A Few More Thoughts On Scripture

Last week I posted a few of my own thoughts on the theme of the Bible.  Earlier this week I found a quote from Walt Kaiser on this same subject that I think is quite helpful.

Kaiser described what he called the “canonical center” of the Bible in this way:

It is God’s word of blessing (to use the word especially prominentin the pre-Abrahamic materials) or promise (to use the New Testament word which summarizes the content of the Old Testament) to be Israel’s God and to do something for Israel and through them something for all the nations on the face of earth.

Sec 310 Row Q Seat 9

hat-001-320x200.jpgLast Saturday night I decided that I was going to ditch the books and go catch one last ball game with my brother before the season ends.  The trip could have doubled for a roller coaster ride.  We went and got chili dogs and fries, but the Red Sox were blowing out the Rays.  Things were getting a little annoying as we sat and listened to some slack-jawed yokel in a Red Sox hat chanting incesintly for what seemed like hours (thank goodness he didn’t start singing about Caroline).  About that time something happened that has never happened to me before; I won an autographed Carl Crawford hat in a drawing.  They called my ticket number and then every one starting giving me high fives.  On top of that Carlos Pena hit a monster Home Run that sent the BoSox fans packing.  My brother and I were having quite a bit of fun at that point, most of which was at the expense of the Sox fans. 

Unfortunately it was too good to last.  The Rays blew it – if that was a surprise ending to you then you just haven’t been paying attention – and the only comfort I had was my new hat (this didn’t seem to soften the blow for my brother).  I am not sure what I am going to do with my new hat, but at this point I am having fun just talking about my hat. 

Some Thoughts on Scripture

This week I have been preparing to teach on the topic of Scripture. I have been working hard to try and capsulize some key thoughts in a simple, but comprehensive way.  I have done this by formulating two one sentence summaries of the Bible. I find that simplifying things down can  help me to organize my thoughts.  Before I give you mine I want to encourage you to try this exercise on your own.  Ask yourself what the Bible is all about, and why did God reveal it to us.  

Here is what I have come up with:

All of Scripture is moving towards, explaining, or reminding its readers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

Notice the difference between the three categories “moving towards, explaining, or reminding.”  Not ever passage in the Bible explicitly teaches us about Jesus, however every passage in the Bible fits within the Gospel as a whole.  

Here is my second sentence:

The Bible is all about the glory of God revealed through the unfolding of the Gospel.

I know that these sentences are less than profound.  But the discipline of thinking through this issue and boiling it down helped me to formulate and organize my own opinions on the issue.  

Blessed, or Invincible (continued)

On Monday I posted about the danger of feeling invincible because of God’s provision.  I want to follow up on that post by briefly talking about how then Christians should make decisions. The fact that so many people within the church feel as if they can do anything and the Lord will provide exactly what they want demonstrates how important it is for Christians to know how to make godly decisions. For some this means waiting for a special word from the Lord. For others, this means an impression or a feeling of leading. Still others just make decisions as if they were not Christians. But are any of these right? I don’t think so.  We as Christians must be looking to God’s word to help us make decisions.  I truly believe that the Bible is capable of renewing our minds, and giving us the wisdom that we need to make decisions.  This is how we find the will of God: We read what He has revealed to us as His will!

What does this look like?

 The Bible consistently teaches that Christians have been created to honor God with their lives.

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Ephesians 2:8-10

The implication of this truth is that God does not expect us to hit some bull’s-eye with every decision we make. Rather, God expects us to honor Him by the decisions we make. Marriage is a great example. You can read your Bible from cover to cover and it will never tell you who to marry. However, it will tell you what kind of man/women to look for. Thus, the Christian does not have to make sure that marrying “so-in-so” is God’s specific will. Instead, the Christian should look at “so-in-so” and ask if “so-in-so” meets the standards that God has set. If so, then marrying “so-in-so” will bring glory to God, and you will be doing the will of God.

We must remember that as Christians we are slaves to God. This is how the apostles introduced themselves, and this is how Christ described us. As slaves we have the obligation to please our master. This means that when it comes to decisions like should I marry “so-in-so” we should be concerned with pleasing our master. If we have this attitude as we make decisions we will not have to worry about confusing invincibility with God’s provisions; and we will not become paralyzed as we seek “God’s perfect will.”

I know that these thoughts have been rather disjunctive, and not as articulate as I would have liked. However, these issues have recently come up in several shepherding situations and they have been on my heart as of late. I hope that these posts will help you to investigate these issues for yourself, and come up with a more articulate treatment of the subject.

Jude 24-25: To God be the Glory (pt. 2)

II. God must be glorified through Jesus.

a. God is glorified in the Gospel

In addition to being glorified through His saving work, Jude tells us that God is glorified through Jesus Christ. God created all things for His own glory. He even allowed sin so that He could be glorified through the Gospel. All the way back in Genesis chapter 3 God promised that He would send Jesus to save His people. All throughout Scripture we see God working this glorious plan out. God orchestrated all of history so that He would be glorified by Jesus coming and saving those whom the Father had given to Him. At the center of this amazing plan is Jesus himself, who was God incarnate. Jesus came and took the form of a man revealing the character of God. Jesus is the physical manifestation of God. We have yet to see God in all of His glory, however through Jesus we can see a glimpse of God’s glory.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Through Jesus it clear to see that God possess all glory, majesty, dominion, and authority.

b. God is glorified by followers of Jesus

In addition to being glorified through Jesus, God is also glorified through the followers of Jesus. This is probably Jude’s main point when he says that God is glorified through Jesus. Through Jesus we can give God glory and declare His majesty, dominion, and authority. This is exactly what God created us to do. Creation was meant to display God’s glory, and human beings were the crowning jewel of creation. However, instead of glorifying God man rebelled against God. Because of this sin man was no longer ably do what we were created to do – glorify God. However, through Jesus we can be re-created and glorify God. This is exactly what Jesus had in mind in John 14:8:

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

When we follow Jesus, and bear fruit God is glorified. This is what it means in 1 Corinthians 10:13 when it says that we are to do all things to the glory of God. Christians are supposed to be reflecting God’s glory to the world around them. God has created all kinds of great things for us on this earth and as long as we remember that God has given these things to us, and that God is better than these things then we will bring glory to His name. When we put the good things of this earth above God that is when we get into trouble. For instance, food is a really awesome thing that God has given to us. However, if we become consumed with food and desire food so much that we forget that food is a gift from God then we will fall into the sin of gluttony. This is human nature. For some reason we continually worship the creation rather than the creator. We are so easily pleased by things like TV that we neglect the inexpressible joy that comes from serving God. We must remember that God is the ultimate source of joy so that we will not become consumed with the insignificant joys of this world. If we do this then we will be able to glorify God in all we do. And the only way to experience the joy of following God is through Jesus.

When we follow Jesus we will experience a great joy that can only come through God. As we experience this joy it will be easier for us to put all the fun things of this earth into perspective, and then we will be able to glorify God with our lives.

Blessed, or Invincible

I was out getting a cup of coffee the other morning and I began to think about all the ways that God has provided for my family over the last couple of years.  There have been several occasioins when we had to make decisions with financial implications and simply trust that the Lord would ultimately provide for our needs.  Ultimately, we know that God’s will for our lives will not be foiled and so we can make big decisions trusting that the Lord is sovereign.  I believe that this is the general teaching of James 4:13-17:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Where we go, what we have, our business success, and everything else is within the scope of God’s sovereign rule. This is a source of great comfort as we seek to follow Jesus.

As I continued to think about this subject my mind wondered a bit.  I started thinking about the cupofcoffee-logo.JPGvarious ways that well-meaning Christians interpret this truth.  The common temptation is to move beyond a sense of God’s blessing, and feel as if you are invincible.  Let me explain what I mean with a practical example.  This fall I began my first semester of seminary at the Expositors Seminary. Our family has been preparing for this for quite some time, and we have saved up enough money to pay for the first year of school.  The mentality that my wife and I have is that God has called me into pastoral ministry and this training is the next step in fulfilling this calling.  Thus, if we are right, then God will ultimately make provision for me to be able to finish seminary.  Now here is where the danger begins.  The temptation is to move beyond a trust in God, and presume upon God to make provision for you on your terms.  Let me return to my example.  I would be presuming upon God if I had the mentality that God had to provide for me by cutting me a check for my tuition.  God can provide for me by giving me a second job, or by forcing me to take a few semesters off, or by not allowing me to finish (or any other way He sees fit).  My point is that God has promised to provide for us, not give us everything that we want.  I think many Christians get confused on this point. 

How many Christian upon buying a new car, or home, or HD TV have you hear say “Well, we really can’t afford it right now, but we are just trusting that the Lord will provide…”  Christians with this mentality have moved beyond a sense of God’s blessing in their lives to a sense of invisibility (by this I mean that they think everything will turn out just the way they want it to because they are Christians).  The fact of the matter is that the Lord is probably going to provide a lesson in personal finances and dealing with bad credit rather than hundred dollar bills falling from heaven.   

So, as Christians, what should our mentality be on this subject.  Well, I think a big hint is given back in James 4:17:

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

I hope to elaborate more on this point tomorrow (or later this week).

Before I finish this post I want to make it clear that I am not dealing with the manner by which God makes provisions for His people, but rather I am dealing with the mentality that we as God’s people must have towards God’s provisions.  Going back to my example (Seminary).  This past week God chose to use a special means to provide for my tuition, and it just goes to show you that we have an amazing God with and amazing plan.

Great Sermon on a Hard Topic

This past Sunday Chris Pixley, one of the pastors at our church, preached a sermon on the topic of church discipline.  Quite frankly, I think that it is the best treatment that I have ever heard on the subject and I wanted to give you all the opportunity to hear it for yourselves.  You can listen to the message right here with the streaming audio below, and the outline of the sermon is available HERE.  If you are having trouble with the streaming audio feature you can also go HERE to find this sermon.