Yesterday, I mentioned that I was going to start reading Future Grace by John Piper. I haven’t even made it through the introduction and I’m already being challenged and encouraged. I wanted to share part of the introduction that I found particularly insightful.
The book has grown out of the conviction that behind most wrong living is wrong thinking. Jesus calls us, for example, to a radical purity. But I find that many Christians have no categories for thinking clearly about the commands and warnings and promises of Jesus. When he says that we should pluck out our lusting eye, he backs it up with a warning: “For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matthew 5:29). Threats of going to hell because of lust are simply not the way contemporary Christians usually talk or think. This is not because such warnings aren’t in the Bible, but because we don’t know how to fit them together with other thoughts about grace and faith and eternal security. We nullify the force of Jesus’ words because our conceptual framework is disfigured. Our Christian living is lamed by sub-Christian thinking about living.
I have found in almost forty years of preaching and teaching and struggling with people who want to be authentic Christians, that the way they think about Christian living is often absorbed from the cultural air we breathe rather than learned from categories of Scripture. Not only that, some of the inherited categories of “Christian” thinking are so out of sync with the Bible that they work against the very obedience they are designed to promote.
This is why every Christian should be immersed in the Scriptures. It is absolutely essential for Christians to read, study, and soak in the text. As Piper notes above, even Christian counsel and advice is subject to being affected by the culture’s worldly influence. If we aren’t in the Bible privately, we have no way of verifying or validating what we hear publicly. Some may think it arrogant to double check what their pastor preaches on Sunday, but the Scriptures call it noble, and Luke commends the Bereans for double checking Paul and Silas (Acts 17:10-11). If Luke was grateful to see Christians so faithful to the Scriptures that they validate what the Apostle Paul says against Scripture, then the pastors of our churches today should consider this a good and necessary thing too. If yours doesn’t, find one who does and follow him instead.
This is also why we need to study the Bible in community, in home groups. Because each of us is already affected by worldly culture, and try as we may to avoid it, we’ll inevitably read that into the Bible and that will affect our understanding. We need that “iron sharpening iron” affect not only in our character and pursuit of holiness, but also in our understanding of Scripture. Through this, by God’s grace, what is wrong in each of us will be pressed out by what is right in the other, through the power and work of the Holy Spirit.
Find community. Read and study the Scriptures. Soak in the text.