Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth – the B.I.B.L.E. Have you heard the Bible explained that way? It’s clever. But is it accurate?
I said in my teaching Sunday that I used to think the clever acrostic is accurate. But not anymore. Let’s be honest. The Bible isn’t really a very good instruction manual or guide book.
I know. That rubs us the wrong way. But, as Billy Sunday said, and I paraphrase: “If something rubs you the wrong way, maybe you need to turn around.”
I needed to turn around. Maybe you do too.
Think with me: The Bible tells us, for example, to “Be kind to one another,” “Love one another – even our enemies,” “Give generously to the poor.” All good.
But next to these good things are some bad things- really bad things:
Rape (Deuteronomy 21:10-14; Numbers 31:15-18);
Slavery (1 Peter 2:18; Titus 2:9)
Genocide (Deuteronomy 7:1-2; Deuteronomy 20:15-17)
…are all commanded – by God. At least the writers pass the buck to God for these commands. Are those instructions ones that we should follow? I hope you’’ll answer “No”.
One more thing. It doesn’t make much sense to claim that the Bible is an “infallible” guide in what it says if we cannot agree on what it says. “But we agree on the essentials,” I hear someone saying. We really don’t. Go to amazon.com and type in “four views” in the search bar and get ready to “turn around.” We’re given page after page of books about various ways of interpreting key Christian doctrines:
Four Views on Hell
Four Views of Atonement
Four Views on Divine Providence
Four Views on Eternal Security
These are not peripheral issues. These are some “big rocks” of Christianity. In each book we find opposing views in which each proponent is absolutely certain that their particular interpretation of the Bible is the right one.
If the Bible spoke clearly on these issues then why isn’t there a “The Only View” series.
So, if we remove the Bible as our guide, what do we put in its place? Are we just free to do whatever we want – to do what is right in our own eyes (Judges 21:5)?
I offered, Sunday morning, an option given to me by mother throughout my junior high and high school years. Here is the question she told me to ask myself when considering the rightness or the wrongness of an action: “When you consider this action, ask yourself, ‘does the life of Jesus well up inside of you?’”
Denise and I went to Little Rock after Sunday’s service to see my dad. Drinking a glass of wine and eating Girl Scout cookies, (what are the rules for pairing wine with Girl Scout Cookies) with dad, my sister and Denise, around dad’s kitchen table, I asked dad about mom’s counsel to me. He told me mom read that in a book by Watchman Nee, an author that greatly influenced my parents.
For 52 years I’ve been under the impression that mom came up with that on her own!
So, this morning, I did a quick Google search trying to find the exact quote. I didn’t find mom’s version of it but I did find the following statements by Watchman Nee.
Read them with an open mind. Contemplatively. And get ready to “turn around.”
“Brothers and sisters, as we live before God, our actions must not be determined by good and evil, but by the life within.”
Hmm. “Actions determined…by the life within.” Let’s go on…
“When we have the life within and feel life rising up, we are doing the proper thing.” That sounds a bit like Mom’s version.
Then there’s this from Nee: “Many problems arise because we only have a standard of right and wrong. Many mistakes are made because we do not have the standard of life.”
Then Nee, a mystical Christian, offers this prayer,
“Grace me so that I live by the tree of life, not by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I want to constantly pay attention to life…”
Mom was telling me, and I’m just now really hearing it: “Don’t live by an external rule book (the Bible), instead, live by an internal life – the life that is “graced” by the Spirit of Christ.
Have you been indoctrinated into seeing the Bible as your guide?
Yes. We need a guide. No doubt about that!
But have we settled for an external law when we have within us an internal life?
“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives and you will not obey your selfish desires (Paul to the Galatians, found in 5:16).
“And when that one comes, the Spirit will guide you into all truth” (Jesus, to his disciples, recorded by John, in 16:13).
“Pay attention to life” the Christ-shaped life within (Watchman Nee to Mom; then Mom to me).
I will live in the awareness of the presence of life in me and I will pay attention to it.
That will be my guide.