Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Word Awakens

The longer I walk on this road with Christ, the more certain I am of something:  God's Word is much more than data.  I think many Christians and Christian persuasions and groups fall into the error of treating Scripture primarily as information to be learned and figured out (compare to Jesus' words to the Pharisees who treated Scripture like a roadmap of instructions rather than an instrument that pointed to Him).  We study it in the way archaeologists study buried bones or cellular biologists study cells under a microscope.  We collect data, we figure things out and put it together, and we study hard to learn the material so that we can get an "A" on the Bible test.  There is nothing wrong with learning, and doctrine is so clearly important, but if this is the main view of what the Bible is for, I think we are missing something.

This is where one of my heroes, Martin Luther, comes in.  Don't roll your eyes.  I know I have some kind of weird man-crush on the guy, but there are just so many major contributions that God brought to His people through this one man.  One massive contribution was in bringing our attention to the function of the Word of God.  Luther saw that there was a "function" or "use" to certain parts of the Bible that fell under a category he called "Law" and likewise a "function" or "use" to certain parts of the Bible that fell under a category he called "Gospel."  The essential thing to note is that there was a focus not only on the data of Scripture, which Luther was a true scholar of, but also to the impact of the Word of God.  In fact, what was truly important was the impact.

"Faith comes by hearing..." as it says.  Luther was big on the idea that hearing the Word and receiving the sacraments, such as the Lord's Supper, was the means through which God created and nourished faith in us.  It did something to us.  It effected us.  In other words, the Word and the promises and presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper are active.  The Word is, as the Bible says, "alive."  It isn't just some passive thing that we take in and cogitate, though it is at the least that.  It is a living means to grab us within and "hit" us.

What am I getting at?  To put it mildly, here's a suggestion: maybe the goal isn't to understand everything in the Bible and come up with great answers that fit neatly into systems.  Maybe the goal is to let God impact us, effect us through His Word.  Maybe the goal is to let the Word of God wake us up, to awaken "sleeping beauty" from her resistant slumber, to grab hold of and illicit a response from within us -even if that response is, "What the @#$! does that mean, God?!"

God wants to awaken us.  That is why He made us, right?  And that is why He came down, isn't it?  He wants us awake, alive to Him, so that we can enjoy Him.  In fact, that is about the only good reason to be awake, to be "alive".  There are plenty of reasons to hide... the world hurts.  There are plenty of reasons to hide under the sheltering coffin lid of religiosity or intellectualization or self-righteousness, for example.  So many things to be preoccupied with, to worry about, and to focus on, all providing an excuse for why being "alive" is such a bad idea.  But He is that one good reason to be awake, to cast off those things and stand alive before Him in this world.

I was reading a Psalm today... and you know what?  It pissed me off.  And then I felt discouraged about it.  Why?  Because the "Christian" way is that the Bible should always make us feel good and happy and joyful and thankful.  But you know what?  Sometimes I'm not thankful, not happy, and not joyful.  Sometimes I read a Psalm that talks about God being our help when we call to Him, and I think, "My help!?  Where the @#$! are you?!"  And finally I realize that, though that may technically not be a right reaction -and any "good Christian" would try to tell me how I should have more faith and trust Him more and feel this or that way instead- it is still a reaction, a sign of life.  I am being impacted by the Word, and that is what is important, even if it is only to bring me to meet God at the table with my frustrations.  At least I am alive, showing up, and meeting Him.  The Word had its impact.  It did not leave me hidden and brooding, isolating myself from God and others with what is already boiling within my heart.  It stirred life, it rose me up to meet Him, and that is what it is supposed to do! 

This is partly why I don't freak out when I listen to sermons that are not 100% theologically correct or don't fit within the system I believe is the most Biblically accurate.  See, I can listen to a guy preach, a guy who may even seem to be a very boring preacher to me, maybe a guy who misses so many dear and important things, but because of the simple fact that the Word of God is read aloud to me and talked about something will impact me.  God will ensure that something will stir and knock on my door, rousing me to life.  Something will, even if it had nothing to do with the preacher's main point.

And this is the ultimate goal, I believe -to be alive to God, who created me to be alive unto Him and to enjoy Him while He enjoys me enjoying Him.

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