Saturday, April 2, 2016

How to almost treat the Bible rightly

The 1689 London Baptist Confession says the following about the Holy Scriptures:

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience, although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and his will which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord at sundry times and in divers manners to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterward for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan, and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scriptures to be most necessary, those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased. 

...The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelation of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word, and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.

Scripture is precious. Not only is it inerrant and infallible but it is the only sufficient rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. It is a treasure to all true Believers. This is a post I've been mulling over a few days. I decided to finally write it out and I hope you find it edifying. We don't want to be a people who almost treat the Bible rightly. We want to use, treat, and love Scripture as God intended us to. Here are 8 ways we almost do that. (Which is sort of like almost going to heaven. Not a good thing).

Here we go:

1. When it's admired but not read -

Is the bible important? Absolutely. Most churches in the Bible Belt wouldn't think of having a Pastor who came in and said the Bible isn't God's Word. But admiring the bible isn't quite enough is it? Not if its not ever actually taken up and read. I've heard the myriad of excuses:

- It's too difficult 
- I'm just really busy 
- I know I need to read it but... (fill in the blank)

Frankly, we no excuse in this area. If we admire the Bible but don't read it, we are almost treating it right. And to almost treat it right is to treat it wrong. 

It's interesting but pastors and seminarians can even get caught in this trap. We can read so much about the Bible that we fail to actually take up and read the Bible!

2. When we read it but don't cherish it -

So, another category of people are those who know they need to read it and do make time to read it but that's where they stop. Maybe a chapter is read here or there. Maybe a verse or two is ready in some devorional l book. But, the bible isn't actually cherished. It's not meditated on. It's not memorized. It's not really studied. It's all duty and no delight. There's no confrontation with the living God in the pages of Holy Writ. Things just continue as they've basically always been and we are satisfied that we've checked off bible reading for the day, week, or month. 

I think there is also danger in reading the bible just to prove a theological point. So, let me compile all th verses that teach this particular doctrine just so I can prove a point instead of cherishing the very doctrine you're proving. Shame on us. 

3. When our religion is based on it instead of shaped by it -

Lots of folks are practicing a religion based on the Bible. In these churches sometimes the gospel may even be correctly heralded. But it's not enough just to 'base' our view of Chrisitianiry on Scripture. Rather, the Bible must shape how we view Christianity. In other words, we can't come to the Bible and say "well, I know the bible says this, but..." We must be resolved to place traditions, confessions, creeds, and preferences, as subservient to Scripture. We don't bend Scripture to fit into what we think Christianity is. We must bow everything to the Bible, period.  

Probably one of the most tangible examples I can think of is our soteriology. It's surprising to me what many conservative churches will accept as a credible salvation even when vital aspects of the gospel are rejected. We have to move away from 'this is what I've always thought' to 'this is what the bible says.'

We treat the bible wrongly when we use th bible to back up our already held positions instead of pouring over it to let it shape our positions.

4. When it occasionally crosses our minds or consciences but rarely ever our lips

It's quite alarming how little the Bible is discussed in our day. Sure, you've always got the person willing to post proof texts on Facebook. But I'm talking about actually discussing the Bible in community. Talking of God's word and ways with our children. Applying Scripture to everyday life situations with our neighbors. Asking one another at our church gatherings and throughout the week how our bible reading is going, what we are learning, what the Lord is showing us in His Word. 

5. When we know some of the Bible but don't hunger for more -

Practically speaking most people are satisfied with their level of bible knowledge. They may say they need to know it better but nothing in their life would really suggest they are actually trying to learn it better. This is a travesty given our access to God's word in our day. We have Bibles, study tools, and actually time to be in Bible. If you don't have time, what are you doing reading this post?

The things revealed belong to us (Deut. 29:29)! Don't you dare relegate deep knowledge of the Bible to just 'scholars' or 'pastors'. Take up and read! But that's the issue isn't it? One of appetite. We all know we need to eat spinach more, but it's just not that good is it? Similarly, many know they need to be in Scriptire more to increase their knowledge but they don't have the appetite. 

6. When we consider the Bible important, but optional for holiness -

Really this probably goes back to soteriology. Many people think you can be saved and not holy. You won't find this teaching in Scripture. Nobody (that I'm aware of) is pressing 'perfectionism'. We can't be perfect. Be we can (and if we are Believers we do) pursue holiness. God's Word is vital to our practical holiness. Jesus Himself prayed that Believers would be sanctified in the truth stating that God's Word is truth (Jn 17:17). 

Many are operating on a view of holiness that separates feeling from Truth. Don't misunderstand me. We must feel. But feeling can't be removed from the Bible. Many people 'feel' right with God but that feeling isn't rooted in Scripture. The typical Bible Belt church member treats the Bible like a last resort, or at least an optional resort, instead of necessary for our walk with God. We may talk with God but we take His 'speaking' to us as the things we feel instead of the plain spoken word He's given to us in His Book.

7. When we almost preach the meaning of the text 

An almost correct view of the bible leads to almost preaching the bible correctly. When we almost get to the meaning of the text, when we almost get to the intended applications, when we almost use God's Word as God intended we are missing the precious vitality the Bible is meant to give God's people through the power of the Holy Spirit. It's true, the  Holy Spirit can and does use even poor preaching to accomplish His good purposes. But we must remember, even the Devil preaches the Bible (see Mt. 4)! It's not enough to be faithful just by preaching the bible. We must do so correctly! The point of the passage must be the post of the sermon. We must get to the intended meaning of the authors and the Author. 

8. When we read it and don't see Jesus 

The Bible isn't about us. I mean not its main sense. It's about Christ, His glory, and what God is doing in and through Him to reconcile the world to Himself. We've got to quit with the narcigesis (think 'Furtick').  When we read the Bible and boil it down to just being about facing our giants we miss the big picture. Quit reading yourself into the text!

We don't read the Bible for the sake of the Bible in and of itself. We read it because we love Christ. We want to know Him more and we desire to live joyfully under His blessed headship. I'm not saying we need to read Jesus into places He's not but if we don't read Scripture through the lens of the gospel we are merely almost treating it rightly. 

So there ya go. My hope is that you'll ask yourself "Do I treat the Bible as God interned me to?" And if the answer is 'no', you'll repent, run to Jesus who gives more grace, and take up and read. 

Solid Deo Gloria. 

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