I know this sounds heretical, but I rewrote some Scripture recently. I took some well-known verses and rewrote them, so they actually now describe my response to their original message.
Here they are:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer yourselves mostly to God as a half-hearted sacrifice, – this is your true and compromised act of worship.“
“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? ’And I said, ‘Here am I. Send some else, I’ll pray for them’
“But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord partially and ourselves mostly.’
“Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me can selectively obey my teaching”
The truth is that I, and maybe you too, all too often change Scripture rather than allowing Scripture to change us.
This all came to my mind when I was thinking about Paul’s description of Scripture:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16
The more I thought about it the more convinced I am that in that one sentence we are told everything we need to know about the purpose and nature of God’s Word and how it can transform our lives.
According to Paul the purpose of God’s Word is to transform us. To change what we believe and how we behave. In other words, to change us from in the inside out. Scripture does this by telling us
what to believe (teaching)
what not to believe (correcting)
how to behave (training in righteousness)
and how not to behave (rebuking).
But we all know God’s Word doesn’t have a transformative impact on our lives automatically. Sadly, I have known some people who know a huge amount about the Bible and yet whose lives change very little. In fact, there have been periods of my life when I have been that person.
I think the answer to how God’s Word changes us is to be found in how Paul describes its nature. He says Scripture is “breathed out by God.” That phrase is telling us that the Bible has both authority and power. Scripture’s authority lies in the fact that it is from God and its power is spiritual, from the presence of the Spirit of God working through it.
I wonder if you would agree with me that many of our problems stem from us either ignoring Scripture’s authority over our lives or doubting its power to change our lives?
Growing up we used to sing a hymn whose chorus had a line that simply said, “Trust and Obey.” Whether we sing those words or not I think we need to have them in our mind every time we encounter God’s Word. Obedience and faith are the essential attitudes that allow the Spirit of God to link our lives to the Word of God in a life changing way. God’s Word can’t change us unless we come under the authority of God’s Word and open ourselves to the power of God’s Word.
The Swiss Brethren, the first “Anabaptists” were founded in Zurich during the Reformation. What marked out these first “Baptists” was their commitment to the authority of God’s Word and living it out whatever the consequences. They baptised people on confession of their faith despite often being tortured or even drowned for doing so by the authorities. Whatever the cost they kept baptising believers because that is what they believed the Bible taught and so that is what they believed they should do. Conrad Grebel was one of the founders of the Swiss Brethren and one his favourite sayings was that “The teaching of the Lord has been given for the purpose of being put into practice.” Those words of Grebel could equally be applied to Scripture as a whole. God’s Word changes us only in as far as we put it into practice, and we put Scripture into practice when we respond to the authority and power of its message with obedience and faith.
So, lets stop changing the Word of God to suit us and instead allow God’s Word to change us to suit God. For the Holy Spirit to transform us from within, we need to set aside all our presuppositions and claims and agenda and come to Scripture willing to obey what it says and trust what it promises.