Monday, February 13, 2017

The Word of God is enough

My first experiences of Christianity were in a pentecostal church during the time of what is labeled the "Toronto Blessing".   I don't need to get into the specifics of the Toronto Blessing, there is plenty of ink spilled on that topic by plenty of godly men who are much more qualified to speak on it than I am.  So if you are curious you can do your own research on it, but I guess I will just summarize that the Toronto Blessing was an unbiblical movement that really wasn't a blessing at all.  Many movements and "churches" are still entrenched in this false system of theology.  To be honest, I am surprised by how many people, who claim to be Bible believing Christians, follow after this nonsense.  Due to my "upbringing" in the faith, the Bible was not the authority for life and practice.  To be fair, never would I hear anyone undermine or belittle the Bible.  Everyone affirmed that it was the word of God.   Everyone said the Bible is our sole place to find truth and authority.  But there were always other little comments.  "God said this to me."  "The Lord TOLD me to share this with you."  So early on in my Christian experience,  I began to have a narcissistic engagement with the Scriptures.  I wanted to hear God speak to me.  I wanted to have a revelation from God personally, like so many others were.  How come I am not getting that?  So when I read the Scriptures, which was rarely, I didn't care about context or the big picture or anything like that.  I wanted something to jump off the page that was for me.  To be fair once again, the pastor of the church would say things like, you check the Bible out for yourself.  Or don't take my word, you have a Bible, check it out.  The problem is, I can take the Bible out of context and make it say whatever I want.  Look at so many of the false teachers today.  They use the Bible and because of that, and people's biblical illiteracy, the people soak it up.  They believe anything that is "Christian" or quotes the Bible.  So the Bible was great, it was God's word, but not really relevant.  Because people would "speak into my life" and it was so much more exciting.  Someone would give me a Bible verse, and then go on to explain how that is for me.  It was great!   I could take take a verse and make it my verse.  It was for me.  So I would read and look for verses that I liked and that could fit into what maybe someone spoke to me or what I wanted to hear.

Fast forward several years.  I got plugged into a Bible teaching church.  Started downloading solid biblical teaching on my ipod.  Started listening to Alistair Begg and guys who would expositionally teach the Scriptures.  It was like that song from Aladdin, "A Whole New World" was opened up to me.  I began seeing the Bible, not so much as a verse here and there to "speak into my life" but as a whole that speaks of God's great promises of salvation which in reality does speak into my life and that is far greater than any disconnected verse that I twist and rearrange to fit my circumstances.  Let me say this though, I am not saying that a specific verse will not grant you comfort in situations.  Not at all.  We hold and cling to verses that have impacted us personally.  I am on the mission field because of specific verses.  My wife has comfort to be here and to live cross culturally because of Isaiah 40:11.  But I began not reading the Bible self centeredly.  I began to see that the Bible is more about God and His glory than it is about me.  I began to see that there is a bigger plan than just me.   Oh it involves me, I get to be part of it, but it is so beyond me.  Not every little verse is specifically for me.  I began to read the Bible, not to search for God's personal word for me today, which is often far from what the text within the context is really saying, but to read it and see how great and wonderful Christ is.  Reading it this way gave me this new love and fondness of Jesus.  Jesus Himself says that the Bible is all about Him (Luke 24).  So the more I read and understood who Jesus was and is, the greater my faith and trust of Him became.  It is still growing and deepening every day I open my Bible.  Now when I read the Bible, I focus on Jesus first and not myself.

Over the past several years,  I have been helped greatly by author/pastor Graeme Goldsworthy.  His passion is biblical theology and getting people to see the unity of the whole Bible.  How all the pieces fit together.  I actually taught his book "According to Plan" to my church on Sunday mornings.  I made the messages more expositional and more for a Sunday morning than the book, but I used the book as my outline and guide.  I want my church to be biblically literate.  To be that, they need to see the whole picture.  Now the reason I even started to write this post was, because the more we get into the word and understand the unity within the diversity, our love for Jesus will grow.  Our understanding of His plan and His salvation will get deeper.  We will become less satisfied with superficial views of Him and shallow teachings about Him.  We will be more aware and resistant to false views and teachings and gain understanding of Him and the Bible.  So many people undermine the Bible without even realizing.  As Christians there are doctrines that we all will die for.  Throughout history people have died for the truth of justification by faith alone.  People have died for salvation in Christ alone.  People have died for so many causes that we need to be willing to die for.   The church is willing to die for the inspiration of the Scriptures.  The church is willing to die for the infallibility of the Bible.  The church will die, to stand on the inerrancy of the Bible.  But there is another that we need to be prepared to die for.  I know many are.  I know many would even say they are willing.  And that is the sufficiency of the Bible.  There is where my Christian experience was lacking.  This is what bothers me about silly little devotionals like Jesus Calling or any other book that claims to be the words of Jesus.  Sara Young even said the Bible wasn't enough.  So she needed Jesus to speak to her.  And people actually read this stuff.  Why would you read anything that claims to be the words of Jesus and from an author who said the Bible isn't enough?  It has been the number one selling "Christian" book for some time.  We have the words of Jesus. We don't need new words.  Jesus has spoken (Heb 1:1).  Jesus is God's revelation to us.  That is what the author of  Hebrews is going on about.   That Jesus is superior than all the other revelations.  In Jesus we have the fullness of God.  No, the Bible is not Jesus but we find Jesus in the Bible.  The Scriptures don't save us (John 5:39) but we find Jesus in them.  Salvation comes through Jesus whom we find in the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the Scripture make us wise unto salvation.  How?  Because through them we see Jesus, the true Jesus.  And Salvation is through Jesus.  So the Bible is sufficient for us.  In 2 Peter, Peter tells us God has given us everything for life and godliness.  Paul tells us the Bible prepares us for every good work.  What more do you need?  I am not claiming we don't need to read other books.  I just said I read other books.  But I don't read books that are claiming to be the words of Jesus.  I don't need to, I have the true word of Jesus.  I have the book that Jesus spoke.   The Bible.  No, the Bible doesn't give us a word for every situation in our lives.  It doesn't tell us who to marry or what job to take or where to move.  But it gives us enough to make good decisions.  It doesn't give us exhaustive information on every subject, but in every subject that it does mention, it speaks only what is true. And as Kevin Deyoung says "and in its truth we have enough knowledge to turn from sin, find a Savior, make good decisions, please God, and get to the root of our deepest problems."

I can't say it better than him so "The word of God is more than enough for the people of God to live their lives to the glory of God. The Father will speak by means of all that the Spirit has spoken through the Son. The question is whether we will open our Bibles and bother to listen."

I used to long to hear God.  To be like those people who got words from the Lord.  Yet all the time my Bible was closed.  Or I was reading it out of context.  Or I was looking for something just for me.  A personal word just for me.  The funny thing is, it is a personal word.  I just didn't see it.  It is a personal word about my sin and about a great savior and about a gracious God.  Let's open our Bibles and read it from cover to cover and understand that it is ONE book with ONE underlying theme and ONE message, which is Jesus.  And in that message, is God's plan for you and me, which is our salvation and reconciliation back to Him all for the glory of God.  I don't believe anything will build your faith more than reading and seeing the Lord Jesus through His word (Rom 10:17).  Open your Bibles and look through the lens of Jesus as your read.  The more you see Jesus, the more you will see how great and loving our God is.  Don't settle for anything less than the Jesus from the Bible.