Friday, January 9, 2015

P1 Envisioning a more awesome church saturated with scripture

Acts 2:42-43 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.

We have a hope chest at our home where we store our most treasured memories. Among those items is a small box where love letters between my wife and I are stored. Those letters record the blossoming of the love that was developing between us in those early days when we first met. I remember the summer of 1995 when we wrote back and forth each day. Every time the mail would come I would be waiting at the mailbox. I would read and re-read each sentence, clause and phrase. You could not pay me anything to give away those letters. To me the love that we have 20 years later is far more profound than it was then - and as well as it should be! To me that fits in the category of more awesome!

When it comes to the written word of God, the Bible, we ought to as Christians have an even greater passion and desire to pour over every word. The late evangelist Leonard Ravenhill observes: "There are just 3 types of people: those who are afraid; those who don't know enough to be afraid and those who know the Bible - L. Ravenhill." What is it about the Bible that sets it apart from all other books? For one thing, it was the source of the Apostle's doctrine that so captivated those early Christians. The word of God saturated the thinking of the early church because it saturated Jesus Himself Who had came to fulfill every word recorded in the Old Testament. 

Inasmuch as Acts 2 is about the coming and the arrival of the Holy Spirit to birth forth the church, it can be equally said that the Word of God was at the center of everyone's heart and mind. The events of Acts 2 could only be explained by one source - the scriptures; and the only method deemed acceptable - preaching. The church was birthed by and centered around the Word of God. Their devotion to the Apostle's doctrine came as a result of their devotion to the Word of God. True doctrine is a by-product of the scriptures and the Holy Spirit's illumination. Today's post aims to conceive of a more awesome church saturated with scripture. Why should a church and a Christians be characterized a those who know the Bible? Consider the following reasons why more awesome Christianity demands scripture saturation:

1. Contents of the Bible are more awesome 
As we strove to explain in the last two blogposts, the Apostle's doctrine centered around at least eight central truths: authority of the Bible, Jesus Christ, God's Sovereignty, Holy Spirit, salvation, church, missions and second coming. Those truths are not just headings or dry dead dogma. When strung together they communicate a powerful narrative of God's redemptive workings. God is ever at work revealing Himself generally in creation. We know about God by way of the vastness of the universe, the smallness of the atom and the paradox of mankind's smallness and bigness. This same God has also chosen to disclose His will and intention by way of words: 419,687 of them in the Old Testament (number of words in the Hebrew/Aramaic behind our English trnaslations) and 138,162 in the New Testament (word count in the Greek text behind our English translations). 

The very words of the Bible as originally revealed bear the imprint of Divine authority. They being from God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) are without error (i.e inerrant) and incapable of failure (i.e infallible). The central Person of the scriptures is the Person of the Son - Jesus Christ. His virgin birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension culminate the 419,687 words of the Hebrew Scriptures and are the focal point of the message of the 138,162 words of the New Testament. (Luke 24:44; Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus in His humanity ever remained God and thus when He came He fully revealed the Sovereign God. 

This Sovereign One - the Father - sent the Holy Spirit in the Son's name. The Spirit would be the one responsible for convicting sinner's in their salvation and one by one calling those chosen by the Father into the fold of the church. (see Ephesians 1:1-11) As a result of each converted sinner responding by faith, they would as part of the church be involved in carrying out the great commission issued by Jesus. (Matthew 28:18-20) God's inbreaking into history and life would ever alter how we view human history. To realize that there is an ultimate purpose - God's glory - gives hope to the hopeless, light in the darkness and healing of the soul. Christ's second coming represents the endpoint of history that will carry all the redeemed into eternity. Judgment will be sadly meted out upon those who knowingly rejected the Gospel presented to them. Throughout all eternity, God's grace will be ever revealed through the Son by the Spirit to His people. 

The contents of scripture are more awesome than any other book. No other book can back up the claim of being divinely inspired. There is a second reason as to why a more awesome church needs to be saturated with the scripture...

2. The change brought about by scripture is more awesome
Two main changes that are impossible for men to do are noted clearly in Acts 2:38-47. The first is the change of the human heart in salvation (Acts 2:38-41a) and the second is the continuing on of such change in ongoing sanctification (Acts 2:41b-47). No person in the natural realm can bring about salvation and no natural effort can perpetuate ongoing change in sanctification. Jesus notes in John 3:5-8 "Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” By what means were the 3,000 converted on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38-41? Was it by their human effort? Religiosity? Water baptism? John 1:12-13 reminds us that no human effort can bring about the New birth. Second, Titus 3:5 reminds us that no amount of religiosity can bring about the new birth. Third, despite what some groups may teach today, there is no evidence of the baptismal waters affecting salvation. The people were saved by One agent - the Holy Spirit, affecting them to freely believe as the result of one agency - the scriptures. Truly the scriptures are more awesome than anything because spiritually dead people are raised to life. (1 Peter 1:3-5, 23)

The scriptures, as already noted, are more awesome because of how the Spirit uses them in our sanctification. Apart from scripture - the Christian will not grow. Period. David Wells writes on page 103 of his book "No Place for Truth": "This same correlation (between doctrine and practice) is forcefully presented in John's first epistle, in which three tests are developed for discerning the presence and authenticity of a biblical spirituality: believing the right doctrine (2:18-27; 4:1-6, 13-21), obedience to the right doctrine (2:3-6; 2:28-3:10), and giving right expression to right doctrine in a life of love (2:7-11; 3:11-18; 4:7-12)." Where does such life changing and ongoing life changing doctrine derive? The Bible. So the contents and change brought about by scripture are what makes for a more awesome Christianity. However, there is one more reason why more awesome Christianity needs to be saturated with scripture. To find out what that reason is, please return tomorrow....

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