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Reading the Bible to Be Transformed – Part 5

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.
    • Lust
    • Masturbation
    • Pornography
    • Pride
    • Selfishness
    • Greed

 

Some Sins of Omission:

  • These sins are symptomatic our unwillingness to take a submissive posture before Christ.
    • Godly Husbanding
    • Godly Fathering
    • Speaking the Gospel
    • Contentment

 

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.
    • Ouch!
  • (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.

 

Crust Problems:

(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.

 

Conclusion:

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.

 

Reading the Bible to Be Transformed – Part 4

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
    • Then
  • (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”.

 

Elusive “Success”:

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.

 

Hindenburg Line:

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.

 

casting-crowns-thrive-album-art

 

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.

 

 

Reading the Bible to be Transformed – Part 3

Allowing the Bible to Read Us

 

 

How Does the HSTP Word Transform Us?

Having understood the cost of transformation – of allowing the Bible to read you –

  • We also need to know exactly how the HSTP Word of God accomplishes this transformation.
  • We can’t have any false perceptions and expectations.

 

The Bible leaves no doubt that God’s word is at work in us.

  • 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (ESV) — 13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

 

A great place to see exactly how the HSTP word of God is “at work” is Hebrews 4.

  • Its imagery conveys graphically the way God’s word works.
  • And in doing so, further highlights for us the pain and cost of transformation.

 

Hebrews 4:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

We are going to focus are attention on the:

  • living and active” (vs. 12)
  • sharper…piercing…soul and of spirit…joints and of marrow” (vs. 12)
  • all are naked and exposed” (vs. 13)

 

Living and Active Word:

(1) “Living and active” means this (D.A. Carson):

  • Isaiah 55:11 (ESV) — 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
  • God’s word does this because it is HSTP – as we saw last week.

 

This is massively encouraging for the believer longing to be transformed.

  • God’s word does not fail!
  • It does what it says it does.

 

(2) It also carries with it the following idea:

  • To be “confronted by the word of God, we are confronted by God himself, and nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight” – D.A. Carson.
  • Because God’s Word is HSTP, we are confronted not just with God’s thoughts and ways, but His “living and active” thoughts and ways.

 

BTW – This is exactly why “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” are unable to hide, and are left exposed.

 

The importance of this is found in the following observations:

  • “The inner life of a Christian is often a strange mixture of motivations both genuinely spiritual and completely human. It takes…the Word of God to sort these out and to expose what is of the flesh” – BKC.

“God’s word penetrates to the deepest recesses of our being, opening us up and judging the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” – D.A. Carson.

 

(3) “Living and Active” also relates directly to the third leg on the knowledge stool form last week.

  • By the Spirit, in Christ, we exist in relationship to God’s Word spiritually and physically in a real way.

God’s word trades in both spiritual and physical realities to transform the believer.

  • The world has no way to comprehend this at all.

 

Sharp-Piercing-Soul-Spirit-Joints-Marrow Word:

Obviously, this is not an attempt to convey the physiology and spiritual nature of humanity.

  • Here Hebrews is using a powerful metaphor to direct our attention to some profound truths.

 

(1) The writer of Hebrews is making clear that there is not one part of you that is immune to being shaped by God’s word.

  • The idea behind the “of soul and of spirit” and “of joints and of marrow” points to, in the Christian sense, the “whole person” – Michael Heiser.
  • What this means is that there is not anything that you are doing or thinking that is unable to be transformed by God’s HSTP word.
  • Your depravity is never too much to be transformed by God’s word.

 

(2) This language also speaks of the thoroughness of the action of God’s word.

“The Wod of God goes to the very center of what we are. It cuts through to that which bonds us together as a being” – M. Robert Mulholland.

 

How do we know this?

 

The Louw-Nida lexicon makes this point about the use of “joints”:

  • “The emphasis is not upon the joints as a moving part of the body but as a means by which different parts of the body are effectively joined together” – Louw-Nida.
  • Or put another way, Hebrews is referring to that which “holds the parts of something in proper relationship” – Mulholland.

 

This is very important to grasp.

  • Your identity is “joined together” by a variety of different things.
  • These things are your experiences, worldview, psychology, etc.
  • God’s HSTP word can penetrate these things and remake them.

 

What about the marrow?

 

The “marrow” is “that which is at the heart or essence of something” – Mulholland.

  • In other words, the thing around which the parts are “assembled” and “joined together”.
  • For the Christian, this “thing” is to be Christ.
  • You are a new creation in Christ and are to be “joined together” by the Spirit around Him.

 

Problem – Beware:

All of this points us to a problem (yet another reason for the pain of transformation):

  • The believer, compared to the old-self, has a new “heart or essence” and is “joined together” differently than he used to be (this is what happens at regeneration).
    • This is a fact even though we can’t see this or “feel” this.

 

And yet, the old-self (the flesh) is still exerting its influence.

  • Romans 7:15–16 (ESV) — 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

 

So how does God’s HSTP word contend with this?

 

By His HSTP word, God does the following:

  • He, and often painfully, excises the old-self from the new-self with His word.
  • He cuts away the flesh of the old-self (NT sense) from our new identity found in Union with Christ.
  • When we go down to the Jordan He can cut; when we stay in the waters of Damascus He doesn’t.

 

This process has been beautifully described as:

  • God “‘shaping persons’ identities so decisively as to transform them” – David Kelsey.
  • The very thing we are learning about – being transformed by God’s Word.
  • It is the “so decisively” part that can be painful and costly.

 

And this process is a picture of what it means when I say –

  • We must learn to let the Bible read us.

 

Naked and Exposed Before God’s Word:

It is already clear from what we have seen thus far that we are “naked and exposed” before God’s word.

  • But, the imagery conveyed with this phrase is even more startling that what we have seen already.

 

Naked” carries with it the humiliating notion of “exposure to examination” – Heiser.

  • God’s “living and active” HSTP word is brutal to the flesh.
  • And for those who remain in the flesh – judgment and condemnation results.
  • We either submit to it or we run from it.
    • Standing still is running.

 

Exposed” contains such violent imagery, that I will quote Kenneth Wuest at length:

“The verb means ‘to seize and twist the neck or throat.’ It was used of combatants who handled their antagonists in that way. It meant also ‘to bend back the neck of the victim to be slain, to lay bare or expose by bending back.’ Hence the verb came to mean ‘to lay bare, to uncover, to expose.’ The three possible metaphors in this case seem to be (1), the athlete grasping his opponent by the throat; (2), the bending back of the malefactor’s neck and the exposing of his face to the spectators; and (3), the drawing back and the exposing of the neck of the sacrificial victim at the altar. The last one suits the previous figure of a sword better than the others. The metaphor of the victim’s throat bared to the sacrificial knife is a vivid illustration of the total exposure of the human heart to the eye of God whose inspired Word is as keen as a two-edged sword.”

 

Jeremiah hints at this aspect of God’s word, but in a more palatable way:

  • Jeremiah 23:29 (ESV) — 29 Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?

 

This aspect of God’s word should invoke a little healthy fear of God.

  • Why?
  • Because, this means that to transform us is, in a sense, to be judged by God.
  • The aspects of our “joints and marrow” that don’t mirror Christ are judged and found wanting.

 

And this aspect of God’s word is shown in a profound way in Revelation.

  • Revelation 19:13–15 (ESV) — 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.
  • This is the “living and active” confronting the “naked and exposed”.
  • This is real stuff and aptly demonstrates the real power of God’s word in all its meanings.

 

Are we willing to posture ourselves naked and exposed before God, and His Word?

  • And from that vulnerable posture, submit to being pierced by its “two-edged sword”?
  • This is how to let the Bible read you and transform your life.

 

Reading the Bible to Be Transformed – Part 2

Allowing the Bible to Read Us

 

 

What Are We in For – Pain and Time:

If we have tired of living a Christian life with little or enough transformation, the Word of God can provide it.

  • But we need to be aware of a few things.
  • (1) It is going to be painful and costly.
  • (2) It is going to require your time and intent.

 

(1) Pain – Allowing the Bible to read us that we might be transformed is costly and painful.

 

Why?

  • It will strip away the world from your identity.
  • You will be separated from what you thought was “you”.
  • You will cling to the “old self” – the flesh – and try to resist clinging to God.
  • But you need to let go!

 

Repentance:

Indeed, this is what repentance means.

  • We aren’t to simply turn from our sinful actions – that is moralism.
  • We are to turn and change direction from “me”, “old self” and “flesh” to our new identity in Christ.
  • We are no longer on the throne.

 

We see this distinction with Paul.

  • Acts 26:20 (ESV) — 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
  • Notice – the deeds come after the repentance!
  • The turning to God – the dethroning of “self” from a regenerated heart – comes first and the deeds follow.
  • Never mistake repentance for just an outward change of behavior.

 

Rosaria Butterfield puts it like this:

“I learned the first rule of repentance: that repentance requires greater intimacy with God than with our sin. How much greater? About the size of a mustard seed. Repentance requires that we draw near to Jesus, no matter what. And sometimes we all have to crawl there on our hands and knees. Repentance is an intimate affair. And for many of us, intimacy with anything is a terrifying prospect.”

 

In fact, Rosaria, in her conversion from lesbian-professor-activist lost everything she thought was she.

  • She lost her job, her house, her lover, her friends, etc.
  • “Murphy licked my face again and I laughed out loud. This was my conversion in a nutshell: I lost everything but the dog” – Rosaria Butterfield.

 

Scriptural Examples of Cost of Transformation:

Acts 9:8–9 (ESV) — 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

 

Paul’s conversion and transformation cost him much.

  • He was physically stricken with blindness for three days.
  • And he lost his identity as the “Pharisee of Pharisees” and persecutor of Christians.
  • He had to come to terms with the fact that his worldview was wrong.

 

2 Kings 5:9–14 (ESV) — 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. 13 But his servants came near and said to him, “My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” 14 So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

 

Naaman, encountering the “word of the prophet” had a choice to make – himself or the truth of God’s word.

  • At first, he justified his rebellion – “come out to me”.
  • He expected to be healed on his terms.
    • Leaving himself on “his throne”.
  • After all, he was Naaman and he had “the rivers of Damascus“.

 

But God doesn’t transform us on our terms!

  • Our terms are to try and stay on our thrown and “will-power” our way to spiritual growth.
  • This is wrong, wrong, wrong!

 

Naaman had to go “down” in to the second rate “waters of Israel”.

  • He had to “get off his throne”.
  • He had his idea of what it meant to be healed, and his idea was wrong.
  • He had to give it up.

 

BTW – Don’t be fooled into thinking that the cost of transformation is paid up front at your conversion.

  • This would be a huge mistake; and something the Bible simply does not affirm.
  • The costly grace of Christ is one and done at the cross, but the believer has to surrender daily; there is no coasting.

 

But wait…there is more cost to be paid for transformation.

 

(2) Time – Allowing the Bible to read us that we might be transformed also requires time and intent.

 

“The transforming power of God is available to every Christian. But the transformed life does not come by accident or chance” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.

  • It is both something we have to “allow and submit to” – Mulholland.

 

Again, Rosaria Butterfield says this:

“Living according to God’s standards is an acquired taste. We develop a taste for godly living only by intentionally putting into place practices that equip us to live below our means. We develop a taste for God’s standards only by disciplining our minds, hands, money, and time. In God’s economy, what we love we will discipline.”

  • The gold buried in the backyard example – again.

 

The Psalmist puts it like this:

  • Psalm 119:9–11 (ESV) — 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

 

All of these things:

  • “Putting into place practices”
  • “Developing a taste for God’s standards”
  • “Disciplining our minds, hands, money, time”
  • Seeking God with your “whole heart
  • Storing up God’s HSTP (Holy Spirit Truth Powered) “word in your heart

 

They do not happen by osmosis.

  • You must posture your entire life toward the HSTP word of God.
  • To understand God’s word you must stand under it.
  • There is simply no other way around it.
  • God transforms by his HSTP word.

 

So to be transformed by the HSTP word of God will require surrender.

  • (1) You must give up who you are for who you are in Christ – very painful and costly.
    • As Joshua put it, we are to Cling to God.
  • (2) You must surrender your time and intent to God.
    • Intent without the investment of time and effort is simply not enough.

 

Next week we will deal with Hebrews 4:12-13 to discover:

  • (1) What God’s HSTP word does to us.
  • (2) And how that transforms us.

 

 

Reading the Bible to be Transformed – Part 1

Allowing the Bible to Read Us

 

Growing or Receding:

The believer is always in motion.

  • He is either growing in his likeness to Christ – renewing the mind, right thinking, sin fighting, contentment, loving one’s neighbor, speaking the Gospel, etc.
  • Or, he is receding from Christ in likeness to the world – self, self, self, me, me, and me.

 

Robert Mulholland says this:

“We are being shaped either toward the wholeness of the image of Christ or toward a horribly destructive caricature of that image” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.

 

A Christian’s life is to be characterized by the “growing” and not the “receding”.

  • Because of this, we need to realize a fundamental truth in the Christian life –
  • Foundational to “growing” in Christ and not “receding” into the world is…
    • The Holy Spirit Truth Powered Word of God – HSTP

 

HSTP://Word

(1) Holy Spirit Powered Word

 

Scripture speaks much of the connection between the Spirit and God’s word.

  • John 6:63 (ESV) — 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
  • Ephesians 6:17 (ESV) — 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:5a (ESV) — 5a because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

 

Paul elaborates just how “Holy Spirit Powered” God’s word is:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:9–14 (ESV) — 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

 

There are some profound truths in this passage.

  • Paul speaks about an entire body of knowledge – “the thoughts of God” – that is understood only through the Spirit of God.
  • And this body of knowledge was imparted “in words not taught by human wisdom”.

 

These words are contained in the Bible.

  • We need to consider the implications of this truth from God’s word about God’s word.

 

Knowledge Stool – Rabbit Trail:

In the World, knowledge of the world/truth comes from two epistemologies (usually working together).

  • (1) Empiricism – knowledge of the world/truth is apprehended by the senses – sight, touch, feel, smell, taste.
    • 5 degrees is cold.
    • An outhouse stinks.
    • Sandpaper is rough.
  • (2) Rationalism – knowledge of the world/truth is apprehended by reason and logic.
    • 2+2=4
    • I can’t be both physically in Utah and VA at the same time.
    • Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

 

But, Paul is telling us that these two aren’t enough – the stool is faulty; it will topple over.

  • There is a third leg on the stool only available to the Christian.
  • “The gospel, the wisdom of God, is beyond the reach of empiricism (“no eye has seen, no ear has heard”) and rationalism (“no mind has conceived”) – John Jefferson Davis.

“The things of physical sense are known by the physical senses; the things of logic and mathematics are known by logic and mathematics; but the things that are ontologically spirit (the mind of God, words of God, the content of the gospel) must be known by the Spirit (“God has revealed it to us by his Spirit” [vs. 10])” – John Jefferson Davis.

 

This is deep stuff.

  • Only the Christian can sit on the stool.
  • Only the Christian has access to every body of knowledge.
  • Only the Christian has access to the only body of knowledge that won’t pass away.
  • Only the Christian can know and be transformed by the “thoughts of God”.

 

Conversely, this means that there are “real” and “true” things that empiricism and rationalism cannot apprehend and know.

  • Access to these “real” and “true” things is “made possible by a uniquely Christian epistemology” – John Jefferson Davis.
    • A “logopneumatic” (Word and Spirit) epistemology – John Jefferson Davis.

 

(2) Truth Powered Word

  • Along with being a Holy Spirit powered word, God’s word is also Truth powered.
  • Jesus says so clearly in His high priestly prayer.
  • John 17:17 (ESV) — 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

 

God’s word makes this connection over and over.

  • Psalm 119:160 (ESV) — 160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
  • Psalm 19:7–9 (ESV) — 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.

 

Reason is Required – Rabbit Trail:

And yet, the HSTP Word must comprehended by the believer – it must be understood – to bring to bear all the power it has as the truth.

  • The necessity of the regenerated heart – stone to flesh – to engage with God’s word is heartily affirmed.
  • One’s heart must be inclined to receive and obey God’s word.
    • The heart and mind are intimately linked.
    • But, of course, even this truth can’t be known without engagement of the mind.

 

Yet, Scripture makes clear that the reasoning powers of the mind are part of the process.

  • Isaiah 1:18 (ESV) — 18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
  • This text is literally saying, “let us debate our case in court” – TWOT.
  • This is, among many things, a call to understand what takes place in God’s law court with our sin.
    • Something that requires understanding and contemplation.

 

Scripture emphasizes this necessity:

  • 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV) — 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
  • Genesis 3:1 (ESV) — 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
  • 2 Timothy 2:7 (ESV) — 7 Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
  • Proverbs 4:20 (ESV) — 20 My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings.
  • 2 Peter 3:15–16 (ESV) — 15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

 

The Christian faith, then, is a “reasoned” faith.

  • Because it is truth, its power comes from apprehension of the truth.
  • Therefore, our “growing” in the likeness of Christ is “predicated on an accurate understanding of and response to such revelation” – Andreas Kostenberger.

 

This is easily demonstrated with a quick look at the ministry of Jesus.

  • John 6 shows thousands of people apparently immersed in the presence of Jesus.
  • They followed Him.
  • They ate with Him.
  • They learned from Him.
  • And, yet, they didn’t comprehend Him.
    • Again – heart and mind.
    • As a result, His Truth had no lasting power for them.
    • They were hungry the next day.

 

In fact, Jesus later quotes Isaiah to make this very point.

  • John 12:38–40 (ESV) — 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.”
  • John 12:48 (ESV) — 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.

 

So What:

Christ’s words in John 17:17 also tell us that God “sets us apart”, “sanctifies us”, “devotes us” to Himself through His HSTP word.

So, “In practical terms, no-one can be ‘sanctified’ or set apart for the Lord’s use without learning to think God’s thoughts after him, without learning to live in conformity with the ‘word’ he has graciously given” – D.A. Carson.

 

We are not sanctified by our thoughts.

  • We are not sanctified by our feelings.

 

We are only sanctified, set apart, and “growing” in our likeness to God by understanding, comprehending and grasping God’s HSTP word.

  • Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) — 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
  • His thoughts and ways are found only in His HSTP Word.

 

The practical implication of God using His HSTP Word to “grow” us and set us apart for Himself is this:

  • “When we ask, ‘How can I obtain and keep…joy?’ or ‘How can I be holy?’…the answer is always, ‘Through a study of the Bible and the application of its truths to daily life” – James Boice.
  • There are no shortcuts!

 

The Problem:

We are depriving ourselves of joy and holiness – receding from Christ – by neglecting God’s HSTP Word.

  • We “engage in considerable religious activity” without much transformation – John Jefferson Davis.
  • Instead of being transformed more and more into the image of Christ and having victory over sin, we are being disappointed, tired out and left wanting more.

 

Many of us “take up the Bible and read its words, then walk away unchanged, uninspired, and uncertain” – Joel Green.

  • We read the Bible; we study the Bible; we have devotions; we hear sermons; we go to Bible study – but still…not much transformation.

 

Why?

“Most of us have woken too early, dressed in too little light, and found our blouse or shirt out of alignment: buttons in the wrong buttonholes. We did everything right, used good technique, placed each button carefully into and through the hole provided, but we started in the wrong place and therefore achieved an unwanted result” – Joel Green.

 

We are starting in the wrong place.

  • We think we are going about the Bible correctly.
  • But we are reading the Bible in the dark.

 

How do we know this is happening?

  • Sit down and have an honest talk with a believer.
  • “Why hasn’t God fixed me?”
  • “Why do I lack contentment?”
  • “Why don’t I love others?”
  • “Why am I still struggling with sin X?”
  • “I believe what Christ has done, but I don’t know what difference it has made for me”.
    • Except, “I am saved and going to heaven”.

 

The typical posture towards Scripture that accompanies these sentiments is –

  • We come to the Bible and mold it to our purposes.
  • We treat the text as a “meet my needs” dispenser.
  • “I feel like ‘x’ so I need to read ‘verse y’ to make me feel better”.
  • “Our general mode of reading is to perceive the text as an object ‘out there’ over which we have control” – M. Robert Mulholland, Jr.

 

We Need to Learn to Let the Bible Read Us:

The thing we are missing is this –

  • We may have learned to read the Bible, but we have not learned how to let it read us.
  • The Bible is not the only thing to be grasped and used, we are.
  • Lacking this in our Bible reading, “cannot sustain the people of God” – Joel Green.
  • We have to turn the lights on and reevaluate our view of God’s words.
  • It is time to get out of the dark.

 

Are we up for this reevaluation?

  • The Barna Group has discovered that most of us participate in a “cut-and-paste spirituality, embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs, with feelings and emotions…more significant than” God’s word – John Jefferson Davis.
  • And a Biblical Literacy and Spiritual Growth Study showed that only one in ten evangelicals spend more than thirty minutes at a time in Scripture – John Jefferson Davis.
    • BTW – Time is not enough!

 

These dispositions toward God’s Word leave the Church with a big mess.

“People today are very much looking for religion to meet their needs. And this is not just in terms of internal feelings, but also peer approval and mystical coincidences. They expect God to give them happy feelings. They expect God to give them peer approval. They expect God to make every crazy unBiblical, unwise selfish plan they invent ‘work out’ by miracle. They feel very constrained by planning and moral boundaries, believing in a ‘God of love’ who is primarily concerned with their desires and feelings, not with rules and duties” – Wintery Knight.

 

Letting the Bible read us requires that we reevaluate our posture towards Scripture.

  • Are we “standing under” Scripture or “standing over” it? – Joel Green
  • Are we “ready to embrace the God to whom and the theological vision to which these writers bear witness?” – Joel Green.
  • Are we willing to sacrifice and give up what is required of us to allow the HSTP Word of God to transform us into the likeness of Christ?