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The Word that Changes Us

P1010427_edited-1_SnapseedWhat comes to mind when we hear “the word of God” or “the word of truth”?

1.  God’s word of provision behind every good gift (Deut 8:3)

2.  A living and eternal Person  (John 1:1-3)

3.  The good news of what the living Christ did and does for us (Eph 1:13) (Eph 5:25-26) (Eph 6:17) (Heb 4:12-16)

Or, by contrast, are we inclined to think first, and maybe even primarily, of the inspired Scriptures as the Word of God?

Am guessing we’d agree that the Old and New Testaments  exist as an inspired witness to the ultimate, living, and eternal Word and Son of God—who turns out to be our Creator, Sustainer, Savior, King, Lord, and Judge.

The distinction doesn’t seem small. Neither does it seem merely theoretical. According to the Apostle Paul, the written letter of the law can kill. The Spirit gives life. The Lord is the Spirit. And the Scriptures exist as a witness to him (2Cor 3:1-18).

Am wondering whether you have noticed that when a  conversation turns around Christ, i.e. what he says about the Father, i.e. what the Scriptures and our own circumstances say about our need of him, and i.e. how we are learning to read the whole Bible in light of what he has done for us…that our words are more inclined to be…  full of grace.


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47 Responses to “The Word that Changes Us”

  1. Bill says:

    Good Morning Mart and Everyone!

    This is another insightful, potentially life-changing post.

    Here’s why:

    Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”(Matthew 24:35 ESV)

    At face value, that statement is false – IF we consider his words to be contained in and/or represented by the Bible. Because, obviously, when “heaven and earth…pass away” everything will be gone. That includes books. The Bible is a book. Therefore, Bibles will pass away.

    What does Jesus’ statement mean, then?

    It means what he considers his words are not necessarily contained in the Bible.

    Words *are* in the Bible, yes. They are God-breathed words:

    “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”(2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

    Very important.

    But are they the word of God?

    I don’t think so.

    John 14:6 tells us:

    “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”(ESV)

    John 1:1-2 tells us:

    “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (ESV)

    The scripture does not say, “the Bible is the way, the truth, and the life.” It does not say adherence to or reverence for the Bible in any way gets us into heaven. In addition, the Bible does not say “The Bible was with God.”

    So what is the Bible, then?

    There’s a famous Zen saying, “The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon.”

    Did you ever point to something and ask your pet to see what you’re pointing to? Cats, especially. You can point to something you want your cat to see all day long and say, “Look. There it is” and the cat will just stare at you. Or, at best, at your finger.

    Even dogs are prone to this. And small human beings. Point to something and they’ll just blink at you. Or look at your finger. Rarely, do animals and tiny humans follow your finger to see to what it’s pointing.

    I think that’s what the Bible is – the finger pointing to the moon. It is not the moon.

    Jesus is the moon.

    Jesus is the living embodiment of everything in the Bible. So, even when the Bible itself passes away, his words will still exist because he will still exist.

    In Zen culture, when the “finger” is understood (in this case, the finger is the Buddhist sutras, the teachings), they are set aside and embodied, not constantly referred to. For us, that would mean we glean what’s in the Bible, digest it, make it part of our lives, and then embody it, not constantly referring to it as if it IS the word of God, rather than that to which it points – Jesus.

    Christian Smith wrote a book called “The Bible Made Impossible” in which he makes the case that Evangelicals have replaced Jesus with the Bible and are now, in effect, worshiping the Bible, holding it in greater reference than that to which it points. (Or, more accurately, than whom to which it points.)

    I believe this is what happened to Christianity over the decades. The “moon” has been overshadowed by the finger. We try to glean from the Bible something it was never intended to provide. We use it in ways it never asked to be used.

    I believe this is why some hardline Christian authors and teachers (and seminaries and theologies and doctrines, etc.), try to stamp out anything and everything that isn’t found in the Bible – especially when it comes to matters of the spirit. If the words aren’t there to allow it, then it must be false or wrong. If an action or attitude cannot be justified by scripture, then it must be sin.

    For example, battered wives. How many times have hardline Christians told wives in abusive homes to stay put because divorce was wrong?

    Sounds crazy, I know. But blind obedience to the words on the page of a book trumped common sense and even the leaning of the spirit of God in so many instances like that. And people suffered because of it.

    How many other issues of today are we treating as the finger? I can think of several.

    I think there’s a great deal missing from the church today. For example, mysticism, contemplativeness, and the wisdom to know that the Bible is not meant to be worshiped.

    Somehow, we’ve allowed the black-and-white words on the pages of a book replace the “moon” in our lives.

    One of the greatest examples of that is the King James Only controversy. You’ve probably heard of the King James Only controversy. It’s when some authors and denominations believe only the King James Version of the Bible is the actual, inerrant word of God. All other versions are sinful, evil, and misleading. They are false Bibles.

    If you believe the word of God is contained in black-on-white words in a book, then the King James Only controversy makes a little sense. It seems plausible. But further scrutiny and the application of a modicum of logic quickly tells us that’s a spurious argument for many, many reasons.

    Yet, the King James Only controversy is the ultimate example that we’ve missed the point of the Bible, and that Christian Smith is correct.

    NOTE: I don’t intend any of you to believe what I just wrote in this post. It is not my job or place to tell you how to live your Christian lives. I’m just sharing years of research, reading, observing, and deeply thinking about the matter. My conclusions may not be yours. And that’s okay. I’m not you, and vice versa.

    For the past few years, I’ve tried to live my life thinking the Bible is the finger, and that Jesus is the moon to which it points.

    And that, to borrow Robert Frost’s words, has made all the difference.

    Love to All,

    Bill

  • remarutho says:

    Good Morning All —

    Thank-you for the Scriptural reminders that in Jesus the veil that hid the face of the mediator Moses has now been removed. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life! It is not a fond memory of Christ that delivers us from the darkness of a fallen world — it is God’s presence in the blessed Holy Spirit, as much the presence of God as Jesus of Nazareth. As you quoted, Mart:

    “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,” (Eph 1:13)

    So, much more than any prophet, seer, guide or teacher, Jesus keeps the promise he made to the disciples then (and now):

    “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” (closing remarks, Gospel of Matthew)

    Blessings,
    Maru