Friday, January 22, 2010

A subtle yet vital difference in understanding

Good morning my friends. I wonder sometimes if we do not treat the Scriptures as a collection of holy proverbs instead of a revelation of God's heart. Many people like quoting wise says regardless of their source, such a Confucius at the same time as quoting things from the Bible because they sound good to say. However quoting and living are two different things. The Word of God was not provided so that we would have a source of quotes but instead so that we could understand God's heart.

Some people treat the Scriptures as an owners manual, or an emergency booklet; they look for instructions on what they are or are not suppose to do. They try to put these things into practical use, which is better than just quoting it, but they lack the power that is required. A person cannot decide on their own to live the Word of God. You cannot follow it as if it is a great set of rules or some manual to successful living. A person cannot conform to the Bible. If that had ever been possible we would not have needed Jesus' death on the cross. Consider the instructions that Paul gave to Timothy concerning certain groups of people in the Church. He writes:

If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. (1 Timothy 5:8)

This is a matter of: sometimes it is easier to help a stranger than a family member. People should not ignore the needs of their own family while taking care of other people. This is applied to people looking after family members who are widowed or elderly but could also be taken to heart by pastors and ministers of all sorts. Now, there's the thing, "taken to heart". What Paul gives here is good, solid advice, as is all the other instruction here. It seems rather obvious and practical as does many things in the Word of God. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies we can understand how this could be of benefit but it is not so easy to put into practice. None of the Word is easy to put into practice because it is meant as a revelation of God's heart and not as a self-help manual. It shows us what we should look like as we become mature in our faith and our relationship with the Lord. It is something we have to "take to heart".

The Word of God is "God breathed", inspired by the Holy Spirit. As Paul was inspired to write:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

So many people get frustrated because they fail in living the Word and it is because they do not understand that the Word is there to show us when we start wondering away from God's intended path for us. It is like road markers. These markers are so plain we do not even think about them but when it is dark and stormy we watch them because our life depends on them. The Word warns us when our heart and attitude is not honouring to God, warning us when we are heading for the ditch. By reading it we know whether we are on track or if we have headed down the wrong path, so that we can turn to the Lord and ask for correction. It is always by the Word that the Spirit corrects and rebukes because these markers are all we have to know God's heart.

What changes us is not us conforming to the Word but instead us submitting in obedience to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit always changes us according to the Word, changing our heart and our character to be like the first born son, Jesus. It is important for us to understand the difference between conformity and transformation because when we do understand the Spirit is able to do his work in us. The Word is vital and powerful but the source of that power is the Holy Spirit applying it to our open and obedient hearts. If you live the Word as if it is a set of instructions that you are responsible for putting into place then you have gone back to living a law and you will soon discover your heart for God growing cold.

I love the Word of God. I consume it daily because I want to know Jesus more; I want to know my Father's heart. Every day the Spirit convicts me by these words, pointing out where I am falling short and what areas I have to submit. But the Word is also the source of encouragement for me every day because I feel I am getting to know the heart of my Father. It is not just the words I am understanding but the meaning behind them, the reason behind them, the spirit behind them, the love. Understanding the love allows the Word to stick, allows my heart to be transformed as it is revealed to me. In the case of the Scripture reading this morning, it makes me look at my own actions toward my family. It makes me aware of God's will in this and then I need to submit my heart to the Spirit for transformation. "Lord, I am wrong in this. Change my attitude and understanding to be aligned to you." Then we discover we are lent the power to change. It is the only way that change is long lasting.

It is hard to break the attitude of the instruction manual toward the Word of God but it is necessary if we are to see real change in us. We need to stop living as if it is the law all over again and see how God uses it to transform us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Spend time with the Word Daily, submit what convicts your heart to the Holy Spirit, be willing to be changed and you will soon discover the beauty of what God wants to do in you and through you.

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