by Justin Lonas
Over the course of 2007, we devoted a lot of space in Pulpit Helps to articles about church life, approaching the issue from a standpoint of "being the church" as opposed to "doing church." We've covered church growth (p. 4, May issue), small groups (p. 27, June issue), missions (p. 18, July issue), and outreach (p. 18, December issue).
There is, however, one vital aspect to this picture that has only been implied thus far-the centrality of Bible-based doctrine to all of our actions. All our efforts to engage the lost, foster community within the church, and expand God's Kingdom are for naught if they don't point people to the Lord of Heaven as revealed in Scripture.
We've spent a lot of time calling you to action, but we need to remember that all of our actions flow from the beliefs of our heart. We are always predisposed to live out what we believe-just look at the world around us. Those who live for themselves act according to self-interest; those who live for business do everything according to the bottom line, etc. Ideas have consequences and actions are only indicators of the attitudes of our hearts. In order to live rightly, we must purpose to know God's will in our hearts; in order to know God's will, we must first know and love His Word.
The Bible itself is the keenest reminder of the preeminence of the Word. Its longest chapter, Psalm 119, is entirely devoted to the truth, power, and beauty of the Word and its value to us. The books of the prophets show how God's omnipotence is conveyed in His word as in Jeremiah 23:28: "Is not My word like fire?' declares the Lord, and like a hammer which shatters a rock?'" In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul illustrates time and again the ways that God's truth is a beacon in a confused world: "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside'" (1 Cor. 1:18-19).
We are told to be like Christ, and He knew the Word backward and forward. He uses it to dispel temptation (Matthew 4), to rebuke the Pharisees (Matthew19, et. al), and to teach about who He is (Luke 7:22, et. al). Jesus also shows that devotion to the Word is one of the truest marks of those who follow Him. He says in John 8:31b-32, "If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
As we see throughout the New Testament (particularly in Romans and Galatians), the Word of Truth is vital to our salvation in telling us the only way. It enables us to share with others, and it guides our actions. Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:6: "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished by the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following." The Word is an anchor that keeps us focused on Christ; if our actions are grounded there, it keeps us from veering away from the will of God.
Certainly not the least of the reasons the Word should be central to our lives is the fact that Jesus is the Word of God incarnate (John 1, Rev. 19:13, et. al). It behooves us to be grounded in the Word, for to do so is to ground ourselves in Christ. The ultimate end of knowing the Word is knowing the fullness of Christ. He is the revealed source of our righteousness and worship. To miss that connection in any discussion of Scripture is a tragedy.
Finally, we ought to be devoted to living out the Word because it is commanded of us. Jesus says that if we love Him we will follow His commandments (John 14:15), and James 1:22 instructs us to "Prove yourselves doers of the word, not hearers only who delude themselves." There is no half-hearted commitment to the Truth-either we allow it to change us completely and guide our every step, or we disregard its power and "delude ourselves."
Commitment to God's Word has always been basic assumption behind nearly all of Pulpit Helps' content; at times however, we need to remind ourselves and our readers of that fact. We make every effort to back up all our arguments and statements on the truth of Scripture. If that can't be done, we won't print them. We have to hold on to the rock of Truth, because if we don't, nothing we say will have any merit whatsoever.
Thank you for reading.
Justin Lonas is publisher of Pulpit Helps magazine.