Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Bible Texts We Ignore

Let’s face it. We turn a blind eye to texts that confuse us or refute our beliefs. Some texts are hard, not because they are saying something we can’t understand, we think them hard because they don’t fit our pre-molded interpretation. They are difficult to press into our systematic theology. So we hasten past them in our Bible study hearing more of a “yada-yada-yada” instead of the actual words.

But the Bible says some pretty plain and offensive stuff. The Bible doesn’t always clearly present our church’s position on doctrine. Texts that explicitly refute our dearly held convictions cause us to go into theological panic attacks when they are forced beneath our eyes. Time for us to do some courageous looking.

Hebrews 12: 4-17

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

At Gethsemane, Jesus strove so hard against temptation that great drops of blood flowed from his skin. He sweat blood. Here, the author of Hebrews is telling us that in our struggle to obey even amidst a flood of seemingly irresistible temptation, that we should not think ourselves doing something great. Until we have done what Christ did and have come to the point of shedding our blood in fighting the Devil, we should not think we have done enough. Time to get very honest with ourselves and confront our temptations. Are we doing what is necessary to empower ourselves with God’s grace so that we may resist it?

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

Ouch! Who wants to read this.... ? Discipline, punishment from God? Not so politically correct....

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Way....way.... wait...

We have been told to sit back, relax all we need is faith and nothing else matters.

if righteousness is imputed, covering us rather than actually changing us, why would we need discipline? This text doesn’t fit with that theological worldview.

The inspired author is telling us that we are being trained for holiness and righteousness. And it seems to entail rebukes and punishment.

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

Gulp. You meant, Mr. author-of-Hebrews, that Jesus makes the effort, not me, right? That it is His holiness I access by my faith and I don’t need actual holiness to see the Lord, correct?

Unfortunately, the author is telling us to have courage, be strong and be healed! WE are to “make every effort” to be holy and that without holiness, we will not be able to stand before a Holy God. Holiness is mandatory. And it is the reader who is admonished to endeavor for righteousness, for why even bring it up if it is a passive gift? The author would be expressing the joy and comfort of Christ’s efforts and not ours if we had nothing to do but be at ease and appreciate what Jesus did for us.

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.

How does this fit in with the doctrine of Sola Fide or faith alone? This doesn’t really sound like the God I was presented in my years of listening to a Baptist Ph.D apologist and expositor of the faith (in church).

God does have some expectations of us, who have given ourselves in submission to Him. Not that we are earning salvation, far from it. But once we have entered the Kingdom of Heaven, there is some tough love awaiting us in the form of discipline from Our Father.

The good news is that, if we could see the end from the beginning, we would see the brilliance of Holiness and eagerly submit to His merciful grace through discipline. He promises that, even though it will hurt for a moment, the righteousness we gain is eternal.

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