Allowing the Bible to Read Us
On a daily basis men are being shaped by any number of sins of commission and omission.
- This means that where these sins reign, we are not being shaped into the likeness of Christ but the world.
Some Sins of Commission:
- These sins are symptomatic of our struggle with the flesh.
Some Sins of Omission:
- These sins are symptomatic our unwillingness to take a submissive posture before Christ.
- Godly Husbanding
- Godly Fathering
- Speaking the Gospel
God desires to shape us and transform us.
- His HSTP word has the power to fight and defeat these sins.
- It has the power to remake us into the likeness of Christ.
But we have seen that transformation by God’s HSTP requires a certain posture.
- This posture is described in Scripture as “woe is me”, “undone”, “naked and exposed”, “planted by the water”, etc.
- The million-dollar question is how do we assume this posture?
In many ways, we have answered this question already.
(1) We must abandon the worldly Hindenburg Line approach to sin fighting.
- Sin fighting fails from a worldly stance.
- It leads to disillusionment.
(2) We must be willing discipline our time around assuming such a posture.
- What we love, we will discipline ourselves around.
- “If we are to apply the Bible, then we must be in constant conversation with the Bible” – John Frame.
- This also entails reading!
- If we don’t do this, we are still on the throne on this issue.
(3) We must be willing to embrace the “cost” and “pain” this posture brings.
- The probing of the two-edged sword of God.
(4) We must be willing to submit to God’s shaping of us.
- This is to dethrone ourselves and pursue Christ’s example of self-denial.
Today, I want to give us some other things to consider.
- Some things that hold us back.
Intrusion of God’s Word:
We need to understand that –
“Christian formation relates to the whole of who we are, our embodied lives, with Scripture taking on the role of sculptor, shaping our patterns of thinking, feeling, believing, and acting” – Joel Green.
- So to seek a real and lasting transformation by the HSTP word of God is to submit to its total intrusion into your life.
Think about this…
- John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
- Jesus as the Word was the ultimate Divine Intrusion into human history.
Likewise, for the believer, the HSTP word of God is the ultimate Divine Intrusion into the human life – Mulholland, Jr.
“It is the picture of human encounter with the action of the presence, purpose and power of God in the midst of human situations” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.
- In this encounter, it refuses to exert its power from 2nd place.
Implications of this Intrusion:
There are some important implications about this intrusion into our lives.
- (1) “It is at precisely those points in our lives where we are not in conformity with the image of Christ where God encounters us” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.
- (2) Moreover, to resist this intrusion is to belittle God’s intrusion into humanity through Jesus Christ.
So, aside from the obvious reasons, why do we resist this intrusion into our lives?
Breaking the Crust (Mulholland):
We all have a crust.
“We build, maintain, and defend a complex structure of habits, attitudes, and perceptions; of dynamics of personal and corporate relationships; of patterns of reaction and response to the world. This becomes an ever-thickening crust of the false self that imprisons and limits us…It prevents our growth into wholeness and thwarts our shaping by the living word of God” – Robert Mulholland, Jr.
This crust resists the intrusion of God’s HSTP word because it corrupts our false identity.
- “If our view of ourselves is anything less that being [in Christ] then our self-image is a self-constructed façade – a crust of self, a false self.”
- It is very difficult to embrace the intrusion of God’s HSTP word when trying to maintain and sure up the false and crusty self.
- This is why believers in overt rebellion from God avoid Church and/or accountability.
This crust causes other problems in our transformation.
(1) You are only willing to encounter God’s HSTP word “…on your own terms, in your own way, at your own convenience” – Mulholland.
This is not allowing the Bible to read you.
- This is not reading the Bible to be transformed.
- This is reading the Bible as a thing to pretty up your “crust” instead of destroy it.
(2) The crust too often leads or controls the encounter or entry into God’s HSTP word.
- Understanding the need to allow the Bible to read us, we make token efforts.
- But these efforts lack substance and submission.
- We come to God’s HSTP word “with the idea that God will use whatever we give, no matter how slipshod or lackadaisical it may be” – MulHolland.
(3) The crust controls the solution.
- We bring a specific need to Scripture – the sins mentioned about, e.g.
- Certainly a worthwhile thing to do – bring your sin to God.
- However, “we also bring our desired solution” – MulHolland.
We envision how our sin is to be defeated.
- Usually with the most minimal intrusion and with the best possible outcome as we see it.
- We deny God’s vision for what is best for us.
- And what is best for us may not be what we envision.
(4) The crust even controls what the cause of our sin might be.
- The problem is that usually what we think our problem might be is “in reality, symptoms” and not the cause – MulHolland.
- “I learned that sin roots not in outward behaviors, but in patterns of thinking” – Rosaria Butterfield.
- For example, too many men think their wife’s sexual outlook is the cause of their sexual sins.
BTW – Fear of uncertainty is part of the equation.
- We know the crust; it is familiar to us.
- We even often like the crust.
- But, “When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future” – Rosaria Butterfield.
- This is a scary position in which to put yourself.
Communion with God:
Another reason we resist the intrusion of God’s HSTP word is because we aren’t going far enough in our view of God’s HSTP word.
“The words of divine revelation are given to us and to the church for a variety of purposes: information (knowledge about God) and formation (being changed by God), but the deepest and highest purpose of divine revelation is to enjoy communion with God – participating in increasing measure in the joyous, loving experience of Jesus’ communion with the Father, in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” – John Jefferson Davis.
As believers in Christ, we participate in a new reality (third leg on the knowledge stool).
- We need to realize “that a believing, prayerful and receptive reading of Scripture is an act of communion with the triune God, who is really present to the reader through and with the biblical text” – John Jefferson Davis.
- This spiritual truth – the third leg on the knowledge stool – is profoundly real.
- It is “not just a metaphor; because the Holy Spirit is real, the bond between Christ and the believer by the Spirit is real – a real ‘umbilical cord’ by which Christ pours his life and his live into us” – John Jefferson Davis.
BTW – From a personal standpoint, apprehending the reality of our communion with God has played a pivotal role in my transformation.
Jesus Himself asked that we comprehend this reality in His farewell discourse.
- John 17:22–24 (ESV) — 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
This communion with God can be understood and experienced by our immersion in and a submissive posture towards God’s HSTP word.
“Since we really are united to Christ by the Holy Spirit, and since the Holy Spirit really does illuminate the biblical text, the text can come alive to us at the experiential level—as the text was meant to be” – John Jefferson Davis.
Prayer over and meditation on God’s HSTP word can facilitate this experience.
- Joshua 1:8 (ESV) — 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
- Psalm 119:48 (ESV) — 48 I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
- Psalm 1:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; 2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.
The bottom line is simply this –
- “Spiritual formation is a loving relationship with God that shapes our being, rather than a technique or method or program for self-improvement” – Mulholland, Jr.
We have to put ourselves in a posture that allows the Bible to read us – to transform us.
- We have to come to grips with the uselessness of seeking and transformation outside of God’s HSTP word.
- Our way – the Hindenburg Line way – the Naaman way.
- We have to understand the power of God’s HSTP word to transform us.
- We have to welcome the time, pain and intrusion of God’s HSTP word upon our lives.
- We have to submit “naked and exposed” and “undone” to God’s HSTP word.
- We have to be willing to depart with the “crust” of who we are.
Wake up everyday and participate in your very own “dethronement” ceremony.
- Remove yourself from the throne of your life and install Christ as king.
- And be willing to submit to His vision of what your transformed life looks like.
- This is both repentance and submission.
Paul advised Timothy and I advise us:
- 1 Timothy 4:15 (ESV) — 15 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.