Mel Lawrenz is Minister at Large for Elmbrook Church and the creator of The Brook Network.
(Now that our Christmas series is done, we come back to weekly lessons on “How to Live the Bible.” Today we review some of the main points we’ve covered in the last year.)
To “live the Bible” means continual life transformation through the work of the Holy Spirit using the implanted word of God. In this series we are probing how we can develop a biblical mindset, worldview, attitude, and instincts that lead us to right living and effective witness. Our major themes include law, love, ethics, theological structure, biblical mindset, sins and vices, righteousness and virtues, and more.
Living the Bible is not about worshiping a book. It is about having the word of the living God—in Christ and in Scripture—go in deep, and make us different.
Living the Bible is about gaining a grasp of reality, and living in that reality at all times, including the unpleasant truths.
What role does “the Law” of the Old Testament have in living the Bible? Scripture does not contain laws so that we can read them and simply obey them, and so live good and right lives. Sin has a crippling effect. We need God’s grace and power to carry us toward righteousness. We need to be freed from the curse of sin and freed toward life in the Spirit, which is how obedience is possible.
The Bible speaks of an inner voice or awareness that can guide us toward what is good and righteous. Conscience is an inner awareness about the rightness or wrongness of our thoughts, words, and deeds. The conscience is where the commands of God and love and faith converge: “the goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience, and a sincere faith” (1 Tim. 1:5). But like everything else about us, the conscience is fallible. It is possible to have a “weak conscience” (1 Cor. 8:7, 10). The conscience can be “defiled” (Tit. 1:5). Worse, it can be “seared” (1 Tim. 4:2), meaning that all its sensitivity is deadened. That is why we need to be continually exposed to the truth of God’s word. The conscience needs training.
We live in an age of information overload. So we need to make sure the word of God is being planted deeply within us. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:22-25)
People often say they want to “hear the voice of God” in their lives. Or they wonder why it seems like God is silent. The Scriptures are indeed the voice, “the word,” of God. When we suffer it may see like God is silent. Jesus said from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46)
But, in fact, God is not silent. Psalm 19 says that creation itself is declaring the glory of God which Paul in Romans 1 amplifies by saying God’s existence and invisible attributes are clearly understood through the creation. We call this general revelation. Special revelation is the loud and clear voice of God through the words of the prophets and the apostles, the Scriptures. And Jesus himself, the Word, is God’s special revelation, the strong and pure voice of God. The actual words of Jesus echo through the centuries. They shape culture and transform lives. Through the word of God in the Scriptures we gain “the mind of Christ” (1 For. 2:16), the “wisdom from above” (James 3:17), and “Spirit-taught words” (1 Cor. 2:13). This revelation, which took place over thousands of years, covers every significant life circumstance. God’s voice in the Scriptures is specific and concrete. It is loud and precise and good.
Living the Bible involves growing in wisdom and discernment.
What is wisdom? Both a special gift from God and a personal skill that is developed over time, wisdom is deep insight into the true nature of things, including their moral value, and the integrity to act on that insight. Wisdom is not different from knowledge, but is more than knowledge—like the difference between knowing about your spouse and knowing your spouse. The Bible is a book full of wisdom, and it teaches that God wants every person to grow in wisdom. This is the highest form of “living the Bible”—to grow deeper and deeper in wisdom, to gain “the wisdom from above” (James 3:17), and “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Then our life choices small and large are good and right because they have been regulated by the moral quality that is at the heart of God’s wisdom.