Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Reflections on Bonhoeffer’s Life Together – 40

“…how are we ever to gain certainty and confidence in our personal deeds and church activity if we do not stand on solid biblical ground? It is not our heart that determines our course, but God’s Word. But who in this day has any proper awareness of the need for evidence from Scripture? How often do we hear innumerable arguments “from life” and “from experience” to justify the most crucial decisions? Yet the evidence of Scripture is excluded even though it would perhaps point in exactly the opposite direction.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2015 (Reader’s Edition), page 36.

In response to my query of whether he was reading the Bible, a friend told me that while he wasn’t reading the Bible that he did ask God to guide his heart. The conversation occurred in my office; I took a bottle of water on the table and poured some of it out onto the carpet – much to his surprise. I looked at him and said, “This water needs form. It needed the form of the bottle, outside the bottle look at it. The Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Word of God, and that Word is formed within us and we are formed within it – by the Holy Spirit into the image of Jesus Christ.”

We lead formless lives and we have formless churches because we do not read and know the Word of God. The forms we do have are the forms of the world; societal forms, sociological forms, psychological forms, forms of values (as opposed to Biblical forms of virtue and character), forms of advertising, forms of economics, and sadly forms of self-exaltation and self-gratification. We are called not to be conformed to the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1-2), and yet how can our minds be renewed if they are not renewed by the Word of God?

The church reinvents itself in step with society when it lacks the certainty and confidence that can only be found in the Word of God. When we are not certain of the Word of God, and when the Word of God is not certain in us, we follow sociology, we follow marketing and demographics, we follow the popular as opposed to the Biblically transformative. When we are not certain of the Word of God we surrender to the pragmatic, to the arguments “from life” and “from experience” – only the Word of God can bring our minds to the point where they can think clearly and only the Word of God can mold our souls and bodies into obedient persons and vessels for Jesus Christ.

The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are the house of Christ (Hebrews Chapter 3), and yet when we do not know and obey the Bible we act as if the house does not belong to Christ, we act as squatters for we treat the house as if it belongs to us. Hebrews chapters 3 – 7 contains warning after warning concerning disobedience, using ancient Israel as an example of not entering the rest and inheritance that God promised because Israel disobeyed His Word. We make up our own rules, our own agendas, our own goals, our own methods; our own needs rule – much of it in the name of the practical, the pragmatic, the economic, the successful, and most of it based on our experience – how can it be otherwise when we are Biblically illiterate?

Unnecessarily strong words? Would we demand that our neighbor whisper should our house be on fire? Would we insist that the weather service send us a letter by mail warning of a tornado? Would we accuse a doctor of malpractice if he diagnosed cancer and did not tell us? The frog says, “The water is nice and warm, it isn’t like that cold water that I was initially put into, let me stay here just a little longer…just a little longer…just a little longer.”

We hear the whisper, “You don’t really need to read the Bible. Oh yes it would be nice if you read it, but there really isn’t time is there? There are other things you need to do. God will understand. God really didn’t say for you to read the Bible. You already know what’s in there. It will be okay. You have good intentions. If you must…then just a quick verse or two, that will be fine. Now that’s better isn’t it? Ok, now on with life. Did God really say? Did God really say? Did God really say?”

Bonhoeffer wrote, “But who in this day has any proper awareness of the need for evidence from Scripture?”

Good question.

“Did God really say?”

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