Recently, I was sitting in church and I realized several things about the Bible:
· The Bible is about warning. It warns us about living a life away from God, and the consequences for doing so.
· The Bible is about instruction. God instructs us about how we are to keep Him first and how to treat other people. In other words, it is a manual on how to live out our lives in relationship to God and to others.
· The Bible is about promises. The promises of God are throughout the Bible, and one of the best promises is John 3:16 when Jesus promised us eternal life.
Now, to some this may be simplistic, but I feel the Bible can actually be broken down this way. My wife made a remark to me following this year’s Easter service that the songs were ‘me-centric’ and not as much about Christ as how it has been in past years. The music we sing in the modern church comes out from large production ministries providing the church with new modern music … Bethel music, Hillsong music, or Elevation music Some of this music is well done, the lyrics and music have a relevant edge to it, but often it’s about our experiences toward God, and not about God’s character. My wife went on to talk about how the hymns of past taught people who couldn’t read or write about theology, God’s nature, His promises, and His character.
What she said made me think about these three designations of the Bible. Music, just like sermons or teachings, should be warning us, instructing us how to live, and outlining God’s promises to those who believe in Him.
Let’s start with the warnings.
I am fascinated by the Book of Revelation Chapters 2 and 3. These Chapters tell us what Jesus thought about the church about 60 years from the time of His ascension into heaven. He had seven messages to seven churches, and it was the first time Jesus ever spoke directly to the church about the church. I say that because the church, the ecclesia, the ‘called-out ones’, was birthed on the Day of Pentecost as recorded in the 2nd Chapter of Acts. Jesus always addressed the audiences that were following Him or His disciples, but this was the first time He addressed the church directly. I have always felt that is an important element to take into consideration when we read these two Chapters.
The warnings were all about how these seven churches were representing Him. For the most part, five out of the seven were given a stern warning to change their direction or He would take away their candlestick. No one likes this kind of message. In fact, in most churches, you rarely, if ever, hear a message about warning people as Jesus did with the seven churches. Why? I don’t think there is a good answer for this, but it is a great question to think about. This is the first time Jesus ever addressed the church directly like this that is recorded in Scripture. He gives a warning. So, today no songs about warning, no sermons on warning, no emphasis ever on warning. This gives me pause to ask, “Why not?”
Do we have such perfect revelation or perfect theology today that we don’t need to be aware of where we are slipping and sliding? Really? The Bible is all about warning. The law warns us about disobedience and idol worship. The prophets warned Israel about false leadership and ignoring God. Jesus warned people in His parables, and He specifically warned about the last days. Many of the Epistles are warnings about behavior contrary to faith and false teaching. So, warning is in the nature of the Bible. Yet, because it has the stigma of correction, we stay away from it in the modern church.
Secondly, instruction. Instruction is more about how we live out our lives in keeping God first in everything. First in our thinking, first in our behavior, and first in our hearts. Then we need to know how to love people in real ways and in real time. When race is now the big topic in today’s world, how do we go beyond the divisiveness of race and find the person? God always finds the person. The outside of the person is not important to Him … it is what is inside of the person that God is concerned about. Our society loves to stay on the surface of most issues mainly because they do not have the capacity to go beyond the surface. Race is a surface issue, and the Bible teaches us that we can never stay on the surface of anything. Music needs to reflect this attitude about instruction just as a sermon does, but most of the time our music only stays on the surface. The Bible is a book of instruction training us.
Lastly, the promises. The promises of God are so positive, so alive with His energy and His love. How can we not sing about His promises? I must admit that this is the one category where we probably do a better job of practicing in our preaching and in our worship. With that being said, I do believe we can go deeper into those promises and elevate what we can expect if we trust in Him. Can we find healing in Him? Can we find Him in our day every day? Can we know that He will never leave us nor ignore us when we are in need? Promises are God’s love language to us, and we know that whatever God promises to us, He will fulfill.
More could be said on all three of these categories, but I wanted you to know how I view the Bible. There are more academic ways to break up the Bible, but I like mine. Why? It is simple and to the point. We do not need complexity when it comes to God. He wants us to know Him through relationship…a simple love friendship where we learn to relate to Him without form and pretense. It’s you and God, just hanging out together.
God wants the best for us, so that is why He warns us, He instructs us, and He gives us His promises. That is as simple as it should be.
Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler