“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
No Words. No Jesus.
From the beginning, mankind has tried to have God without His words. Eve probably did not want to lose her relationship with God, but she did want to twist or ignore His words to rationalize her reach for the ungiven fruit.
When we divorce God from His words, we can come up with a god with whom we can agree – every time. In fact, he/she/it will always look a lot like us. Maybe it will be an angry vengeful god. Maybe they will be a ‘who cares’ god. Maybe she will be an empowering god to make her worshippers smarter, stronger, and more successful.
Often, I ask my 7/8 grade students questions about something they just read in scripture. It will simply be questions lifted right from the text they read. Yet almost always they stare up in the air or out the window thinking about the answer while it is right in front of them. “I don’t actually want to know what you think. I am asking about what Jesus literally just said!” That is how we all do theology. Whether it is the result of a purposeful self-centeredness or a haphazard investigation, human beings want God without His words.
Whole church bodies have performed years of logical and academic acrobatics to surgically remove God’s Words from God’s Word. Like Eve, when you do that, you can come up with all sorts of stuff that will conform real nicely to your worldview. Of course, when your God starts sounding like you, should that not be an indication He is not God?
I get the motivation. At first it seems freeing. If I can remove God’s Words from Him, then I can make God like me – and like me.
The Pharisees were really good at this. Wrongly, they are considered to be conservatives, if one were to anachronistically place them in a modern spectrum. But they were not conservative at all. Over the years they removed God from His Word and put in their own words. Since God’s Word did not let them be righteous on their own merit, they needed to add a million little loopholes to rationalize their behaviors. They even invented a secret ‘oral’ tradition to justify their new words of God.
Yet, Jesus found them suffocating in their labyrinth of bureaucratic red tape. They had not made it easier to please God, they actually made it harder.
Like Adam and Eve, whenever we create our own image of God with our words, we end up in the darkness of our own design. For while His words absolutely reveal our rotten behavior and rob us of any excuse, His Words also absolutely absolve us of any punishment!
His Words are Him. They are not poorly constructed mechanisms that fail to convey the true thing. There is no alternate way to get to know God, to connect with God, to hang out with God. His Words are enough! You literally cannot have Jesus and not His Words.