Monday, November 6, 2017
Bible Review for Believers
When I think of what I think of the Bible, I’ll never forget when Tucker Roth spoke about it on the day that he was confirmed as a member of Kansas City’s Second Presbyterian Church over three decades ago: “Whenever I open the Bible and read it, I think of it as God’s personal love letter to me.”
Though I don’t think Tucker was thinking of him, he sounded a lot like Augustine: “The Holy Scriptures are letters from home.”
“When you read God’s Word,” wrote Soren Kierkegaard, “you must constantly be saying to yourself, ‘It is talking to me, and about me.’”
Of course, that can be a convicting reality; as Kierkegaard also noted, “We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand it, we are obliged to act accordingly.”
Twain, typically, held no punches: “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.”
It’s like some sermons – especially the ones that we feel are directed at us.
I’ll never forget mediating a dispute between my assistant pastor Harold and a woman who accused him of writing a sermon just for her; and how he said, “Listen, lady, it’s a little arrogant of you to think that I would write a sermon just for you; but if the shoe fits…”
Aside from boring ones from boring ones, Billy Sunday was right on about people who don’t like the Bible and don’t like a lot of sermons: “The reason you don’t like the Bible, you old sinner, is because it knows all about you.”
Truth is the Bible is not that tough to understand if it’s read.
People who say it’s hard to understand haven’t read it; or read it like reading a text message or snap chat or some other superficial byte from the plethora of social nitwitting networks.
David’s first psalm explains how some people get it/Him while others don’t: “How happy is the man who delights in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates …[wraps her/himself around it]…on it day and night.”
J.I. Packer: “One of the many divine qualities of the Bible is that it does not yield its secrets to the irreverent and the censorious.”
In other words, to get into it/Him, we approach the written Word in Holy Scripture like Tucker, Augustine, Soren, and other saints; but not like a fool – the Biblical way of describing a person who thinks she or he is smarter than God’s revelation in the enfleshed Word Jesus by the written Word in the Bible – who says, “I know that’s what Jesus and the Bible say, but I think…”
The arrogance of too many professors, pulpiteers, professors, and pewsitters elevating themselves over Source, Starter, Sovereign, and Savior exposes the human instinct to forget, ignore, or defy divine dictation by reimagined creation: “So humanity created God in humanity’s image. In the image of humanity, humanity created God.”
“More light” than Jesus by the book advocates continue as they enable the human instinct to pretend prerogative different from God’s expressed will – we call it original sin because it goes back to the garden where it started with nothing being original about sin ever since – that betrays a dim view of divinely inspired incarnation in Jesus and instruction in Holy Scripture.
Conversely, faithful women and men attend to rather than contend with God’s apocalypse in Jesus by the book; noting a bumper sticker’s accurate while abrupt assessment of divine disclosure over human conjecture: “God said it! I believe it! That settles it!”
The Westminster Confession of Faith explains the verity of Holy Scripture with more sophistication: “The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself…The Supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined…all decrees…opinions…
doctrines…private spirits…are to be examined…can be no other than the
Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.”
That early 17th century confession was confirmed by The Confession of 1967: “Confessions and declarations are subordinate standards in the church, subject to the authority of Jesus Christ, the Word of God, as the Scriptures bear witness to Him…Obedience to Jesus Christ alone identifies the one universal church and supplies the continuity of its tradition.”
Hence, the Church applies a simple formula for its continuing evolution as a new wineskin always expanding to make room for God’s refreshing graces while never contradicting God’s revealed will in Jesus by the book: ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei.
Simply, the Church at His best is always reforming/changing itself by increasing conformity to Holy Scripture.
The Church heralds the Word of God in Jesus by the book as the only absolutely authoritative apocalypse for faith and morality; rather than being shaped by the ebb and flow of human feelings, wants, needs, concerns, indigestions, loins, lusts, and other navel-gazing humanities.
Though it’s become a dust-collector for too many in the decision-making of courtrooms, classrooms, churches, commerce, media, entertainment, authentic-not-posing Christians always turn to Jesus by the book on all issues of faith and morality: “What would Jesus by the book say? What would Jesus by the book do?”
Luther insisted Biblical Christology is the only guiding principle of particular churches praying, laboring, and aspiring to be part of the Church: “You may as well quit reading and hearing the Word of God and give it to the devil if you do not desire to live according to it.”
So let’s hear it from God as recorded in the book.
Psalm 119:105: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
The Westminster Divines were concise and commanding in The Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever…the Word of God which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy Him.”
Heinrich Bullinger in The Second Helvetic Confession put it this way: “And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.”
President Ronald Reagan spoke succinctly for Jesus-loving-Bible-believers: “Within the covers of the Bible are the answers for all the problems men face.”
Or as we say at the end of every worship service on the corner of Lincoln and Main in Belvidere, Illinois: “Until next time, continue in God’s peace through faith in Jesus. Love God and be kind to one another. Remember, the answer to every question is Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired…[God-breathed]…and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good.”
Or, again, as we say on the corner of Lincoln and Main; especially when the Word in Jesus by the book is salty: “I don’t write ‘em. I just read ‘em.”
It’s like a sermon title and theme by a friend (George Callahan) in Florida many years ago: “God commanded tithing! So don’t blame me!”
The “inspiration” of the Bible means God “breathed into” those who recorded His Word as we now have it.
Rembrandt’s “St. Matthew and the Angel” captures the sense of Paul’s clarification about the absolute and unalterable authority of Holy Scripture as inspired or God-breathed. Today, the original hangs in Paris’ Louvre; but you can google it and see a graphic depiction of Matthew sitting at a table with pen in hand as an angel whispers God’s Word into his ear for our encouraging edification.
2 Peter 1:19-21: “First of all, you should know this: no prophecy of Scripture comes from one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the will of man; instead, moved by the Holy Spirit, men spoke from God.”
Coupled with the aforementioned texts, the point is God is not double-minded and the Bible does not mean whatever the anything but heaven that you want it to mean.
Though easily understood for the overwhelmingly most part, only missing the course on original sin could confuse anyone about the continuing resistance to honor and follow Jesus by the book.
My professors Elmer Homrighausen and Bruce Metzger joined Andrew Blackwood, Jr., Eugene Blake, Charles Fritsch, and Lefferts Loetscher to confirm almost 2K years of Bible esteem for the Church as commissioned by the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church back in 1948’s An Outline of the Christian Faith: “We know God in part by the revelation of Himself in the world which He has created, but He gives us a saving knowledge of Himself only in the Bible which the Holy Spirit enables us to understand…The Bible is the Word of God, a collection of books written by men who were guided by God to teach us about Himself and His Will.”
Ergo, Revelation 22:18-19: “I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.”
Everyone, especially God who is the only One who matters in the end, can see who has taken God at His Word.
While many have attempted to systematize Biblical theology on paper since canonization, its eternal quality by divine origin has frustrated any existential attempt to comprehensively and categorically codify God’s will in/through the Word despite the most exhaustive and sometimes arrogant attempts/claims; compelling agreement with the apostle: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I am fully known.”
Yet, what we can absorb and incarnate in confession, conduct, and countenance can keep us occupied in the meantime.
John Wesley: “God Himself has condescended to teach me the way…He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it; here is knowledge enough for me. Let me be homo unius libri.”
I’ve always been inspired by the Gideons who know the importance of getting the book into everybody’s hands and how they are willing to be slandered, scorned, and marginalized for their witness; and I have rarely read anything better than their evaluation of and esteem for the book which they include in every edition that they disseminate: “The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you…Christ is its grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of God its end…Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully…”
Summarily, if we want to know who He is, what He has done, what He expects, and what comes next, just read the book.
Not books about the book.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Blessings and Love!
Wake up! Look up! Stand up! Speak up! Act up for Jesus!
Shatter the sound of silence!
Salt! Shine! Leavenate!