Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Beware of Short Verse Syndrome

We are all aware of those verses in Scripture that are smaller and easier for us to memorize.  I love those verses mainly because they are easy to remember and recall throughout the day.  I'm not talking about John 11:35 and walking around all day reminding myself that "Jesus wept", but I do have in mind a simple verse like "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again" (John 10:17).  What a great short verse to learn for memorization.  But with these short verse we may rehearse over and over we need to beware of short verse syndrome.

What is short verse syndrome?  I'm glad you asked.  Two problems occur in short verse syndrome that need to be addressed:

1. We can forget the context of the verse
2. We can forget the powerful truth wrapped in the verse

1. We can forget the context of the verse

Many times when we memorize Scripture we do tend to go to the smaller verses so that we will actually learn a passage.  But sadly we just learn the verse rather than reading the text in its entirety.  We walk away saying, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" without reading Philippians 4 or the entire book of Philippians.  "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" become our motto to accomplish any task and when failure happens we have God to blame.  But Paul was writing this letter in prison walls, chained to a guard all the while expressing his joy in the Lord.  Not many people make "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" their slogan when they are placed in prison walls.  Winning gold in the Olympics?  Yes.  Prison?   Not so much.  Paul when he wrote this well known passage was telling the church about his contentment in the Lord.  He was speaking about how the Lord had provided for him in all circumstances.  Whether free or in prison Paul was blasting the trumpet of God's faithfulness and goodness in his life.  We also need to say with Paul: "I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:11-13).

2. We can forget the powerful truth wrapped in the verse

Let's look at the verse I referenced in the introduction: "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again" (John 10:17).  Short verse but so much packed into what Jesus is saying.  This is the section of Scripture where Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  Great "I am" statement and picture of what Jesus came do for his flock.  The reality that Christ came in order to die in the place of sinners like you and me.  Amazing.  In this short verse in John 10 Jesus is telling us of his deity and power.  No one is going to take his life when the time comes.  As a matter of fact the timing is his.  How many times did it seem Jesus was about to be arrested or even put to death and the Bible says, "His hour had not come yet."  The timing was in the hands of our sovereign God who laid down his life at the perfect moment. 

Jesus goes on to say he would take his life up again.  Jesus is telling us that he is the one who would have the power over death.  Any man can make this claim but only Jesus backed it up.  The people Jesus is addressing were not aware of all Jesus was saying but we have the whole story.  When we read these words we should be in awe of Jesus.  He claimed to have the power over his death and his resurrection.  Only God has the power over death.  Jesus did not only claim to be God but he proved when he laid down his life on his terms and rose victorious over death three days later in accordance with the Scriptures.  A short verse but one with huge gospel implications.

May we all beware of short verse syndrome.

Grace upon grace,
JRL

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