Friday, February 22, 2013

The Scriptures Must First Make Us Miserable

From the pen of Richard Rohr:

When the Scriptures are used maturely, they proceed in this order:

1. They confront us with a bigger picture than we are used to: “God’s kingdom” that has the potential to “deconstruct” our false and smaller kingdoms.

2. They then have the power to convert us to an alternative worldview by proclamation, grace, and the sheer attraction of the good, the true, and the beautiful (not by shame, guilt, or fear which are low-level motivations, but which operate more quickly and so churches often resort to them).

3. They then console us and bring deep healing as they “reconstruct” us in a new place with a new mind and heart. If you seek consolation as the first meaning of a Biblical text, you never get very far, because the small self or ego is still directing the mind and heart. As many have said before me, the truth will set you free, but first it must make you miserable.

Adapted from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr, pp. 64-65.

What I love about this teaching is that it describes our experience as Christians really well in coming to the Scriptures as both fallen and justified (in Christ). In order for us to receive grace and resurrection life, we must first be deconstructed and killed – every day. My Lutheran friends would rightly point out that this is the purpose of the Law. Law must kill us before grace can resurrect us.

Let us not fool ourselves in thinking that we are always fans of the biblical text; indeed, deeply vast areas within us are still enemies of grace and die-hard rebels against God’s word. It is scandalous to have to admit that this will likely be the case until we die, but we must assert that we will never be fully cured of our God-hating rebellion in this life.

We must become aware of the “self” that we bring to the text of Scripture. This continues to be one of the biggest weaknesses in the evangelical, Baptist, Reformed circles in which I run. What we are unaware of will surely rule us. It is not just “proof-texting” we need to be wary of (going to the Scriptures just to prove ourselves right on something), but also our endlessly subtle attempts to manipulate God and his word for our ends. We must always, always, always remember that God is first; His word comes first and we respond; we must remember that we never “master” the Scriptures, they master us. They read us more than we read them! Let us listen to this divine reading, becoming aware of what motivations and affections are at work within us even in our attempts to know God better (especially here).

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12 ESV)

So, you have a quiet time? Why? For what purpose? What are you seeking? What do you want? Are you trying to prove something? Are you trying to convince God, yourself, or others that you’re more godly than you actually are? Get real. Most of the time you and I come to the Scriptures, we’re handling them falsely. You may think that I am too pessimistic, but I don’t think so. Only the real you can encounter the real God. Everything else is false self catering to a false god.

But even here, especially here, there is grace for us. The “God who is there and is not silent” will continue to pursue us, continue to speak to us until we learn to listen. I mean really listen. Shut up and listen. Grace is speaking, and if heard can lift your corpse up from the grave with a lightning surge of resurrection power, birthing new thoughts and affections that literally were not there a second earlier. This is the regular Christian life! Welcome to new creation.

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