Following on from ‘How many Sunday’s need to go by before I hear about Jesus?’, the Rev noticed a new emphasis when the minister comes to a text. It appears that some ministers have replaced the explanation of the History of Salvation with Bible examples to follow… or not, as the case may be.
In a recent church visit, the minister mentioned on six occasions, the fact that the Bible was full of examples, some good ones which you can copy, others bad ones, showing you what no to do. Some examples of examples he gave were to be like David when you pray, i.e. when you pray and you can’t think of anything to say, just repeat the psalms. A bad example, i.e. an example not to follow was Saul. Specifically don’t get jealous of people who are better than you whereby you eventually become very spiteful and end up with a demon chasing you around.
It’s not just these recent church visits that are bringing it to the Rev’s mind. Rather, years of sermons where ministers intimated that this was a good example, or that wasn’t came flooding back. It was common practice in the church the Rev grew up in and it’s a painful process to rid it from one’s way of thinking. There are a number of reasons why using the Bible in this way is very dangerous.
Firstly, if the Bible is just a series of examples, some to avoid and others to follow, the result is a subtle but vital shift from a life following Christ to a life acted out by me. Jesus is reduced to being an admiring bystander, looking down from a high perch and being pleased. This is not Christianity. Jesus Christ is all in all. He was and is and is to come. As a church, as a Christian, we MUST become nothing so that he can become everything in us. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 must be the first thing we think in the morning and the last thing we say at night.
Secondly, if a minister encourages you to copy an example, he basically trusts you to comply. If there is anything the Bible teaches, it is that human beings are not to be trusted. Yes, they build big buildings, do amazing things with science, technology, medicine and art, etc. But aside from all that, they are largely very weak and are quick to turn away from God. So encouraging them not to be righteous like the Pharisees but be righteous by being more like Jesus, is a slightly odd way of being a Pharisee. Is salvation based on my effort to be righteous? Can I claim credit for myself when I take up my cross and follow him? No. God gives us grace to conquer, just like he has given us grace to live.
Finally, it blinds the mind to the actual story of the bible. It compartmentalises the bible whereby one example is entirely divorced from another. Doctrine will be quick to follow which leads to pseudo-righteous legalism. You have to do it this way because the Bible says so! Christ calls us to think, with the limited brain power we can muster. Think clearly, be taught by those who know how to teach and let Christ be the name above all names in your life.