The best part of my week was Sunday when one of our teens, Germane announced that he had done it. He’d read through the entire New Testament in one year. Wow, I was impressed! He is well on his way to making scripture his first language. That is a key task to form disciples: helping people make scripture their first language. Most of us already know how to read and speak our culture. We were born and raised in it. Replacing our cultural ability with scripture is a great challenge.
What does it mean to have scripture as your first language? It means that the Biblical word shapes your life in fundamental ways. It means the Biblical Word lives within you. (Colossians 3:16) We speak the word (2 Timothy 4:2). We do the word (James 1:22). We abide in the word and are made strong by it. (1 John 2:14)
The other day the Tigers actually won a game—something that has happened only 27 times in three months. As I cued up the highlight video online, I was forced to watch a Volvo ad. It featured a handsome, suave and rich man driving a sleek SUV through some stunning natural landscape. The narrator said he was his own man who did not go with the herd. This is how our culture speaks: be yourself, be unique, be your own person and you can be all these things by buying this car along with a million others. I was not prepared for the tagline at the end: Follow no one.
No phrase better sums up culture today. It is the creed of the 21st century: Follow no one. This enables everyone to do as they please. With this ominous sign of the times, one can see how urgent it is to teach a new first language. Christians come out of a culture that teaches the highest good is to follow no one. May be I’m reading way too much into an ad. Yet it is true that marketers study the times and they pitch their products to resonate with the way the culture thinks.
The first words Jesus speaks in the Gospel are these, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17). This is a different language. It is exclusive: “Follow me—and no one else.” It’s categorical “Follow me—now, not at some future date; all of the time, not some of the time.” It’s imperative “Follow me—or face dire consequences.” It’s invitational, “Follow me—or not.” To respond fully, we will need to give ourselves up. Give ourselves up to a man who was a servant. Give ourselves up to a man who never carried a sword. Give ourselves up to a man who forgave his enemies from the Cross. Give ourselves up to a man who rose from the dead. This truly is a shockingly foreign language. We’ve spent more than enough time speaking out of our narcissistic culture, now the task is to make scripture our first language; to speak and live in a new way. “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for re-proof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the people of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
New classes are forming this fall to help each one of us make the Scriptures our first language. I hope you will join one and begin to unlearn the old language of following no one and embrace the new language of following Jesus. Germane is well on his way. I’m going with him. How about you?
Connecting, Growing and Serving,
Pastor Tom Anderson