Friday, November 7, 2014

The Scriptures are not a replacement for God

The following is an excerpt from our book, "Rethinking the unthinkable in the light of Love"

There is a very real danger in replacing God with the Bible.  Instead of seeing God as speaking to us through the Bible, we honor and revere the Bible as having some sort of mystical power in and of itself.  For many Christians, the teaching of the Holy Spirit has been replaced with the Bible.  Many believe God does not speak to Christians personally today, but can only have their hearts “illuminated” as they read the scriptures.  In these circles(and we have been part of them in the past), God is not seen as active or involved personally and relationally in our reading of and application of the scripture.  God is seen as simply setting a ball rolling by having the scriptures written and now just sits back and watches from a distance.  In this type of mindset, a close communion type of relationship with God is not attainable. Christians are taught all they need to do is read their bibles and do what it says (in their own strength and with much striving of course).

 A parable of three families
To illustrate three different approaches to the scriptures, we would like to illustrate with a parable of three families and how they responded to a letter the Father wrote to them before embarking on a long business trip.  The families each live on small farms, and there are many areas of responsibility, including feeding animals, bringing in crops, tending a garden, and maintaining the beauty of the property.  In the letter were specific things the Father wanted his family to do in his absence, and many reminders of how much he loves them and looks forward to seeing them upon his return. 

The studious family
As the Father is nearing his home after the completion of the business trip, he is excitedly anticipating the time he will be spending with his family very soon.  Oh, how he is longing to wrap his wife and children in his loving arms and hear about everything that has happened since he left.  However, as he nears his home, he begins to discover that his household and farm are in shambles.  Most of the animals are dead, and the garden is full of weeds from neglect.  Not a single member of his family hears him arriving as he enters the driveway in his car.  In fact, it almost seems his family has forgotten about him.  Sadly, the father hears unkind words being spoken in the house as he walks up to the door.  After coming into his home and greeting his family, the Father sits down in a chair to spend some quality time with them.  However, no-one seems to be interested in him.  They are all too busy studying pieces of paper.  The Father asks his son, Paul, “What are you examining?”  Paul responds, “I am studying part of your letter, of course!  Isn’t that what you wanted us to do!  It says right here, ‘Study to show yourself approved’…”   As the day proceeds, he realizes that not one member of his family is interested in spending time with him, either to hear how his trip went, or to share with him about their lives.  As evening approaches, the Father realizes he must have a family meeting.  As the Father sits down with his family to talk to them, first and foremost he asks, “Why haven’t you been doing the things I wrote to you in the letter”?  His oldest daughter, Sally, pipes up, “But Father, we have been studying the letter every day very diligently.  In fact, mother brought out your letter each morning and read it aloud to us before we started each day.”  The youngest son, Billy, chimes in, “Yeah, and mother has been having us memorize sections of the letter.  In fact, we can even recite some of it to for you now if you would like”.  The Father begins to respond, “I don’t think that will be necessary right now…”, when Sally interrupts, blurting out, “oh yes, and we also have been doing some in-depth, inductive studies of your letter. We have been analyzing carefully the words you chose, and how the sentences are structured.”  The Father interrupts his daughter, responding.  “Yes, that is all very interesting, but my main question is, why didn’t you do any of the things I wrote to you?!?” “If you really knew me, you would have done the things I asked, and you would have known that the purpose of the letter was not just for study, but to encourage you to be the family I want us to be.  To love one another, to steward what has been given to us, and to be a light to the world.  Most importantly, I wanted you to get to know me better so the letter would make more sense.  I see that I will need to do some more training to help you understand the original purpose for what I wrote.” He paused and then continued, “Didn’t my friend come to you as I promised in the letter.  I told you he would come and help you, and teach you many things.”  His wife responds, “Oh, yes, we did see a man who came to the door and introduced himself as your friend, but we did not recognize him and he spoke strangely so we sent him away.”

The industrious, meticulous family
This family is well-known in their town as a very industrious and hard-working family.  When the father returns from his business trip, he finds that certain areas of his farm are prospering and there is an appearance of beauty, but he realizes something is dreadfully wrong as he gets out of his car and begins walking up the sidewalk toward his home.  He is surprised and saddened that not a single member of his family greets him.  He had been looking forward to spending time with them, and had missed them so very much while he was away.  Although he attempts to call them by name and ask how they are doing, each of them is hard at work, heads down, focusing very diligently upon their tasks.  Sadly, they don’t even seem to realize he is there.  As the father proceeds up the sidewalk, he stops to talk to his second oldest son, Jimmy, who is hard at work cutting the lawn with a pair of scissors.  The father asks him what he is doing, and Jimmy explains, “I am mowing the lawn, of course.  In fact, I have hardly taken a break to even eat or sleep since you left, father.  All I have done is cut this lawn since you left.  Doesn’t it look beautiful, aren’t you proud of the great job I’m doing?”  The Father responds, “Um, yes, I am proud of you, son, but there is an easier way, and you could have done so much more if you had understood my instructions better…”  Jimmy’s eyes glaze over, he stops listening, and returns to his work, so the father proceeds toward the garden.  Upon arriving at the garden, he finds his oldest daughter, Jill, hard at work pulling weeds.  He asks what she is doing, and she replies, “I am pulling weeds, Father.”  The father responds, “Yes, I can see that, but why aren’t there any vegetables planted in the garden?”  Jill exclaims in surprise, “I didn’t know you wanted vegetables in the garden, I just thought it was supposed to be kept weed-free.”  By this point, not much would surprise the father, but he was about to be shocked.  He hears a small engine sound coming from the back field, so when he walks behind the barn, he is surprised to see his middle son, John, mowing the back 40 acres with a push-mower!  It appears that he has been working on it for a very long time, and only a small portion of the field had been mown.  Shaking his head, the father walks back to his house to see how his wife is doing, who is in the middle of cleaning the kitchen with a toothbrush.  His heart aches to spend time with his family, but they are all too busy working. As he sits down to ponder the situation, he can’t help but notice that even though much of the farm appears to be beautiful, there is no fruit!  Later, he discovers that all the animals had to be sold because no wheat or corn had been harvested for them to be fed.  His bank account is in ruins and debt is piling up rather quickly.  That evening, the Father sits down to talk with his family about what he is observing. He starts out by saying, “Much of what you have been doing has produced somewhat of an outward appearance of beauty, but you are working much too hard on the wrong things, with very little fruit or life.  The things I wrote to you in the letter were not meant to be kept meticulously, it wasn’t meant to be a set of rules for you to keep in order to maintain a polished appearance on the outside.  Besides, you only did certain things I wrote to you about, and completely ignored other parts. Did you not ask help from my friend I had promised would come in the letter.”  His wife responds,  “Yes, your friend did come, but we were too busy trying to do what you had written.  We didn’t think we needed any help, we thought we could figure it out, so we sent him away.  We thought you would be so proud of us, but we realize now how much we missed.”  “Yes”, the Father sadly responds, “Things would have been much different if you had received help from my friend and let him teach you what I really wanted. You did some good things, but you missed my heart.”

 The Spirit led family
As the father of this family arrives at the driveway to his home, he exclaims to himself, “Wow, this farm is so much more beautiful than when I left it.  It looks like the garden of Eden!  The crops have just been harvested, the animals look fat and happy, and the fruit trees are filled with fruit.”  He didn’t have much time to observe though, because his wife and children were all running down the road to greet him!  He couldn’t even finish driving up the driveway.  As he opened the door of his car,  he was greeted warmly with hugs and kisses from his children, eager to welcome their father home.  “Oh, how we missed you, daddy!”, they exclaimed.  As he takes his wife in his arms and gives her a big kiss, he exclaims, “It is so good to be home!!  Oh how I missed you! My family looks healthier and more beautiful than when I left!  And what an amazing job you have done with the farm, it is truly prospering and overflowing with love and life!”  That evening, when the father sits down with his family to spend time with them, he starts out by saying,  “I assume you met my friend, Yloh Tirips, from Japan, whom I sent to you to teach you and help you understand the things I wrote to you in my letter.”  The oldest son, Jack, responds, “Oh yes, it would have been impossible to take care of this farm without him.  When Yloh Tirips introduced himself to us, we at first couldn’t understand him very well since he spoke a strange language to us, but we could see that he was very earnest and appeared trustworthy. Also, since you had promised he would come in your letter, we believed you since you have never led us astray in the past.”  The oldest daughter, Jane, spoke up, “After we began to understand the language Yloh Tirips was speaking, he taught us how to see the things you had written in the letter from the perspective of your heart of love, Father.  We didn’t see the things you wrote as burdensome, but we found great joy as we worked alongside Yloh Tirips and he taught us.  One of the first things he showed us were all the tools you had left us to do jobs around the farm.  No sense working harder than we have to, right?”  Jane proceeded, “We found instructions for using the riding lawn-mower to cut the lawn, the roto-tiller to weed the garden, and the tractor to help us plant and harvest the fields.  If we had to do all that by hand, we would be burned out by now!” “We also learned that what you truly want are overflowing love and fruitfulness, not just keeping the farm looking good.”  The youngest child, Billy, piped up, “We were also excited about the cell-phone you left us, Father.” Yloh Tirips showed us where it was and how to turn it on so we could talk to you and discover exactly how you wanted certain things done, or to help us solve problems we encountered.”  “Oh, Yes,” the Father replied, “I enjoyed receiving those phone calls, spending time talking with you, and responding to your questions.  I was never far from you since we could communicate anytime you wanted.  I am so proud of you all, well done!  Let’s celebrate by killing one of those fattened calves I saw in the field!”

 Only the third family knew what the Father really wanted, and only with the help of Yloh Tirips(Holy Spirit), did they discover how to do what he wanted done and how to interpret and apply the letter properly.  You see, we can’t get to know the Father and understand his heart by simply reading the scriptures, studying them, and trying to do all the things contained in them in our own strength.  The Father wants us to grow in a relationship with him personally.  We can’t know the Father by just reading about him.  We must come to know him through the Holy Spirit, by spending time with him, and by growing in relationship with other believers who also know him.