Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Bend or bring?

One of the most enjoyable days of my school year was Ministry Leadership Day. In March, a day was set aside for pastors, teachers, and students to learn about an aspect of ministry. The theme this year was doxology; in other words, worship.

The session* given by our President, Dr. Reed, focused on how preaching is doxology. I am not a pastor, but I am a teacher, and as a teacher, I want my teaching to be an act of worship. Dr. Reed opened up the message by stating that not all preaching is doxology. Using John 7:14-18, he outlined what is necessary for preaching to be doxology:  1) the speaker speaks God's words, and 2) the speaker seeks God's glory. In the context of the first point, he referenced Haddon Robinson who said that the test of expository teaching is this:
Do you bend your thoughts to the text or do you bring your thoughts to the text?
That quotation has stayed with me all semester. And I think that test is one we need to apply to ourselves in contexts other than teaching and preaching. I think it should be asked every time we claim our words are based on the Word of God.

Bending my thoughts to the text implies I may have to yield to the text; that I may have to change how I think. If I give my thoughts equal weight to the text, my teaching is no longer an act of worship. Once I start putting my toughts above text, I am not teaching for God's glory by my own.
In John 7:18 we read: "He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who is seeking the glory of the One who sent him, he is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him." Every time we speak forth Scripture, it is good to pray for pure motives, to ask God to forgive us for times when we are seeking our own glory rather than his.

There are times when we teach and we already have an agenda in mind. We have something we're all fired up about, and we want to take that agenda and run with it. Oh, we find Scripture to support our views, but it wasn't where we began. To be able to bend our thoughts to Scripture, we seek Scripture first. We ask ourselves, "What does Scripture say?" As we strive to ensure that we learn to bend our thoughts to Scripture, we must first do two things:

Acknowledge our pre-suppositions


We all have pre-suppositions. If we have been in the Church for a while, or have been in a denominational tradition all of our lives, much of how we perceive Scripture will be influenced by how we've been taught. It's unavoidable. We have to be willing to lay aside our pre-suppositions and look at the text honestly. We don't look to Scripture to have our pre-suppositions confirmed. Laying aside those pre-conceived ideas requires humility, because we may have to consider that we are wrong, and being wrong is not always enjoyable.

Understand the focus of Scripture


Scripture is not about me. It is not about you. There is a temptation to believe that we, as God's people, are the central characters. While we are beneficiaries of the central story of the Bible, the story of redemption, we are not the the main characters of the story. God is not incidental in the redemptive story of man; he is the central focus. It will be difficult for me to avoid bringing my own agenda to Scripture unless I see first and foremost that this is a book about Christ.

Dr. Reed said that every preacher (and by implication, teacher) is a glory seeker; the question is whose glory are we seeking? When seeking my own glory, I take away from the glory which belongs to God. When I filter Scripture through my thoughts instead of filtering my thoughts through Scripture, I am taking away from God's glory. But when I bend my thoughts, I will step back, fade into the distance, and allow God's glory to shine. And when one is a teacher -- especially a teacher who commands large, expectant audiences --  it can be tempting to want that glory for ourselves. It is my prayer for preachers and teachers everywhere that we seek the higher glory, the glory of Christ.

* If you are interesting in listening to the message, his speaking begins at the 12 minute mark.

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