It can be both startling and surprising when I meet Christians (or engage with Christians online) who, for all their talk of Christianity, can’t seem to make sense of the Bible. How could this be?
How could it be that we would become so disoriented in our own worldview that our own book wouldn’t make sense to us?
JI Packer describes one prominent reason one reason why the Bible doesn’t make sense to people: they don’t understand sin.
The subject of sin is vital knowledge. To say that our first need in life is to learn about sin may sound strange, but in the sense intended it is profoundly true. If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself, or your fellowmen, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible. For the Bible is an exposition God’s answer to the problem of human sin, and unless you have that problem clearly before you, you will keep missing the point of what it says. Apart from the first two chapters of Genesis, which set the stage, the real subject of every chapter of the Bible is what God does about our sins. Lose sight of this theme, and you lose your way in the Bible at once. With that, the love of God, the meaning of salvation, and the message of the gospel will all become closed books to you; you may still these talk of things, but you will no longer know what you are talking about. It is clear, therefore, that we need to fix in our minds what our ancestors would have called “clear views of sin.”
‘The subject of sin is vital knowledge’ indeed. May God make us faithful to study it, know it, read the Bible, and relate to our God in light of all that he has shown us about our sin.
What Do You Think?
It’s been a violent year or so, hasn’t it? It seems like everywhere we turn there is more news of more horror and more violence. Why? Where does it come from?
If you ask 100 different people, you’ll probably get 100 different answers as to why there is so much violence in our society. To be sure, it is a complex issue and there are many factors involved in every act of violence that appears on our newsfeed.
In looking for root causes, we must always be wary of over-simplification and sweeping statements. Nevertheless, some factors are more important than others — even if they are not immediately obvious.
Mother Teresa’s Take
In 1994, Mother Teresa gave an historic speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. In it she sought to answer, ‘What is the great destroyer of peace and bringer of violence?’
Darryl Dash is one of my close friends in ministry here in Toronto. Knowing someone can make you either want to read what they write or not want to read what they write.
So when Darryl’s new e-book came out yesterday, I made sure to read it through, the first chance I got. Knowing Darryl, I wanted to read his thoughts on preaching.
The book itself is short. And frankly, that’s refreshing. Though there are 28 chapters, none are more than a few pages. Each chapter is concise, contains a single thought, and engages the reader well. Much of what you will find are lessons that Darryl has learned from authors, teachers, and preachers from whom he has learned. He is sharing with us what he has gleaned from years of study.
Ordinary Preacher is divided up into six decidedly uneven main sections: Fundamentals, Planning, Preparation, Application, Delivery, and Final Thoughts. Most of the content of the book is found in the Planning, Preparation, and Final Thoughts, with less space devoted to Application and Delivery.
Sometimes we do the things we hate. And sometimes we get confused and begin to hate ourselves for the things we’ve done.
There is a world of difference between ‘walking in the light’ while confessing our sins (1 John 1.7-10) and letting our sins define our identity. While it is appropriate to mourn our sin (Matthew 5.4), it is not appropriate to hate ourselves.
In the heat of the moment of regret and shame, we can almost think that self-loathing is good and right and biblical (after all, we have offended a Holy God and become unclean!). But in truth, God never calls us to hate ourselves.
The truth is that God loves us (John 3.16, 1 John 4.10). And the only one who loves our self-loathing is Satan.
1. Because when I loathe myself I loathe someone created in the image of God
Proverbs 17.5 says ‘whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker.’ James writes that the tongue ‘is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so’ (James 3.8-10).
What I say about people, I say about God. This is true whether I am demeaning other humans or myself. Even inward, self-loathing insults my Maker, in whose image I was created.
2. Because it diminishes my joy
It’s not the first time for us. I came into the office the other day to find a desk where my brother has faithfully worked, now cleared.
Empty desk. Empty chair.
For years we have worked with, watched, and tried to train our brother for the work of ministry. We’ve learned together, laughed together, laboured together in prayer and in the day-to-day tasks of leading a church.
But now he’s gone. Gone to the work to which God has called him.
Looking at the empty desk, I can’t but wonder if we’ve done enough. There are so many things that remain untaught, unsaid. So many things I wish we could have talked about. So many ways I wish I could have been a better example. So many things I wish we could have better prepared him for.
Looking at the empty desk, I’m touched by sadness. This brother and his family have been so faithful, and grown so close to our hearts as individuals, and as a church family. Now they’re moving far away and who knows when we’ll be able to see them again?
As I peek my head around the corner and look down to the end of the dark hallway I’m able to see what made the noise. From the bedroom emerges a little girl. She’s got a blanket in one hand and her favourite stuffy gripped tight to her body with the other. Her hair is dishevelled; a mess that only a sleeping toddler could make.
When she spots me, she shuffles down the hallway with purpose. Without making any eye contact, she presses her body up close against my leg while I finish brushing my teeth. She waits for me and doesn’t move.
Stacey has been out of town on a mom getaway-planning-shopping retreat for the past couple of nights. I’m not sure why this particular child is up at this particular point of the night, but I know we’re all a little zapped from the feeling of just not having mom around.
I finish brushing my teeth and begin the inquisition.
‘Why are you up? Are you scared? Did something happen? Do you need to use the toilet? Are you thirsty? Do you feel sick?’
No answer. No eye contact. Just pressing against me and hugging my leg. No words.
We’ve All Got Questions
We all have questions we’d like answers to. But sometimes the questions we have of God can be the scariest to ask: we want to be reverential, not blasphemous. What if the question offends God?
More than that, deep-down we can be kind of afraid that there is no answer. What would that mean for our faith?
For some, the persistent presence of questions unasked has been a catalyst to their rejecting or abandoning of the Christian faith all together. That need not be so. In fact, the people in the Bible — those God uses to write his very word! — often asked the toughest questions of all.
Have you read them?