Thursday, November 18, 2010

Should I ask: 'What Does it Mean To Me?'

Here's a good post from a guy I went to college with. He writes:
Recently I’ve been asking this question more and more. It has been impacting my preaching so that when I read a text or think through a sermon, I keep asking, “How does the gospel fit into this?” “How does the gospel change the application?” I think too often we look at a sermon or a text and ask the question, “What does this mean to me?” and in the end it doesn’t matter what it means to me, it matters what it means. Or, another way, when preaching instead of giving a bunch of steps:  3 ways to fix your marriage, 5 steps to getting out of debt, 7 P’s of purpose (all of these aren’t bad), but I want to ask, “How does the gospel change the way you think about money, debt, about your marriage, sex, emotions, needs, your goals, etc.
The Bible is applicable in all that is teaches. It is profitable for correction, teaching, rebuke and training in righteousness. But one thing we should be asking do we have a "me-centered" approach to Scripture? Do I come to God's Word expecting it to teach me something by virtue of what it is? Or do we come with an expectation that the Bible must bend itself around me and what I think I need? 

Following up in FB I wrote:
Too often people want X number of steps or a 'what does it mean to me' and the temptation then is a pastor never filters the application through the gospel. I've often asked are we as pastors creating the 'moralistic therapeutic deists' that we say the is not the gospel-centered Christian the Bible lays out for us.

To which Josh responded:
I had a prof in seminary who said the dumbest question we ask is "What does this mean to me?" as if God is sitting in heaven on the edge of his seat to see what we'll come up with. He said we should ask, "Of all the things God could have put into scripture, why this? Why did God inspire this to be written? Why have these words lasted for thousands of years for me to read them now?" It changes how we read Scripture and what we look for in it.

I once heard David Dunbar say "Instead of saying 'Apply the Bible to your life', we should 'apply our lives to the Bible.'" The idea is that it makes you think which one is immovable and which one should be formed to fit around the other.

Most people who say "What does it mean to me" no doubt have good intentions. They are asking about how they should obey or apply Scripture. What is Scripture asking them to do. However more and more the emphasis is becoming "What does it mean to me?" The problem is when I become the emphasis as if I figure out where the Bible fits into what I already hold to be true or what to go and do.

What I am arguing is that the Bible as to form and fashion me into something else rather letting myself become the standard.

In that, rules and lists of 'go and do' are much too simplistic. Rather the emphasis in Scripture is "God has done, no you can 'go and be'." We need to get the indicative and the imperative right.

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