Here are some things I’ve collected along the way to avoid subtle dangers around the Word of God.
1 The original lies are alive and well
The devil introduced two lies in Genesis 3 and they go like this:
- God can’t be be trusted (“did God say?”)
- sin is fine (“you will not die”)
You would not believe the number of torpedoes aimed at God’s word since then (is it clear? Is it sufficient? Is it relative? etc.) and the doubts linger in our own mind too.
If you want an up-to-date example of the original lies just consider the pressure today to eat from every sexual tree and be told that there will be no consequences.
2 The inspiration of scripture is fact not feeling
When scripture is described as ‘inspired’ it means that God breathed out all He wanted to say to us – using various people to write it down (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:21).
It doesn’t mean that the text is inspired if we like it or that it becomes inspiring when we read it. Much of our reading (at speed) will miss the riches of God’s Word – and we must conclude after a ‘dull’ time in God’s Word that there is more to dig into!
I’ve been reading a psalm a day and it is all too easy to look for the ‘sweet’ verse and miss the argument of the psalm – which if I gave it more time would deeply impact me.
3 Wrestle with difficulties – don’t dismiss the text
There are times when we can get dismissive of the text:
- all these laws seem stupid
- all this killing is terrible
- all this detail is ridiculous (etc.)
But be very careful. You would not be so dismissive of a Professor just because you didn’t understand him – and we will do well to approach the text humbly as well.
John Stott used to say we should “hold the text in one hand as the inspired Word of God – and wrestle with the problem with the other hand. Just as we hold the love of God in one hand and wrestle with the problems of suffering with the other hand”.
4 We don’t bring the bible to life – it brings us to life!
Because the text is “living and active” (Hebrew 4:12) and because we are “born again…” through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23) we don’t need people to bring it to life. At best a preacher or teacher will show how living and active it is.
5 Don’t assume the Spirit will walk away from the Scripture
We sometimes get the impression that the Spirit walks a more exciting or interesting path than the scriptures – but He leads us into the truth (John 16:13).
So He may help us into the Word of God or more deeply into the Word of God – because to Him it is the place of revelation and illumination and our sanctification.
6 The Spirit changes the listener not the text
When we are reading the bible or hearing it taught, it is not that the Spirit suddenly drops on the text to make it alive (it’s already living) but He may change us.
“The Spirit does not affect Scripture but those who read and hear it…Scripture’s authority…is a finished activity of which the Spirit’s ongoing testimony convinces our darkened minds”
(John Murray ‘The Infallible Word’ page 43).
7 Jesus said “my sheep hear my voice”
Nothing is more prevalent today than Christians preferring easy voices (entertainment, amusement, flattery, gossip and fluff) than the simple daily diet of scripture.
Nothing is more prevalent in the pulpit than messages which come from the minds of the speaker – not the text of God’s Word.
I am so glad to hear of many in St Thomas’ reading God’s Word and working out which talk has echoed the Shepherd’s voice.