This course has given us some practical ways to speak truth in love: moving towards others, asking one more question, learning to say “we”, and praying the promises of God.
The final topic in this series will talk about how to bring scripture to life in tough situations. Basically: How do you say hard things to a peer? Maybe your friend knows as much (or more) scripture than you do. How do you share scripture without sounding like you pulled some pre-packaged theological truth off the shelf?
The answers pull us back to asking questions and learning to say “we.” Before we teach scripture, we must first be taught by scripture. At some level, scripture should be settled into the very fiber of our being because it is our living hope: “You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1Pe 1:23). If scripture is our living hope, it won't sound trite or cliché.
WHEN SCRIPTURE COMES ALIVE
What are some ways to tap into our living hope?
Single verses, concordance style – In this method, we look up verses on a topic (e.g. anger, pride, etc...) This is helpful but limited- the Bible is much more than a “How-to” manual. If we only pick up verses here and there, we may miss the big picture.
Themes – some images and stories are carried through all of scripture. We can use these themes and apply them directly to ourselves and others. The beauty of scripture is that it comes alive as we identify with it. Retelling stories from the perspective of scripture is powerful. Here are some examples given by Dr. Welch in our class:
- Alienation - People new to American culture often feel like they're on the outside. The Bible is filled with outcasts, starting with Adam and Eve. Like them, we are people who are cast out. Yet, God pursues outcasts and even becomes an outcast Himself by dying on the cross in ridicule and shame
- Temptation – Temptations come when something promises life but is really death. They don't take 'no' for an answer. The Bible is filled with people who are battling desires- people who feel like they will die if they don't get what they want. Have you ever been in a place where saying 'no' makes you feel like you're going to die?
- Wilderness - The wilderness is frightening and dangerous. Suffering is living in the wilderness. The LORD rescues His people from slavery in Egypt, but He tests them in the wilderness. Yet He is with His people. His presence is more obvious in the wilderness than any other place. He gives us grace for today but not for tomorrow. It's understandable if we're afraid of tomorrow because He hasn't given us grace for tomorrow. In those moments Egypt can sound awfully good.
- Shepherd (Gen. 48:15, Psalms, etc...) – God is the shepherd for His people. He moves towards us, feeds us, and leads us. Most of all, Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd has laid down His life for His sheep.
Here are some other thought-provoking patterns that make scripture come alive:
2D or 3D world? - The Israelites complain to Moses and want to go back to Egypt. They forget about God and live like it's a 2D world- it's only them and Moses. In a 2D world, God doesn't exist or doesn't care. But God makes it 3D when He says, “Why do people hold me in contempt?” (Num. 14:11). We often forget that the world is really 3D. The scriptures change our 2D world into a 3D one. We always live in the presence of God, and we ultimately answer to Him.
The Psalm Sandwich– The Psalms often have a Praise-Complaint-Praise sandwich. The Psalmist praises God, voices his good complaints, and then ends with praise. In prayer, we have the privilege of bringing our complains before the God who hears. And by ending with worship, we recognize that God is God and we are not.
Cry out to the Lord – When trouble comes, we often have two options before us. We can cry on our bed or cry to the Lord.
What's Done vs. What we do - What we do to obey God should always be rooted in what God has already done. Otherwise, we fall into legalism or some kind of works-based righteousness. Before God goes into the 10 Commandments, He tells His people: “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt.” The commands of scripture sit in the context of redemption. We belong to God. As citizens of the kingdom, how do we live in response to His redemption? We have been bought with a price, so we are not our own.
Warnings and Comforts Go Hand-in-Hand – In the prophetic books such as Isaiah, we can't read the warnings too long until we see a beautiful picture of the gospel. In the midst of horrific rebellion, God keeps calling Israel to return: “Come now, let us reason together....” (Is. 1:18).
Connect everything to THE story (1 Cor.2:2, Phil.2:6-11) of the cross and the BIG story of the Kingdom. - The cross of Christ is now the hinge-point of law and history. Paul, has determined to know nothing except Christ and Him crucified. Christ lowered Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. How can we not serve others after Christ has served us? Christ died for sins – how does that guide my decisions today?
Tell THE story in 101 ways - Scripture is not dependent on one single metaphor. The people who have been redeemed are freed prisoners, adopted children, prodigal sons, forgiven and cleansed felons, restored adulterers, not-my-people who have become my-people . . .
Start from the end - In class, we were constantly bombarded with examples of tragedy: people who lost loved ones or a woman who has been sexually abused. How could a good Father let this happen? But, what if we start at the end? In the end, you and I will know our Father, God, and King face-to-face (1 Jn 3:1-3). There will be no more shame or tears. We will be glorious as we reflect His glory (Isaiah 54). There will only be peace and safety. This doesn't answer all the questions, but this is where we are going and what is pulling us along. Knowing this glorious end and having that pull us along is sanctifying.
And there are many more ways scripture comes to life! Scripture is our life-giving truth from our infinite God. We will never exhaust its depths. This list barely scratches the surface. If you are a Christian, you will spend a lifetime exploring the depths of God's word and never get bored. You will spend an eternity in the presence of God and all the people of God and never cease to be amazed at the greatness of our God.
Reflecting on this course has been such an enriching experience for me. By the grace of God, I hope it has served you in some way as you seek to speak the truth in love.