Recently, I posted a passage from the book, Permission Granted to Do Church Differently in the 21st Century, by Graham Cooke and Gary Goodell. Here it is:
“Developing people means discipling them properly in terms of their experience and response to both Scripture and the Word of God. We can read Scripture and enjoy its insights, perceptions and principles. This shared wisdom is knowledge that will help us on our journey with the Lord. However, we must use Scripture to develop a relationship with Christ, the Living Word.
It is essential here that our knowledge must give way to wisdom and revelation. Wisdom is the understanding of how God thinks about things, how He sees people and circumstances, and how He likes to do things. Revelation occurs when wisdom penetrates our hearts to the point of transformation. We see, know, and therefore, have an actual experience of the truth that changes our personality and how we act about something. Revelation is the Word becoming real in our experience of God. We become the truth that God has revealed; consequently, people around us will that truth whenever they encounter us.”
What the Spirit has told me this morning was that this sums up what I have been trying to coalesce into words over the last few years. The Spirit brought to my attention, once again, Jesus’ scathing words to the Jews and the religious leaders as found in John 5:39-40: “You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these that testify concerning me, yet you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.”
There are those today which fall into this same trap; they look at Scripture as an end unto itself. Because of this, they, for all intents and purposes, have deified Scripture. Yes, the Bible is the story of God’s working in history in very real ways and it is him revealing himself to us – who he is, what he is like and what he desires to do and who he wants to be for us – but it is not God himself. That would be like me saying that the words I am write on this blog are the real me instead of the one whose fingers are working the keyboard.
What I so appreciate about Graham’s and Gary’s words is that Scripture, in order to fulfill its ultimate purpose, must lead us into a real encounter with the Living Word, the Christ, who is Jesus. It is the path, it is the sign, but not the end. It is vital to keep that distinction. Otherwise, all that is happening is the very thing that Jesus said the Jews were doing. Eternal life is not found in words written on the page; only the path and signs are found there. Eternal life is found in the Living Word, who is eternal and is God himself with whom a relationship is now possible because of the work of the cross.
Scripture is only the starting point; it is not the end. It leads us into a relationship with the Living Word and it gives us the path of how to go deeper, but it doesn’t make the relationship or the connection for us. As we continue down the path, we continue to go deeper into intimacy with the Living Word, understanding better his character, desires and actions as we interact with him, and this goes beyond the words written in Scripture into real and actual experiences and ongoing encounters of the Living Word in our lives and our world.
The ongoing revelation from and through the Holy Spirit, who testifies and reveals to us that which he has heard and seen (John 16:13), continues today, using the foundation established by Scripture, but taking us deeper into a real relationship with the Living Word which goes beyond Scripture as we dive deeper into intimacy with the Living Word.
This is why I so love my conversations with the Spirit as we discuss different things about God’s character, desires and actions. The Spirit asks me tough questions and we have a wonderful conversation discussing those questions. If one stops at what is written down on a page, it is very easy to lose the vitality and life of the relationship with the Living Word and that is when the Christian faith is reduced to nothing more than that moral philosophy of life which gives rules for code of conduct, much like what the Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day did.
It is my prayer that each and every day will see me go just a bit deeper into this relationship with the Living Word as I encounter him as he is being revealed to me through the Holy Spirit. I pray the same can be said for you.