To Share God’s Mind
I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word (Psalm 119:16)
Once the life of Christ has entered us, there are many things we may do to increase the extent and depth of our identification and union wit him. But proper use of the written Word is most central to our cooperative efforts with God toward full conformity with Christ.
The person who wishes to grow in grace is advised to make a close and constant companion of the book- the Bible. I do not mean that it should be worshipped. It’s uniquely sacred character is something that does not need to be exaggerated or even insisted on, because it is self-authenticating to any earnest and open minded user. For just as openness to and hunger for God leads naturally to the Bible, if it is available, so the eager use of the Bible leads naturally and tangibly to the mind of God and the person of Christ.
The written Word of God is an expression of God’s mind just as surely, though in a different manner as are creation and Jesus, the living Word. As we read and study it intelligently, humbly, and openly, we come increasingly to share God’s mind.
We will be spiritually safe in our use of the Bible if we follow a simple rule: Read with a submissive attitude. Read with a readiness to surrender all you are- all your plans, opinions, possessions, positions. Study as intelligently as possible, with all available means, but never study merely to find the truth and especially not to just prove something. Subordinate your desire to find truth to your desire to do it, to act it out!
Those who wish to hear the word and know the truth are not often prompted by their desire to do it. The light that such people find frequently proves to be their own snare and condemnation.
I’m sure we all have someone we know that has spent a number of years as a “professional student.” These are those who continue to go to school and take classes but never seem to be able to apply their knowledge to life or a means of earning a living. Year after year they take classes, earn degrees and so forth. It at the end of the day use none of their studies to make a better life for themselves. They seem to find their completion in the learning but not in the application.
What I’ve discovered is that learning is only theory until it is applied and often what we think we have learned takes on a different appearance when it is applied. I remember being taught some business classes by professors who had never been in an actual business environment so they had great theories about how it should be in a perfect environment but failed to comprehend that rarely if ever does one find themselves in that kind of environment.
I also remember a lot of classes for ministry and pastoring and while all I learned has been of great benefit, the application and living and experiences have been much different that classroom instruction.
This is what Paul was saying to the church:
“……always learning and listening to anybody who will teach them, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres [the court magicians of Egypt] opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, unqualified and worthless [as teachers] in regard to the faith. But they will not get very far, for their meaningless nonsense and ignorance will become obvious to everyone, as was that of Jannes and Jambres. But as for you, continue in the things that you have learned and of which you are convinced [holding tightly to the truths], knowing from whom you learned them, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings (Hebrew Scriptures) which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus [surrendering your entire self to Him and having absolute confidence in His wisdom, power and goodness]. All Scripture is God-breathed [given by divine inspiration] and is profitable for instruction, for conviction [of sin], for correction [of error and restoration to obedience], for training in righteousness [learning to live in conformity to God’s will, both publicly and privately—behaving honorably with personal integrity and moral courage]; so that the man of God may be complete and proficient, outfitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:7-9,14-17
While we should be lifetime learners, that can be no substitute for living out our faith. Our reading and study of the Bible must be more than just to gain knowledge. It must be for the purpose of learning to live in a way that pleases God. The Bible- the Word of God is inseparable from Christ- the Living Word. We do not read to learn more about Christ as though we are reading a biography. We read to know Christ in a deeper way, developing our relationship with Him at an increasingly more intimate level. Thus our learning is carried out in our imitation of Christ. John opens his gospel by connecting Christ to the Word.
“In the beginning [before all time] was the Word ( Christ), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God Himself. He was [continually existing] in the beginning [co-eternally] with God. And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten Son of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception).”
We must therefore conclude that just learning the Bible merely for the sake of learning it would be like reading books on marriage but never being married or reading books on child rearing and never having children. Knowledge is designed to enhance wisdom which is the application of knowledge. I think it’s interesting that listed as gifts of the Holy Spirit are both the “Word of Knowledge” and the “Word of Wisdom”. ( 1 Corinthians 12)
Finally we read in James that faith without application (works) is no faith at all (dead).
“What is the benefit, my fellow believers, if someone claims to have faith but has no [good] works [as evidence]? Can that [kind of] faith save him? [No, a mere claim of faith is not sufficient—genuine faith produces good works.] If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do? So too, faith, if it does not have works [to back it up], is by itself dead [inoperative and ineffective]. But someone may say, “You [claim to] have faith and I have [good] works; show me your [alleged] faith without the works [if you can], and I will show you my faith by my works [that is, by what I do].” You believe that God is one; you do well [to believe that]. The demons also believe [that], and shudder and bristle [in awe-filled terror—they have seen His wrath]! But are you willing to recognize, you foolish [spiritually shallow] person, that faith without [good] works is useless? Was our father Abraham not [shown to be] justified by works [of obedience which expressed his faith] when he offered Isaac his son on the altar [as a sacrifice to God]? You see that [his] faith was working together with his works, and as a result of the works, his faith was completed [reaching its maturity when he expressed his faith through obedience]. And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “ Abraham believed God, and this [faith] was credited to him [by God] as righteousness and as conformity to His will,” and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man (believer) is justified by works and not by faith alone [that is, by acts of obedience a born-again believer reveals his faith]. For just as the [human] body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works [of obedience] is also dead.”
So let us choose in 2021 to live out our faith in practical ways, applying our knowledge of the Bible to our life decisions and growing in our relationship with Christ as we read more and more of His love letter to us.
Dr. John Thompson