Collecting, Cooking, or Communing?

 
 

The main feature of Bible cooking is the product.

 
 
Richard Sibbes, my favorite 17th century mentor, shared, “Whatsoever we do [in our responding to the Scriptures] if it be not stirred by the Spirit, apprehending the love of God in Christ, it is but morality” [in “A Description of Christ”, Works, 1.24].
By “morality” he meant Pharisaic goodness: it may look good to us but God isn’t thrilled.  Sibbes’ larger point is that the Bible can be misused and misunderstood if the Spirit isn’t present in the Bible reading or study.
What can we take from his warning?
A reflection on how we use the Bible is called for.  Three approaches, each with differing motives, come to mind.
First we have the collecting option.
First we may use Bible study as a collecting exercise to buttress belief in support of our doctrinal values.  This is usually part of a creedal development for Calvinists, Arminians, Wesleyans, Dispensationalists, and more, meant to help in theological debates.
I first learned this collecting skill from preachers and church home group leaders who offered topical or doctrinal studies.  Later, at Bible College and in my graduate theological training, it was honed to scalpel-like sharpness in a comprehensive set of theology courses.
In collecting a reader brings a question to the Bible and then—as in diamond mining—digs through the Bible for its treasures: the topics or doctrines to be developed.  If, for instance, I want to know about God’s immutability I can either read through the entire Bible to find texts in support of the doctrine; or, to save time, I can use Bible software to find every use of the word “change” in order to trace all the texts that say God does not change.  I would soon discover Malachi 3:6—“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
Of course many scholars have already done all this sort of Bible tracking and the final product is called Systematic Theology (ST).  ST offers nearly exhaustive coverage of every topic the Bible might touch, and then some.  STs compress the information into interpretive summaries, usually in support a given church tradition.  The approach has an awkward side, however, in that the System, not the Bible, is the end in view, and Sibbes’ critique may well apply.
Second is the cooking option.  
Here we see the Bible as a source of tasty spiritual lessons for life.  The preacher or teacher is a cook who prepares a weekly feast for us.  So, too, any home groups that feature a Bible study may be exercises by an amateur cook.
The main feature of Bible cooking is the product.  The preacher finds a Bible text he knows to be good as a main course and shapes it as a single meal.  But it can be awkward as well: certain texts are guaranteed to taste good while others may be avoided—viewed, perhaps, as too bland, too spicy, or too hard to chew.
There’s more.  The star of the cooking is either God, the ultimate source of the food, or the preacher who selects and cooks the portion.  Ideally the two—God and the preacher—are well aligned and God gets the glory.  Yet a problem comes when some of what God offers in the Bible isn’t seen to be attractive.  If, for instance, a preacher knows his listeners have an appetite for sweet dishes—the spiritual pastries of health, wealth, personal security and eternal blessings—he may rotate among these topics each Sunday.  And with that the spiritual diet may lead to malnutrition and ill health over time.  Sibbes, again, would find this to be a problem.
Communion is the third option. 
It treats God as a devoted and caring communicator who gives us the Bible for the sake of relationship.  In it he shares his heart—his values, ambitions, sensitivities, and delights—with a purpose to draw us into the eternal conversation of the Father and the Son by the Spirit.
In this the Bible isn’t a pragmatic resource.  Rather we come to it because we love him: the point Sibbes made when he wrote of our being “stirred by the Spirit, apprehending the love of God in Christ” in our Bible reading.  The alternative is to be like the religious leaders in John 5 who, as Jesus told them, completely misread the Bible on the doctrine of the Messiah because they lacked any love for God.
What both collecting and cooking have in common is their vulnerability to consumerism: of making personal creedal preferences a focus, on the one hand, rather than an open response to the Bible taken on its own terms; or of only cooking favorite meals while avoiding the broader nourishment the Bible offers.
Both these faults can be corrected by communing.  If collecting is a secondary feature of communion—shaped and guided by God’s heart—it can be remarkably fruitful.  And if cooking is done out of a love for God—to reveal his heart in the wide range of what he shares of himself—we can be assured of real spiritual growth. But any emphasis that gets in the way of communing love fails.
So, proper collecting, cooking, and communing may all be fine, but the greatest of these is communing.
Thoughts? You are invited to comment on Ron’s article at Cor Deo.
~ Ron
 
Dr. Ron Frost
Ron served on faculty for more than 20 years at Multnomah Bible College and Biblical Seminary. At the seminary, from 1995-2007, he was professor of historical theology and ethics. He earned his PhD at King’s College of the University of London. His research featured Richard Sibbes (1577-1635). He now teaches internationally while serving as a pastoral care consultant to missionaries with Barnabas International. Ron authored Discover the Power of the Bible and writes on spreadinggoodness.org [See “Resources”].
Visit Spreading The Goodness
Visit the Cor Deo Blog
 

Our Conduct Affects Our Future: 6 through 10

[Series Index]

A. Ward Brandenstein's To Walk In The Spirit

Part 3 – Where are we going?

CHAPTER 4 – From Here to Eternity (Continued)

My Conduct Here Will Affect My Outcome in Glory

(The Relationship Between Our Present Position – Who I Am In Christ – And Our Ultimate Maturity At The Resurrection!)
 

In Ward Brandenstein’s introduction to chapter four he writes: “Life for the Christian, when viewed in its eternal aspects, gives a balanced perspective to the relationship of time and eternity to come.  Although we are not given the understanding to see how the daily experiences of life being lived in the present will relate to eternity, we are given many clear Scriptural statements that there is such a relationship.  Such a relationship is referred to in Philippians 1:6, `Being confident of this very thing, that He Who hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.’ This Scripture indicates that God is accomplishing a work in the life of each believer in the course of one’s earthly lifetime that will be on a continuum until the day of Jesus Christ, i.e., the day of His return. Let us consider Scriptures from the New Testament that will aid our understanding of the importance of present conduct to eternal realities. 

What will the final goal be for the Christian who knows who he is in Christ?” is an important question that might be asked as a person gains understanding as to his position in Christ.

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HOW ONE’S LIFETIME RELATES TO
ETERNITY FOR THE CHILD OF GOD 

 

6. GLORY IN AND TO CHRIST IN OUR LABORS WITH GOD – II Thessalonians 1:10-12,

…He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day.

Wherefore, also, we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power,

…That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.

This Scripture brings into focus the truth that there is glorification which will accrue to Christ at His coming by means of those who have believed. In addition, the believers will be in admiration of Christ in His being glorified.  Paul’s prayer in view of these facts suggests the importance of lives being lived by the believers which are consistent with that ultimate glory.
There is a combined work of God in the believer along with one’s own involvement in the working out of the purpose of God.  It reminds us of Christ’s invitation to those who heard His teaching, Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me(Matt. 11:29a, b), or of the statement taken from I Corinthians 3:9, We are laborers together with God.  The believer is afforded the privilege of cooperating in the working out of God’s purpose in his life, which purpose has eternal value.  God’s goodness brings good pleasure to Him as such a cooperative work is allowed to be brought to fulfillment by the believer.  As the believer lives in faith and comes to understand the purpose of God as it is worked out in the believer’s life, God’s power is made available for God’s purpose to be fulfilled in the believer.  In other words, the teaching is that the combined purpose of God in the believer’s life is for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to be glorified in the believer and the believer in Christ on the basis of the grace of God and of Christ.
 

7. GOD’S CONFIRMATION TO BELIEVERS – TO BE BLAMELESS AT CHRIST’S RETURN – I Corinthians 1:4-8,

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ, That in everything ye are enriched by Him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge, Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; So that ye come behind in no gift, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The believer is seen in this passage as standing blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  A prayer of thanksgiving is given to God expressing thanks for His grace that enriches believers with the knowledge of Christ, in expectation of the coming of Christ, and Christ is committed to accomplishing the completed task in the lives of believers.  It is most significant that Paul begins his letter to the Corinthians with this positive emphasis, inasmuch as he finds it necessary to write to them in a disciplinary manner throughout the major part of both epistles.  But it helps the one who reads these letters to see that Paul distinguished in his approach to the Corinthian situation between who they are in Christ and whatever inconsistency may be evident in their conduct toward one another.  In correcting them, he appears to be able to be free from any attitude of disdain for them in regard to their poor conduct, because he sees them in the light of their ultimate blameless state in Christ’s presence. It is likewise possible, in view of Christ’s coming, for Christians today to see fellow-believers as being more than their present conduct would indicate, and to see them by faith in their completed state as blameless in the day of Christ.
 

8. BELIEVERS’ WORKS RESULT IN ETERNAL REWARDS AT THE BEMA JUDGMENT – I Corinthians 3:9-15,

(See also JUDGMENT FOR BELIEVERS, and JUDGMENT SEAT OF CHRIST, Numbers 17, 22 of the 53 Scripture Passages of Chapter 4.)

For we are laborers together with God; ye are God’s cultivated field, ye are God’s building.

According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth on it.  But let every man take heed how he buildeth upon it.

For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble-

Every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is.

If any man’s work abides which he hath built upon it, he shall receive a reward.

If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet as by fire.

This passage can be regarded as the classic Scripture to illustrate the relationship that exists between the life and conduct of the believer during his earthly walk and the eternal results which will be made clearly manifest when we appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
Paul begins his declaration by referring to himself as a co-laborer with God in laying the foundation for a building, obviously picturing the church in a perpetual state of being under construction.  Since he evidently has in mind a time frame that has no definite terminal point, he is most likely making reference primarily to the work Jesus referred to when He said, I will build my church, Matt. 16:18.  Thus, the Scripture is describing the church beyond its localized sense in a place such as Corinth, to a more general sense of the church’s spanning space and time beyond the immediate.  The church is comprised of other believers engaged in building upon the foundation laid by the apostles, who are exhorted to take heed as to the quality of the material used in building as to whether it will withstand the day when each man’s work will be tested in fire as God sorts out the character of each man’s work.
Six elements are used to describe man’s works within the building process – wood, hay, stubble, gold, silver, and precious stones.  As these six elements are tested in the fire, there are basically two results: either the elements are consumed by the fire -the wood, hay, and stubble – or they are purified by the fire – the gold, silver, or precious stones.
The spiritual significance of this figure becomes clear as we describe the elements as being temporal or eternal.  Some Christians who are involved in God’s work may find at the judgment seat of Christ that all or most works which they did in Christian ministry had little eternal value, was of the flesh, and was only temporal when the works are passed through the scrutiny of God’s judging fire.  The works of those who have operated under the Spirit’s control, on the other hand, will have eternal value, and those doing the works will receive rewards.  The rewards probably refer to more than the three elements of gold, silver, and precious stones and may include the crowns mentioned throughout the New Testament.
Walking in the Spirit or walking according to the flesh will make the difference of one’s own service, whether his work is being done from a God-glorifying motive or a self-fulfilling motive.  Another way of stating it could be, “Am I doing work for God, or am I allowing Him to work through me?”  The latter attitude seems to be more consistent with Paul’s figure of being co-laborers with God.
The distinction between spiritual and eternal, or fleshly and temporal, as applied to the believer’s works or service, has reference to those things that are of value in both time and eternity, or that are only of value in time, respectively.  Some works are limited to time, time referring to life on earth.  At the end of time there will be no remembrance of those temporal works.  Those things which are eternal will be valuable both in time and in eternity.  The individual can only be sure that his work is of eternal value as it is under the control of the Spirit of God by walking in the Spirit.
Therefore, the individual who desires to be most effective in the eternal sense in his work and ministry can be assured that as he submits to the administrative control and spiritual resource of being filled with the Spirit in an ongoing basis, i.e., submitting to the Spirit repeatedly, work of eternal worth will be evident at the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10).
 

9. JUDGING TO TAKE PLACE LATER, NOT NOW – I Corinthians 4:5,33

Therefore, judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts; and then shall every man have praise of God.

The admonition to judge nothing before the time apparently is the answer to a problematic situation that existed in Corinth, and more particularly in regard to some Corinthian people’s attitudes toward Paul himself (vs. 1‑3).  The warning is that until Christ returns, individual believers do not need to, nor in fact, are they able to, fully determine whether another man’s service for Christ will be worthy of eternal value, since (1) one’s entire life-time must be lived before such a determination is made, and (2) only God can bring into perspective those factors which are known only to omniscient God, i.e., the unseen or hidden things pertaining to such judgment, and the heart attitudes in which the service was accomplished.  As a result, only the praise that comes from God as time gives way to absolute eternity is of value; man’s incomplete, temporal judgment of other people’s works will be obviously worthless.
Equally true today are these principles that Paul wrote to the church at Corinth.  The things that we accomplish in our lifetime will be evaluated by God at the end of time as to their eternal worth.  We are freed from having to make such a determination concerning other people’s works.
 

10. OUR BODY – TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT – FOR GLORIFYING GOD – I Corinthians 6:19,20,

What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit Who is in you, Whom ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price; therefore, glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

The heart of the matter of the relationship of the believer’s present life and the eternal results coming from it rest in the truth that the Holy Spirit makes His dwelling place within the individual believer.  Thus, the Holy Spirit desires the believer to obey Christ’s commands and to make himself available totally in spirit, soul, and body to the Holy Spirit for spiritual power, direction, and service.  In this way, the believer’s life will be such as will glorify God.  The believer’s yielding to the Spirit and being “in character” with what he is in Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, will serve as protection from the person’s self-destructive ways of conversely operating in the flesh.
 
Next Week: Continuing through Fifty-Three Scripture Passages
Copyright © 1996 A. Ward Brandenstein

Used with permission.
[Series Index
 
A. Ward Brandenstein
Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.
 

Proverbs: Young Men Lacking Sense

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

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[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 7 ESV”] 1 My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
2 keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
3 bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend,
5 to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words.
6 For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
7 and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense,
8 passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
9 in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness.
10 And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
11 She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait.
13 She seizes him and kisses him,
and with bold face she says to him,
14 “I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
15 so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
16 I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey;
20 he took a bag of money with him;
at full moon he will come home.”
21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
23 till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.
24 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not stray into her paths,
26 for many a victim has she laid low,
and all her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol,
going down to the chambers of death.
[/learn_more]

..

 Solomon: Son, note the folly of the simple!

Proverbs 7:6–9 “For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, 7 and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, 8 passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house 9 in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness.”

Christians seldom fall into grave sin all at once. Almost invariably, there is a progression. Knowing how this progression works, gives us a powerful means to stop it before it is too late. To stop it before as James outlines it: ”each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (James 1:14–15) There is a roadmap to sin and this passage opens it up.
Our text traces the progression of it in this case in three movements.

1. Passing near temptation’s corner.
2. At the corner, taking the road to her house.
3. Moving closer and closer under the increasing cover of darkness.

Temptation begins in the mind.
It is usually only an inward movement at first – flirting with an idea. An idea we won’t let go of. This is equally as true of temptation to sexual sin, as it is to unforgiveness and bitterness, revenge, theft and even such things as fear and anxiety. But it is at this point that temptation is still most conquerable. What we allow ourselves to dwell upon mentally, if unchecked, will bring us to taking some form of action outwardly.
A passage like Colossians 3:16–17 takes on huge importance in this regard.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

If the subject matter of God’s Word takes on an increasing place in my daily thought life, coupled with expressing the bounty of those things to others, and rejoicing in them in a life revolving around magnifying the name of Jesus and filled with thanksgiving – it is hard for sinful things to find much root. Thankfulness in particular may be the single greatest weapon in the arsenal – as a mind that is full of what it DOES have, doesn’t leave room for musing on what it doesn’t. When I am convinced (as is true) that Christ really does have my best interest at heart and has never deprived me (and never will) of what is best – lusting after revenge, position, material goods, attention from another person, power etc., is defanged.
However, once failing to check our thoughts, it will not be long before we verbalize those thoughts. It may start by only saying it to myself in the mirror, or in a journal, or diary. Then maybe on – Facebook, MySpace, Pinterest, a text or an email – whatever.  This is taking the road to her house, after having passed by her corner.
It is the next step.
We know it will bring us closer, but we convince ourselves it is not “actual” sin, and so it is harmless. That saying isn’t doing. Which is true – but not completely. Even our legal system has laws against conspiracy to commit a crime. Saying it is often the first motion of doing. And stopping the flood here, while not impossible, it exponentially harder than before. For in verbalizing the matter, we’ve started the process of growing accustomed to hearing it out loud without objection. We’ve normalized to ourselves. We’ve said it out loud, and lightening didn’t strike – we’re still OK. And we dwell there.
Thirdly, we inch closer and closer to actually acting in the sin, after building layer after layer of what we think is protective secrecy. Maybe I can’t do it in broad daylight, but I flirt with doing it in the evening, at twilight. And if I’m too discoverable then, I’ll wait until it is fully night – and dark. When no one (I imagine) can see.
And at this point, the possibility of escape is nearly gone.
I’ve circumvented all the roadblocks. I’ve schemed around every objection. I’ve said “yes” – even though the act isn’t consummated. But I have at last given myself permission. And I am ignoring the fact that death cannot be far behind.
Beloved, hear the Spirit’s voice through Solomon, and begin to examine and seek His power to control your thought life now – or you will find yourself in pain and shame of such bondage as you’ve never imagined. Christ has made a way of escape for us – but we must take it.

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

~ Reid
Next week: More in Chapter Seven
Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
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Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.