November 26, 2013

Unwrap God’s gift and use it

Some religious people came to Jesus with a question about eternity. Perhaps they wanted to trap Him, but He turned the question back to them and said that they were mistaken in their question because they did not know the Scriptures.

At least one person reads this blog and sends me messages telling me that what I say is not biblical. Then he goes to great length to prove that he knows better. However, his teaching does the same thing as these religious folks who came to Jesus – making a point about one biblical issue without considering what the entire Bible says about that issue.

Jesus also saw beyond this problem to a far deeper one. While people may seem to love the Bible, they err if they don’t come to it with faith or the right attitude . . .

And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. (John 5:37–40)

I’ve met people who used biblical terms but attached different definitions from those understood for centuries by the Body of Christ. It might sound as if they “speak our language” but they don’t. How confusing.

I’ve also met people who say they are saved by their faith, with an emphasis on “my” faith, not on Jesus Christ, the One who saves. These and other seemingly sincere beliefs can be very confusing. The Bible warns God’s people about them and sets up better examples to follow . . .

Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11)

Those religious people who approached Jesus with their question had studied the Bible to affirm what they already decided it said. The people of Thessalonica studied it to make sure that what they were taught was true, earning the designation of being “more noble” for their efforts. Motivation makes a difference in how the Word of God is read and received.

Today’s devotional reading says something profoundly true about the human heart. Even without the judgment of Scripture, we already know we are fallen creatures. Our hearts tell us -- for if we are honest, how else do we explain the origin of those corruptions and ugly attitudes that daily arise from within? We could blame God, but we know better. A good and holy God does not create anything unlike Himself. Humanity started out made in the image of God, but we don’t need a mirror to tell us we are not like Him now.

Not only that, it is plain that we don’t much like what we have become. Why else are we unwilling to admit our depravity? Why else do we cover our sin and try to appear better than we are? We know the muck inside.

The Bible tells the story of God’s created humanity falling into rebellion and darkness. It also tells us the way out, how we can become what He intended by believing in Jesus and receiving His life in redemption. Those who do this have a far more humble approach to His Word. Instead of using it as a weapon to prove ourselves, we know that by grace we have been saved, and His book is necessary to support and guide our new lives.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 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 Timothy 3:14–17)

My current studies in theology challenge my mind and heart. One thing stands out; the errors that happen and even spread throughout the church of Christ all happen for the same reason: ignorance of the Word of God. Without it, we cannot know the mind of God nor how to live in ways that please Him. He gave it to us to show our need and His supply, our fall and His recovery. It is our vital connection to Him.

Of course, we need to search the Scriptures and become familiar with what they say. This is the grand drama of redemption, the story of His covenant made to bring us into intimacy with Himself, and our light to guide every step we take. This is God speaking to our hearts and graciously giving to us His heart.

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