I’m starting a new campaign (not really but play along). I think the whole “What would Jesus do?” is a great thing. Good question, but not the best. The better question is, “What is Jesus doing?” The former relegates Christ to a religious figure of the past that we imitate, while the latter recognizes Him as alive and still at work in our world. We need to get back to the power of the forgotten God of the Trinity. The Spirit is the only means by which we can live the Jesus life.
The challenge today is not new programs, new music, new versions of the same old thing. Let’s be innovative and relevant but remember that the greater challenge is to allow ourselves to be broken before God, confess our desperate need for Him, and bow to His purposes for us. We don’t need more church programs. The Church is already deployed across every realm of culture. What we need is the power of the Holy Spirit directing every life. The point is not imitation as much as it is inhabitation. As we seek the Spirit we become more attentive, responsive, and obedient to His promptings. Jesus meant what He said: “Apart from me you can do nothing.”
You must approach your Bible from the vantage point of the bigger story, which is, “salvation history”. It is the redemptive story of God. In the end, it is all about God. He is above, behind, under, over, and beyond the Bible. God stands independently of the Bible. God and the Bible are not the same. The Bible points us to God through Christ. If it does not, it’s simply a religious book of rules and regulations. And if you believe that the Bible is “inspired” by God (2 Timothy 3:16) then you must read as it comes from the heart of God. Like any love letter, this one comes from a Person.
As we approach the Bible from the larger story we then read it and interpret it in light of this BIG story. If you do you’ll avoid three traps:
1. You won’t get trapped in a legalistic hermeneutic- a rigid interpretation of passages, and an inevitable reductionist approach to Scripture that puts God’s Word in a box- instead of unleashing it’s awesome mystery and power into our lives.
2. You avoid the tendency to remove the Holy Spirit from the dynamic work of interpretation and application of the Word in our lives TODAY. Often we approach the Scriptures without the inward working of the Spirit- and an awareness that God is STILL and always at work in our lives (He didn’t stop moving, talking, guiding us when the Bible was completed). We start to read it as a Guidebook on HOW to join Him- in this very same story we see in the Bible- in OUR day! How exciting is that!? When you woke up today you found yourself in the SAME Story- this HUGE narrative that we see in the Bible. It’s still going on!
3. Finally, you avoid isolation from your brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ who may not agree with your interpretation of specific details of certain passages- instead you have the ability to embrace believers who hold to the CORE like you do and you can love them and encourage them and join them in God’s redemptive work in our world. Yes, debate them in love and with respect if we need to, but serve with them even if we disagree on NON-core issues. Too often we broaden the “core” beyond what God ever intended. If you want to know what’s core, go to 1 Corinthians 15:3-5.
As a pastor I’m constantly leading people to change. Isn’t that, in the end, the Christian life? Change seems to be the mandate of the day, doesn’t it? Of course, unecessary change is a bummer. But necessary change is, well, also a bummer. And most of the time it’s not easy. One of our members sent me this quote in response to Sunday’s message:
“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less” (Gen. Eric Shinseki, former Chief of Staff, US army).
Are you experiencing the necessary and expected tension in your life as God is leading you into a dynamic and different future. None of us want to be irrelevant or see our churches become irrelevant in our culture (what good is the Gospel if nobody’s interested in listening?) but so many don’t want the change necessary to allow us to remain relevant. I’ve taught for years about the necessity to stay committed to the core but the willingness to change whatever is non-core if it will help us maintain our relevance. Too many churches have gone the way of irrelevance, unwilling to change to reach an ever-changing culture. “Oh God, let us not be yet another.” Let’s all keep moving forward with courage, always willing to change as God leads us!