Saturday, April 8, 2017

One Thing That Really Changed My Life

So this is Consider Christianity Week over at Energion (at least I think I haven't missed it). Henry asked me if I would share something either about how I came to believe in Jesus or something that greatly impacted my faith since then. Of course, there's a lot I want to share but I'm limited to just one. So, I figured I would share a little about how I came to understand that the whole Bible––the Old Testament, not just the New Testament––is really the story of Jesus.

After I placed my faith in Jesus at the age of nineteen, I started reading the New Testament like there was no tomorrow. I read the Gospels I don't know how many times. Romans over and over. I just wanted to know more and more about Jesus, the one who gave his life in place of mine on the cross and died for my sins. Obviously, the Gospels were a great place to start. They are the "story" of Jesus. But I was going to find out later that such a statement was only partially true. The Gospels are part of the story of Jesus; they are not the story; they are not the whole story.

A man named Randy had given me the first Bible I would actually read. My parents had given me a Bible when I was a young boy. And the daughter of my next door neighbor had given me one for my thirteenth birthday, if I'm not mistaken. I would never open those Bibles though. It wasn't until Randy bailed me out of jail and invited me to study the Bible with him that something changed in my life. The Bible that Randy gave me looks entirely different than the other Bibles that had been given to me by my parents and my neighbor's daughter. For one, the Bible that Randy gave me was what is called a "Study Bible." The others didn't have the study notes (not inspired by the way) at the bottom of the page. But what really makes the Bible that Randy gave me look different is not that it is a Study Bible, but the fact that I actually started studying that Bible––at least part of it. That sort of study changes your Bible. It starts to show some wear and tear. And, more importantly, that sort of study starts to change you too.

Well, fast-forward a couple of years. By this time I switched gears and went to Bible college. I was studying the Bible so much––again, actually just part of it––that I figured I might as well just go to Bible college where I could study it all the time! I will never forget walking into one of my first classes on the campus of Southeastern in Wake Forest, North Carolina. I'll never forget the first few minutes. The course was titled "Old Testament Survey I." But I remember the professor saying he really wished he could change the name of the course to "The Story of Jesus: Part 1." Something happened in me at that very moment! Right then. Folks, you have to understand something. I didn't grow up in church. I didn't have VBS or Sunday School or anything like that. What I knew about the Bible, I got from a Peanuts cartoon in the Sunday paper, watching some History Channel programs, reading about the Flood in Genesis during my ninth grade English class, and from reading the New Testament and some Psalms from the age of nineteen to the time I enrolled at Southeastern. All of a sudden, this professor is telling me that the Old Testament––the very beginning of the Old Testament (e.g., Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, etc. etc.)––is part of "the story of Jesus." I was shocked.

At that point in time in my life, if you would have asked me a question like "Hey, Thomas, where I can read about Jesus?" I would have told you to go to John or one of the other Gospels. Something was about to change though. If the Old Testament was about Jesus, then I was missing out on a whole lot about who Jesus was. If the Old Testament––all of it––was the story of Jesus, then I wanted to dive into the Old Testament as hard and with as much resolve as I had with the New Testament after God saved me. But before I would even get out of that classroom on that first day in that class, my professor was going to prove it to me. And he knew exactly where to go. If someone wanted to convince me that the Old Testament––all of it––was about Jesus, there was really no better place to go than to Jesus and the Gospels. We went to a number of verses, but there were two that just really jumped off the page. Let me share them with you here. Go back and jump into the text and see the story unfold, but here are the verses where Jesus specifically refers to the whole Old Testament as his story:
"'O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into his glory?' Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, he explained to them the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:25–27)
"Now he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things that are written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." (Luke 24:44–45)
If you think the story of Jesus begins in Matthew––like I once did––you are missing a whole lot of the story. I promise you, Matthew picks up way, way, way into the story of Jesus. That's more like "The Story of Jesus: Part IV." Guess what, the story continues beyond Matthew too. Luke gave us more of the picture, as did the other apostles and their associates. Imagine my surprise when I studied Revelation, and I came to discover that that book wasn't really about the things that would happen at the end so much as they were about the one who was coming. Incredible. If you call Revelation the Revelation of John, you've missed the point of the book. It's the Revelation of Jesus Christ, as it says in the very first verse (1:1).

3 comments:

  1. Another great place to go would be Nehemiah 1. Read his prayer. It is almost identical to the Lords prayer. I love The book of Nehemiah. I am leading a Bible study right now called prayer in the battle. I'm really excited to delve into the book!

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    1. Thanks, Jo Ann. I'm looking forward to reading your book Fearless. It's in my Amazon basket right now.

      TWH

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  2. Thanks for your testimony, Thomas! We're continuing to link testimonies through Holy Week, so you're definitely part of this.

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