Let the Bible Speak

Psalm 119:105 states, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” In this simple metaphor the psalmist communicates a very important idea: God’s word is an outside source of knowledge and guidance, over and above our own feelings and opinions.

Isaiah 55:10-11 says “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

If indeed God has sent His word out to accomplish His purposes, we ought to let it speak for itself rather than twisting it around to say what we want it to. We must resist the temptation to simply assume that Bible affirms what we want it to affirm. We must be willing to listen with open hearts.

Acts 17:11 says of the Bereans, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”

The test that the Bereans used to determine the truthfulness of an idea was not how it made them feel, or how popular it was in the current political or religious climate, or what their families had always believed, but rather what the Scriptures said.

Consider one final passage, 2 Timothy 4:1-5, written from the experienced apostle Paul to the young preacher Timothy.

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Notice a few key points from these verses:

  1. Paul considers this instruction so important that he charges Timothy in the presence of God and Jesus, who will judge us all one day.
  2. Paul tells Timothy to reprove, rebuke, and exhort. In other words, be deeply concerned with the truth of scripture, even if that truth is not popular.
  3. There is a real temptation for us to only listen to people who tell us what we want to hear. This is a destructive tendency.

Whether you consider yourself “doctrinally conservative” or “doctrinally liberal,” or don’t necessarily really know or care how you would be categorized, the scriptural plea to all of us is this: let the Bible speak.

 

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What Would Jesus Tolerate?

One portrayal of Jesus popular today is that of the socially progressive, tolerant teacher who encourages everyone to follow their own heart, do what makes them happy, and spread love and cheer to everyone.

Studying the Jesus of the book of Revelation might yield surprising results for those who conceive of Jesus only in such a manner. The church here in Mankato has devoted a few weeks to studying the first 2 chapters of that book, and here are some noteworthy observations:

Jesus appears as a brilliantly shining, terrifying being, who among other things, has a sharp two-edged sword coming out of His mouth (1:16). John tells us, “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man (1:17).”

Jesus commends the church in Ephesus, saying “you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false (2:2).”

Similarly, Jesus reproves the church in Thyatira, saying “I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess (2:20).”

It is remarkable in our culture that so much prizes tolerance to see a Jesus who commends people who “cannot tolerate evil men” and reproves those who “tolerate the woman Jezebel.”

In addition, Jesus tells the church in Ephesus: “repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent (2:5).”

Similarly, He says to the church in Pergamum, “repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth (2:16).”

And as to those in Thyatira who are following Jezebel: “Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds (2:22).”

Notice the language: “unless you repent,” “repent; or else,” “unless they repent.” This is not the kind of language that tends to make us feel comfortable.  Jesus is warning of negative outcomes contingent upon repentance from wicked actions.

It is important, however, to note what Jesus says to the church in Laodicea: “those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent (3:19).”

Jesus reproves and disciplines without apology, but this does not at all mean that He has ceased to love.

The lesson is this: warnings and reprovals are not necessarily “unloving,” indeed they are often the very evidence of unconditional love.

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