Monday, October 25, 2010
Having Jesus without His Word?
One blogger accused me of “fundamentalist Bible idolatry” because I would quote Scripture and reason according to it. In contrast, he claimed to be “Christ-centered” instead of “Bible-centered.” He then asked me to delineate the difference between the two positions. Here’s how I answered:
Bible-centrism is Christ-centrism!!! This is because God has always insisted that His people relate to Him through His Word, as Jesus summed it up:
• “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him….If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:21-24)
You might ask, “Why is God so insistent about His Word?” This is because Jesus insisted that we had to worship God in spirit (in the depth of our being) and in truth (according to His revelation) (John 4:20-24).
Truth is the only foundation for a meaningful relationship. It is so critical to any relationship that we love/appreciate the other according to who they really are. For instance, if your wife adores you simply because you remind her of her first lover, such a relationship is built on smoke and deceit, and its fraudulent nature will inevitably surface with disastrous results.
This is why we are not free to mentally construct God in any we way please, but according to His own self-revelation. Anything short of this is idolatry – creating God and relationship according to our own tastes. As such, it isn’t truly relationship but egoistic self-stimulation.
Besides, the Spirit uses God’s Word to effect spiritual transformation:
• “But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)
How do we “behold…the glory of God?” Through Scripture! Paul contrasts the church with Israel who also had the Scriptures but not the Spirit. As a consequence, they still had a veil separating their hearts from the Word, a veil that had to be removed by the Spirit. A few verses later, Paul makes it even clearer that it is the Gospel’s revelation of God that is critical:
• “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:4-6)
The truth of the Gospel transforms our hearts, but it can’t penetrate the heart until it’s understood by the mind. Therefore, Jesus prayed to the Father,
• “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them." (John 17:26)
According to Jesus, having God’s love in us depended upon His teachings about God. It’s Biblically impossible to separate God from His Word. Therefore, Jesus also prayed:
• “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Sanctification is so central to our relationship with God and it too depends on His truth. And this isn’t simply an experiential truth, something that we merely feel and experience. It’s something that should also impact our thinking. Therefore Jesus taught:
• “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3)
The idea that we can know or have a saving relationship with God apart from His Word – His Gospel – is foreign to the Scriptures. Therefore, Paul insisted that a saving connection with Christ depended upon faith, and faith depended upon the preaching of the Gospel (Romans 10:14-15). Jesus also demanded that anyone who came to God had to do so by believing a certain message (John 6:29; 5:24; 3:36; 3:17-18; 8:24), without which there couldn’t be hope of salvation (John 14:6; 1 John 5:10-12).
Having a relationship with God without His Word is like separating the head from the body, in which case neither can live.