John is a good friend of mine. He is a member of Faith Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the church that God gave me the privilege of pastoring for twelve years. John and I had the opportunity on several occasions to spend the day traveling to hospitals, nursing facilities, and homes, serving communion to those who were unable to make it to church any longer. During one of these trips, I asked John about how he became a member at Faith. Part of his story revolves around dating a woman who attended Faith, the woman to whom he is now married, but a significant part of the journey revolved around a sermon preached by my predecessor at Faith, Rev. Dr. Harvey Mehlhaff.
As Pastor Harvey preached that Sunday, I began to see a figure standing next to Harvey. At first, the figure didn’t have much shape – more of a shadow than an individual. But as Pastor Harvey continued to preach, the figure began to take shape – become clearer. I could tell it was the outline of a man, and as the sermon continued, I could see clearly that the man was Jesus.
This is the primary task of the preacher, of the Christian, of each of us! To use the Word of God, the Bible, as a means of knowing and then introducing others to a person – the person of Jesus Christ. Too often we read the Bible like a manual for a kitchen appliance, trying to glean from it how life works or how to troubleshoot problems. But the Bible is the Word of God that primarily reveals to us the Word of God who became flesh and dwelt among us, and through the power of His Spirit, He continues to dwell among and within us today. The great reformers Calvin and Luther argued that all of the Law and the Prophets point forward toward Christ, and all of the Apostles point back toward him. Therefore, the point of the Bible, the Word of God, is to point to Jesus Christ, the Word of God.
But what about knowing how life works and troubleshooting problems? Can’t the Bible also be used for this? Yes, but not in the same way as a manual for a kitchen appliance. It is in the transforming power of seeing Christ take shape within our lives through the power of His Spirit that we begin to understand how life works and our problems find their appropriate resolution in Him. If we look for the answers to life’s meaning and solutions to life’s problems, but don’t look for Christ, we will find neither in the Bible. If we look, however, for Jesus Christ, if we read and listen to the Word proclaimed, if we are attentive to Christ taking shape, becoming clearer, being revealed, then there is a good chance that we will find within the pages of the Bible both the Word of God who became flesh and the Word that provides answers to life’s meaning and questions.
Therefore, for those of us who preach, like Paul we preach Christ crucified – not five steps for happy living or twelve steps to peace or [fill in the blank]. No, we preach from the Word to reveal the Word! As Christians, we are not called to defend the Bible or to convince others of its authority; we are called to introduce people to Jesus, to live under His authority, and in so doing Christ becomes more concrete, more visible, more revealed in our lives and our words. Of course, this can only be done through the regular reading and study of the Bible.
I am convinced that we need to stop trying to win arguments and focus instead on winning men and women, boys and girls. However, this demands that we stop using the Bible primarily to prove a point or to win an argument and instead that we once again see the primary purpose of the Bible as a means of revealing Jesus Christ and allowing Him to take shape in our lives, allowing Him to be formed within us, allowing Him to materialize in our everyday lives. In other words, to be on mission with God is to be formed into the very image of the Word of God who became flesh by the power of the Word of God read and proclaimed in order that Christ takes shape, becomes clearer, and is revealed through us into the communities in which we live.
Heavenly Father, reveal yourself to us through your Word and reveal yourself through us to the world. Amen.