All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Our True Rule
The United Methodist Church, by way of its denominational standard, addresses the sufficiency of Scripture. The 2008 Book of Discipline reminds us, Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
The "practice" referenced is the practice of our faith, the exercise of living this life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and preparing for the next. We believe God expects us to live such a life in accordance with Scripture’s direction, rules, laws, commands, examples, teachings, principles, and all the rest. That covers a great deal of ground.
United Methodists believe that what John Wesley called scriptural holiness relates to both our inward walk with Christ and the outward expression of that relationship with our neighbors. Our Doctrinal Statements, General Rules, and Social Principles cover an enormous variety of topics, such as God, the Church, the Bible, discipleship, economics, environment, bioethics, justice, marriage, parenting, politics, poverty, and yes, our precious Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation that comes through him. In all these spheres and more, Scripture is our “true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
The 2008 Discipline says this about scriptural holiness,
We insist that personal salvation always involves Christian mission and service to the world. By joining heart and hand, we assert that personal religion, evangelical witness, and Christian social action are reciprocal and mutually reinforcing.
Scriptural holiness entails more than personal piety; love of God is always linked with love of neighbor, a passion for justice and renewal in the life of the world.
In other words, Scripture is sufficient for every sphere of life. This is what our Discipline means when it reminds us that Scripture is “necessary for salvation” and is “the true rule and guide for faith and practice.”
So, while the Bible doesn’t, for example, teach me how to change the oil in my car, it still directs and guides me to do even something as mundane (and as important) as that to God’s glory. It teaches me to be a good steward of what God has provided. And caring for my car in such a manner shows my love for my closest neighbors - my family.
The Apostle Paul teaches us,
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Scripture is profitable for every area of your life. He doesn’t use the same language here, but Paul is saying Scripture is sufficient for every sphere of life. Bishop Mack Stokes addressed this by writing,
Immediately following the “General Rules,” Wesley wrote, ‘These are the General Rules of our society; all which are taught of God to observe, even in his written Word, which is the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice.’ (The Bible in the Wesleyan Heritage, p. 21)
Understanding that Scripture is sufficient for faith and practice is not the same as saying the Bible is a science textbook, a political constitution, or a manual for how to care for your car. But the Bible clearly does have something (and something important) to say about those areas of life and far more.
Wayne Grudem, (who is not a United Methodist), shares this definition for the sufficiency of Scripture, which I believe is helpful. He writes,
The sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God he intended his people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting him perfectly, and for obeying him perfectly. (Systematic Theology, p. 127)
God commands us to submit to our Lord in every sphere of life and he guides us in that quest in and through his Word. It is sufficient for such a grand pursuit.
In Psalm 2, the nations are depicted as raging against God's rule. Such rebellion still exists in our day. On the personal level, the constitutional nature of each person has not changed since Psalm 2 was written. Individuals are still, in their fallen condition, at enmity with and rebellion against God and his reign in their lives. This human condition presents itself in different ways, perhaps as many as there are people. But it all stems from their sinful, fallen, and broken condition.
It shows up corporately as well. Such "raging" against God's rule and reign is revealed in groups, systems, and even the culture at large, much of which appears as desiring and pursuing the opposite of what God wills and commands.
Wag the Dog
Yet none of this is done in ignorance. The nations (and individuals) know what they are doing. This is where Romans 1:18-21 comes in. God has made himself plain (evident) to all so that no one has an excuse. Yet people in their fallen human condition suppress the truth they know about God in unrighteousness.
They neither glorify nor thank God, but instead, their thinking becomes futile and their foolish hearts are darkened. They do not want a belief system that stifles their desires and pursuits. They don't want a worldview and faith that leads to repentance and new life. They don’t want to be ruled by Another. Thus, their desires and lifestyles wag the dog. In other words, they adjust their worldview to fit their desires and the ways in which they want to live.
They mistakenly view the freedom God permits to be autonomy with impunity. We know this to be true because God’s Word teaches it. We know this is true because we once walked in their shoes. Thus, our hearts ought to ache for those walking in such rebellion and brokenness.
Salt and Light
As followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be his ambassadors, his witnesses, to precisely these individuals, these systems, this culture. Christ tells us we are salt and light in this dark and decaying world. He commands us to go to and be for these people who were created in his image. Ours is a message of reconciliation and reclamation. It's the good news that even in our rebellion against the King of the universe, he has made a way to re-create that fallen and broken image through our redemption in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Our task is to learn how to faithfully bear witness to those in our spheres of influence. Instead of a cookie-cutter approach to our witness, we need to really listen to, learn about, and get to know our neighbors so we can discover how their sin, rebellion, and brokenness are manifested in their lives. We know what their ultimate need is. We know what (Who) the ultimate answer to their need is. Yet, we want to be able to communicate that answer to them in a way they will understand and even appreciate, while trusting God for the results.
Psalm 22:4-5, 30-31 - In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. …Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.
It has been said the problem with living is that it’s so daily. The same could be said of parenting. Whether it’s getting your children to eat their vegetables, clean their rooms, do their schoolwork, or have good manners, parenting is daily. Consistency and intentionality are absolutely required. And in no area of parenting is this truer than in the passing on of our faith – our beliefs, worldview, values, character, conduct, etc., to our children.
What we’re talking about is spiritual reproduction.
A primary truism about spiritual reproduction is this: We can’t reproduce what we aren’t ourselves. Cats aren’t going to reproduce dogs, no matter what. We reproduce what we are. Therefore, it’s absolutely imperative that moms and dads are daily, consistently, intentionally, and faithfully practicing the faith they profess, the faith they are seeking to instill in the hearts, minds, and souls of their children.
More Than Your Good Example, Though Not Less
In a real sense, this is more than mere example. Faith really needs to be in the “DNA” of the parents. Having said that, example is vital because children will copy what is being modeled for them at home. It wasn’t dumb luck that my kids all turned out to be Georgia Bulldog fans.
But passing on our faith requires more than example. We are called to actively lead them, instruct them, tell them, pray with them, pray for them, admonish them, counsel them, and nurture them. In a word, love them. The call to pass on our faith to our children in this manner runs throughout Scripture. For example…
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
O my people, hear my teaching;
listen to the words of my mouth.
 I will open my mouth in parables,
I will utter hidden things, things from of old–
 what we have heard and known,
what our fathers have told us.
 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell the next generation
the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord,
his power, and the wonders he has done.
 He decreed statutes for Jacob
and established the law in Israel,
which he commanded our forefathers
to teach their children,
 so the next generation would know them,
even the children yet to be born,
and they in turn would tell their children.
 Then they would put their trust in God
and would not forget his deeds
but would keep his commands.
Ephesians 6:4 – Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
A Multigenerational Vision
These are just three clear examples of Scripture’s overwhelming multigenerational vision for the extension of God’s kingdom. Many more could be cited. In truth, we’re talking about more than quoting a few texts. This multigenerational vision is a key thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation.
Early in Psalm 22, the psalmist declared that those who came before his generation put their trust in the Lord and were not disappointed. Later in the same Psalm he stated that future generations would also serve the Lord because they would be told about the Lord. If you think about it, how else will Christianity be passed on? If the love, holiness, grace, works, and words of God are going to be known two hundred years from now, then we must pass them on here and now.
But to whom? Many Christians talk about the need to evangelize and disciple the lost but seem to forget about God’s covenant children under their very own roofs. If we think in terms of concentric circles, our next priority (or circle) after our own relationship with God (because, again, we can’t reproduce what we’re not ourselves) should be our own family. Our goal, of course, is for our children to come to know, love and follow God and then pass on that faith to their children and their children’s children for a thousand generations (Deut. 5:10, 7:9).
In a real sense, our children are not our own. They are God’s. We are stewards of God’s children. That means we have been given the vital and joyful responsibility and blessing of raising these children to know, love and follow their heavenly Father. And while such an upbringing is so daily, we need to realize we only get one chance. It’s my prayer that God will honor the prayers, blood, sweat, tears, effort, and love we pour into our children (his children). To see them come to know him and become the godly adults we’ve been striving for will make it all worth it in the end.
Matthew 6:10 – Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
God, Grant Us Reformation
In his book, Hot Tub Religion, J.I. Packer makes this observation,
“…we look at the church of our day and say, ‘We need another reformation.’ But do we know what we are saying? …We are in danger of settling for too narrow a perspective of what reformation is – too narrow a notion of what it was in the past and too narrow a notion of what it will be in the future if God visits us once more.”
Packer asks a good question. Do we indeed know what we are saying when we cry out for reformation? I was awakened to how little I comprehended the word when I began to study what reformation, biblically understood, truly means. I have discovered that this simple word is filled with great meaning. Contained within the word reformation are the ideas of revival, renewal, awakening, restoration, and even overhaul.
As I have considered these words, I have come to realize that the coming of the Kingdom of God was and is a reformation. As our Lord Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, he brought forth revival and renewal to people’s hearts, minds, and spirits. He awakened them to their great need for the living God. He brought forth restoration where only brokenness existed before. He turned existing ideas about God and humanity upside-down as he revealed God and his good news. He exchanged the temporal perspectives of man for God’s eternal perspective for every sphere of life. Because of this, I have come to see the need for reformation, biblical reformation, in three essential areas of life.
Reformation and the Individual
God uses individuals to touch and transform the church and the world. A.W. Tozer writes,
“It is mere common place to sing or pray, ‘Lord, send a revival, and let it begin with me.’ Where else can a spiritual quickening take place but in the individual life? There is no abstract ‘church’ which can be revivified apart from the men and women who compose it.”
Tozer points out that which should be obvious; that the church and world will not be reformed until faithful men and women begin chasing after God and his ways. Individuals do not have to wait for the church before they can be renewed to newness of life and the things of God. Our own faith must be real and personal before it can be social and corporate. Tozer adds,
“Every prophet, every reformer, every revivalist had to meet God alone before he could help the multitudes. The great leaders who went on to turn thousands to Christ had to begin with God and their own soul. The plain Christian of today must experience personal revival before he can hope to bring renewed spiritual life to his church.”
It is true, or course, Christianity is about community and relationships. No Christian is called to live alone on an island. However, this community is a community of men and women who have been personally and individually touched by the Holy Spirit and brought forth from death to life.
Reformation and the Church
One aspect that unites great leaders from Christian history, such as the Apostle Paul, Martin Luther, and John Wesley, was their prophetic word to the church in their day. Sadly, they were sometimes viewed as John the Baptist – as lone voices crying in the wilderness. However, the Holy Spirit moved through these faithful men to bring about reformation in the church in their day. God is still using people the same way in our day. In my own denomination, the United Methodist Church, I see faithful men and women standing up for the true and living God and his Word. I also see God renewing lives in his church through a variety of renewal groups. And I know it is through the prayer of these men and women that God will bring a mighty reformation to our denomination. This is true for churches in every denomination or no denomination at all. However, we need to be guided by a proper understanding of reformation, so we might know what direction to take, and therefore, what path not to take.
The puritan pastor and writer, Richard Baxter, has helped provide clarity concerning the notion of reformation. In his book, The Reformed Pastor, he showed that the idea of reformation, biblically understood, combines the heart and mind. In other words, we are not experiencing true reformation in the church when only one aspect is emphasized. Baxter points out that there must be inward spiritual renewal as well as outward correction of doctrine in Christ’s church. It does the church little good if she is only emphasizing correct doctrinal adherence and ignoring inward spiritual vitality. So too, a church that cares little for doctrinal faithfulness and only concerns herself with “religious feelings” cannot rightly be called faithful either. Instead, genuine reformation will reflect these two sides of the same coin. J.I. Packer comments,
“The Bible records many striking movements that textbooks usually call reformations. In every case this same two sidedness applies. These movements had an outward aspect; immorality and idolatry were put away. But they also had an inward side; men and women were stirred to seek God and renew their covenant with him.”
This is true reformation experienced in the Bible and in Church history. These two works, the inward and outward works of God, are really one work seen from two points of view. We cannot have one without the other. Prophetic voices must call Christ’s Church back to both emphases if we are going to experience real reformation. Martyn Lloyd-Jones declared that we have no reason to expect God to usher in reformation and revival if we are not being faithful to God in our present situation.
Reformation and the World
The Lord Jesus Christ came to a dark and lost world with the good and transforming news of the Kingdom of God. Individual believers, and the church, are called out of the world to bear witness to the Light of the world. We are called Christ’s ambassadors as we proclaim God’s message of reconciliation. Along with that beautiful, life-transforming message, God calls us to love our neighbors by serving them and standing up for them. We are called to be who we are in Christ – salt and light to a dark and decaying world. We live in the world though we are not of it.
Our faithfulness in our little part of the world will help bring about the reformation God desires. The Kingdom Jesus ushered in and proclaimed was not about slight adjustments here and there. It was about a complete overhaul – in our thinking, speaking, attitudes, values, priorities, beliefs, and behaviors. As God’s will is done in our lives as it is in heaven, God’s Kingdom-influence will be extended to the various spheres of our lives.
So, let us pray that God will bring biblical reformation into our lives for his greater glory and the blessing of our families, churches, workplaces, communities, and world.
Meet with some brothers in Christ to discuss the following questions.
· What areas of your life do you need biblical reformation? Explain each.
· What are you presently doing to grow more faithful in these areas?
· Do you regularly pray for God to bring reformation and revival into your life? Why or why not?
· Watch the video and read the material, “If Men Will Pray.” (Click here for link) Discuss your thoughts with your group.
· For one month, commit to regularly praying for reformation and revival for yourself and your group of men. At the end of the month, discuss what insights the Lord has revealed to you.
In Search of Just One Good Example
My wife and I have recently been making our way through a period drama on TV. We have enjoyed much of it, especially the first couple of seasons. I noticed in the third season the program started introducing Christians into the story, Methodists in particular. One ought to expect to see Christians in 18th century England. The program rightly shows that the England of the Wesleys and Whitefield was a mess when their Methodist movement got going. In fact, some historians have pointed out that England was moving in the same direction as the bloody revolution in France when these men, and those who followed them, began to faithfully proclaim the Gospel.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, this series has not had a great deal of positive things to say about the Christian faith. I have no gripes against showing the dark side (fallen, sinful side) of Christians. Christians have never officially taught they were morally perfect people, even if some over two millennia have hypocritically pretended otherwise. However, Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with well over two billion people who claim a commitment to Jesus Christ. Therefore, it does not seem unreasonable to think that with so many people claiming to follow Christ, there would be at least one or two positive stories worth telling, or at least including in an episode or two. Scholars have written extensively on the positive difference Christianity has made in this world, whether it relates to education, freedom, equality, mercy, etc. My goal here is not to list them all, though if you are interested, I encourage you to take look at the recommended reading list at the bottom and dive in. (Don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or would like a suggestion for your first read.)
Consider the Consequences
Instead, my question is this: Do cynical unbelievers really want a world without Christians? I qualify “unbelievers” because I realize most of them do not want such a world. And yet, the more cynical among them may say, "absolutely." To them I would say, just consider the consequences of such a thought-experiment. If Christians disappeared, there would still be organizations, and even governments, that would continue to provide care to those in need, to stand for the rights of the oppressed, etc. But for how long? For even those right tendencies find their roots in the Christian worldview. Many of the common, everyday virtues people appreciate, and even teach, come from the Christian faith. Our country might continue to practice many of those good and right things if Christians all disappeared. But again, I ask: for how long?
Our culture, despite its move toward secularism, still enjoys the borrowed capital of the Christian worldview, however much it protests to the contrary. Unbelievers can say it doesn't because they don't presently have to test their thesis. Yet everyday there are signs that point toward a dwindling of that borrowed capital. Every passing day seems to produce evidence that a consensus of Christian belief and virtue is not appreciated, much less believed and practiced in our culture. A foreboding sign of the times to be sure.
In no way, shape, or form am I suggesting Christians have no blemishes on their side of the ledger. We do. Way too many. But that fact is why we need a Savior. The only answer to our private and public sins and shortcomings is Christ - his perfect righteousness, substitutionary atonement, indwelling and sanctifying Spirit, and continuing Lordship in our lives. Only Christ and his grace can redeem us and then set us on the right path. He's the only solution for everyone else too.
To those cynics out there I would say this: Don’t be too hasty in wanting to get rid of Christians and any vestiges of their worldview and its influence. To do so may seem like a victory, but it will be a fleeting one. And then may God help those left in a comprehensively post-Christian culture, because there will be no Christians left to do so.
· With two or three other people, think of and talk about all the ways Christianity has influenced our culture and your daily life.
· What are those areas that are so much a part of our culture that they’re no longer attributed to the influence of Christians and their worldview?
· What are some ways you can be the salt and light influence of Christ in your home, workplace, neighborhood, community, city, and beyond? Write your ideas down so you can reflect upon and pray over them. Get as practical and realistic as possible and begin to pray for the Lord to lead you toward faithfully exercising that influence in the various spheres of your life.
· Select a book in the bibliography below and read and discuss it with two or three brothers in Christ.
· The Micah Mandate by George Grant
· What If Jesus Had Never Been Born? by James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe
· How Christianity Changed the World by Alvin Schmidt
· The Book That Made Your World by Vishal Mangalwadi
· How Now Shall We Live? by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey
· Being the Body by Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn
· Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
· Why You Think the Way You Do by Glenn Sunshine
· Kingdom Agenda by Tony Evans
· The Kingdom Turn by T.M. Moore
· The Kingdom Economy by T.M. Moore
· The Victory of Reason by Rodney Stark
· How Should We Then Live? by Francis Schaeffer
· Turning Point: A Christian Worldview Declaration by Herbert Schlossberg and Marvin Olasky
· Renaissance by Os Guinness
· The Lordship of Christ by Vern Poythress
· Culture Making by Andy Crouch
· Joy for the World by Greg Forster
· Onward by Russell Moore
Click the images above to learn more about my books for men.