Can the Bible Correct You?

I had a conversation a while ago with a friend who a Christian and is struggling through some difficult doctrines. In the midst of our conversation he said a few things I’ve been thinking about:

1. “I just don’t like it when people have an ‘I’m right and everyone else is wrong’ attitude.”

2. “I just don’t want to believe it.”

Ultimately, I think these comments come down to this question: Will you allow Scripture to correct your thinking. Here’s why I think this is the foundational question.

1. As Christians, we must be people who stand upon God’s revealed Word (the Bible) rather than our own opinions. 

2. When our opinion and God’s Word seem to be at odds, we need to be honest as we dig into Scripture to unveil the original intent (exegesis). Yes, there are cultural differences between our lives today and the culture of the Bible, but we need to be honest and have the integrity to resist merely saying, “Oh, well that was for them, not for us.” We need to honestly examine why it was for them and not for us and dig deeper than “Because that’s how I want it.”

3. When we refuse to believe what the Bible reveals, what we claim to believe about Biblical Authority and what we really believe are at odds with each other. It’s good to affirm the inspiration and authority of Scripture, but if we will not allow God’s Word to correct us then we do not really believe what we think we believe.

4. Truth brings joy. Yes, there are times when it is difficult and painful to believe some things in Scripture, and there are times when I wish I could believe differently because it would be a whole lot easier. But God’s truth brings joy… eventually. Once we see God for who He is and we understand what He has done and what He is doing then even in the midst of the difficulty of faith, we rejoice in who God is and what He has promised.

If you are wrestling with something in Scripture that you do not want to believe… that’s ok. I think we should all be in that position, because it shows that we’re being honest about our beliefs and our preferences and we’re bringing them before God.

A few tips on wrestling with Scripture:

1. Pray. Ask God to increase your faith in Him and not in yourself or in your own preferences. We need to be people who are finally and ultimately devoted to God. We may know that, but are we truly willing to be that kind of person?

2. Interpret Scripture through Scripture. That may sound confusing, but the best way to understand difficult things in the Bible is by understanding what other verses/portions of the Bible have to say about that same thing. Interpret what is obscure or unclear through what is consistently and clearly taught. This also means we should interpret the Old Testament through the lens of the New Testament (but that’s a whole other blog post for another day).

3. Dig Dig Dig. God gave you a brain, he wants you to use it. Study, research, and read what has been written. There are many sites online that provide free Bible Study tools (crosswalk.com is probably the most well known; GotAnswers.com has great Q&A type of articles too).

4. Don’t think you’re alone. You are not the first person to ask the question your asking or to study the passage you’re studying. Read what others have written, but also talk to other Christians about this. Maybe they’re wondering the same thing but think they’re alone… study it together.

5. Finally, have faith. There are some things we will simply never fully understand because we aren’t meant to. That’s not an excuse to avoid intelligently pursuing truth. Instead, it’s a call to remember that God is infinite and you are finite. God is mysterious, but He has made Himself known… in part. If you think you can explain everything about who God is and what He has done (and will do) then either your wisdom is infinite or you have made God finite. There comes a point where you may need to humbly say, “I don’t know everything I want to know, but I know enough to confidently trust God.”

One of the greatest ways we can honor God is by trusting Him when we don’t want to.

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Hebrews 11:1

There’s No Such Thing as a Small Decision

Ok, so maybe that’s overstating it a bit… but the small decisions count. Honestly, I do think the small decisions we make each day count more than the big decisions we might make once a few times throughout our lives. Let me explain.

If I’m making good, wise, and courageously faithful small decisions then what kind of bid decisions do you think I’ll make?

On the other hand, if I’m blowing off small decisions as insignificant then I will be far more likely to be in a bad position to make wise choices about big decisions.

I do think it’s that simple.

Simple… yes. Easy… well, no.

Daily decisions count. That stack up on top of each other and set patterns like a small stream cutting its way through the desert. With time and repetition, decisions become habits, and habits shape and reshape our character.

All this being said: If you find your character lacking, and if you’ve been making consistently poor decisions, there is hope. There is hope through Christ, that our history doesn’t determine our future. There is hope through Christ, that today’s sin has already been atoned for. There is hope through Christ, that tomorrow’s temptation can be overcome through faithfully fighting sin with some close, trusted friends who are pursuing Christ with us. No matter how many bad decisions you’ve made, there is always hope to make the best decision possible… and that decision to repent of your sin and believe on Jesus Christ will impact your future decisions.

May the decisions we make today and every day (yes, even the “little decisions”) be good decisions, because every thing matters.

If Grace is Sufficient…

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
2 Corinthians 12:9

The Christian life is not one of strength, but one of weakness. We are not called to live in a way that is seeking glory, but the the cross. To be broken and poured out, not to be exalted and lifted up. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Mark 8:35).

If we want to follow Jesus, then we will follow him to the cross. For in God’s economy, glory comes only through the cross. Jesus’ promise was never that he bore the cross in order that we might receive glory without suffering. No, the promise is that there is hope and future glorification for those who endure by faith.

Martin Luther talked a lot about being a “Theologian of the Cross” rather than a “Theology of Glory.” The article linked to above is helpful in fleshing that out in ways I don’t feel the need to repeat here.

If God’s grace is sufficient, then…

  • When I have nothing left to give, God will make my pitiful offering a valuable treasure.
  • I don’t need to “have it all together” in order to be used by God.
  • I don’t need to hide in shame over my sin and failures, because they have been redeemed and used by God to demonstrate his strength.
  • I have peace, because I can trust that God is the one who bears fruit, not me.
  • I am humbled… because God chose me despite my brokenness (not because I was worthy).

In life and in ministry there are times when we simply run out of strength to offer. It is in those seasons when being a Theologian of the Cross is of particular encouragement. My usefulness in ministry (preaching, teaching, counseling, mentoring, etc.) doesn’t come from my strength, but from God’s grace. And my faithfulness in leading my family (loving my wife and kids in a way that reflects God’s perfect love and leading my family in Scripture and prayer) are also an overflow of whether or not I am drawing from the well of grace, if I’m running on reserves, or if I’m totally dry.

I’m thankful for God’s grace. Without it I’d be useless… I’d remain the self-centered, impatient, snarky guy who thinks he’s got all the answers. When I remember God’s grace, the Holy Spirit pulls me out of myself and reminds me of the patience and mercy I’ve received – and He empowers me to give what I have received.

What difference does the sufficiency of grace (not just the “idea” of grace, but the reality that you have received it by God) make in your life?

Love Your Children Well

A friend of mine lost his three year old son this week. He went to sleep and simply never woke up. It is a tragedy beyond my understanding, and one I pray that I would never fully comprehend. As I pray for God’s comfort and peace and hope to surround my friend and his family, it’s only natural to feel a new layer of love for my children grow. 

I want my son and daughter not only to know that I love them. I want them to feel loved. While we should not live by our “feelings,” God gave them to us, and feelings are not inherently bad or shallow or trite. 

This is something I struggle with, because I’m not much of a “feeler.” Most people who know me know I’m not a particularly emotional person and that I tend to be fairly matter-of-fact. But with my family, it is one of my greatest prayers that they would not simply know that I love them… I pray that they would feel how much I love them. 

The greatest thing a parent can do for his/her children is to love them well.  
If my kids are well-behaved but don’t feel loved by me, then I have failed them. If my kids are ridiculously smart but they believe my love for them is conditional, depending on how well they are “performing,” then I have failed them. I could almost picture the Apostle Paul including this type of scenario into 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

In the midst of discipline, does love reign?
As a Christian dad I do not have the “luxury” of neglecting to discipline my kids because it’s easier (in the short-term). Loving your kids doesn’t mean there is no “law” or that rules are absent. But it does mean that love is freely given despite my kids’ worthiness or unworthiness. Instead, I love my children unconditionally because I know I am loved by my Heavenly Father. Personally, I think I learn more about love when I’m in the throes of discipline than when I’m laughing with my kids – because that’s when I need to remember how uniquely God loves me. 

Questions I’ve been wrestling with over the past few days:

  • Do I discipline out of love and desire to see my children desire faithfulness to God, or out of a heavy-handed authority that demands law-abiding, rule-keeping children?
  • What if God treated me the way I sometimes treat my children? 
    That thought should terrify me…
  • What if I loved my children the way God loves me? 
    That thought should bring joy to my children… 

 

Costly Grace

I don’t want to comment on this other than to say this paragraph is perhaps the most life-shaping paragraph that isn’t Scripture I’ve ever read. Read it slowly, and often…

“Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: ‘Ye were bought at a price’, and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us. Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us. Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

When Faith is Necessary

Faith isn’t necessary when you live in comfort, only doing things you can do “without” God. When you’re securely in your sweet-spot, you can live as if God doesn’t matter.

Yes, God is still necessary because He is the sustainer of life and yada, yada, yada. But, outside of common-grace, “Faith” is not necessary when God isn’t needed.

This is why Atheists and Christians can live so similarly most of the time. Because most Christians live so comfortably in their own bubble that faith in Christ is only saved for death or for seasons of suffering and difficulty, but not for daily life.

I don’t want to live like that. I want to live by faith, because I know that God is real, that he loves me, that the Gospel is true and that faith has meaning both for eternity and today. Will you join me in walking by faith?

We walk by faith, not by sight.
2 Corithians 5:7

I’m not thinking about the “BIG” things in life… I’m thinking about the little things throughout the day/week.

  • This could lead us to be more generous when generosity doesn’t make sense, because God doesn’t hold back in providing for us.
  • Or we could attempt simple things that are difficult for us (even if they’re easy for others!), because we are trusting God to give us the strength we need to accomplish them.
  • Speaking up in that conversation because you’re trusting God to give you the right words and the right (humble and gracious) way to say them.
  • Taking the initiative in restoring a strained relationship, because you’re thankful God took the initiative to restore your relationship with Him.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: What are some other ways that walking by faith can make a real difference in how you/we live.

Note: I haven’t read “The Christian Atheist” by Craig Groeschel yet, but it looks good… if you’ve read it, please let me know what you thought. Many of these ideas were spurred years ago when I first studied Bonhoeffer’s “Letters and Papers from Prison” where he writes about the “World Come of Age.”