The Path of ObedienceLuke 6:46-49Theme: Profession and practice.This week’s lessons teach us how to both study and live God’s Word.
LessonSeveral years ago, when I was in northern California, I turned on the radio and heard part of an unusual religious program. It was called “Have You Had a Spiritual Experience?” and was conducted like a call-in talk show. A phone number was given, and listeners were invited to describe their “spiritual experience” over the air.
While I listened, two people told their stories. The first was a girl who explained that she had felt a sudden urge to leave her home in northern California and hitchhike down the coastal road to a place about midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles. When she reached that mid-point, she sensed that “this is the place.” So she got out of the car, went down the hill to the shore, found a cave where she camped out for two or three days and communed with nature. She got into the water and swam about among the rocks and seaweed as if she were alone at the dawn of creation. Then an animal came by and went off in a certain direction, and she took this as a “sign” that it was time to go. She climbed back up the hill and hitchhiked home. That was her experience.
The other person told this story. A short while before – on the first Tuesday of November 1980 – Americans went to the polls to choose Ronald Reagan over Jimmy Carter as President of the United States. She said that she had always been a Democrat. “I went into that voting booth planning to vote for Carter, but something happened,” she said. “A strange feeling came over me and I pulled the lever for Reagan.” She did not say whether she thought this experience was of God or the devil, but I think she believed it was the latter – since she was a Democrat.
Is this the way God speaks to people? By feelings? Intuition? Is this the way the Lord Jesus Christ exercises his Lordship over his disciples?
This matter was of great concern to the Protestant Reformers, for they lived in a day when very few people had a sense of a true word from God and were instead burdened by what were only the traditions of the church. Or if they claimed to have received a true word from God, it was often supposed to have come through dreams, trances, sudden movings of the Holy Spirit or intense personal intimations. Against these errors the Reformers stressed two things: (1) the Word of God (the Bible), and (2) the work of God’s Spirit illuminating the Word of God. These worked together. The Reformers saw that God does not speak to a person through one without the other.
Without the Holy Spirit the Bible is a dead book. That is why a person “without the Spirit” cannot understand it. In order to understand the Word, hear the voice of Christ in it and begin to follow him in obedience, the individual must be born again. In addition, he must wait on God and pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance. On the other hand, without the written Word of God as an objective guide, claims to a special leading of the Spirit quickly deteriorate into the kind of foolishness heard on the “Have You Had a Spiritual Experience?” program.
Everything I have been saying so far leads to a practical conclusion, and it is this: If discipleship involves obedience to Jesus Christ, as it certainly does, and if Jesus exercises his Lordship over us so that we can obey him through the Bible, as we have seen to be the case, then there can be no real discipleship apart from Bible study. The study of the Bible is no option for Christians. It cannot even be a minor, occasional, or “vacation time” pursuit. It must be the most essential ingredient in the believer’s spiritual life. This is because it is only in the study of the Word of God as that is blessed by the Holy Spirit that the Christian hears the word of Christ and discovers what it means to follow Jesus.
Through what two means does God speak to his people?
How can we know that the so-called spiritual incidents experienced by the talk- show participants were not given by God?
What errors were the Protestant Reformers refuting?
What is the most essential ingredient in a believer’s life?
Further StudyOver the course of this week, spend time reading Psalm 119–a psalm about the benefits and importance of studying God’s Word.