Thursday, December 02, 2010

An Essay on the Scriptures

Not long ago I wrote about core values, those values that are held dearest and would never be surrendered (see the essay of September 18, 2010). This essay begins a series of essays on those core values I hold.  One value is, “the power and integrity of Scripture, the Holy Bible is the inspired word of God and will do as it has promised.  The passages in Hebrews 4:12[1] and 2Timothy 3:16[2], set out the fundamental truth about the Scriptures. Scripture can be trusted and is the word of God.  The Scriptures were breathed by God and will be used by the Holy Spirit to change lives.  The purpose of this essay is not to be a Bible lesson in inspiration, but rather some thoughts on obedience to the Scriptures.

            To begin let us see the following passage of Scripture.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it — he will be blessed in what he does. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (Jas 1:19-27 NivUS)

The most important line is “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”  This raises three important questions.  Do we listen to the word?  Do we practice self-deception?  Are we doing what the Scriptures say?

            Do we listen to the Word?  Depending upon what faith background you come from you may or may not have passages of Scripture read regularly in worship service.  Churches that follow liturgical patterns of worship have long incorporated multiple passages of Scripture being read as a regular part of the service.  Non-liturgical churches traditionally have not.  Perhaps you have been in the regular habit of reading the Bible during times of personal worship.  However in 2000 a Gallup poll reported that only 37% of Americans read a Bible at least once a week.[3]  This means 63% of Americans don’t even read the Bible once a week.  Is it any wonder that Americans, even church going Americans are largely ignorant of what is contained in the Scriptures.  How much do you read the Bible?  How much do listen to the Scriptures either in Church or via CD?  There is no way anyone can be obedient to God if you don’t even know what God has to say. 

How much time we spend in the Scriptures also says much about what we believe about God and ourselves.  An illustration I heard many years ago during a sermon speaks to this point.  During a church service that had lasted a little longer than planned one Sunday the pastor announces to the congregation as he begins his sermon “due to the lateness of the hour I will dispense with the reading of my text and proceed directly into my sermon this morning.”  After the service one dear sainted lady remarks to the pastor as she is shaking his hand at the door, “pastor I do believe you would have been better to dispense with the sermon and read the text”.  OUCH what an indictment!  As a minister I appreciate the preached word, but what I have to say, matters little.  What God has to say is always what counts.  A church that proclaims they believe the Bible should take stock and ask how much attention they really give the Bible. 

Do we listen to the Word?  How many times have we watched a scene on TV that went something like this:
Wife: Honey what do you want for dinner?
Husband: (with his face buried in a newspaper) anything dear
Wife: (knowing her husband isn’t listening) How about some hog jowls and skunk guts then?
Husband: (still reading the paper) ok dear
Wife: I bought us a new Cadillac today?
Husband: that’s nice
Wife: and I’m having an affair with the plumber.
Husband: that’s nice dear?
Wife: Smacks the husband’s head.

Could this be you and God?  God is speaking and you are so busy with other things that you really have no idea what God is saying until He smacks you.

This is why the second question is so important.  Are we practicing self-deception?  We go through our daily lives calling ourselves good Christian’s, getting angry at people that make light of God and Scripture, and practicing all sorts of sins on a regular basis, but are we really so good?  We take whatever current gossip is for truth, but meanwhile really don’t have the faintest idea of the truth really is.  Jesus said “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."[4]  In order to know the truth we must hear and read the truth.  What are the patterns of your life?  James gives the sense of what it means about to hear and obey the Scriptures.  Do we speak kindly to each other?, do we speak with respect to others?, do we spread unproven gossip around?  How do we treat those less fortunate?, do we provide for the needs of others?, do we show compassion?, do we become judgmental about others?  Good questions are they not.  There are certainly many other similar questions that could be asked. 

I will let you answer the third question. Are you doing what the Scripture says? Take some time to read and reread the passage in James quoted above?  As you do take some time to seriously ask God if you have been turning away from the mirror and deceiving yourself.  Yes lets all do this?

[1] “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Heb 4:12 NIVUS
[2] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness2 Timothy 3:16 NIVUS
[4] John 8:32 NIVUS