GRACE FROM A-Z (PT 3)
Susan and I celebrated our 20th anniversary this year. When we got married at 21 years old with matching zits on our wedding day, we always dreamt of going to Greece for our 20th anniversary, which we did, and Greece did not disappoint.
We were sitting in a little cafe, when I noticed this lady taking selfies at a rather extreme angle. I’m no photographer, but I’m guessing that holding a selfie stick down at your feet and smiling down into the camera would produce a picture comprised entirely of your face and the sky – at an unflattering angle.
The beauty of the Agean Sea was in front of her, the majestic cliffs of Santorini were behind her and there she was, snapping photos of the inside of her nostrils with some uneventful clouds overhead.
That image is not unlike what it was like if we place our lives at the centre of biblical interpretation.
The orthodox view of scripture is that it is authoritative. Simply put, that means that the human authors actually meant something when the scriptures were written, and the Spirit of God superintended their writings. While the scriptures were written by fallible men, every word those fallible men wrote was directed, God breathed and therefore infallible in the original manuscripts.
The modern view of scripture denies that scripture is authoritative. Instead, liberal interpretations stem from the idea that scripture finds it’s meaning as we assign it based on our life, our culture, our values and our ideologies. In essence, this interpretive lens is a theological selfie. We tell the bible what it means, based on our myopic, human wisdom.
Historical literary criticism reveals that the scriptures were comprised by approximately 40 authors who wrote 66 books over multiple generations, spanning multiple cultures, all of which miraculously coheres and culminates in a redemptive epic surrounding the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Christ Himself is the key that opens the scriptures, our eyes and our hearts.
In Luke 24, we find the account on the Emmaus Road, in which Jesus explicitly reveals that all the scriptures are about Him, His life & His purpose – not ours. Verse 27 reads, “and beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
The bible breaks down a little like this:
Genesis – Malachi: anticipates Christ
Matthew – Revelation: presents and interprets Christ
This is not to say that God does not care about the details of our lives or that the bible doesn’t speak to how we live our lives. He does and it does. Matthew 10:30 tells us that God knows how many hairs are on our heads. The God of the Christian faith is both transcendent and immanent. God reveals Himself fully in Jesus Christ. He is both powerful and personal.
However, like Christ’s disciples on the Emmaus Road, we have a tendency to interpret God’s plan through the lens of our needs at any given moment. The disciples lived their lives under the pressure and trials of Rome, so it was natural to think that God’s plan was to resolve their immediate problem. We all live our lives with various pressures and trials so it’s natural for us to think that God’s plan is to resolve our immediate problem.
While God cares deeply about our lives because we are His children, the scriptures reveal time and time again, that while God does not always save His children from suffering, He always saves us through suffering and in the end, with Christ’s return, will eradicate all suffering .
More often than I think we even realize, we want a ‘god’ who will agree with us and answer our prayers in the way we want, on the timeline we want. We don’t want a God to worship as much as we are interested in a cosmic butler who will give us what we really want out of life: comfort.
As Jesus opened the scriptures for a few hours during the walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus, He revealed that God was up to something much bigger than their political agenda – God had an eternal agenda.
The primary theme of all scripture is Christ’s substitution by God’s rescuing grace. Therefore, the life we live by God’s reforming grace is the secondary theme that flows naturally from the first.
Thus when we open the scriptures, we must open them as Christ opened them.
Our hearts are not engendered to keep God’s law by being fed more law. Rather, the hearts of our churches and our children are engendered to keep God’s law by being invigorated by God’s gospel.
Yes, Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” in John 14:15, but this is not a divine guilt trip. In context, the entire chapter reveals that Jesus is actually describing what a heart that loves Him will do.
If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments. Imperfectly because we’re sinners, but increasingly because we’re united to Him, called saints and we love Him.
Jesus isn’t coldly prescribing what His disciples must do, He’s describing what the hearts of all His disciples, set free by His grace will actually want to do.
The scriptures clearly reveal that when our hearts are gripped by God’s grace, we will increasingly aim to live to His glory by His grace. Therefore, as revealed in Luke 24, it is the gospel of grace in Christ that opens the scriptures, our hearts and our eyes – propelling the desire to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
At the time of this writing, there are a number of books on amazon.ca dedicated to a variety of issues that we all face. There are 390,801 books under the category of relationships, 133,591 on leadership, 707,774 on finances, 146,534 on parenting, 426,024 on self help and a whopping 1,840,439 dedicated to business.
It is very likely that scores of those books contain great wisdom that would help us all be better spouses, parents, employees, employers, friends, and all around positive people in our communities. After all, God gave those authors the wisdom and gifts they are using in their respective fields by His common grace. The scriptures revolve around His saving grace.
While the bible contains wisdom that affects and informs how we approach all those things, the bible is not primarily about any of those things.
God’s law propels human flourishing if it is followed. The scriptures are loaded with wisdom literature that benefits our relationships, affirms that we should do mercy and justice in our cities and informs how we can have integrity in our vocations. The bible provides us with a host of beneficial morals and ethics, yet …
… the bible is ultimately about God’s redemptive plan through Jesus Christ to take everything that is broken in this world because of sin and restore it by His grace.
If the grace of Christ is not the heartbeat of my weekly sermons, the heartbeat of our family dinner table convos, or the heartbeat behind our scripture reading and meditation, we’ll reduce the bible to being just one more helpful book available on amazon.ca.
Like the woman on the beach who zoomed in on her own nostrils and missed the greatness that surrounded her, we will miss the majesty of grace and rob ourselves of the power of the gospel.
The bible starts with a wedding in a garden and it ends with a wedding in a city. Everything in between is grace on display as the greatest Wedding Planner in the universe spares no expense to get us to the church on time by His blood sweat and tears.
“They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” ~ Luke 24:32
It’s hearing a little more about Him, Sunday after Sunday that ignites our hearts.