God’s Word is glorious! “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
I finished Bible Study: Following the Ways of the Word, by Kathleen Buswell Nielson yesterday. I read it because I wanted to become better in my own personal studies, and I read it because I want to be a fruitful Bible study teacher. It reminded me how precious the Word of God is and how we should hunger and thirst to learn it well and to teach it to others. I am convinced more than ever of the need for robust, no-fear-of-theology, Bible studies for women. I may consider writing on that in a future post.
I want to say a couple of words at how we view Scripture sometimes: We’re going along in life, which has its ups and downs, and we run into some hardship. We wake up and realize we need some answers, we need help. It could be dealing with an elderly parent, having babies as a young couple, marriage trouble, or just plain old mundane every day life. It’s good and right to reach out to teachers, elders, pastors and counselors and ask for help. But we need to be careful. Sometimes we get desperate. Sometimes we’re not discerning who we’re listening to and who we’re reading and who we’re asking help from. We forget to be Bereans. And all too often, we end up with a collapsed Scripture that looks more like a self-help manual than the Word of the living God empowered by his Holy Spirit.
This troublesome, typically—but not exclusively—American, type of “pick-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps” way of thinking can get us into trouble in the long run. We end up wanting formulas, black and white rules, pietistic answers, functionality, and the like. We shun the way of wisdom for “just tell me the godly/right answer.” So for now, from our Bibles we want: seven steps on how to get our babies to sleep through the night; five ways that will guarantee your teen will be happy, respectful, mature and saved; three secrets to a healthy marriage; six ways to grow your church; and so on and so forth. Now, is there anything wrong with seeking out advice on how to care for babies, teens, elderly parents, being a better employee/employer, etc.? No, of course not! But this way of thinking diminishes the person of Jesus Christ, and when Christ is diminished, the gospel is flattened. When we seek out topics instead of the Savior, then we are starting to treat the Bible like a self-help manual. It is sad, and it is grievous to our Lord.
What are we doing when we look, for example, at the book of Proverbs as a how-to for raising children and staying pure? What happens to the living Word of God? Well, we stop seeing it. We’ve eclipsed it by seeking for other treasure; the treasure of “godly” children and purity. Instead of looking for Jesus and seeing that the entire Scriptures is about him, we think the Bible is all about us and how to help us become better, how to be successful, how to get some peace, how to overcome the “giants” in our lives, and I daresay we even use it to get “better sanctified.” But is that what the Bible is about?
Psalm 19: 7-11, 14 says:
“The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward…
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
Let us desire the Word of the Lord for its own sake, not just for the help we may receive.