What I learned from reading New Testament books in one sitting

Over the last month I read all of the New Testament books, each in one sitting. This was instigated by something that bothered me: I wasn’t sure I really understood what the New Testament authors believed happened on the cross.

This is an embarrassing position to be in, seeing as I worked at a church for the last 7 years. I have a doctorate in ministry, for crying out loud.

But at dinner a few months ago a new friend made a comment that didn’t sit well with me about what God was up to through Jesus crucifixion. I picked up a book on the subject, which revealed I knew even less than I thought. Maybe working at churches and getting doctorates makes one less willing to say “I don’t know.”

My new friend could lift verses here and there, just as I could. But I wondered what I might learn by reading Romans in one sitting. So I did. It wore me out. I repeated this the next day with Galatians, then Ephesians, then Revelation. This high intensity reading is new for me (it took me about 5 months to get through Psalms earlier this year). This morning I finished by reading Luke.

I got my answer about the cross. Here’s a few other things I learned:

  1. The New Testament has pace. Most often I’ve read or heard the New Testament gospels and letters in chunks. Taken piece by piece, they become methodical. Read at once, they are demanding, engaging, and urgent. If you read anything slow enough, it will sound methodical. Pensive. Maybe emotive and academic (try this with the Miranda Rights).
  2. The authors are obsessed with truth and unity. Paul is really bothered by anybody preaching something other than the gospel*. Jesus really wants his followers to be committed to each other. I wish I better understood how to do truth and unity. Pursuing truth or unity is easy. Doing both seems impossible.
  3. There is very little we worry about that the New Testament authors bothered with.
  4. They bother quite a bit with submission, service, humility, prayer and love. When you read the New Testament quickly, it isn’t an academic exercise. It’s just exercise. Jesus, Peter, John, and Paul are driving you do something with your faith. Most often, they’re calling you to love others, to be willing to be second, and to serve.

Next up, I’m going to read Isaiah. Then probably Proverbs. In the meantime, I’m going to try to keep pace with what I’ve read. And get some exercise.

*So, what is the gospel? The crucified and risen Jesus is Lord of the whole world. The word gospel means “good news.” Here’s why it’s good news: God has a new way (actually, the original way) for us to be human, and Jesus shows us how and makes it possible.

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