I was asked the other week to be prepared on Sunday to read a passage of scripture to the congregation in our noon service. It was followed up with something like this; "you can also share some things about the passage, too". Hmm, that sounds like preaching to me. They went and made me a preacher! Just kidding, I know exactly what was meant, and I was honored. I also understood for the first time the heavy responsibility of standing in front of God's people and opening your mouth. Truth better come out. I had these flashbacks of the Old Testament practice of taking false prophets out in the street and stoning them if they led God's people astray. But thats another topic for another time.
It was mentioned to me that the sermon would be on spiritual maturity. I figured I should read something in line with that. But as the week wore on and Saturday rolled around, I still could not find the passage that I felt God wanted me to read on Sunday. Sunday morning shows up and I open the bible "looking" for just the right passage. Still nothing...until I stumble on a cross-reference note for Second Peter 1:3-11. After I read it I thought it was perfect. But for some reason I wanted to check out the passage in another translation. Now, side note for just one second; I read from the NASB. I love this translation, for reasons I'll probably write about later. My buddies and I have this little thing going between the ESV guys and the NASB guys (stupid guy stuff, I know). The other translations (NIV, NLT, the Message) aren't even really on the radar for me. So, when I had an inclination Sunday morning to look at this passage in the NIV, it was a very odd thing for me. The NIV that I keep on my shelf is a Bible that was given to me when I was 13. It was my workhorse Bible through middle school, high school, and college (OK, not many Bibles are "workhorse" Bibles in college...this one was no exception...but at least I had it with me). This Bible travelled with me across the country and on several mission trips around the world. What I found in the margin of this Bible written beside Second Peter 1:3-11 gave me more than enough to share with God's people.
This passage uses words like "add to" and "increase". Peter tells us that if our qualities of faith, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and love (to name just a few) are increasing than we are rendered useful and fruitful to the Lord and will not stumble. This type of brother makes certain of God's calling in their life and confirms God's choosing of him into His kingdom (can I get an "unconditional election"?!). Verse 11 goes so far as to say that "the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." However, he who lacks these qualities has forgotten about his salvation.
So back to the old NIV Bible. In the margin beside this passage is written, "Venezuela - '93". When I was 15, I spent two weeks in Venezuela on a mission trip. This passage obviously spoke to me then. The problem is, this is not a passage about something static like the ten commandments or Jesus feeding the 5,000. This is a passage that teaches us to GROW, to INCREASE, to ADD TO so that we can make certain that we are called and chosen by God. When I look at the time between "Venezuela - '93" and "North Carolina - 2010" it is very hard to find much growing, increasing, and adding to, at least until recently. What happened?
This is what happened...that passage did speak to me when I was 15 years old. So much so that I highlighted it, underlined it, drew stars around it....you know the drill. But real evidence is not determined by bright colors in my bible, it is in God's word taking root in me and bearing fruit in my life. Did it abide in me? Did it transform me so that I did "increase" and "add to"?
See, what I realized when I read the margin was that we are called to mature in our faith, and there were way too many years when that was not the case. We are instructed to grow and increase, not to remain wherever we find ourselves. Highlighting bible verses is not "adding to". The highlighted verses should be studied and meditated on to the point that they take root and abide in us so that the Holy Spirit uses them to transform our lives.
Try it for yourself. Go grab the oldest bible you have and see the things that God revealed to you when you were younger. Its a humbling, and kind of embarrassing, exercise. The best part about it is that through God's grace and mercy we still have the opportunity to "increase" and "add to"....even if for the very first time.
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