I recently had a conversation with a Methodist pastor who posed some valid questions. In effect, his position was that scripture, particularly our English translations, was insufficient to describing the revelation of God. He went so far as to concede that it maybe 97% sufficient (maybe), but not all of it. The remaining 3% would consist of tradition, reason, and experience. Through this, his desire is that God save all humans. His belief is that God is bigger than all we can imagine and that by thinking God only save by faith in Jesus, we are putting God in a box. He concludes God cannot be boxed; therefore, the door is open to new revelation.
The irony about all this is that this pastor is the one who is trying to put God in a box. In all honesty, so do I. Underlying this is the simple desire of us all to rewrite the rules. Listen, there are plenty of rules that I don’t much care for. I have sin in my life that I keep going back to, that I keep “struggling” with. I’m embarrassed to say that I struggle simply because I have not firmly resolved in my mind that I no longer desire them. Talk is cheap, but you can’t tell me that Jesus won’t set me free from a sin that I have willingly, completely, and forever given over to him. If I keep one thin sliver of hope to be able to live with and enjoy that sin, I will always struggle with it. Furthermore, I will also suffer the consequences of that sin.
I don’t like that type of control. I don’t like that God makes my life miserable when I sin. He even goes so far as to say that the wages of sin is death. Ok, I get that uncontrolled sin will do that, but why can’t I relish in a little bit of it now and then? Honestly, God is so rigid and inflexible that it is almost too hard to comprehend. This is when it becomes tempting to “rewrite” his rules. I mean, come on! If I mean no harm, and my heart is in the right place (love), why can’t I sleep with my girlfriend?
Another thing that I don’t like is that salvation is God’s business alone. If it is actually true that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus and that this is a gift of God’s and not anything to do with us, then the hard fact is that I cannot convince my loved ones to believe in Jesus. If I can’t do that, then it is very likely that they will die in unbelief. If that happens, they will spend eternity in the lake of fire. I don’t like that. How can this possibly be true? We MUST be missing something in scripture, right?
The temptation to rewrite scripture is fierce. While it is true that very few people actually DO put their own bible to print, we all, at least at times, practice as if we did. This puts us all in to position of a god. Now, it’s one thing to be living out our entire lives following our own bible. It’s another to live it occasionally and repent when we do. There is such a thing as evidence of faith.
Certainly, there will be some surprises when we meet Jesus. Lots of people hope they will be surprised at who is allowed into heaven. We like to say things like this. One the other hand, Jesus tells us that there indeed will be surprises – the other way.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Who is the gate keeper? Jesus says “me” and “I” in this passage. This passage is terrifying. It should drive us to study the whole of scripture so that we may be certain we aren’t missing something. Listen, I don’t want ANYTHING like this to happen to me. I want to be SURE that I’m not one of those cast out.
How can I do that? By trusting someone else’s tradition, reason, or experience? How the heck do I know that THEY aren’t going to be rejected and me with them if I follow their teaching? The brutal truth is that no man is incapable of false teaching. Yet, if that is the case, how can we ever know the will of the Father, so we may do it?
That is why we have scripture. It is God’s direct communication of his will to his people. Any honest evaluation will prove even the English translations as truth. Yes, some are not, but that is why we seek truth. We will find it when we sincerely seek it. The bible will prove itself right in that.
At the end of the day, I concede that God is right. Sleeping with my girlfriend harms me, her, and everyone around us. And, yes, it is good that I cannot convince my loved ones to believe in Jesus. In the big picture, even that is good. The bible is indeed right. After all, it is Jesus’ autobiography.
Father, open my eyes to my sin. Grant me speech that I may boldly deliver the gospel to a lost and dying world. You alone are life. There is salvation in no other than your Son, Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, do your stuff! Amen!