This is a draft of an essay that will appear in an upcoming edition of Asbury’s Alumni Link:
I love the Scriptures. In offering my Top Ten Bible passages, I am sharing texts that continue to shape and transform me as I seek to follow the Risen Christ into the world for the sake of God’s mission. I have included a question or two that I find myself pondering as I read these passages.
God created humanity as the pinnacle of his creative work. Such a statement was audacious in its original Ancient Near Eastern setting and it remains compelling today. God crafted humanity for profound purposes. Women and men exist to serve as God’s visible representatives before Creation by reflecting God’s character through their communal lives together. People exist for mission, community, and holiness. The rest of the biblical story narrates the loss of this reality and God’s redemptive work to restore our true humanity.
Am I living as the person whom God created me to be? Am I part of a missional community that reflects God’s character before a watching world?
Gen 3:1-9 is a disarming reminder of the tragedy of human existence and of the root cause of our lostness apart from God’s grace. It narrates humanity’s substitution of self-rule for a moment-by-moment relationship of faithful obedience with the Creator. The issue is trust. The dialogue between Eve and the serpent moves God from the subject of Adam and Eve’s life in the garden to the mere object of a theological conversation in which the serpent sows seeds of doubt in the heart of Eve and invites her to rely on her own judgment rather than a relationship with God built on trust. Both Adam and Eve chose self-rule over trust.
Do I trust that God has my best interests at heart as well as those of whom I love?
These are God’s initial words to Israel at Sinai. They interpret the meaning of Israel’s redemption from Egyptian bondage. The salvation of God is more than liberation from Egypt; it is liberation for the mission of God. The redeemed people of God exist to serve as a missional community that reflects and embodies the character of God in/for/to the nations (cf. 1 Pet 2:9). We must grapple with this text as we seek to inculcate a biblical DNA in our communities.
How do I embody God’s call to mission, holiness, and community? How well does my community of faith reflect the vision of this passage?
The Shema marks the foundation for life as God intended. Our relationship with God is first order in importance. This text reminds us of the vital necessity of a fully committed life. Note that this commandment is lived out and nurtured within community. E. Stanley Jones once wrote, “Christianity that doesn’t begin with the individual doesn’t being; Christianity that ends with the individual ends.”
Is my life marked by a moment-by-moment relationship with God rooted in faithful obedience manifested in a whole being love for God? Am I “all in” for God? How well am I nurturing others in this first-order commitment?
Courage is the key that opens the door to the life of God’s dreams. Courage is determination to live out our faith commitments to accomplish God’s will. Joshua is God’s choice to take the mantle of leadership for God’s people. God appears to Joshua and casts a large vision for the future of God’s people. Joshua’s role is to live courageously by leading Israel into the Promised Land. The courage described in this passage is rooted in a journey shaped and formed by the Scriptures.
Do I live courageously to advance God’s Kingdom, or am I content to live in the “safety” of the status quo?
Psalm 73 is a poignant psalm that narrates the psalmist’s struggle with life in the world. It captures a period of despair in which the psalmist’s perceived experience of God does not match his theological expectations. Yet it the midst of this dark time the psalmist enters God’s sanctuary and recognizes the ever present reality of God and God’s goodness. The psalmist moves from a faith rooted in external circumstances to one centered on the psalmist’s relationship with God.
What keeps me grounded when my faith experience does not match my theological understanding?
Jonah sits among the Prophets as a nagging reminder to God’s people of God’s radical love for the nations. God is at work in the nations – even in those places that ostensibly stand the most opposed to God’s work in the world. God’s holy love extends far beyond the boundaries that we may be tempted to establish for it.
Do I love the lost as much as God does? In particular, what is my attitude toward those whom I consider my enemies?
Jesus begins his public ministry with a comprehensive call to (re)align continually with the ethos of God’s Kingdom that he is announcing has come near in him. Don’t miss the initial response to Jesus’ announcement: the creation of a missional community to serve as the vanguard for God’s age of salvation. The call to the kingdom is an invitation to mission and community.
In what ways have I separated following Jesus from following Jesus into the world on mission?
This has been my favorite passage in the Scriptures since my teenage years. Paul recognizes that the ultimate value involves knowing Messiah Jesus as LORD. In response to this, Paul reorders his understanding of gain and privilege. Paul had boasted of his credentials in 3:1-6. He now advocates a radical reorientation of his past in light of Jesus. All that he once considered reasons for boasting are now reassessed as loss. This is not merely a pious display self-deprecation, but a deep rooted understanding that our gifts and talents become idols if we glory in them apart from a life centered on knowing Christ Jesus.
Have I surrendered to God my main thing so that it can become God’s thing?
There are countless other passages that I may well have chosen, but these are the one’s that have impacted me deeply in recent years as I seek to be continually realigned with and recast in the story that God is writing in the 21st century.
© 2009 Brian D. Russell