Saturday, April 30, 2011

Taste and See: Are you an optimist?

Before you answer that, I'd like to place my question into context. I was reading R.A. Torrey's How To Pray, a work originally published in 1900. I'll be reviewing that later this afternoon. But. I came across this passage.
If facing the facts is to be called a pessimist, I am willing to be called a pessimist. If in order to be an optimist, one must shut his eyes and call black white, and error truth, and sin righteousness, and death life, I don't want to be called an optimist. But I am an optimist all the same. Pointing out the real condition will lead to a better condition. (69)
"Facing facts" equals seeing things the way God sees things.

I am a big believer that sharing the good news--the gospel--has to begin with the bad news. If Jesus Christ is to be confessed as Savior (or Lord and Savior), people have to KNOW (in a very personal way) what Jesus is saving them from. They have to KNOW that they are desperately in need of a Savior. Proclaiming Jesus as a way to be happy and healthy and wise that is NOT the gospel. Holding up Jesus as the ultimate example of a good man, a good teacher, that is NOT the gospel either.

Reading the Bible challenges us as readers to "face facts." The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to convict, to discipline, as well as to encourage, comfort, and transform. Hebrews 4:12 reads: "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." (NASB) Yes, reading the Bible can make you feel good. If you're hurting, suffering, needing to find refuge in the God who sees, the God who comforts, you'll find it in the Word. You will. There are promises and treasures to be found. But. The Bible isn't only for feeling cozy and happy and comfortable. The Bible calls us to act, to believe, to grow. God uses the Bible--and the Spirit--to discipline us, to challenge us, to call us out of our comfort zones. He uses the Word to make us feel uncomfortable. He uses the Word to bring us to new awareness. He uses the Word to convict us.

Sometimes we get so focused into making God in our own image. We pick and choose passages from the Bible to support OUR view of God. Or--if OUR view of God isn't to be found in Genesis through Revelation--we do our best to convince ourselves and others around us that the Bible is irrelevant. That the Bible isn't the Word of God. The Bible isn't the first or last authority. Becoming insistent  that these verses are true--those verses aren't true. Who's telling them what's true and what's not true? Sometimes they are deciding for themselves. (This feels right to me.) Sometimes they are under the influence of others--other teachers or preachers or authors.

But we've got to realize--at one point or another--that God is God is God. We are NOT God. We cannot reshape God into who we want him to be. We can't make God obey our rules. We've got to realize that 'who God is' is revealed in the Bible, in the Word of God. God reveals to us--to us--things about Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. God speaks to us in His Word. God uses the Word--and the Spirit--to renew our minds, to transform us into who He wants us to be, needs us to be.

Isaiah 64:8

But now, O LORD, You are our Father,  
We are the clay, and You our potter;
And all of us are the work of Your hand. (NASB)

Facing facts isn't a one-time deal either. Yes, the conversion experience is one time that calls for us to face facts. To acknowledge the weight of our sin, our need for a Savior, to express or confess our trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord, as our Savior. To put our lives in God's hands. To follow, obey, trust, love, serve. Romans 12:1 calls us to present our bodies as living sacrifices. We have been delivered from slavery to sin to slavery to righteousness. We've been called from death to life. We've been called to take on Christ's yoke (Matthew 11:28-30).

Every time we open the Bible, every time we read Scripture, there's an opportunity there. God can speak to us through the Word, through His Spirit. Think about it! God can use the Scripture to minister to us personally. Have you noticed that one name for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth?!

So Scripture is one tool God uses to prune us, discipline us, love us, transform us, strengthen and comfort us. But it isn't the only way. (Though both ways rely on the Spirit.) Preaching is the second way. Expository preaching especially serves the cause of Christ. Preachers proclaiming the Word of God. Reading the Word aloud. God calls preachers and teachers to preach sound doctrine, to bring to their listeners THE TRUTH. The difference between true prophets and false prophets in the Old Testament and false teachers and true teachers in the New Testament is that false leaders always, always, always shape their message to please their audience. They tell people what they want to hear not what they need to hear. They don't think it's important for anyone to "face facts."

2 Timothy 4:1-4
I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. (NASB)

Is it better to be safe and comfortable and cozy in ignorance? Or is it better to hear the truth, to know the truth, to have the chance to let the truth set you free? 

In John 8:31-36, we read:
So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants and have never yet been enslaved by anyone; how is that You say, 'You will become free'?" Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. (NASB)

In John 14:6, we read:
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me. (NASB)

And in Galatians 5:1, we read:
It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (NASB)

It isn't always easy to welcome truth into our lives. Sometimes it's easier to block out certain truths about ourselves. The temptation to write our own truths--while ignoring God's truths--is very real. But is the truth necessary? Can the truth mend as well as wound? I believe that the truth can heal, transform, and restore.

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible


Annette said...

Becky you wrote an excellent post, I can tell you worked hard on it.

For me, in my life. And this has happened several times. I can read something from the Bible, and not realize, out of ignorance, and it's as if the porch light has not turned on yet in my little brain, that that verse is speaking to ME. But, later I will read it again, sometimes much later, then the light bulb will turn on and I will have that ah-hah moment. Maybe it was not meant for me to get it just yet, maybe some things had to happen before then. Another words I did not understand it not because I was thinking I don't need that or I don't have that problem, etc. But I was just plain ignorant of it.
But, yes sometimes it is because I don't want to face that fact that I needed to read that verse and be convicted and repent.

The Christian life is a journey, with lots of hills and mountains, and dry arid places, and occasionally lush green meadows.
But, it is when the winds grow strong that the roots grow deep.
It is in the hardships and struggles that is when my character and spiritual life deepens and grows.

Becky said...

Annette, I hope you don't think I was implying that it was *only* stubbornness or willful disobedience that keep getting in the way!!! I didn't mean that at all. I really didn't!!!

I think that is where the Spirit comes in. The Bible is a spiritual book. And it takes the Spirit living within you, acting within you, to understand and apply it. And it IS very much a journey!!! And it's not a book that you can read once and say "I'm done. I'm finished. I've learned everything God wants me to know." Because that is SO not the case!!! Every day is a new beginning, a new opportunity to grow. To have your knowledge (and love and grace) expanded. God gives abundantly. And, of course, we can't "get" everything all at once. And I'd be afraid to meet someone who thought that they knew EVERYTHING there was to know. I mean there will always, always, always be room to grow in grace and truth. And sometimes what we think we know--we don't know as well as we think we did! I mean God can correct us and set us straight. And sometimes we know more than we think we know. Sometimes we don't realize how much God has given us. How blessed we really are!

I know the Bible is living and active because it tells me something new each time I open it and really read it. Not reading superficially perhaps. But when I come with an open heart and a willing mind. It tells me what I need in that moment. I do believe that is why it is important to read it daily. God gives us what we need in that moment, at that time. He gives us that day's nourishment.

In other words, I agree with what you said. The Christian life is all about the journey, the walk. And it has its ups and downs. There are times where you're overwhelmed with sorrow and nagged by doubt and temptations. There are times you feel lost and alone. And there are times you just don't know how to pray to fix the mess your life has become. The Christian life embodies every emotion imaginable. Which is why Psalms speaks to you no matter where you are!!!

And I definitely, definitely did not mean to say that we should be looking at other people and going YOU NEED TO FACE FACTS! (But I don't.) That is the opposite of what I believe!!!