Monday, November 07, 2005

God speaks through the Bible (3) - Are we following the Pharisees?

Jack Deere asks the question "Are we following the Pharisees?"

The Pharisees read, studied, amd memorized the Bible more than most churchgoing people today will ever do, but unlike Moses and the other Old Testament heroes, they could not hear God's voice. Jesus said the Pharisees never heard his Father's voice at any time (John 5:37). The Pharisees claimed to be looking for the coming Messiah, but they never really expected the Old Testament examples of supernatural phenomena to be repeated in their lifetime. They had a theoretical belief in the supernatural - they believed in angels and the resurrection of the body - but expected nothing supernatural in their own lives. They did not listen for God's voice apart from the Scriptures, and they never heard his voice in the Scriptures.

He goes on to say:

There are a number of examples from the New Testament that show us that God still speaks today in ways other than the Bible - examples from the lives of Jesus, the apostles, and others. It would be easy to discount these examples by saying these were special people living in special times. But this would be a very unbiblical way of reading the Bible. A more biblical way is to think of Jesus as our supreme example of both how to live and how to minister.

Think of the apostles as James said to think of Elijah, "as men like us who prayed earnestly." Consider the possibility of angelic visitations as suggested in Hebrews 13:2. Remember what Paul said of the miracles and judgements that happened to the Israelites in the wilderness, "These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come" (1 Cor 10:11). The miracles of the Bible are still examples and warnings for contemporary Christians.
I think I wrote somewhere earlier on this weblog that there is something seriously faulty with the way that many modern Christadelphians discount parts of the Bible as having no application for today. "Oh, that only applied in the first century" we might hear someone say; "that was for them, not for us". While this may be true about some Scriptures, the big problem with the way many Christadelphians use this method of interpretation is that they have no rules for deciding when something applies to us and when it doesn't. If it doesn't fit with their own experience, then "it doesn't apply to us".

One thing we discover from the way the Old Testament is quoted in the New is that God can use the same words which were used in one situation and apply them to a completely new one. So it is that the words of the prophets might be taken completely out of their context and given an entirely new meaning in a new context. In doing this the Holy Spirit shows us that the words of Scripture can be recalled and applied in new situations. The Bible reveals God's truth; but the Holy Spirit can reveal new applications, or apply the words of Scripture to specific situations in the lives of individual believers.

I want to give just one example of this from my own experience. Some time ago there was a serious issue at the church where my wife and I had been members for several years. Without giving details, try as much as we did not to take sides we found that the tension eventually became intolerable for us. We hated going to church on Sundays. Our children hated going, and our spiritual lives were suffering. One day we were on our way to visit some good Christian friends who lived quite a long way away. On our way my wife and I were discussing what we should do and while we felt that we would have to leave that church we also felt that we couldn't leave until we had found an alternative - until we knew where to go. We decided to pray about it and ask God to show us where we should go, and until He did we would just stay in that unbearable situation. Later that night at our friend's home our host asked if we would like to do a Bible reading with them. For no particular reason he chose Hebrews 11 for the reading. We started to read around. My friend read verse 8: "By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going." He then stopped reading and said, "I've never noticed those words before, but I sense that God has a message for you there. We should stop there." The amazing thing was that we hadn't discussed our dilemma with our friends - in fact, we had decided earlier not to discuss it with them but that we would simply pray about it. There is absolutely no way they could have known what we had been discussing and praying about. But my friend (who is very receptive to the voice of God) had "sensed" that God was speaking to us through this Scripture.

The solution to our problem became clear: like Abram we were to leave "not knowing where we were going" and trust God to show us the way. The results of that journey have been truly amazing for us and we have been blessed in many ways by trusting God to how us where He wants us to go. The journey has become as exciting as the destination.

I learned very powerfully through this that God can take the words of Scripture and apply them to me personally in a way which is relevant to my particular situation, and in a way which I may never have discovered simply through "Bible study".

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