My theology lecture tomorrow at Solid Rock is on the Bible and how it is authoritative in our lives. I came across this old piece from years ago. Enjoy!
There is a brand of preaching and Bible reading in vogue today that fosters a “positive thinking” or Reader’s Digest approach to God’s Word. Basically, many people just want to hear heart-warming sermons that make us feel good about ourselves. Many read the Bible looking for an inspiring story and a warm fuzzy.
This shouldn’t surprise us in the least. The Bible itself warns us that “the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4:3). Well, these days many toothy smile teachers and prosperity preachers have stadium-sized churches packed each week with people getting their ears tickled (and gourmet coffee in the lobby).
Yet, God’s Word to us doesn’t always have shiny wrapping and a big red bow attached. God’s Word isn’t always warm and fuzzy. God’s Word sometimes needs to hit us like a ton of bricks. Sometimes we need a wake up call or a holy confrontation. When we open our Bibles we are faced with a library full of holy confrontations and summons — stories that confront a person with God’s command and summons people to new tasks.
- Adam and Eve are confronted standing naked in sin, fruit on their lips and then exiled from Eden (Gen 3).
- Noah is confronted with a building project that demanded great faith and obedience (Gen 6).
- Abraham is confronted with a command to leave everything behind and a promise that God will provide (Gen 12).
- Moses is confronted by a burning bush and a bold assignment to go to Pharoah (Exod 3).
- Job is confronted with the inconceivable wisdom and matchless power of God (Job 38).
- David is confronted by Nathan for his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11).
- Isaiah is confronted by the utter holiness of the presence of God in the temple (Isaiah 6).
- Jonah is confronted with an assignment to go and preach against Ninevah but he refused (Jonah 1).
- Mary is confronted by an angel and the task of giving birth to the son of God conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1).
- The disciples are confronted by Jesus and summoned to drop their nets and follow.
- Paul was confronted by the risen Christ on the Damascus road and commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9).
Jesus’ entire ministry was that of an itinerant preacher going about confronting the corrupt religious leaders, summoning ordinary folks to follow, healing the sick and comforting the downtrodden. As the saying goes, “Jesus comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.”
Jesus confronted people with their spiritual blindness (John 3), their sinful pasts (John 4), their hypocrisy and self-righteousness (Matt 23), their lack of faith (John 20:24), their trust in wealth (Matt 18) and much, much more. He did it lovingly but was confrontational nonetheless.
In light of all of this, we ourselves should approach the Scriptures a bit more expectantly and even with a bit of holy fear and caution. For the Living God is in the business of showing up, confronting people and summoning them to greater things. The Bible will often confront:
- Our sin
- Our worldview
- Our life goals & plans
- Our unhealthy relationships
- Our self-righteousness
- Our unbalanced lives
- Our pain & despair
- Our pride
- and a thousand other things.
Do we really believe that “the Word of God is alive and active — sharper than a two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12)? If so, we should be ready for such encounters and learn from the examples above how we can respond in faith and humble obedience to Christ when it happens.
Let me close with the words of Will Willimon, a great preacher who knows the dynamic and unpredictable power of God’s Word, and his words to preachers in particular:
“I have been told that the great Old Testament scholar Gerhard von Rad attended a small church in his native Germany — a small church with a young pastor who was not noted for his skill or his preaching. When asked why he kept returning to the church, Von Rad responded that, despite the pastor’s inadequacies, he had one great strength. When he read the Bible on Sundays, he always approached Scripture “as if he were opening a package that contained a ticking bomb. . . .
. . . .As I heard Walter Brueggemann say, “If you are a coward by nature, [And who among us is not?] then you can get down behind the text. You can peek out from behind it and say the congregation, ‘this is not necessarily what I would say to you, but I do think this is what the text is saying to you.’” I love that image of the pastor hunkered down behind the text, pushing the text out toward the people. To love the text and its voice more than our own, or even that of our people, is the beginning of wisdom.” (Will Willimon, Pastor, 132).
REFLECTION: Have you been confronted by God’s Word lately? Did it come as a “still soft whisper” or hit you like a ton of bricks? How did you respond? Have you ever been summoned by God to a new task through the reading of His Word? Did you obey?
Reposted from long ago.