Saturday, August 15, 2015

Leave Your Bible at the House

As a follow-up to my previous post, I suggest that on Sundays when you head to your church building, that you leave your Bible at your house. There are multiple reasons for this. One is that, it seems to me, the Bible might be better heard than read. For most of church history folks knew their Bibles by listening to and concentrating on and giving attention to what they were hearing. They were not following along in their own Bible copy while their pastors and teachers read the text. I think there's something to this.

Second, we need to practice the art of listening and then thinking about what we hear. This is a form of biblical meditation. Personally, I find that an effort to hear well helps with this. I learn more by listening thoughtfully than by perusing the text while my pastor preaches.

Third, perhaps looking at and listening to our pastors and teachers is better for our learning than having our noses in our Bibles laying in our laps. It's good for us to be read to by another, to have the very words of God wash over us audibly.

And fourth, "Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ" (Ro 10). This is not only true for the lost who hear the gospel and believe. It is true for God's children whose faith is fed by their Father's words (Jesus says we should abide in them). As I remember hearing John Piper say, "Faith comes by hearing until you're dead."

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Down with the Quiet Time; Up with the Church

Talk about the devotional life, or one's "quiet time" (sometimes my times with God are loud), is all the rage. This is partly because so many Christians have their own copy of the Bible. So they are expected to read them, which is certainly a wonderful way to spend time. My concern is that we believers not judge one another's Christian fidelity by each one's practice of a "quiet time" (I cannot get myself to like that term; something about it. . .).

Here's the deal - The folks of the Church have had access to God's printed Word, that they could read for themselves, for a tiny percentage of the Church's history (I believe the Church began in Eden). But even if we trace the first days of the Church back to the first century AD (Pentecost), the percentage is still small. For most of the Christians who have ever lived in this world, the devotional life, as is commonly defined as including Scripture reading and/or study, was not an option. So how has God measured their faithfulness? I suggest two ways; the same two ways he measures mine, and yours.

The first is one's commitment to prayer. Christians have not always had personal copies of Scripture, but they have always prayed. I am not going to attempt to talk about prayer as a subject. I simply mention it as a mark of Christian fidelity throughout history.

The second mark is one's commitment to the Church - God's other people with whom we are one body, one flock, one bride, one building, etc. Christians have not always had personal copies of Scripture, but they have always had each other. And so I mention this as well.

The access believers have historically had to Scripture has been the preaching and teaching of believing pastors, prophets, and priests. For most of the Church's existence, it has pleased God to have His people ultra-dependent on the Bible teachers of their local congregations. I suggest that the pattern continues and the fact that we have access to our own copies of Scripture has not left us any less dependent on others for a right understanding of God's written revelation. Again, I think it's generally good that so many can so easily have access to God's Word. But an unhealthy side-effect of this has been to devalue the word ministries of God's particularly gifted and otherwise qualified spokespeople. The way saints of old showed devotion to Scripture was by listening to it preached and taught in their congregations and then praying to love and believe and do what they had heard. I believe this remains God's way for us today.

The Church matters. Churches matter. Jesus gave Himself for the Church and is returning for the Church. He is sanctifying the Church and preparing rooms in the Father's house for those who form the Church. The weekly gatherings of the Church congregations (which I would argue should normally occur on Sundays) are not optional events. They are actually mandatory, because they are needed. If only we could see how fragile we are as individuals, and how God has designed His Church to accommodate such weaklings, and to strengthen them.

So if you or I have a thriving devotional life, but are not committed to prayer and God's people, we are selfish, unbiblical, and less than fruitful. And I don't believe we will long stand the assaults of the world, the flesh, and the devil.