Tag Archives: word of God

Decorator Spirituality?

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Spiritual theology, using Scripture as text, does not present us with a moral code and tell us “Live up to this”; nor does it set out a system of doctrine and say, “Think like this and you will live well.” The biblical way is to tell a story and in the telling invite: “Live into this–This is what it looks like to be human in this God-made and God-ruled world; this is what is involved in becoming and maturing as a human being.”

We do violence to the biblical revelation when we “use” it for what we can get out of it or what we think will provide color and spice to our otherwise bland lives. That always results in a kind of “decorator spirituality” — God as enhancement. Christian are not interested in that; we are after something far bigger. When we submit our lives to what we read in Scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves.

(taken from Eugene Peterson, Eat This Book)

The Ministry Of Proclaiming

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The highest service to perform, according to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is the proclamation of the Word. This ministry of the Word is the fourth and final service in which Bonhoeffer believes the Christian community owes to each other.

Though Bonhoeffer does believe the proclamation of the Word is the most crucial service, this does not negate the others. He writes that “where the ministry of listening, active helpfulness, and bearing with others is faithfully performed, the ultimate and highest service can also be rendered, namely, the ministry of the Word of God.”

It is only when we listen, help, and bear with others that the door is opened to speak the word into their lives. Bonhoeffer writes:

If [speaking the word] is not accompanied by worthy listening, how can it really be the right word for the other person? If it is contradicted by one’s own lack of active helpfulness, how can it be a convincing and sincere word? If it issues, not from a spirit of bearing and forbearing, but from impatience and the desire to force its acceptance, how can it be the liberating and healing word?

Don’t Fear!

We must not fear this responsibility to speak the Word to one another. If we cannot bring ourselves to speak God’s Word, then we need to reexamine our view of our Christian brother or sister. Regardless of “how old or highly placed or distinguished [a Christian brother] may be,” writes Bonhoeffer, “he is still a man like us, a sinner in crying need of God’s grace. He has the same great necessities that we have, and needs help, encouragement, and forgiveness as we do.”

One thing that helps us in speaking the Word to others is allowing others to speak the Word to us. If we humbly accept reproof from God’s Word spoken by others, then “the more free and objective will we be in speaking ourselves.” Bonhoeffer writes that “the person whose touchiness and vanity make him spurn a brother’s earnest censure cannot speak the truth in humility to others; he is afraid of being rebuffed and of feeling that he has been aggrieved.” But let humility reign and we will speak the word because the humble “seeks nothing for himself and has no fears for himself, [so] he can help his brother through the Word.”

Speak It In Everyday Life

What Bonhoeffer means by speaking the Word to one another is important to understand. It is not necessarily done in a formal gathering but in the day to day activities with one another. He writes that “what we are concerned with here is the free communication of the Word from person to person, not by the ordained ministry which is bound to a particular office, time, and place.”

“God has put His Word in our mouth,” writes Bonhoeffer. “He wants it to be spoken through us. If we hinder His Word, the blood of the sinning brother will be upon us. If we carry out His Word, God will save our brother through us.” Fairly strong words for us to speak the Word. But we must remember that it is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12).

Let’s not back away from speaking the Word to others today. For all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17). But let’s do so only as we listen, help, and bear one another’s burden.

 

Reading NT Every 30 Days

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Here’s a plan to read through the New Testament every 30 days. I encourage you to give it a try. It is challenging, but if practiced often enough, you will find yourself grasping the flow of large portions of the New Testament.

Day 1: Matthew 1-10
Day 2: Matthew 11-20
Day 3: Matthew 21-28
Day 4: Mark 1-6
Day 5: Mark 7-13
Day 6: Luke 1-8
Day 7: Luke 9-15
Day 8: Luke 16-24
Day 9: John 1-12
Day 10: John 13-21
Day 11: Acts 1-5
Day 12: Acts 6- 11
Day 13: Acts 12- 22
Day 14: Romans 1-7
Day 15: Romans 8-14
Day 16: 1 Corinthians 1-7
Day 17: 1 Corinthians 8-16
Day 18: 2 Corinthians 1-7
Day 19: 2 Corinthians 8-13
Day 20: Galatians-Ephesians
Day 21: Philippians-Colossians
Day 22: 1& 2 Thessalonians
Day 23: 1 & 2 Timothy
Day 24: Titus 1- Hebrews 6
Day 25: Hebrews 7-13
Day26: James-1 Peter
Day 27: 2 Peter
Day 28: 1, 2, 3 John & Jude
Day 29: Revelation 1-12
Day 30: Revelation 13- 22

Are You Governed By God’s Word?

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Do we have lives that are governed by God’s Word? Or are our lives being mastered by the culture around us? Are we being transformed by the renewing of our minds? Or are we being conformed into the ways of a confused world?

Something is molding and shaping us. And it is either the truth found in God’s Word or the sinful world around us. There is no middle way.

The Psalmist writes:

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
and give me life in your ways.
(Psalm 119:36-37)

The Psalmist knew of his need of the Word of God. It was God’s Word that brought blessing (119:1), purity (119:9), delight (119:24), comfort (119:50), wisdom (119:98); direction (119:105), life (119:144), and deliverance (119:153).

And yet although he knew of his dependency on God’s Word, he also understood that his heart was at times prone to wander towards “worthless things.” Therefore, he prayed that God would “turn his eyes” and “incline his heart” to that which was true and eternal.

The Psalmist did not want the pursuit of empty pleasures to obscure the ultimate treasure found in the understanding and obedience to God’s Word. He wanted to remain under the influence of the Word of God.

With so many messages coming our way through media and advertising, it is vital that we place God’s Word in front of us each day. We need to develop a plan to hear, read, study, memorize, and meditate upon God’s Word.

Why? Jerry Bridges says it best in his book The Discipline of Grace:

One thing we can be sure of: If we do not actively seek to come under the influence of God’s Word, we will come under the influence of sinful society around us. The impact of our culture with its heavy emphasis on materialism, living for one’s self, and instant gratification is simply too strong and pervasive for us not to be influenced by it.

Once again, there is no such thing as a neutral stance on the continuum of influence. We are being drawn more and more under the transforming influence of Scripture, or we are being progressively drawn into the web of an ungodly society around us. 

Discipline yourself therefore, by God’s grace, to daily expose yourself to God’s Word. Read of His mercy! Read of His holiness! Read of His love for you found in your salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ!

Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good (1Peter 2:2-3).

How Do You Respond To God’s Word?

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How do you respond to God’s Word? We know we should be reading it, meditating on it, and memorizing it, but what should our attitude be toward it? James, in his “down home” letter to Jews scattered throughout the world, gives us some guidance.

James writes:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:19-25).

James mentions three ways we should respond to God’s Word.

1. Our first response to God’s Word must be one of attentiveness.

Have you ever been in a conversation where you really weren’t listening? True, you were nodding and making eye contact and the words spoken were being heard, but nothing being spoken was registering in your brain.

James urges his readers to approach God’s Word with an ear to hear. He wants it to capture our attention.

James also writes some warnings in regards to being attentive. He tells his readers to be “slow to speak” and “slow to anger.” It is easy to understand why he would write to be “slow to speak” as one who talks all the time most likely doesn’t listen well. But what about “slow to anger?” Well, have you ever tried to talk with an angry person? They are not really in the listening mood, are they?

2. Our second response to God’s word must be one of reception.

Remember the parable of the soils in Mark 4? In each soil, the seed was received, or so it appeared. It was only as the seeds began to grow that we witness which seed was fully received as the seed in the fertile soil grew and bore fruit.

What James is encouraging here is for us to continue to expose ourselves to the Word in order for it to grow and produce fruit. Though it is true that we must examine God’s Word, we must also allow for it to examine us.

James desires the Word to be received in a heart and life that will produce fruit. Therefore he writes that we must “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness” and put on “humility.

There are things that creep in our lives that hinder our spiritual growth and reception of God’s Word. These sins must continually be pulled up by the roots. As the Puritan John Owen writes, we must “be killing sin or it will be killing us.”

As we battle sin, we must remember that the battle is not one in which we will lose. The battle of the “weeds of sin” is not one which will overtake the Word that is implanted in us.

Though James is straightforward with how tiring the battle might be, he is also trusting that as we approach and receive the Word with “humility,” that it will “save your souls.”

We must not overlook the the need for “humility” or “meekness” in our reception of God’s word. It is only with an attitude of humility that we can really see how needy we are. Humility produces a willingness to concede to the Word of God for our lives.

3. Our third response to God’s Word must be one of obedience.

William Barclay, in his commentary on James wrote, “That which is heard in the holy place must be lived in the market place–or there is no point in hearing at all.”

In Greek literature, the one who only hears is referred to as one who attends the lectures but never joins a group. In contemporary society, it could be compared to one who continues to takes tours of a health club, but never joins. In doing so, they only deceive themselves in thinking they are getting healthy. The same is true of one who only hears the Word and does not obey. Though one may attend Bible study after Bible study, they are only fooling themselves as real Christianity is marked by an obedient Christlike lifestyle.

As followers of Christ, we must continually persevere in God’s Word and keep it in front of us. Otherwise, we are, according to James, like the man who looks in the mirror and then leaves, forgetting what he has seen.

However, as we faithfully become attentive, receptive, and obedient to God’s Word, we will be blessed both in this life and in the life to come.

Delighting In The Word of God

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When I read through Psalm 119, I am amazed at how much the psalmist mentions his enjoyment of the word of God. He delights in it! He loves it! And he does so because for him, God’s word was a gift. It was a part of his relationship with God. It was instruction in how to live a life that reflected the greatness and goodness of Yahweh.

We must remind ourselves that God has spoken! And in these days He has spoken most definitively through His Son (see Hebrews 1: 1-4). The coming of Christ and His work on the cross is the fulfillment of all the promises found in the Old Testament. Therefore, the death, burial and resurrection of Christ is the crux of Scripture and is “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-5).

Furthermore, it is this message, the gospel of the  person and work of Christ, which is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It is a message that is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Should we not, therefore, be as the Psalmist and be delighted that God has spoken? Should we not praise Him for His final word found in the coming of His Son? If the message of Christ, compared with the message of the law (see Hebrews 4:1-4; 10:1-18), is greater, how much greater should be our delighting in it?

Psalm 119

Consider the Psalmist and his words of worship to God as he writes of his delight, yearning, and love of God’s word. May his words spur us to reflect upon God’s word as live-giving, sustaining, and enduring. And may we say with the Psalmist, Oh how I delight in your word!

 In the way of your testimonies I delight 
as much as in all riches (14)

I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. (16)

My soul is consumed with longing 
for your rules at all times. (20)

Your testimonies are my delight; 
they are my counselors. (24)

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. (35)

I find my delight in your commandments,
 which I love. (47)

I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love,
 and I will meditate on your statutes. (48)

Their heart is unfeeling like fat,
 but I delight in your law. (70)

The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (72)

Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; 
for your law is my delight. (77)

If your law had not been my delight, 
I would have perished in my affliction. (92)

Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. (97)

How sweet are your words to my taste, 
sweeter than honey to my mouth! (103)

Your testimonies are my heritage forever, 
for they are the joy of my heart. (111)

I hate the double-minded,
 but I love your law. (113)

All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, 
therefore I love your testimonies. (119)

Therefore I love your commandments
 above gold, above fine gold. (127)

Your testimonies are wonderful; 
therefore my soul keeps them. (129)

Trouble and anguish have found me out,
 but your commandments are my delight. (143)

Consider how I love your precepts! 
Give me life according to your steadfast love. (159)

Princes persecute me without cause, 
but my heart stands in awe of your words. (161)

I rejoice at your word 
like one who finds great spoil. (162)

I hate and abhor falsehood, but I love your law. (163)

 Seven times a day I praise you
 for your righteous rules. (164)

Great peace have those who love your law; 
nothing can make them stumble. (165)

My soul keeps your testimonies;
 I love them exceedingly. (167)

I long for your salvation, O Lord,
 and your law is my delight. (174)