This week I’ve been pondering the grains that run through all biblical literature. Recurring themes in the poetic books, traceable motifs in narrative books and unifying melodies in the discourse sections. Some of these are limited to a section, others to a particular writer, and in a broader sense they can be traced across the canon as a whole.
So here’s the point for today. How do we get to know these themes, motifs and melodies? Some commentaries and books will prove helpful. Seminary notes might be worth looking at again. But the bottom line is kind of simple – we need to be reading the Bible.
That seems like too obvious a thought to be worthy of a post, doesn’t it? Well, sadly I suspect there are many preachers who may study slices to preach them, but don’t have an appetite for the Word as a whole. Everyone is impoverished as a result.
Personal spirituality becomes ritualistic or moralistic, study becomes burdensome, ministry becomes draining, sermons become shallow and often anthropocentric (person focused – what to do, how to live, instructions, commands, guilt…)
Our preaching should come from the overflow of a personal delight in the God who reveals Himself in His Word. It may be a bit simplistic, but I’ll stand by the statement – unless we get into the Word the church will be gasping for “divines,” people who know God and speak out of the overflow of a heart filled. A church wanting for true spirituality will ultimately be shrivelled to the core, no matter how many programs, no matter how practical the teaching may be.
Let me invite you back into God’s Word.
6 thoughts on “Saturday Short Thought: One Best Way”
“But don’t have an appetite for the Word as a whole.” I agree that that is increasingly true today, and for many reasons. But one of the reasons is the unbiblical emphasis of the “Grace Movement” as a whole that constantly wants to separate who Christ is and what He has done from what He has asked us to do — “what to do, how to live.” These things are now put forward as “moralistic.” The problem is that you can’t “have an appetite” for the Word as a whole” and read the Bible verse-by-verse without running into them, and yet we are running from them. It is not surprising that our interest in the Word is waning. In part this emphasis, although perhaps well-meaning, is sapping the joy that comes from loving obedience to God and His Word. Perhaps in our desire to look to God, we should reflect on what the Word says He looks to:
“Thus says the LORD: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the LORD. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. (Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV)
Thanks for your thoughts here and welcome to the site. Is it not the case that those captivated by his grace are delighted to do what he asks, and often don’t even see the request as burdensome? Certainly there are some cheap grace movements around, but they miss the point when they mix grace with a continuing self loving mindset. The solution surely isn’t to sound harsher on the expectations, but to do a better and more accurate job of presenting grace so that the abuse doesn’t occur, all in the context of preaching the whole Bible accurately? I suppose grace will always be abused, but it would be a shame if we reacted to one abuse of it with another.
Maybe I’m taking the metaphor to far, but your comments on preaching slices and grains made me think of the knots in a piece of wood.
When you are looking at a slice, and only a slice, the knot can seem to be the most important thing and worthy of your full attention, but the reality is that it makes up a tiny portion of the whole, and the grains which run around the knot are far more significant.
If a word, phrase or idea appears once and only once in a book, the likelihood is that the writer wasn’t focusing on that, and so probably we shouldn’t be too much either! It’s no good latching on to a buzzword if it was only mentioned in passing and carries little weight in that context, even if that buzzword is hugely significant elsewhere in scripture.
Works for me 🙂 I suppose there may be times when a term is used only once or twice in a book, but is very significant. But you are right that we should be checking the context in both dimensions in order to determine what matters (rather than imposing contextual importance from a different book).
Peter, thanks for the comment: Is it not the case that those captivated by his grace are delighted to do what he asks, and often don’t even see the request as burdensome? Yes, that is “often the case” as Jesus said, “My burden is easy my burden is light.” But as we still battle the remaining flesh while living in the “now,” although we also often in some sense experience the “not yet,” we find a true joy (John 15:9-11) from being obedient to our Master regardless of how it might feel in the moment.
The tendency these days, it seems, is to restrict obedience to the ‘spontaneous’ or even equate it with the Spirit himself, and relegate intentional obedience to the Word of God as something ‘fleshly’. It seems that asking what is pleasing to my neighbor is legitimate. Is is not legitimate to ask what is pleasing to the Lord? For the Christian, the commandments of God (in their proper covenantal setting) are nothing more than that, although recognizing that walking in a way that is pleasing to God also transcends them. Love for God and neighbor can’t be reduced to commandments, but it in part must be defined by them.
It seems that modern Christianity is somewhat obsessed with how we feel about our walk with God, rather than being obsessed with how God feels about our walk with him.