“No man understands the Scriptures, unless he be acquainted with the Cross.”
– Martin Luther
Elvis, Judy Garland, Edgar Allan Poe, Prince, Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Marilyn Monroe – names every American are familiar with. They were musicians, actors, authors, and celebrated Americans. However, each one died due to an overdose.
An overdose is taking too much of a substance which results in serious health issues; usually resulting in death. There are many reasons one may overdose on a drug. Yet, sometimes it can be to fix pain, depression, or other issues one wants to be rid of.
We all struggle with something we want rid of: a besetting sin, a thought pattern, a traumatic past, etc. It is connected to us and follows us like our shadow. We want to do anything to be rid of it. As Christians, we desire to live for God and to fulfill our purpose he has called us to, but we feel anchored to the chains of our past or struggle. With envy, we yearn to walk in freedom as others do around us.
Frantically, we plead, “How do I get rid of this struggle? How do I let go of my past?” A fellow Christian gives us a Bible and says, “Begin memorizing Scripture and you will be free.”
So we pop the lid off the Bible and begin to administer the dosage. However, this is a dangerous mindset and can lead to an overdose of the Bible killing our spiritual walk with God.
The “Mis-Prescibing” of the Sufficiency of Scripture
II Peter 1:3 states that God has given us everything we need for life and godliness through the knowledge of God. This knowledge comes from the Word of God. We would all stand up and shout, “Amen!” It is true that what we need to live our lives for God and to follow him closely are found in Scripture. This is called the sufficiency of Scripture.
Sufficiency of Scripture is a foundational doctrine that all Christians should practice as we have questions, struggles, and hurts. We can find what need to do to glorify God in Scripture. However, the wonderful fact of this teaching can be prescribed in a wrong way.
It has been said that if you are struggling with sin, you need more Scripture. If you want to heal, then memorize and study Scripture more. We are given a Bible and prescribed, “Read and memorize as much as you can, and you will see a change.” Maybe it is not stated that way, but we are told this and we treat others like this.
In so doing, we pop the Bible verses like an antidepressant hoping that if we take enough Bible our struggles will go away. Yet, we have “Mis-Prescribed” this verse. We take this verse along side Psalm 119:11 and we begin to overdose on Scripture without realizing we are killing our spiritual life by missing the true healing found in these verses.
God, Is This Enough?
We are told to take as much Bible as possible to cure our struggles and other issues. We begin memorizing and studying the Bible with highlighters, pencils, and journals. We create a system to get as much of the Scripture in us. We may even spend hundreds of dollars just to make sure we have the “right study Bible” and “right Bible software.”
Then, after some time has passed and our Bible is colorfully underline and we have acquired stacks of verses on index cards, we fall back into our struggle. The shame washes over us. The guilt guillotines our heart from our body. We cry out to God, “But, I studied and memorized! Is this enough?” But, after a dark dive into depression, we determine to go further than we did before. We buy more Bibles, memorize more verses, and begin to plaster verses around our homes like prized art in a museum. Yet again, we fall. Our work seems never good enough so we give up and let fate over take us like the ocean overtaking the Titanic.
In Luke 10:38-42, a woman has a similar story. It is not a story of a cycle of struggle, but it is a struggle of working and frustration. Jesus had come to the home of Martha and Mary. They both knew (factually) who Jesus was. Yet, Martha did not quite have the right relational knowledge of Jesus. She busied herself with many tasks in order to impress Jesus. It may have been for a blessing or for an answered request. Whatever the reason, Martha worked to get Jesus to notice her. She worked herself into a frustration and the gasket blew.
Relationship with God over the Words of God
Jesus calms Martha down after she demands she gets help from Mary. She was frustrated that none of her chores and doings got the attention of Jesus. Yet, Jesus gives her the right way to relate to him in Luke 10:41-42. It is found at the feet of Jesus.
The right relationship with Jesus is not found in impressing him. It is found sitting down at the feet of Jesus.
The teaching of the sufficiency of Scripture is true, but it needs to be in relationship with the God of the Word; not with the Words of God. We find healing at the feet of Jesus by knowing him on a personal level through his Word. Look at II Peter 1:3 and Psalm 119:11 again. It is through the knowledge of HIM that we have everything we need. We will not sin when we treasure HIS word.
It is not through the memorizing and careful study of Scripture that heals us. It is being at the feet of Jesus through the Word that brings the healing we seek.
Coming to the Healer
Our struggles are deep. Our struggles strangle us in the stillness of our day. When we have fallen, we look at our Bible and think it is not enough anymore. So we give up hope. We want to smack the next person who tells us to read the Bible or to memorize a certain passage. We have done that.
We have spent all our money and time on Bible studies. We feel like the woman suffering from continual bleeding as told in Mark 5:25-34. Just like her, we have spent everything to stop the bleeding wound of our struggle from killing us. Yet, we need to have the same belief: “If I just touch his clothes, I’ll be made well.” She believed healing came from Jesus himself; not from the works she did. Our healing comes from the same source. It is Jesus who heals us; not our Bible studies. We can touch Jesus through the Bible. The power of healing comes from the relationship we have with Jesus through the Bible. I cannot have a relationship with my wife only by meticulously studying her letters. I need to have a relationship with her through those letters and by spending time with her personally.
If we want healing, we must begin to tear away the roofing of memorizing and studying in order to get to the personal relationship with Jesus. A list of verses we have memorized will not have any power to heal us unless it is first put at the feet of Jesus. We will not be healed unless we get to Jesus. We will not help others unless we show them Jesus over a prescription of Bible memory. We need to take them to Jesus like the men did with their paralyzed friend in Mark 2:1-12.
A Relationship Over an Overdose
Individuals who overdose are trying to get rid of pain, depression, or other things. An overdose is dangerous to our physical health. Our spiritual life can resemble the same as we want to get rid of struggles. A Bible overdose is dangerous, because it focuses on how much we can memorize and study in an attempt to be healed from our struggles. Our healing becomes about our works. We become frustrated and discouraged, and we give up to the waves of fate tossing us back and forth till our struggles eventually drown us.
However, that is not the message of the Gospel. Jesus didn’t demand the individuals he healed prove themselves worthy by their works. He doesn’t demand the same of you. Jesus wants you to come to him in faith. He wants a relationship with you over seeing the stacks of index cards containing the verses you have memorized. He wants to heal you because he loves you.
Healing does not come from the conquest of Scripture, but in surrendering into a relationship with the Lord of the Scriptures.
So, let’s stop memorizing verses like popping antidepressants. Instead, let’s come to Scripture as coming to the feet of Jesus. We do have everything we need in the Bible, but it is not found in overdosing on the Bible. It is found in the relationship with Jesus Christ through his Word.