Everything was in place for the perfect morning quiet time. The coffee was freshly made and had just the right amount of creamer. The candle was lit on the table nearby. My Bible was opened to John 5 as I’ve been going through it passage by passage. My Give Me Jesus journal was beside me, and my pen was poised for some serious note taking.
I read the passage, sat for a second, and…. nothing.
I felt just sort of blah… not really gleaning much. But nevertheless, I jotted down some notes quickly about what I read, relying heavily on some cliche phrases because I really just wanted to fill up the three pages for the day and move on.
I felt the Holy Spirit prick my heart. The whisper of honesty was as loud as ever:
Don’t just read to check it off.
Sit still. Wait. Listen to me. Actually meet with me. Don’t read your Bible to say that you did.
And then I sat, prayed, tapped my foot, waited a bit.
But what happened next was all Jesus, because I read the exact same passage again, and it was like a brand new set of words strung together that blasted me with a new realization I’d been ignoring.
John 5:30-46. Take a second to read the words of Jesus to the Jews who accused Him of “falsely” claiming to be God:
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
Verses 39-40 might as well have jumped off the page and into my heart.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.
Maybe I’m guilty of this too, even today. Maybe I come to the pages of the Bible some days because I long to have the perfect quiet time. Maybe I’ve traded intimacy with Jesus for a checklist and a cup of coffee next to the picture-perfect moment of Bible study.
Maybe I’ve start to idolize my quiet time, but I’ve focused more on showing people that I read my Bible instead of just getting small, quiet and sitting in the presence of Jesus. Have you ever found yourself there before?
Maybe I’ve longed to have knowledge for knowledge’s sake. I’ve wanted to have the right answers tucked away in my heart so that I could seen knowledgeable… but instead of loving the God of the pages of this Bible I hold in my hands, I’ve let myself become puffed up with how much I know and how quickly I can tell you the right answer.
Maybe I’m not so unlike those Pharisees, obsessing over right and wrong and studying the rules of the Bible, but missing out on meeting with Jesus over coffee and letting Him nurture my soul. Have you ever done that? Traded a heart to heart for a list of rules?
Please hear my heart here, the Bible is good and right and full of life-giving words. We need to read it! But when we start to cling to it and desire to check off our daily ten-minute reading more than we desire to know Jesus—that’s when our hearts become like the Pharisees we read about. That’s when we start to cling to the Scriptures more than we care about the God we meet in these pages.
I want to come to the Word with an expectant heart. I may not always “feel” it as I’m reading—but I can know that when I get quiet, tune out the distractions, turn my phone on do not disturb and leave it in the other room, and actually focus my heart and soul on Jesus—those are the moments where He shows up and points out my sin, my need and my deepest desires. We can’t rush that process and hope to find all the answers to life’s questions in a five minute devotion.
He meets with us, and He draws near. He is a good and gracious Father who is worthy of more than our ten minutes in the morning. It takes time. But He is worth it.
Be with Him now, even just to reset your heart on Him. Chase Him more than you seek the perfect quiet time. Abide with Him today, even if it means resetting your gaze on Him one thousand and one more times. He’s worth it, friend.