Monday, January 13, 2014

Are We Practically Denying the Sufficiency of Scripture?

I have the following note written in my iPhone:

NEVER give up the fight for pushing people to give priority to bible saturation.  Don't let up or stop emphasizing until the majority of folks get it and apply it.

This stems from the reality that in the 'Bible Belt' (for what that's worth) there is a great practical denial of the sufficiency of Scripture.  A quick definition from Grudem's Systematic Theology (pg. 127) says the sufficiency of Scripture:
...means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly
I say "practical" denial because, and let me address Southern Baptists here, we have affirmed the sufficiency of Scripture in our minds, nay, we have conquered in the battle for the inerrancy of Scripture, but in our daily or corporate lives we fail to let Scripture have any meaningful place. Perhaps I shouldn't say any meaningful? We fail to let Scripture have its rightful place.

Let's put the 16 million 'members' in SBC churches but only 6 million of those who actually show up on Sunday, or whatever crazy statistic it is, on the table for a moment and try to identify a few other ways that we can know when we are practically denying the sufficiency of Scripture:

1. When we don't read it.  This is pretty basic.  I have found that there are many laypersons who do not have a working knowledge of the bible.  We don't expect everyone to be seminarians but I do think it reasonable to expect that people who've been a Christian over a few years should have at least a basic understanding of the grand story line of the bible, God pursuing sinners for the sake His glory - even if they don't articulate it in those exact words.  However, it seems many are confused as to how the Old Testament and New Testament fit together.  Certainly poor teaching is to blame but also a simple lack of reading.  When we don't read the Bible we are practically denying its sufficiency. We are saying "I don't need this to tell me everything I need to know about salvation, for trusting God perfectly, and for obeying Him perfectly."  To be in such a literate society with access to the Word of God does not bode well for many of us on how we use our time when we stand before God on that great Day.

2. When we don't prize it.  Reading the bible is one thing, treasuring it is something else.  I've heard many a story of lost people reading the bible and other lost persons using the bible for historical or literary work.  Anyone can read the bible.  But are its teachings prized? Is the One it points us to treasured? When Southern Baptists who have been saved for years can only quote John 3:16 because they don't have "good memories" it seems that maybe the bible isn't actually prized. When Christian parents allow their children to memorize Taylor Swift songs but don't push them towards memorizing Scripture it seems that maybe the bible isn't actually prized.  When we are able to talk about what happened on Duck Dynasty or last night's game on a regular basis but not able to talk about our deep meditations upon Holy Writ it seems that maybe the bible isn't actually prized. I could go on but the point is we are practically denying the sufficiency of Scripture when we do not prize it as the very words of God. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb (Ps. 19:10).

3. When it doesn't drive our methodology. Write this down and circle it three times, then highlight it and put an asterisk out beside it: The end doesn't justify the means.  God did not say 'get people saved' however you want (He didn't say 'get people saved' anyway but that's probably another post). The Word clearly lays out that it is Sovereign, Holy God, who pursues sinners, and that we, His loyal subjects, are to take His message of forgiveness to the nations and to call all men everywhere to repentance and faith the way He has ordained for us to do. So, when the latest fad or scheme is used that is extra-biblical or even unbiblical, and people buy into it, what it is really saying is this: The Word of God is not sufficient.  Ah! But people are getting saved! The end doesn't justify the means. Maybe they are getting saved but if they are it is NOT because of the latest fad, rather it is in spite of it.  Is the Word of God sufficient for everything we need from God for obeying Him perfectly or not?

4. When it doesn't saturate our gatherings. If Scripture contains everything we need God to tell us for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly then we must sing it, pray it, and preach it in our services.  Sing the Word.  Pray the Word.  Preach the Word.  When a church service is void of one or all of these elements then the congregation is saying, practically, that the Word of God is not sufficient.

Let me conclude by clarifying that we don't saturate ourselves in Scripture for the sake of Scripture itself. "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me..." John 5:39. Scripture leads us to Christ.  We saturate ourselves in the Word because we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good and we want more.  We desire to pursue holiness, and to live for the sake of His name among all the nations.

These are just a few thoughts.  This post could have been much longer but I am interested in hearing your thoughts on other symptoms of practically denying the sufficiency of Scripture...

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