and returning to God. God would forgive, redeem and restore them; and then it would happen all over again. I recognized that this is my story too– that I’m just like the characters in the stories that I was reading.
When I got to the New Testament, it was exciting to see the prophecies that had been spoken of in the Old Testament being fulfilled! The promised Rescuer mentioned in Genesis 3 finally arrives on scene. All the previous scripture had been leading up to this moment! How beautiful to see the recurring story of a promised Rescuer now fulfilled in the pages of the New Testament.
Studying through the book of Hebrews this past fall, we were reminded how God had established a covenant with his people. He made a temporary way for them to have limited access to Him by giving them the law, the priestly ministry, and the tabernacle, until the Rescuer would come. But these were just a shadow of what was coming– a short-term fix. Sin still happened, God was still holy, and so sacrifice was still needed– over and over and over again. There was no direct access to God because of his holiness and their sin. But there was something better coming!
As we studied through Hebrews, we saw how Jesus fulfilled all the law and the sacrifices! He offered a better covenant, a better promise, became the better High Priest, the better sacrifice, and the better tabernacle! What he offers is perfect. Because his sacrifice cleanses us not only outwardly, but cleanses our hearts inwardly, we can now enter into the holy place, into the presence of the Almighty Holy God. We can now “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:19-23)
Jesus Christ has gone before us and has given us incredible access to the Father, a once for all sacrifice so that we can come with confidence before the very throne of God. I know who I am and where I’ve been. I know the sins I’ve committed and I know that I will continue to struggle with it until I die. I know that God is still holy, that sin can never be in His Presence. So when I understand that the blood of Jesus cleanses me and covers me in his perfect righteousness so that I can come into the presence of Almighty God…that moves me! It stuns me. It moves me to walk in obedience and to worship him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.
It motivates me this year to grow in holiness, to become more like him…not to just read about it, but to live it. The rest of the New Testament is full of how we should now live under this new covenant. God didn’t leave us to figure it out by ourselves, but he gave us the perfect example through the life his Son lived while here on earth. He gave us the inspired words written on the pages by Peter, Paul, James, John, Moses, David, the prophets and all the inspired authors of God’s word. But most importantly, he sent his Holy Spirit, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:15-18)
And the story is not finished! We are all part of this story too, and the New Testament is full of hope for us as we look forward to the reconciliation and restoration of all things to himself!
Today, I finish up this journey through the Word as I read through the last chapters of Revelation, when all things are finally restored as they were intended to be! The final act…”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.’’ (Revelation 21:1-3)
So what have I learned? To hold fast to the hope set before me, Jesus Christ, the one who has saved me from the kingdom of sin and darkness, my Rescuer. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation…the one who is before all things and holds all things together.” (Col. 1:15-17)
“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…” (Hebrews 6:19-20)