continued from part 1
RULE FOUR: Interpret personal experience in the light of Scripture, and not Scripture in the light of personal experience.
Personal experience should not become the rubric for how we understand the Bible, though it definitely is the basis for how we apply it in our lives. For example; it might lead to us distorting the truth because we argue that "in my case," the ends justify the means; or that our case is an exception. Our approach to understanding Scripture should not be to first see if it fits what makes sense to our limited and often biased perspective of life.
There was a good example--we were given a short sample 'sermon' that argued that polygamy wasn't against the Bible, and should be accepted as a legitimate alternative for Christians, citing 'proof' from church history, cultural evidence, and
RULE FIVE: Biblical examples are only authoritative when supported by a command.
This means that though it would not be wrong if we read "Go, sell all you have." in Mark 10:21 and feel convicted to do something along those lines with our own possessions, it would be wrong if we insisted that this was what Jesus commanded every single Christian to do, and started busting into our church members' homes to garage sale their furniture for the Red Cross. Unless it is a specific command, such as John 14:15--"If you love Me, keep My commandments--" we should not be interpreting and using the Bible in this way. Just as Abraham tying Isaac up as a sacrifice obviously isn't God's intention for every Christian parent, though in Abraham's case it was the right thing to do, being a test of obedience.
Likewise, there are so many different types of characters in the Bible if you look at it from a literary point of view, and not just the 'good/bad' binary characters either; so many of them, like Abraham, Gideon, Solomon, Samson, and my favourite King David, are 'good' yet essentially flawed. Do we simply follow what they did because they were people God used, they were 'good' people in that sense because they obeyed God and were used to do great works? (and in David's case, even loved God and were loved by God) No, it's so obvious that these people made mistakes too--they, like us, were cowardly, weak, lustful, selfish, proud, greedy at one time or another. The Bible does not present everything they did as something for us to emulate.
Basically, understand that the content in the Bible is in two categories: the general--content which is given for us to derive our personal application from, and benefit from accordingly within the context of our unique individual situations--and the specific, which are explicit commands applicable for all, not up to what we think they should mean for us.
RULE SIX: The primary purpose of the Bible is to change our life, not to increase our knowledge.
This was a good, if obvious reminder. In our privileged first world society where education and knowledge are prioritized and seen as indications of and means to power and superiority, we may end up having the same attitude towards studying the Bible and getting a PhD. The more obscure facts, background info, historical background, theology, and lexical analysis we absorb about the Bible, the more complacent and self-satisfied we feel, the more 'godly.' But our priority should not be how much Bible knowledge we can cram into our little brains during our time on earth. The purpose of the Bible was to change our lives. If we absorb all that knowledge only as such--head knowledge, which doesn't extend to active application; like a dietician who continues to eat sloppily, skip meals, binge on sweet treats, and live on junk food--we are not using it as God meant it to be.
continued in part 3
The link between discipline and spiritual growth is something I think most young Christians are aware of in our eager, if rather vague, desire to grow in holiness and maturity. We think of prayer and Bible study and Scripture memory and the discipline inevitably associated with them, and nod our heads determinedly. It's like getting into shape. It's not for nothing that the Bible repeats the metaphor of athleticism in spiritual growth, or that the words 'endure' and 'persevere' are used so many times to encourage us in our spiritual walk.
I think one of the most basic challenges in this area is the struggle to do daily devotions.
During my days on a student's schedule it was such a great temptation to tell myself that I simply didn't have the time. After all, I had pretty good reasons to go with that, especially with morning classes and rush hour and trying to finish last minute readings before class (read: severe motion sickness.) But eventually--since there was no near end in sight--I realized gradually that things were not going to get easier. I finally made an effort to put a stop to this, knowing the effect it was having on my spiritual life. I managed to work in transit time for prayer time, and to shut my mind to my to-do list when it came to doing devotions in the morning, first thing of all, before even checking my phone (a la John Piper) or putting in a load of laundry or getting dressed or eating breakfast or stretches. Because once you try to sneak in 'just one,' it all goes to pieces. And the next thing you know, you're waist-deep in the daily cycle of rushing to clear your list, and that precious window of time for devotions has gone, other things forcibly beckon...
Once it become a habit, it was so much easier. Devotions started to become the one calm spot in the day, prayer time actually refreshing. I got better and better at being able to mentally tune out the clamour of things that needed to be done, and focus thoroughly on my devotions.
I don't say all this as a textbook example, however. For perspective, I'm writing this months after I've wrapped up my student days, and I'm not so tightly wrapped to the dictates of my schedule.
So things should be easier, shouldn't they? No more challenges, right?
Newsflash: they aren't. I've lapsed sadly. Instead of it being easier, as I would have assumed it to be, it's harder. Without that challenge of time, it no longer seems to matter so much whether you do it first thing--or second thing--or not at all. No sense of urgency. I'll start tomorrow--next Monday--and soon everything I had worked hard to make a habit of was gone.
This drove home to me the fact that I can't use my schedule as an excuse. Discipline, when it comes to what truly matters, is something we need both on busy days AND on down days.
Busy schedules are such a real challenge today. And yet they aren't necessarily the evil we make them out to be. Take a look at what changes (small ones, maybe, but changes nevertheless) that you can make in your life without having to wait for your life to change first. Sometimes, perhaps, we need to rethink what we assume is conducive, to realize that conducive--the way we define it--isn't always going to be an option. Which isn't always a bad thing.
So if you'll excuse me, let me go set my alarm for tomorrow morning...
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
Click to set custom HTML
ALL IMAGES FROM PINTEREST UNLESS OTHERWISE SPECIFIED. THANKS, PINTEREST!