Head + Heart
I stood in my living room, anxiously tapping my foot and eyeing the clock. 7:35 pm. Would they come? Had I scared them off last time? Was I going about this all wrong? I had a few minutes, so before I broke down and panicked, I sent up a little prayer to God reminding Him that this study was all His and I was just the lowly, uneducated, yet willing, conduit of His knowledge. As the, “in Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen,” evaporated from my lips, a knock at my door signaled that people had arrived.
Since February, an enthusiastic band of committed young adults have convened in my apartment each Tuesday night to extract God’s truth from the book of Romans. We’re trying something new in this study by going through the book line by line in near-excruciating detail. We have no lesson plan – no study guide or answer key. The Bible is our primary textbook and we hold each other accountable for the passages that we study and the verses that we memorize. Despite the fact that we have no resident theologian, I know we’re not flying blind because week after week, led by the Holy Spirit, new truths spring up out of the Book and we’re left in wonder, awestruck that the Bible *actually* teaches what we have just learned.
Personally, this is a revelation for me. Over the past 6 or so years, I’ve been part of various Bible studies that have ranged from “let’s talk about our feelings” sessions to more Biblical-based explorations. However, I’ve always been left wanting. My Bible is not dusty – I pick it up at least once a day. But, at the end of last year, it was becoming abundantly clear that I didn’t know enough. Those of us who attended GYC in December realized that none of us knew the Word as well as we really should. Oh, sure, there are some among us who, through meticulous study, can spin an argument and a defense of the Word that will leave folks slack-jawed. Even though we should not aim to stun people senseless with our hermenuetical prowess, sadly, most of us fall short of our calling to be ready, “in and out of season,” (2 Timothy 2:4) to preach the Word and give a compelling presentation of our faith. One does not have to look very far to see that the world around us is desperate for sanity – for a grounding in reasonable truth. What can we offer them? Are we able to speak in a manner that glorifies God? It’s one thing revere Paul, Timothy, Ellen White, or any of those saints for their seemingly superhuman ability to preach the Gospel and “tell it like it is”. However, it’s quite another thing to stop there and think that because we’re not brilliant homilists, masters of the fine art of preaching, we have nothing to contribute.
I want to appeal to you today – don’t fall into that trap. When Christ gave the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20, He wasn’t just talking to the 11 disciples or the curious crowd of onlookers that still contained some doubters. He was talking to all of us who believe and who the Holy Spirit has taught. What did Paul say? In 1 Corinthians 1, he specifically charged those who were aligning themselves with eloquent speakers to wake up and realize that it wasn’t the speaker but the message that mattered. He also promised that all those who were called by God, those “of the promise” and those who were not originally of the “chosen heritage”, would have access to the power and wisdom of God through Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24). With this power, we can change the world.
The more I study, the more I read, and the more I slow down and try to piece together the fantastic, unfathomable puzzle of God’s existence and meaning, the more I realize that it’s truly what you know that takes you to the next level. It’s through a book, really, that God has chosen to reveal Himself, the mystery of Christ, and the gift of salvation. It’s through a book filled with fantastic, yet troubling stories, poetry, long lists of “begats”, history, politics, and prophetic landscapes that we are to draw closer to the One who can and will change us into new people. This tells me that God, who created us with autonomous minds, desires that we use our brains to search Him out, find Him, and to defend Him. There is nothing in the Bible that is not intended for us to understand. Of course, some of it is difficult to grasp, but that doesn’t mean that it’s off limits to us. “But grow in grace,” Peter says in 2 Peter 3:18, “and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” The two, grace and knowledge, are side by side.
As our little study group marches through the book of Romans, seeking to discover truth one verse at a time, I can’t help but praise God that He didn’t leave us here without evidence and reason to believe in Him. We are called to know, trust, and obey. It is imperative that we open our Bibles and read.