How often do you go to the Scriptures when faced with a difficult decision, an ethical dilemma, or when in need of simple advice? Do you realize just how practical the Scriptures really are? Would you first consult the bible when faced with a co-worker’s question concerning a problem he’s having with his teenage son, or would you first consult an “expert,” a secular book on the subject, or another friend?
Christians no doubt are aware that the bible contains information and of course doctrine. Not only is doctrine a dreaded concept in our contemporary context, but for many, the information the bible contains, even the information with which believers are familiar, seems so disconnected from their daily lives. Few people are aware of just how practical the Scriptures really are and therefore just how useful they really are for helping us to answer every day questions or deal with every day situations.
We get a lot of bible content on Sunday. In other words, we get a lot of information. However, somehow, we are failing to connect that information to our daily living and we have not grasped the fact that the bible is something that should be with us for ready use every day and not merely put away so we’ll have it on Sunday. In his little book, What to do on Thursday, Jay Adams asks the simple question, “Can we know how to go to the bible to find help on Thursday?” The answer of course is that we can and we must. Let me flesh that answer out just a bit.
First, we must be able to go to the bible to find practical help in our every day lives because if we do not, we will make major decisions without reference to God. Not only do we miss out on the wisdom that God has for us but we actually commit ourselves to futility in so doing. When we attempt to make decisions without reference to God we are actually acting independently from God in the areas of knowledge and wisdom. To do so is to have no ground or basis for what we believe in that particular instance which means we have no ground for the decision we make. The decision we make will be foolish in God’s sight in that we have gone the way of Eve: we have decided that His revelation is not good enough for us and that we know a better way. Even if we happen to make a decision that occasionally squares with Scripture, we still play the part of the fool in that we don’t know why our decision is a good one because we didn’t consult God’s wisdom for us. We merely stumbled upon a good decision in one instance by virtue of the fact that we have been created in God’s image and therefore run into His truth in our thinking from time to time.
Second, this commitment to independence from God has other implications concerning our need to go to the bible to find practical help and disastrous consequences if we do not. It does not go too far to say that the situation in evangelical circles today is desperate and therefore tragic at the same time. Not only do believers end up consulting sources that compete with God for their decision-making needs, but in so doing, they invariably get bad advice, miss out on the joy God has for them, and indeed dishonor the Lord in forsaking Him. Yes, to forsake His word in the every day affairs of life is to forsake Him.
Third, Adams points out the fact that believers who want to know God’s will for their lives but have no ability to glean every day wisdom from the Scriptures often adopt the dangerous course of mysticism. In seeking answers to life’s problems in experiences, impressions, open or closed doors, dreams, or different kinds of revelations from God, they not only circumvent the Scriptures, but undermine their sufficiency in so doing with the unfortunate and inevitable further consequence of bringing reproach upon Christ in holding Him out to be something He is not or to have said something He did not. Of course, a greater problem rises when impressions lead people down the wrong path one too many times into circumstantial error or even spiritual disaster. Cynicism toward God is a predictable result.
Fourth, when an increasing number of Christians have no ability to glean wisdom from the Scriptures and when an increasing number of Christians turn to mysticism, the net effect is not only disaster for individuals in their walk with the Lord and in their inability to have coherence and consistency in their lives, but disaster for the witness and effectiveness of the church as a whole. The weakness of the church in America today is owing to two or three major dynamics, not the least of which is the issue before us.
The fact is that we must go to the Scriptures for more than information concerning the Canaanites and the Hittites. What real application from the life of Zacchaeus can we glean for our lives? Pooled ignorance in Sunday School-type discussions and “what the text means to me” emphases must be rejected. Scripture must be understood in context and not used as a launching pad to disconnected applications or useless moralizing. The people of God are obliged to be able to know where to turn in the Scriptures when faced with a life situation that they might get God’s authoritative word on the issue. Where would you turn to find counsel on problems concerning overbearing husbands, feminized wives, poor communication, anxiety, depression, addictive behavior, rebellious children, harsh employers, a new job offer, financial calamity, what the world calls bi-polar disorder, ADHD, etc.?
By way of example, have you considered the fact that the book of Jonah is about more than a big fish? The message and application is rich. God’s perspective on His call and His will, His mercy to His people as well as to pagans, His love for all nations, His attitude toward self-focus, love for enemies, the sin of pride and prejudice, the necessity of evangelism, the downward spiral of bitterness and depression, the consequences of wrong attitudes and thought patterns, suicidal thoughts and God’s response, His providence and power in our lives, and so much more is to be gleaned from this little treasure of a book.
As Adams points out, we have to be able to move from the Scriptures to life and we have to be able to move from life to the Scriptures. This ability comes when we are committed to the authority of God’s word and when that commitment is real enough to drive us to it for answers to all of our questions theological, philosophical, and indeed every day practical. There is no other way to trust and obey but to use the Scriptures every day. Think about it.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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