Dr. James L. Snyder Ministries
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General Essays > Beyond The Sacred Page


In my library are many translations of the Bible. I have not taken the time to count them, but most translations published today are represented there in some form. Never has there been a time when there have been more translations of the Bible. I am for it and I am one of the first to buy the newest translation.

        I must confess, however, sooner or later I gravitate back to the old King James Version of the Bible. Not that I think it is better than any other translation. I just enjoy it more. I read the others and enjoy them to a point, but when I am coming to meditate on the Word of God, it is the King James Version that helps me along this line. I find it difficult to speed read the King James Version.

        Probably the most useless battle today in the church is the battle over translations. I say, get a translation you like, as long as it is reputable, and get down to the business of reading and studying and meditating on the Word of God.

        In spite of an almost endless variety of translations we have a culture today that is alarmingly biblically illiterate. The Bible is available to anybody in just about any language and translation you could think of. Yet, the truth remains, most Americans are not biblically savvy.

        I have seen no surveys, but it would not surprise me to learn that the majority of Christians in America today do not read the Bible regularly. This is inexcusable.

        Not only is the Bible available in just about any translation you can think of, it can even be downloaded on cell phones and is also in audio version. If you do not have time to read the Bible, maybe you could listen to the Bible, perhaps while driving.

        Trying to think of excuses for not reading the Bible I have not come up with one. Except, if you are dead, then you cannot read the Bible.

        The thing I try to wrap my brain around is why people, claiming to be Christians, do not read the Bible on a regular basis. Some do, I know. But many do not. I am confused about that group.

        With the way the world is going today, I cannot think of any reason not to search the Scriptures daily to see what the Bible has to say about the times in which we are living. In a society that gets all of its information from television and the Internet, I would think somebody would have a desire to understand what God has to say.

        I am not suggesting we use the Bible to understand the social and political aspects of our culture. Many are doing just that, but that is not the purpose of the Bible. Talking with some people who claim to be Christian, I am not sure if they really understand the purpose of the Bible.

        Recently, I attended a church and sitting there I looked around during the sermon to see what people were doing. It amazed me how many people did not have a Bible opened. Yes, some people had cell phones with the Bible on it. Even these were few that I could see. Observing the people as they walked out, few had a Bible with them.

        How is it that some people think it’s okay to go to church and not bring their Bibles with them? Don’t church and the Bible go together?

        The Bible is not a book for information nor is it a book of theology although it contains both information and theology. That is not the purpose of the Bible.

        A hymn I enjoy very much has a marvelous phrase that puts the Bible in the proper perspective for me.

        “Beyond the sacred page, I seek Thee, Lord.”

        The hymn writer had it right. I am reminded what A. W. Tozer said along this line. “If you have read the Bible and have not experienced the Living Word, you have not actually read the Bible.”

        That is the purpose. To encounter the Living Word in personal experience.

        I am interested in what people have to say about the Bible. I enjoy listening to a Bible teacher expound the Word. I love a preacher who really knows how to preach the Word. However, none of this takes the place of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It is in the Word such an encounter takes place.

        It is one thing to know what the Bible says, but quite another to experience God in that book.

        I am afraid today we are living in a Christian culture more influenced by the world around them than the Word of God within them. All of our ideas are coming from the world. Our attitudes are coming from the world. Whatever the world is doing at any given time will sooner or later be found in the church.

        Infrequently do we find somebody who will stop and say, “What does the Bible have to say about this?”

        I think that is a superb question. To answer that question from a biblical standpoint would lead to some important changes in our Christian culture today. Few people understand that the world is in deep conflict with the Word of God. The two are incompatible with each other to the point of hostility.

        Yet, some do not really believe that. To some the church is simply a cleaned up version of the world.

        One preacher said on television recently that it did not matter if you were a Christian or not, if you practiced what the Bible said, and he was talking about “prosperity,” God would have to do it for you. According to him, God was under an obligation to bless you regardless of who you were.

        I have a bit of a problem with that. The Bible is not a means by which I can coerce God into doing things for my benefit. If you take the Bible seriously, God will do nothing contrary to His nature and character, which can be summed up in one word, holy.

        An unholy man cannot convince a holy God to do something unholy.

        I think of what Mark Twain said about a classic. “A classic is a book on everybody’s bookshelf, but one nobody reads.” I wonder if we have come to that point with the Bible? It is an acceptable book even with politicians today, and yet, the Bible does not seem to have made much of an impact on today’s culture.

        I believe that impact must begin with the church. The Word of God needs to have an overwhelming impact on the local church. Too often, we are building churches through the business methods of the world and therefore the power of the Word of God is pushed to the side. We can explain why we have growth in our church. We can explain why things are happening in our church.

        If you can explain everything happening in your church then God is not involved. God does that in my life and in the life of the local church which is completely inexplicable. What God does brings glory, not to human innovation, but to God and His marvelous way of touching our lives.

        When was the last time we got on our knees before an open Bible and lost track of everything around us and was overwhelmed by the mighty presence of God? Most believers are living lives far below what they could be living. Everything in their life can be explained and they are struggling from day to day to be a good Christian.

        I say, let us quit trying to be a good Christian. Let us quit trying to handle it ourselves. Let us throw ourselves unreservedly on the Lord Jesus Christ and let the consequences up to Him.

        As I go “beyond the sacred page” I begin to experience God in the way that He wants me to experience Him. Much of what we have today is such a distance from God. We live the Christian life on long distance and God is not satisfied with that.

        We must come into such a fellowship with God that it cannot be explained nor maintained by natural means. There is a supernatural aspect to my Christian life that can only be activated by a personal encounter with God orchestrated, if you please, by the Holy Spirit.

        I do not believe that as Christians we should denounce other people and other religions. I like what F. W. Boreham once said. “You can always show a stick to be crooked by simply laying a straight one beside it.” This is what is needed today. I know criticism has its place. I think the greater place is to model a life beyond human explanation that will draw all people to the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

        And this all begins “beyond the sacred page.”