by Barry Newton
When would you be willing to abandon your intended goal in order to allow scripture to carry you on its ebb and flow? The Christian knee-jerk response is predictable. I’m always ready to follow scripture! Really?
Whether preacher, non-Christian or Christian, we all face this question in practical ways.
Consider the plight of the preacher who wants his sermon to bless the congregation with a particular message. He selects a Biblical text. However, as he digs into that passage of scripture he confronts an unwelcome discovery.
Perhaps the biblical message does not fit his theological outlook. Perhaps the message within this portion of scripture is running in a slightly different direction than where he wants to go.
Will he force a parable or snippet from Paul to bend its knee to his will and great ideas? Or will he cut anchor to allow the deep current of scripture to carry him where it wants to go?
Think this is a hypothetical situation? As one who has stood before a congregation on a weekly basis, it is not.
In fact, this question of whether to follow scripture or insist upon what we deem is good, confronts anyone who listens to God’s word.
Whether someone is a follower of Christ or not, each of us will discover at one time or another an uncomfortable message within God’s Word. Perhaps the clear biblical message about lifestyles or salvation does not fit into what we value or believe.
Maybe our Christian outlook is so shaped by obedience that we feel compelled to reign in what it teaches about grace. Or perhaps we are so steeped in grace, that we desire to pummel into submission any voice about obedience within the text.
What will we do with scripture?
From within Ecclesiastes we hear that there is an appropriate time for every type of activity (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time to rip and a time to sew (Ecclesiastes 3:7).
When we stumble into that situation where the text proclaims a message different than we desire, the time has arrived to tear. We need to cut ourselves loose from a mooring upon our own confident and great ideas in order to hear God’s message.
I have lost track of how many times the lesson I have presented was not the sermon I had set out to preach. I guess that is good. Hopefully, the congregation heard God’s word and not my thinking.