By Tom Holmes
As you all know, the Bible contains a diversity of material, some of it seemingly contradictory. For example, the Book of Deuteronomy declares that prosperity is the reward for who obey God’s law, but the Book of Job is a protest that this is not always the case.
And Jesus comes down hard on the rich, making statements like it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.
Paul proclaims that we are saved by faith, but James states that faith without works is dead.
So when preachers get up and start talking, how do you know if where they come down on an issue is what God wants to say to you?
Here’s a proposal that seems to work for me. If what the preacher says throws me off balance or messes with how I’m viewing the world or challenges me, then there’s a good chance that the preacher is not only on to who I really am but is also speaking God’s word to me.
Here’s one example regarding faith vs. works. If I’m mired in guilt and feeling worthless, a preacher calling me a worm and a sinner is simply confirming my world view and not challenging me. But if the preacher or a friend or an article in the Trib tells a story about grace, i.e. unearned blessing, that might challenge me to get off my “pity pot” and live as if there will be many unearned gifts coming my way.
On the other hand, if I’m feeling self-righteous or superior to a brother or a sister, then a strong sermon on “who do you think you are” or “are you talking the talk and not walking the walk” might be just the kick in the pants I need.
My assumption is that the Bible contains a variety of messages, or theologies, because we need to hear different “sermons” at different points in our lives. God, it seems to me from my reading of the Bible, is about the business of changing us or, to put it another way, restoring us to the image in which we were created. That’s not going to happen if all we hear are messages stroke our egos and pander to our projections of what we want God to be like.