Happy Tensions: WHOs & DOs

I’ve been re-posting some of my favorite articles. Here’s one you may enjoy.

What do you think Christianity is? How do you read the Bible?

It is quite easy to think of the Bible as a book of rules — things to DO. Yet, it is far greatest The Story of God, of His coming near to us, and in that way is not primarily about us. The Bible is about GOD. And not just facts, figures and fables — as if God were a science experiment, a idea to be calculated, quantified and categorized. In reality, God has acted in history — in this real world — and as we read Scripture we discover the stories are true, the characters are generally failures, and God is always faithful. That’s step one, reading the Bible as if it’s about God and not just “me.” Of course, it must be experienced, taken into our whole lives, if we are to learn what God says.

There’s another needed emphasis, more likened to a simple priority: know the WHOs before the DOs. Jesus came to show us the way by BEING the way. No five step (or 12) plan for salvation here (though obedience and life-change is progressive and gradual). He’s the plan, the whole plan. So when we read, we see the what, why, how, and especially the Who of God’s Story.

This “happy tension” of sorts is recognizing the why the Bible is written. Take the New Testament, written in common day (Koine) Greek. The most common mood of the verbs is in what’s called the indicative mood. Stating facts, making declarations (e.g., “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” John 3:16). Later, and less frequently we get into the imperative mood, of commands (“Do this … do that…”; e.g., “Be holy…,” or “forgive one another” Eph. 4:32). I say later because we must recognize that every command of Scripture is rooted in a promise, in the prior work of God with us and for us. A couple examples…

Ephesians 4:32:

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another” // a very good command; do it!

But how and why?

“…as God in Christ forgave you.”

We can only forgive out of the resources of the self-sacrificing God who forgives sinners at the greatest sacrifice the world has ever known. We can think of the “other,” because God is all about the “other,” modeled in relationships among the Trinity. Furthermore, as an application, we can begin with forbearance, because Christ has gone before us — the WHO before our DO — throwing away His convenience to suffer as a servant in our place (Phil. 2:1-11).

Digging into the Word: Paul's Letter to the Philippians

Another example of this indicative-imperative correlation is Philippians 4:1:

“Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.”

(We just taught this passage to our high schoolers.) Do you see what Paul did there? He could have said it so simply, like: “just stand firm in the Lord. Do it!” Why does he wax eloquent — is it just poetic or is God doing something deep and meaningful here? He’s talking about identity… their true (and new) identity.

That’s the only way to be read the Bible as one alive, and to teach it to others for transformation. Every single command in Scripture is rooted in God’s prior work, for His commands become His enablements. Just as Paul waited unto the twelfth chapter of Romans to give the very first command in that great letter (Romans 12:1-2), we recognize Christianity is far more about WHO Jesus is than what we DO. Plus, our doing comes out of our being, which comes from being remade into His image (Colossians 3:10) and embracing our new identity.

Below Darrin Patrick, summarizes this necessary approach to reading and teaching the Bible in a 9 minute video. He was asked to collaborate with about 80 other church leaders across the country on a day of training called “The Nines” (on 09.09.09), put on by the Leadership Network and Catalyst. Darrin serves as lead pastor of The Journey Church in St. Louis, a Gospel-centered missional church he and others founded less than a decade ago, and has become a catalyst for church planters and leaders globally.

We used this video to spark a discussion last week with high school leaders and students. Bits of it may have been over their head — there’s those happy tensions — as real growth comes from being challenged. This sparked a great discussion, and spiritual and mental lights were going on all over the place. So, that’s what it means to work from significance and not for it, according to the Gospel (as I seek to remind them).

He covers the ground quickly, so open your Bible to Luke 24, and grab something to take notes. Enjoy!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s