In the book Loving God, Colson told of how people would comment that prison radically changed him. On pg. 40, Colson writes “What radicalized me was not prison, but taking to heart the truths revealed in Scripture. For it was the Bible that confronted me with a new awareness of my sin and need for repentance; it was the Bible that caused me to hunger for righteousness and seek holiness; and it was the Bible that called me into fellowship with the suffering. It is the Bible that continues to challenge my life today.”
If we are not continually reading, studying, memorizing, meditating upon, and obeying the Bible, we will not be changed. We will be more like our old self than like Jesus. We will not have Jesus’ heart and His agenda, we will be about our own business. We will not be set free from sin habits and bondages, we will keep fighting the same battles with sin. We will not be moved by the things Colson mentions quoted above. Finally, we will not be radically changed for the radical purposes that God has for us.
I stumbled on an excellent sermon from Sermon Audio online, called “The Bible Driven Church.” It’s by a pastor from Muscle Shoals Alabama, Jeff Noblit. This is the link: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=42607163841
Here are some of his points, sprinkled with my thoughts:
*It’s far too easy for the American church to drift into man-centered, pragmatic (if it works, do it), and numbers driven methods than to be obediently teaching and discipling through the Word.
*Being concerned about being purpose driven is self centered, trying to come up with what our purpose is. We need to find out what purpose that God has for us by being immersed in the Bible and then submit to it. Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:23 Get thee behind me Satan, you are a stumbling block to me! For you are not setting your interests (or purposes) on God, but on the things of men. Just as Peter thought he was protecting Jesus by telling Him He shouldn’t go to the cross, we do the same thing when we come up with things ourselves that sound good, but run contrary to God’s heart.
Peter was one of Jesus’ best earthly friends and yet He rebuked Him, calling out “Get behind me Satan.” Would He say the same thing to us?
*It is not enough to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible if we don’t believe in its all-sufficiency. That means that the Word is the power of God to bring about salvation and to bring about God’s radical inward transformation and outward obedience to His radical purposes. It is not a well polished speaker with nice stories or a winsome personality. We don’t need to give someone a book with a cool testimony to bring them to Christ, we need to give them a Bible and get them into it. We don’t even need to go to a counselor when we have troubles, we need to go to the Word. It is all-sufficient and is what changes my life and the lives of others. Not anything else.
*Charles Spurgeon delivered a sermon in the 1830’s entitled “Feeding Sheep or Amusing Goats?” Here are some excerpts:
My first contention is that providing amusement for the people is nowhere spoken of in the Scriptures as a function of the Church. If it is a Christian work why did not Christ speak of it? ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, and provide amusement for those who do not relish the gospel’.
No such words, however, are to be found. It did not seem to occur to Him. Where do entertainers come in? The Holy Spirit is silent concerning them. Were the prophets persecuted because they amused the people, or because they confronted them? The ‘concert’ has no martyr roll.
Again, providing amusement is in direct antagonism to the teaching and life of Christ and all His apostles. What was the attitude of the apostolic Church to the world? “You are the salt of the world”, not the sugar candy; something the world will spit out, not swallow.
Had Jesus introduced more of the bright and pleasant elements into His teaching, He would have been more popular. When “many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him,” I do not hear Him say, ‘Run after these people, Peter, and tell them we will have a different style of service tomorrow; something short and attractive with little preaching. We will have a pleasant evening for the people. Tell them they will be sure to enjoy it! Be quick, Peter, we must get the people somehow!’
*That sounds a bit Spartan, but the idea is that what brings people to Jesus is the Biblical doctrines of understanding our sin and condition before God so much so that it sets men aflame.
*Noblit talked about clever, man centered ingenuity that uses Scripture vs. God centered love that’s based on Scripture. The latter leads to obedience. In In Romans 16:19 Paul commends them Everyone has heard about your obedience, so I am full of joy about you. Obedience is success, regardless of the outcome. It’s easier to measure decisions or baptisms than it is to measure obedience and true repentance.
If we are to be about making disciples, perhaps our preaching and teaching shouldn’t end with coaching people to accept Christ, but rather to obey Him and to grow deeper in the pursuit of His business, His interests, His plans for those of us who already name the name of Jesus. It’s preaching or teaching with discipleship in mind. As the Word is taught, not used, God will bring about the application, through His Holy Spirit in peoples’ lives, whether it is to come to Him, to repent of things that offend His holiness, or to hunger and thirst for righteousness.
The Bible contains God’s very words. It also is telling us God’s story from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation. If we just pick 3 points out that are easy to chew on, we miss His story, purposes and work. And we miss God’s living and active Hebrews 4:12-13 that He wants to do because we’re people of the Book. It keeps us from adding Jesus on top of our idolatrous ways. Idolatry is placing anything before God. It doesn’t just happen in remote villages in Africa, it happens right here.
*In order to be about God’s purposes, we need the true power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. We cannot explain away whether or not the Holy Spirit is alive and at work in our lives. He is the essential ingredient for being able to grow, change, and be about God’s business. Paul wrote in Colossians 1:28-29 We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all of His power, which is at work in me. In Acts 1:8 Jesus told the 120 that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit and then would be His witnesses throughout the earth. Without the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our life, we will not overcome our own flesh battles, get our eyes off of ourselves, or be effective in anything that we endeavor to do. We’ll be off in our timing and come up with ideas that look and sound good, just like Peter’s in Matthew 16, but if we stopped long enough to draw near and listen to God’s voice, we may hear “Get behind me Satan.” Ouch.
Are you in the Word enough to see it do what it did in Charles Colson’s life? God wants to radically transform us, to empower us with His wonderful Holy Spirit, and to take us to a depth inside and a breadth outside that we may possibly never imagine.