Tag Archives: Holy Spirit

The only way to truly fulfill your longings – First Sunday of Advent 2019, Part 5

5 Dec
Photo by Alex Ivashenko on Unsplash

Have you ever thoughts that you be so happy if you hit the lottery? I have. I have dreamed of how I would spend the money. It sounds so freeing. I would be free from debt. My kids would have no college debt. I get excited just typing it. Many of us can feel that way, can’t we? We are convinced we will be happy if we get a surprise inheritance, or if we get the latest new iPhone for Christmas, or if our favorite sports team wins the big game, or if that guy asks us out on a date, or if we ask a girl and she says Yes, or if we get a house, or…you fill in the blank.  Those longings are strong, and we have convinced ourselves that if those longings are satisfied, they will make us happy.  But it does seem that every Christmas we have a new Christmas list. So we continue to long for more.  That thing we had to have last year, it very quickly lost its satisfaction.  So it might sound off to hear Paul saying in Galatians 2, which we have been studying in the series (starting here) that we need to die to ourselves and live life 100% by faith in Christ, so that his life becomes our passion.  Of course it will sound off when we have lived, even as Christians, for so long in a world of competing longings, or if we have lived a Christianity that is focused on rule-following.  So even if I haven’t convinced you, let’s at least take some time to consider the possibility that when our longings line up with Jesus’, then we can experience a deep happiness.

The longings within us are real and often strong.  Desire is not inherently evil.  We all have desire.  But if our primary desire is not for Jesus and his heart, then our desires will be skewed. 

How then, do we line up our longings with Jesus in our minute by minute daily lives?  How do we actually die to our longings, and allow Jesus’ longings to become ours?  Do we just pray all the time?  But what about work, eating, sleeping? 

If what I’m talking about is correct, that we experience deep happiness when our longings line up with Jesus, then we will have to learn to long for Jesus in all the hours we spend at work, standing in front of our classrooms if you are a teacher, or sitting at your seat if you are a student, folding laundry, making dinner, and when we are on our phones, or watching TV, on scrolling through social media. No matter what we do in life, we will need to learn to align our longings, moment by moment, with Jesus. But how does that alignment happen?

I’d like to suggest that increasing our longing for Jesus will almost certainly not happen all at once, like a miraculous total change.  It can happen that way, but I would suggest that is rare and we shouldn’t expect it.  Rather, observe the life of Jesus who had a habit of longing for God.  He so often practiced it away from the crowds, behind the scenes, alone, sometimes in the middle of the night or early in the morning.  Considering that he practiced it though he himself was God, certainly we who are humans should practice as well. What we notice then, of Jesus, is that his behind-the-scenes practice empowered him to live a God-filled life.    

Later in Galatians 5, Paul will say that Christians should walk in step with the Spirit.  God’s Spirit, as Paul said in another letter, 1st Corinthians, chapter 6, is living in you.  Some of us barely recognize the Spirit in us.  Some of us might even be afraid of the Spirit, wondering if it means we’ll speak in tongues or something.  Some of us have no idea what it means that the Spirit is within us, or how to walk in step with the Spirit.  But clearly for Jesus (as we will see later in our Advent sermons when we study John 14, it is vital that we Christians understand that his Spirit lives in us).  Paul is saying the same thing here.  I suspect that many ofus can go for long periods of time with little to no interaction with the Holy Spirit in our lives. 

But when we learn to walk in step with the Spirit, our longings become his longings, and his longings become our longings.  So how do you walk in step with the Spirit?  Well, consider this: How do you learn about the ways that a favorite sports team moves and what plays they make?  How do you learn what your child is like?  How do you learn what your friends like to do?  Time.  We give time to watching how our sports teams interact with other teams.  We give time and attention to our child, our friends, etc. We will not be able to learn how to walk in step with the Spirit if we do not spend time and attention to the ways of Jesus.  We long for where our hearts lies.  What we are willing to sacrifice for shows us what we long for.  Therefore, take time to study Jesus.  Read his word.  Talk with him.  Sit still and listen for him.  Meet with others who you think do this well.  Be humble as you learn.  And watch your longing for him increase, and your heart be transformed.    

The result Paul says is that the Fruit of the Spirit flowing from your life.

How you speak.  With kindness and patience.  

How you care for people. With love and goodness.

How you live.  With gentleness.  With joy. 

So let’s make this Advent a season of longing for Jesus! What is one way that you can free up time, even if it is 15 minutes to spend more time with Jesus, getting to know his Spirit in your life? 

Make a commitment to it for the next four weeks.  Tell it to someone you trust.  Ask them to check in you!  And get ready to watch God transform your longings to be in line with his.

How Christian freedom should not lead Christians to behave badly – First Sunday of Advent 2019, Part 4

5 Dec
Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

Have you ever heard Christians say that if churches or Christian institutions don’t have rules and regulations, people will go off the rails leading to anarchy?  So if we want to be good Christians, they say, then we should be making new rules, like the ones in the previous post: no wearing lipstick or smoking a pipe.

As we continue our study through Galatians 2, Paul says, “Wait a minute, that’s not true.  Jesus doesn’t promote sin.”  Consider what Paul says in verse 17.  When we look at our lives, even after placing our faith in Christ, do we see that we sin, doing things that do not honor God, whether that be in word, thought or deed?  My guess is that all Christians should be answering, “Yes,” because we still do things that dishonor God, right? So does the fact that there are Christians who trust in God’s grace, but still sin, mean Jesus promotes sin?  It could seem like it, right?  Shouldn’t Christians be the ones who don’t sin? Maybe what is needed is a new Christian law code, to help us stop sinning?

In verse 18 Paul says that if he rebuilds the law, it will result in him becoming a lawbreaker.  But he has not rebuilt the law.  That is not what the good news of Jesus is all about, it is not about making a new law code. 

Instead Paul says in verse 19, that he died to the law, that he might live for God.  Do you hear that?  Christians are those who live for God.  So how does that work?  Those of you who have ever felt those first pangs of being in love, could it be said that you were living for that person?  Did you plan out your day so you could interact with them?  Did you see things and wonder, “Would they like that?”  Or “What would they think of this idea?” Those are evidences of living for another.  In like manner, we are to be living for God.  Not checking off our adherence to rules and regulations.  Living for him, loving him and his ways, and knowing that his ways are made and created out of his heart’s desire for our very best.

Paul’s teaching reaches its high point in verse 20.  This is a powerful verse, and one that I encourage you to memorize.  Let’s look at it closely. 

The first line is, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live.”  A Christian is a person who so identifies with Christ that we see ourselves as crucified with him.  It’s like Jesus himself once said, “If you want to be my disciples you must die to yourself.”  That’s what Paul is getting at here.  We die to ourselves, to our desires, to our longings.  In fact, there is a sense, Paul says, that we no longer live.  Our desires and longings are dead. 

That might sound harsh or wrong.  Isn’t it OK to have desires?  Well, Paul goes on and says something that speaks to this.  

Look at the next phrase: “but Christ lives in me.”  Our desires, our longings are replaced by a whole new kind of life that is now energizing us.  Jesus’ life is in us.  That’s wild.  And a tad weird. Think about it: don’t Christians believe that Jesus is a person with a body? Yes, we do. So how is a person inside billions of other people?  To answer that we need to remember what Jesus himself taught. In places like John 14, he said that when he would leave his disciples, he would send his Spirit to live with them.  That is how he lives in us.  By his Spirit.  The Spirit of Jesus lives in us, and that is astounding.  God is within us!  

That gives Paul reason to keep thinking about the ramifications of this.  He says next that “the life I live in the body, I lives by faith in the Son of God.”  Paul’s longing is for Christ and Christ only.  He wants a life that is marked by faith in Jesus.  Do you see what Paul has done here?  He has taught us that Christians will replace their longings with faith in Jesus.  The more we love and know Jesus the more our hearts will beat like his, our eyes will see things as Jesus does, and our longings will be what Jesus’s are.

There is incredibly good reason for this, as we see in his final phrase: “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in God…” In other words we can replace our longings with his longings, and we can do this with full confidence in him because, “…he loved me and gave himself for me.”  

Everything Paul has said in Galatians 2:20 is rooted in God’s love for us.  God’s love for us is an all-encompassing, total kind of love that we could never fully describe or explain.  It is so rich.  It never fails.  Because of that we can make his longings our longings.  When we do so, we can and will find satisfaction in him.

Just dwell on that verse.  Let me read it again.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Isn’t that a beautiful concept?  What Paul unearths for us is the true satisfaction of longing.  In comparison to all we long for, even good longings like peace and happiness, there is a deeper satisfaction that must come first, Paul says, and that is a longing for Jesus.

Clearly then, when God is living in us by his Spirit, and our longings are aligned with his, we do not need a law code. Our lives will more and more resemble his!

How to pray in the Spirit – Jude 17-25, Part 3

2 Oct
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

What is prayer like for you? Do you spend much time praying? And when you pray, what do you actually do? How much do you talk? How much do you listen?

As we continue our series through Jude 17-25, we’re learning how to be ready for Jesus to return, and the next practice Jude teaches is in verse 20: we should pray in the Holy Spirit.

One author I read says this: “The person who has the Spirit of God within him (that is to say, every Christian), the person who is led by the Holy Spirit in his prayers as in all else, will certainly pray in the Spirit. It is he who utters within us the distinctive Christian address to God as ‘Abba’ or ‘Father’ (Rom. 8:15).”[1]

So how do we pray in the Holy Spirit?  Be observant about the Spirit’s work in your life.  Learn to listen to him, which is not always natural or easy, but can take practice.  It means opening up space in our life to listen.  For me I have been convicted about this recently, and I have been using Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God” as a guide.  I’ll set a timer for 10 minutes, and just be still, and think about God. I ask him how he is doing.  I try to avoid telling him how I’m doing, what I want, and instead listen. 

Listening means learning to be observant.  At our sermon roundtable one person told the story of a medical school professor who brought a cup on urine to class.  He held it up to the class, explained that it was urine, dipped his finger in it, and then sucked on a finger.  The students were disgusted.  But then the prof said that a major hurdle they need to get over is being repulsed by bodily fluids, or they won’t make it in the medical profession.  So he passed the urine sample around class asking students to smell it and taste it.  There were many grimaces and laughter as the urine went around class, wrinkling noses and souring their tongues.  But then when the urine made its way back to the prof, he revealed he had dipped his pointer finger in the urine and sucked on his middle finger.  He said that what he really wanted to teach them was observation.  They would have known what he did if they were paying close attention.  Observation is vital in any situation, and likewise as we listen for God’s Spirit to speak.  So Jude reminds us to pray in the Spirit, and that means we need to spend time observing how God might be at work, or might be speaking to us. 

Also another excellent way to pray in the Spirit is to pray the scripture in your prayers.  That starts with reading and thinking about a section of the Bible, asking the Spirit to help you understand it.  In 1 Corinthians 2:12 Paul says that we have the Spirit of God within us to help us understand what he has given us.  Also, as we read a section of Scripture we can pray that the Spirit can help us apply it to our life.

This takes time, space, and practice. So how will you open up that space for quiet listening to God in your life?


[1] Michael Green, 2 Peter and Jude: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 18, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1987), 213.

God’s purpose for your life – Titus 3:1-8, Part 4

8 Aug
Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Stop! Don’t read this post. (I know. That’s not an advisable way to start a blog post.)

Before continuing with this post, thought, if you haven’t read the previous post, part 3, please go back and read it here. In this series of posts, we’re studying the amazing teaching of Titus 3:1-8, so actually, I would recommend you start with the first post. But at the very least, please take a few minutes and scan through part 3 in this series, as you need to have a grasp of the verses in Titus 3 that post covered in order to see the significance this one will cover.

What I talked about in the previous post relates to the next phrase in verses 5-6, “renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Paul has been teaching about the transformation that God works in our lives. Christians often call it salvation, and in that amazing gift of grace, Paul says, God pours the Holy Spirit into our lives, further causing renewal to take place.  That means God himself enters our lives to renew us.  I don’t know that I can understate how important that is. 

I get the sense that we need to think and contemplate an awful lot more on the fact that the Spirit of God has been poured out on us to renew us. 

In the midst of busy lives, of work, of sports, of Netflix, of TV, of all that you do, have you pushed the Spirit to some tiny corner of your lives?  Intellectually, I would agree the Spirit is with me.  But in the reality of my day to day life, to what degree do I have a relational connection with the Spirit?  If I’m honest, I rarely think about or attempt to interact with the Spirit.  How about you?  Because God is with us, by his Spirit, however, wouldn’t a deeper connection with the Spirit be something we should look into? 

But Paul is not done.  Look at verse 7.  His thought continues, and there is more incredible news.  All this amazing mercy and love and kindness of God, that saved us, washed us, and renewed us from an old way of life, is for a reason.  God has a purpose. 

Before telling us the purpose, Paul has one more important phrase to set the stage. 

Paul says, “Having been justified by his grace.”

“Justified” is a really important biblical theological word, rich in meaning.  Oftentimes scholars debate as to how we should understand it.  The word that Paul used has the idea of putting things in right relation, or making things right.  That’s what God does through Jesus.  He is making things right between us and God.  Another English word that might be an even better fit is “rectification.”  By his grace, God rectifies the situation, he makes it right. As we’ve already seen in the previous post, God makes us into new people, and earlier in this post, God generously pours his Spirit into our lives. God is at work making things right in our lives.

Why would God do this?  If it wasn’t because of anything we did, and it wasn’t, why would he do this?  As I said, he has a purpose.  Paul now puts it all together telling us why God’s kind, loving, merciful gracious salvation appeared into our darkness, saving us, transforming us, even to the point of pouring out his Spirit on us through Jesus.  Why would God do all that?  Why would Jesus go through the incredible 33 years of his birth, life, death and resurrection?

Paul tells us in verse 7: “so that we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” 

This is amazing good news! 

Paul is using family language here.  God wants us to be his heirs.  That means he wants to adopt us into his family.  This is exactly what he said in Titus 2:14, that he was making a people for himself.  God wants you to be in his family. Stop reading this post, and just dwell on that thought a minute. God wants you to be in his family. Do you know that? What do you think about that?

But wait, there’s more, Paul says! God also wants you to have the hope of eternal life.  As I said in the series of posts on Titus 2:11-15, though in that section Paul was teaching about good news in Jesus, he surprisingly didn’t talk about eternal life. He does now.  God wants us to have hope of new life with him now and for eternity. That’s how much God wants you to be in his family.

So look really closely at what God has done.  Into our mess, God appears and does a work of transformation, giving us the gift of himself, so that we can be a part of his family and have hope for eternal life.  That’s good, good news.  That’s worthy of jumping, shouting, cheering, praising, and getting on iMessage, Instagram, Facebook or your phone or walking around your neighborhood and saying, “People, do you realize what God has done???” Paul is describing the revolutionary work of God that is available to all: he wants you to become new, so that you can be a part of his family now and for eternity.

What is the Bible? [False ideas Christians believe about…the Bible. Part 2]

5 Mar

What is the Bible?

“Well, that’s obvious, Joel,” you might say, “the Bible is the Word of God.” 

Yes, that is the obvious answer, but it is not enough.  It is true that the Bible is the Word of God, but it also needs some explanation that we don’t normally think about.  As we saw in part 1 of this series fact-checking our beliefs about the Bible, there is another Word of God more ancient than the Bible. So how is the Bible also the Word of God?

Let me illustrate by asking another question: Where did the Bible come from?  Did it just drop out of sky, like a miraculous gift from God?

We Christians do not believe anything like that.  We have a very different belief about the Bible.  What is the Bible?

The Bible is actually not one book.  It is a library of books, written over a long period of time by many different people, all inspired by God. 

We Protestants believe that there are 66 books in the library we call the Bible, and those books were written by about 40 different people, over a period of what might be 1400 years. 

That’s quite a different image than a book just dropping out of the sky.  We do, however, believe God was very much involved.  Those human authors were inspired by God.  So what does it mean that they were inspired by God? 

Let’s look at some passages from the Bible that talk about this.

In 2 Peter 1:19-21, we read “Men spoke from God, as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”  So the writing of the Bible was not a human-only thing.  And it was also not a God-only creation. In the original language the word “carried along” is another one of those word pictures: the biblical writers were moved just like wind filling a sail.

This concept is very much reflected in 2 Timothy 3:16 where the Apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is God-breathed.”

These two verses describe the miraculous and mysterious process of inspiration.  It is a process where we believe that God was at work, communicating along with the unique perspectives, skills, experiences, languages and customs of the human writers.  This is very different from saying that a writer of songs was inspired.  Right now, for example, my favorite song is “No Longer Slaves.” I find it to be powerful, and I want to listen to it every day, multiple times each day.  I would say the writers of the song are inspired! But they are not inspired like the Bible is inspired.  We Christians believe that the Bible is unique in that God was involved in helping the human writers as they wrote.  He didn’t overpower them to the point where they became robots, shutting off their minds.  He worked with them.  It was a wonderful combination of creator and created working together to create something new. 

What we see, then, is that the Bible is a library of books, written by many different people over a period over a period of many years, inspired by God.  So when we say that the Bible is the Word of God, that’s what we mean, that God inspired human authors to write the various books.  In other words it is also very appropriate to say that the Bible is also the word of people.  Real people. 

We should never say that the Bible is only written by people, and we should never say that it is only written by God.  That’s why we fact-check the statement, “the Bible is the Word of God,” because there is more to the story…people were involved. And one of the most important ways that the human writers included their own personalities and interests was something called genre. We’ll look at how important genre is next in part 3.

How to hear God speak through the Bible

20 Oct

 

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Many people say they do not hear God.  Many others say they do hear God speak.  I believe them.  God speaks through dreams, visions, audible voices, etc.  I’m sometimes jealous of that because I do not believe I have ever heard God speak to me in an audible voice, or in a whisper in my mind, or in an inner impression.  But I have heard God speak extremely clearly through the Bible.  God speaks in many ways, and one is not better than the other.  They are unique and different.  A person who hears God speak one way should not say they are more close to God than a person who hears God speak a different way.  The point is that God does still speak!

All week long we have been talking about Sola Scriptura, trying to understand why it was so important to the Protestant Reformers.

One important misconception about Sola Scriptura is when people say that God speaks only through Scripture.  Is that what Sola Scriptura means?  The Bible’s take on Sola Scriptura is not SOLO Scriptura.  Solo Scriptura means Scripture ONLY, that God would not speak any other way.  Those who hold to Solo Scriptura are reacting quite strongly about the possibility that God might speak through other means, usually because they have seen abuses of power.  The Reformers spoke out strongly against those abuses of power in the Catholic Church during the Medival age.  But is it right to go so far as Solo Scriptura?  Well, let’s take a look ate what Scripture itself says about how God speaks.

God speaks though his creation.

In Isaiah 6:3 we read that the earth of full of his glory.

In Psalm 19:1, we read that the heavens declare the glory of God.

And in Romans 1:19-20 we read this:

Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Scripture says that God speaks through Creation.  Of course God speaks a lot more through Scripture, but in Romans 1:19-20 Paul tells us that what God speaks through creation is enough that men are without excuse.  When people stand before God one day, and God says to them, “Why did you not choose to believe and follow me?” those people can’t say, “Well, we never had the Bible in our language.”  There is enough in Creation, in nature, in the universe to point to God so that men are without excuse.

Scripture is not Scripture ONLY, because God also speaks through creation.

God also speaks through his Spirit. 

I’ve already mentioned 1 Corinthians 2:12 where Paul taught that the Spirit of God helps understand the things of God.  I also encourage you to read John chapters 15-17, where Jesus talks a lot about the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  There Jesus teaches that the Spirit speaks in many ways.  In fact, Jesus said to his disciples that at some point in the future, government officials would take them into custody, and when questioned, the Spirit would help them know what to say.  Throughout the Bible, God speaks by his Spirit in dreams and visions.

Scripture is not Scripture ONLY, because God also speaks through his Spirit.

God also speaks through his people.

The Bible is loaded with instances where God spoke through prophets and teachers.  Ephesians 4:11-13 is possibly the most important verse that talks about this.  There Paul essentially gives the job description of pastors and teachers.  But it is not just the fivefold gifts listed in Ephesians 4 through whom God speaks.  We all have the opportunity, Paul goes on to teach in Ephesians 4, to speak the truth in love to one another.

Scripture is not Scripture ONLY, because God also speaks through his people.

Look above at the three points.  We see that God speaks through Creation, through his Spirit, through his Church.  That means Scripture is not ONLY.

So if God speaks in ways other than his word, why is Sola Scriptura so important?

Sola Scriptura is important because it reminds us that Scripture is the foundational way we hear God speak.  In scripture alone do we learn the truths of Jesus.  Through Scripture, alone, we learn what the church is to be like.  Not the other way around.  Everything we think or hear must be in line with Scripture.

In other words, “Sola Scriptura,” one scholar says, “is the statement that the church can err.”

Here is another summary of Sola Scriptura that if found so helpful: “Scripture comes into its own when read by God’s people in God’s way for God’s purposes.”

And what are God’s purposes for when we read Scripture?

James 1:22 says “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says.”

Jesus himself said in Luke 6:46-49 that the difference between a wise and foolish person is all about whether or not we do what he says.

We are so, so blessed in our day with access to the Bible, and with access to the many, many tools to understand it.  We can read it, dig deep into its meaning, review what scholars have studied about it.

But our approach to the Bible should not just be academic, not just reading it to learn trivia facts about the Bible. Instead, God wants us to read the Bible to know him, to know his purposes.  We read prayerfully asking God to speak to us through his word.  And then we actually make choices to live his way as taught in his word.  When we read Scripture we should determine ahead of time, humbly, teachably, to do what it says.

This requires a couple important tasks:

First, we actually need to read Scripture.  

How about you?  How often do you read the Bible?  I’m not talking about the Verse of the Day from a Bible app.  That is good and can be very encouraging.  I’m talking about something more.  We need to read more and longer sections of the Bible.  My wife and I love watching Netflix, as do many of you.  Discovering new and great TV and film on Netflix has become a cultural fascination. How many of you have participated in conversations online or in person around the topic “What should I watch next on Netflix?”  I love those conversations!  Discovering hidden gems on Netflix’s vast catalog is so fun.  In other words, many of us sit in front of a screen watching hours and hours of media content.  Is it possible that would could increase the amount of time we give to reading the Bible?

I was listening to a podcast recently where the interviewee noted that those who say the Bible is boring or irrelevant probably haven’t really given themselves to truly read and study it.  Will you?  If so, you will find it to speak powerfully, creatively and decisively to our situation in 2017.  I’ve been reading the account of Saul and David in 1st Samuel, and I feel like I am watching the 11 o’clock news.  It is amazingly relevant.

Second, we need to learn how to read Scripture.  

Let me provide a disclaimer.  You can open up any contemporary English translation of the Bible, and you’ll be able to understand it.  I use the New International Version.  But we also need to remember that the Bible is book written by 40+ authors, 2000+ years ago, in different languages, in a very different cultural setting.  As I said, we can be so thankful that scholars through the ages have studied those languages, that historical/cultural setting, as well as the genre and structure of the many books of the Bible.  What I’m saying is that there are wonderful works by people who love Jesus that can help us read between the lines and understand the Bible much more as God intended it.

Do you want to learn how to read and study it better?  I would be glad to point you to some resources that can help you.

Finally, and most importantly, whenever we read the Bible, let us determine beforehand to do what it says God wants us to do.

As we conclude this week of looking at Sola Scriptura, be encouraged by the words of Psalm 1:

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Is Sola Scriptura broken? (or Can we really read the Bible and hear from God?)

17 Oct

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When you read the Bible, do you think that God will speak to you through it?  How do you know that you will understand it properly?  What if God wants to tell you X and you believe he said Y?

Does Sola Scriptura mean that any Christian can just open up the Scriptures and understand it by the work of the Holy Spirit in their minds?  Do we need the church to interpret Scripture for us, or can we interact with Scripture alone?

We might say, “Yes! We can definitely read the Bible for ourselves and hear from God.”  Take a look at 1 Corinthians 2:12.  Paul says that we have been given the Spirit of God so that we might understand what God has given us.  Seems like that could really apply to understanding the Bible.  Actually, it does apply to the Bible.  When we read Scripture we can and should pray that the Holy Spirit will help us understand it.

But let me push back on this idea a bit.

Anne Hutchinson’s example is a case about how this view of Sola Scriptura didn’t work.  Why?

She felt the Holy Spirit was helping her understand the Bible.

Her Puritan religious community also felt that the Spirit was helping them understand the Bible.

You see the problem yet?  They both claimed the Spirit’s help, and they came to different interpretations.  Now do you see the problem?  If they both had the same Spirit’s help, then shouldn’t they have arrived at the same interpretation?

Would the Holy Spirit give them conflicting interpretations?  No.  So what was going on in Boston in 1636?

The reality is that Christians arrive at conflicting interpretations all the time, and we have done so from nearly day 1 of the church.  So if the Holy Spirit isn’t giving out conflicting interpretations of the Bible, what is going on?

I think there are many possible ways to answer that question:

  • Maybe there are Christians who claim to have the Spirit’s interpretation, but they actually don’t?  I’m sure that happens more than we realize.  But how would we ever know who had the Spirit’s interpretation and who didn’t?
  • And shouldn’t preference be given to church leaders who go to seminary and get ordained, because they have training?
  • Is it possible that the Puritans were not correct in their teaching of Sola Scriptura, or maybe Anne Hutchinson just misunderstood what it meant?

More importantly, what does all this mean for us?

How many of you own a Bible that is printed in English that you can read on your own?  How many of you have the Bible on your electronic device, like the Bible app on your phone?

We believe that we can read those Bibles and understand what God is speaking to us, right?

Are we wrong to believe that?  Perhaps we should be a lot more cautious?  Should we only get our interpretations of the Bible from ordained pastors, from those who have gone to school to learn the Bible?

To answer those questions, it will be very helpful for us to go back to Martin Luther.  His 95 Theses pretty much set things in motion for us to ask all these questions.  So to arrive at some answers, we first need to get an idea of how Martin Luther’s religious culture looked at the Bible.  And that is where we’re headed tomorrow.