This is seriously one of the best posts I’ve read all year. Just..read it.
Experts believe the skull is one of the most important fossil finds to date, but it has proved as controversial as it is stunning. Analysis of the skull and other remains at Dmanisi suggests that scientists have been too ready to name separate species of human ancestors in Africa. Many of those species may now have to be wiped from the textbooks.
It will be interesting to track this story as it progresses.
Continuationists who insist that God gives special revelation today gives way to people being led by confusion and error. They have altered every aspect of these gifts. None of the gifts supposedly at work today, work in the way they did in the first century. Tongues are no longer languages. Prophecy could be wrong. These modifications remove the authority and legitimate standard set as the criteria for what is accurate. These new forms of special revelation such as words of prophecy are theological train wrecks. When you go beyond the Word of God you cannot contain the error.
It has been roughly five hundred years since the Reformation. And looking at the church today (reading comments, blogs, tweets, books, and listening to objections and sermons) it is obvious that we are overdue for another one. Indeed, what a terrible irony it is that the very pack of people that God has unconditionally saved and continues to sustain by His free grace are the same ones who push back most violently against it: “Yes grace, but…”, “stop peddling cheap grace”, “God’s agape is not sloppy.” Far too many professing Christians sound like ungrateful children who can’t stop biting the hand that feeds them.
This is the fifth part in a series:
- Gospel-Centered Bible Study
- Awe-Inspired Bible Study
- Self-Surrendering Bible Study
- God-Glorifying Bible Study
Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:8–10 (ESV).
Rounding out this five-part series that has taken much longer to finish than originally intended is the subject of God’s love as a motivation for our Bible study. This aspect of the Christian faith is the nuts and bolts, the glue that holds everything together. None of the other pieces would fit together as they do if one thing wasn’t for sure: God is love.
The question is, what kind of love is manifested in God? I think there are two extremes that we can gravitate towards, neither of which is Biblical. The first of these is the view I think most nominal or secular folks would take these days, that is the position that certainly God is loving; by loving they mean he is completely affirming of all of their wants and desires, their lusts and there passions. God essentially becomes the great beach-bum, surfer-dude grandfather in the sky who looks down on his children and says, “As long as everyone is having a good time, I’m happy.” This is destructive and poisonous milk that can destroy growth of faith, and is something I am seeking to address.
The other extreme is for those of us who tend to “intellectualize” the faith. We enjoy reading books and sermons written by 300-year-old dead guys and talking about in-depth topics over a pint. I am certainly guilty of this. What we then tend to gravitate towards is a God who we would say is loving, but we forget to what extreme he is loving, we forget what our response is supposed to be towards that love, and we tend to think of him as more hands off.
My goal is to address a Biblical perspective of God’s love, and how our response to that can fuel our study of God’s Word.
1) God Cares for the Details in Our Lives
When we study theology and read our Bibles often, we tend to magnify the love of God less. I’m not sure exactly why this is. One would think that as we came to study and know God more, our affection would grow for him more and more. Time and time again in my own life and the lives of others, I find it to be the exact opposite. Our knowledge and pursuit of God stops in our heads, and never makes its way into the deep crevices of our soul.
Pastor Paul Tripp calls this the “Danger of Familiarity.” As the months and years go on and we get into a “routine” with our faith, we forget the small things. We forget, as my good friend reminded me of this simple truth a few weeks ago, that “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Two things occur when we get into this mode with our Bible study, we forget that God cares for our needs, and we forget how our love for God is meant to fuel our life and actions.
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith (Matthew 6:26, 30)? What a simple and glorious truth are these words of Jesus! Our God is kind, he is loving, and he cares for our most basic needs. He is intimately and deeply involved in our lives. Scripture says he has the hair on our heads numbered. Incredible! Such a foundational truth this is, and yet we often squander this affection from God in vain intellectual pursuits.
It is great and wonderful God loves us in this way, but there is certainly more to God’s love. God’s love is so great, and so perfect, and so much more than we can possibly imagine, that he would descend from his throne and die in the presence of beggars and thieves like you and me to redeem his people. And what is our response from this? Vain debate and thick textbooks? Quoting Spurgeon until we are blue in the face? Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:11, 20-21). Pastor Tripp also rightly says that we can measure our love for God by the extent to which we love one another.
I think that deserves some repetition: We can measure our love for God by the extent to which we love one another.
Paul (the Apostle, not the Tripp), says if I have not love, I am nothing. Or in the words of my Islam professor, if I am not motivated by the love of God in my study of His Word and service towards others than I am a charade. I have no business reaching out to others, serving them, or sharing my faith with them if I am not deeply motivated by compassion and love for them.
Man, those words cut me deep. How many times have you and I read scripture, or books by the saints, and just came away thinking “Man, thats some good knowledge! Deeeeeeep!” How weak are we? Our knowledge of God, our study of His word, is meant to move us towards compassion and empathy for one another. May this be a call for all of us who are in this trap to turn from this snare we are in and be moved into deep affection by the profound love of God.
2) Sacrificial, Committal Love
Today’s society is so bent on this concept of “love.” I’m afraid there are so many definitions floating around these days that love no longer has any weight. Love is more of a fleeting emotion, like lust and happiness, than it is a deep and committal sensation for another person.
For many people, this concept of love meshes with their ideas about the love of God. God affirms everything about us and where we are. He “meets us where we are”, but then never takes us anywhere. He has no desire over our life except for us to be happy and who we want to be.
This concept of God’s love is not only belittling to the concept of love, but it belittles the creator himself. Surely we must relent that this is a puny and small idea of a loving God!
Let us take a brief survey over Scripture to see the extent of which the Bible says God is loving:
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:10
For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:7–8
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. -John 15:13-14
God’s love is absolutely life-changing. You see, God’s love does not simply stop at the cross, a one time saving act that never has any impact on the rest of our lives. God’s love is meant to change every aspect of our lives, he wants to make us into a new creation, continually making us more like himself. As C.S. Lewis says,
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself. -Mere Christianity
The love of God is far greater than anything we can possibly fathom. This love is meant to spur us on to good deeds, not because we have to, but because we want to. This love should spur us on to deeper intimacy with the Sovereign Commander of The Universe, not cause us to be apathetic and not pursue Him at all.
Look at how the Pslamist responds to God’s love through praise in adoration:
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever; – Psalm 136:1-3
Love is not an emotion, it is not something that changes on a whim. Love, especially the love of God, is sacrificial and committal. As I detailed in another post, society’s concept of love is vile and insufficient, a meager shadow of the reality of God’s love for us. God has given us everything by giving us himself. He completely, freely, and willingly gave himself for a people who had turned his back on him and rejected him. A people who to this day still turn our backs and reject him.
There is no greater love than the sacrificial and committal love of God our savior. This love should move us towards obedience and service to him.
I don’t know where you’re at when you’re reading this. Maybe you’ve been a Christian for years, and this is a reminder to you for where your heart should be during your study of God’s Word. If you’re like me, you need a reminder like this to get your head out of the clouds and move towards deep compassion and affection.
Maybe you’re not a Christian at all. Maybe you’re not sure what you believe. A good many of you might have been going to church for some time, but the church and its members has wounded you. Unfortunately, the reality is that Christians are no better off than anyone else, the only difference is we are redeemed sinners. We still mess up, and we still cause great harm to others even when we don’t intend to.
Wherever you’re at, I just hope this post was an encouragement and a challenge to you. This is a deep subject that I’ve already gone overboard on, but if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to reach out to me either through comments or the “Contact Me” page.
This post is a continuation in a series:
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness. – Psalm 29:1-2, ESV
I’m continuing this series today not so much with a principle, rather with a practice. This practice is a discipline and an exercise, and something I am not at all perfect at. This is a discipline very closely related to my first post in the series (Everything Must Point to the Gospel). Whenever I am reading and studying any text in the Bible, I try to answer the following question:
What reading and understanding of these verses or passages gives God the most glory, honor and praise?
Our God is in himself beyond comprehension in his holiness and perfection. He is the creator of all things, seen and unseen. He is completely sovereign over all things. He is so caring and loving that he would sacrifice himself for sinners who are running far from him.
Words cannot describe his beauty and magnificence! Truly, there is nothing or no one like him. It is because of his goodness, perfection, power and holiness that he is absolutely deserving of our glory, honor and praise. But what does that look like for us? Part of becoming Christian is realizing that we don’t give God the glory he deserves on a daily basis. At its root, this tendency comes from our sinful nature. We all have it, and we all do it. This sinful nature is something that only God through the Holy Spirit can remedy in us. Only he melts hearts, and only he draws sinners to himself.
So what then is our responsibility? God has left his Word with us, the Bible. This Bible is absolutely littered and saturated with descriptions of God as glorious, holy and worthy of praise. Seriously, just do a word or index search on any of those words and it is everywhere. What do we do with that? How should that impact our reading of the Scriptures?
Our handling of the Biblical text must ultimately point to God’s glory, his holiness, his goodness, and lead us to honor and praise him in everything we do. If we do anything but that, then we are making a mockery of who He is. If we seek to undermine the text, write it off as not authoritative, explain it away, read ourselves into the text and make it all about us, or anything of the sort then we are staining something that is perfect and holy.
All that to say, I’ve found the discipline and practice of trying to answer the bolded question very helpful, practical and biblical in my Christian walk. Perhaps a common example of this concept might help. One passage and its interpretation that has completely changed by my application of this discipline is Matthew 14:22-32. In this passage, Jesus comes to the disciples in a storm while walking on water. The climax of this passage is Peter being commanded by Jesus to come out to him on the waves, but watch out! The wind and the waves cause Peter to become afraid and he starts to sink in the water. The passage concludes with Jesus asking “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The most common application of this passage that I’ve heard goes something like this: you and I are Peter, and the wind and the waves are all of life’s problems – stop looking around at the waves, and start looking at Jesus. Even typing that summary makes me a little nauseous. Is that really what this passage is about? I believe that application serves to demean and exalt ourselves by reading us into the passage. That isn’t to say that God doesn’t care about our problems, and that he isn’t Lord over our circumstances, because he certainly is – this just isn’t the passage to make that point (more on this in part 5).
This passage must be and is about God’s glory. And his glory is on display through the demonstration of Christ’s divinity and control over nature, the properties of matter, gravity, etc. He is power. Moreover, this passage displays Christ’s sovereignty in those whom he calls to himself. Peter acknowledges that it is Christ who does the calling, and he is incapable of coming unless it is granted to him by Christ. God’s divinity and his sovereignty are what are on display in this passage, and nothing less.
Just like anyone else, I am imperfect in much of my understanding of the Scriptures. I have my weaknesses and my blind spots, and I often err in my understanding. However, I think this practice is a helpful one. If there is one thing we can be confident on it is this: we can never give God too much credit, too much honor, and too much praise. He is worthy of it all.
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Philippians 4:20, ESV
This is the continuation of a series:
3) The Entire Bible is in God-Inspired Reconcilable Harmony
This point is probably the most crucial, yet most difficult pill to swallow. In an age where rationalism and empiricism are highly valued over faith, the rational thought and empirical evidence are pitted at odds with faith and its commonly accepted that there is absolutely no way the Bible is God-inspired, let alone at harmony with itself. On the opposite end of the spectrum, faith is pitted against rational thought because the only thing that’s important is “my relationship with Jesus – after all that intellectual stuff is left for the scholars at the seminaries.” Both schools of thought, and for the Christian the latter view is completely unbiblical. Is it necessary to take the Bible as one inspired non-contradictory text? My answer is ‘yes’, and I say so for three reasons; 1) because the Bible speaks of itself authoritatively, 2) it charges us to think critically about the text and 3) because of the temptations set before us when the Scriptures are read any other way.
There is no place in the Bible where it doesn’t speak of itself as authoritative and cohesive. The most popular text referenced for this is 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed…” The Apostle Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture. Throughout his writings, Paul routinely defends his Apostolic authority (in contrast to the heretical people he is addressing in his letters), and the Hebrew Scriptures of the Old Testament were what Jesus himself taught from and spoke of as being authoritative. It is common today for people to pick and choose the passages they like out of the Bible and those they don’t (more on this later), but that is being logically inconsistent. There is no reason to accept any of the Scriptures as God-inspired and others as not, so when we approach the text it is logical and necessary to approach it as one cohesive unit.
This is not to say that our faith in the text nor our assumptions should be blind nor on a whim. Accepting the Bible as an inspired cohesive unit fuels intellectual rigour. Admittedly, there are some difficult and challenging things in the Biblical text. There are some points that appear to be inconsistent or contradictory. We could easily write these things off if we didn’t accept the text as inspired, however that would do disservice to the intellectual exercise that Scripture is in part meant to provide. As Christians, we are to think hard and seriously about our faith, and press in deep when we come across things that don’t at first glance make sense. That is what it means to love God with all our mind, a third of the greatest commandment that we cannot ignore.
In addition, I believe there is a healthy level of questioning, skepticism and doubt that can fuel our Biblical studies. This skepticism and doubt should never undermine the bottom line that we believe the text to be inspired, but nonetheless skepticism and doubt can serve to motivate our studies. This isn’t a concept foreign to the Scriptures. Take for example the Berean Jews in Acts 17, who “received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” Further, it was their intense examinations of the Scriptures that caused many of them to be led to belief. The Bible routinely commands Christians to be prepared to give responses about their faith to others (2 Timothy 4:2, 1 Peter 3:15), and knowing the truth of Scriptures is meant as a defense against deceitful heretical teachings. Even some of those who witnessed the resurrected Christ in Matthew 28 were doubtful – “Many worshipped him, but some doubted” (verse 17). It’s not as if one guy was standing there saying “Some magic trick this is”, and another is saying “It’s not a trick, its called an illusion.” No! Even after seeing the resurrected Christ some still had doubt – so I think it’s healthy today to have some level of doubts and skepticism so long as it doesn’t undermine our faith itself. Skepticism and doubts can be healthy fuel for deeper Bible reading.
Lastly, the temptations that face us if we don’t regard the Bible as one God-inspired cohesive unit are too great. We can trick ourselves into thinking we have the intellectual abilities to filtering out what isn’t necessary and what is, but at the end of the day we are giving into crafting a God that we are most comfortable with. Take for example the condemned deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5, “...sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (verses 19b-21). If I don’t regard the Bible as God-inspired, then really I can just remove any of these works of the flesh from the list that I want. So thoughts like this begin to happen: Anger isn’t that bad, because some people are really frustrating. And if anger isn’t that bad, then I suppose losing control and drinking too much on the weekends isn’t so bad. After all, we’re only having a little fun right? And if I’m really going to have fun, then I should probably hook up with a few more people. After all, there isn’t really a reason to be faithful to one person since I have urges to satisfy. Picking and choosing what we want to believe from the Scriptures is a slippery slope that can only lead us away from God into the comforts of our own minds.
This is an intentionally short high-level view of why I regard the Scriptures as cohesive and inspired, as well as why I think it is necessary to do so. Books have been written on the subject, and I didn’t even get into empirical/rational arguments for the cohesiveness of Scripture. Those arguments are certainly important, but at the foundational level I have explained three basic reasons to regard the Scriptures as one unit.
Questions or comments on this subject? Feel free to comment or send me a note!