Allowing the Bible to Read Us
In the past few weeks we have dealt with:
- The problem of Christian Transformation.
- HSTP (Holy Spirit Truth Powered) Word of God
- Knowledge Stool (Reason-Experience-Spiritual epistemologies)
- The Price and Cost of Transformation.
- The Biblical Method of Transformation.
Today we need an exhortation to further motivate us to assume the right posture (naked and exposed) before God’s HSTP word that we might allow it to read us – to transform us.
- I think some of us still think there is another way – an easier way.
And to do that, I need to repeat the nature of the day-to-day condition of the believer.
- My intent is to disavow you of any notion that fighting sin and seeking transformation outside of God’s HSTP word has any value at all – it is utter foolishness.
- To do this, I will use some imagery from WWI and Jeremiah.
(Eschatologically, of course, believers will be fully sanctified and made complete when we are glorified with Christ.)
Transformed by What:
- So, on a practical day-to-day basis, transformation is always occurring in our lives.
If we are not being transformed –
- (1) By the HSTP Word of God into the likeness of Christ
- (2) We are being transformed by our flesh/world into the likeness of the world.
Consider what this means…
(1) Given that transformation –
- “Implies being grasped, controlled and shaped” by something – M. Robert Mulholland.
- And that if we are not being transformed by God’s HSTP word, we are being “grasped, controlled and shaped” by the world.
(2) This means that instead of God the Creator shaping the creature –
- God’s fallen creation is shaping the creature.
- Say What?
- No possible good can come from this.
- It is complete foolishness – the blind leading the blind.
There will be very little, if any, victory over sin and transformation into the likeness of Christ in this scenario.
- This way of living is not going to produce a sin killing walk.
- No matter how much we want to kill our sin (intent), this approach “ain’t gonna get it done”.
Now, from this stance in the world we can seek to fight sin and be transformed.
- And I suspect this is how most of us fight sin.
- The way Naaman wanted to be healed.
- In fact, no doubt, this is probably because it is the easiest way.
- Our waters are better than the Jordan’s.
The problem, however, is that its method of sin fighting is by “will power and check lists”.
- It is artificial and short-lived.
- The enemy is far too clever to be outwitted by our methods.
From this stance, the day isn’t spent in victory over sin, but in thinking about not sinning.
- It doesn’t take long before we tire of this and give in.
- No matter how much effort, preparation, and willpower we exert success remains elusive.
I can’t help but think of how A World Undone described many WW1 battles.
- They portray the futility of fighting sin from a worldly footing.
The Germans on the Western Front created a virtually impenetrable defensive line called the Hindenburg Line.
G.J. Meyer describes it:
“The Hindenburg Line, as it took shape, proved far too formidable for the humble term trench warfare to remain appropriate. It began with a trench, but one that was to remain unoccupied. This trench was almost ten feet deep and twelve feet across— a trap for tanks, and an equally forbidding obstacle for men advancing on foot. Behind it, one after another, were five or more rows of barbed and razor wire, each row twelve feet deep and twice a man’s height, each twenty yards distant from the next. Then came the blockhouses, with two machine guns in each. Beyond them— dangerously far beyond, for enemy infantry trying to advance under fire— lay the first true line, a largely underground beehive of chambers and passageways covered with up to eight yards of earth and impregnable to artillery and bombs. Farther back still, also down below the surface and positioned wherever possible on a reverse slope so as to be almost unreachable by artillery, were two lines of guns. This was defensive warfare raised to a new plane. It appeared to be invulnerable. It was the work of a commander of immense vision, energy, and ambition— a man prepared to bend the entire German Empire to his purposes” – G.J. Meyer.
The Entente (sin fighters for our purposes) prepared and strategized for months before attacking the line.
- They built hundreds of miles of roads.
- They laid thousands of miles of communication cables.
- And then they attacked.
- Their intention was to win.
They would first launch a massive artillery barrage – the numbers are mind-boggling.
- They would then send wave after wave of calvary, tanks and men into the German lines.
- The end result was almost always a complete massacre.
G.J. Meyer explains:
“The Germans simply pointed their machine guns at these knots of flesh and cut them down in swaths. ‘We were surprised to see them walking,’ said a German machine-gunner. ‘We had never seen that before… When we started to fire we just had to load and reload. They went down in their hundreds. We didn’t have to aim, we just fired into them’…‘again and again the extended lines of British infantry broke against the German defense like waves against a cliff, only to be beaten back’” – G.J. Meyer.
This is fighting sin and seeking transformation from a stance grounded in the world.
- It is like attacking the Hindenburg Line on a horse with sword drawn.
- It is suicide and leads to disillusionment.
- In fact, French soldiers were so disillusioned by this warfare they mutinied.
- Some “Christians” walk away from the Church.
Jeremiah’s Shrubs and Trees:
But lest we get too caught up in worldly illustration, Jeremiah paints a beautiful word picture of this principal at work.
- I want to unpack his words just a bit.
- The images he unleashes are incredibly powerful and are worth meditating on every day!
Jeremiah 17:5–8 (ESV) — 5 Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. 6 He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
1) Bush in the Desert – Attacking the Hindenburg Line:
Jeremiah speaks of a man who “is like a shrub in the desert”.
- It doesn’t take much to visualize this scenario.
- This man/bush is parched, dying, thirsting, dry, brittle, colorless, unsatisfied.
Jeremiah tells us how this dreadful state of existence occurred – how the man became a “shrub in the desert”.
- “trusts in man”
- “makes flesh his strength”
- “heart turns away form the Lord”
- “dwell in the parched places of wilderness”
- “dwell in…an uninhabited salt land”
(1) The first three bring us right back to who is on the throne – us or Christ.
- Are we going to attack the Hindenburg line our way or relent, submit, and posture ourselves to God’s way?
- Are we going to rely on our will power and intent or the HSTP word of God?
- For the believer, to do anything other is to turn “away from the Lord”.
(2) And the last two descriptions Jeremiah uses are ripe with symbolism.
- The OT often contrasts the wilderness with the Promised Land.
- The Promised Land representing God’s intent for the elect.
- Moreover, the “wilderness”/“uninhabited salt land” also harken back to the land outside of the Garden of Eden (Sailhamer).
- Unfettered fellowship with God.
- Having God’s best.
- And as we saw from Joshua, wilderness can carry with it the ANE idea of chaos.
- Outside of the ordering influence of God.
So what is Jeremiah telling the Christian about living life under the shaping influence of the world?
2) Tree by the Water – HSTP Word of God:
Then Jeremiah speaks of a man who “is like a tree planted by water”.
- “sends out its roots by the stream”
- “does not fear when heat comes”
- “leaves remain green”
- “is not anxious in the year of drought”
- “does not cease to bear fruit”
(1) It does no good to be near the water if one’s roots aren’t “sent out” to it.
- So nearness isn’t enough – a root system must be grown.
- Only coming to Church and Bible study is simply “being near the water”.
I think of Casting Crowns “Thrive” album cover art:
- It conveys well the necessity of roots.
For the believer, having roots goes back to the time and cost we talked about a couple week ago.
- Things like going to Church, Bible Study, etc., are certainly part of cultivating a thriving root system.
- But they are not enough.
- One must also be submitting to the HSTP word of God in the profound ways we have been learning about.
(2) There is still heat and drought in spite of our Union with Christ.
- But, contentment settles in regardless of the heat and drought (circumstances).
- That is, when contentment’s source is God and His HSTP Word and not our efforts.
(3) And regardless of the circumstances, fruit is continually borne.
- Direct evidence that one’s roots have been cultivated and are immersed in God’s HSTP word.
From this posture there is a real and lasting victory over sin.
- The day is spent in praise and wonder that sin “x” has lost its power over you.
- Your work in sin fighting bears fruit because it is not “will powered” but powered by the HSTP word.
But this posture is Isaiah’s “undone”.
- It is the “naked and exposed”.
- It is the “costly”.
- But, it is the only way.