October 27, 2020
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In the beginning, God made man in His image. Man has been making God in his image ever since.
Call it naturalism. Call it anthropomorphism. Call it idolatry. Call it what you will. The result of this spiritual inversion is a god who is about our size and looks an awful lot like us. And most of our spiritual shortcomings stem from this fundamental mistake: thinking about God in human terms. We make God in our image, and as A. W. Tozer said in The Knowledge of the Holy, we’re left with a god who “can never surprise us, never overwhelm us, nor astonish us, nor transcend us.”
Thomas Jefferson loved the teachings of Jesus. In fact, the author of the Declaration of Independence called them “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” But Jefferson was also a child of the Enlightenment. He didn’t have a cognitive category for miracles, so Jefferson literally took a pair of scissors and cut them out of his King James Bible. It took him two or three nights. And by the time he was done, he had cut out the virgin birth, cut out the angels, cut out the Resurrection. Jefferson extracted every miracle, and the result was a book titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, or what is commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible.
Hard to imagine, isn’t it? And something rises up within those of us who believe that the Bible is inspired by God. Part of us scoffs or scolds Jefferson, You can’t pick and choose. You can’t cut and paste. You can’t do that to the Bible. But here’s the truth: while most of us can’t imagine taking a pair of scissors to the Bible and physically cutting verses out, we do exactly what Jefferson did. We ignore verses we cannot comprehend. We avoid verses we do not like. And we rationalize verses that are too radical.
Can I make a personal confession? Whenever I’m reading the Bible and I come to a verse that I don’t fully understand or live up to, I find myself reading really fast. I speed-read right past those verses. But then I slow it down when I come across verses I understand and obey. That’s human nature, isn’t it? Here’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way: when I come across a verse I want to read real fast, I probably need to read real slow!
So while we may not cut sections of the Bible out with a pair of scissors, the end result is the same. We pick and choose the truths we want to accept. We become trapped by our own logic. Our lives are limited to those things we can comprehend with our cerebral cortex. We end up in the cage of our own assumptions. And the more assumptions we make, the smaller our cage becomes.
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.