The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
1 Corinthians 12:5
“There are different kinds of service but the same Lord”
While I had been away from the UK the spiritual climate had changed. One of the most difficult changes for me was in the attitude to the Bible. In my time in Edinburgh many of the talks we heard were based on a subject, using various verses to support an argument. In addition the more listening form of Bible reading was prevalent, in which a person would sense God speaking to him through a passage of scripture and take this as guidance for life. Now however there had been a sea change. In Bible study and preaching, the historico-grammatical method had arrived in which one studies a passage for the one objective message. There is a wariness of taking verses ‘out of context’. As for guidance, a book had come out advocating the view that we have complete freedom to make our own decisions within the bounds of the requirements of scripture (Decision making and the Will of God).
When I arrived in Southampton, most of the ministry operated from these new principles. I went through various stages in response to them, from irritation at the start, trying it and ultimately finding in the Bible study and preaching a considerable degree of freedom. It was much easier, much more honest in a way to do a Bible study and then preach on it, than to try and get a particular message from a text. It was not very helpful if there was an issue to be dealt with where there is no clear cut text that covers the whole subject. However, within these limitations, I gained a great deal from studying with these people in this way and learnt a lot.
There was then much to learn about handling the objective truth of the Bible as something to be analysed. To deny God spoke to me subjectively through the Bible however would be denying my relationship with him. Further, there is a Biblical example of Paul and Barnabas doing exactly this. In Acts 13:47 Paul and Barnabas took a text from Isaiah as a command for themselves, while not making Peter follow it (Gal 2:11). In following it this way they showed that God had spoken to them specifically.
Some were mystified when I spoke of my relationship with God in this way. I tried to teach these others how to listen to God. It was not very difficult, a child could learn. I just pray, giving God the right to touch me in any area of my life that he should choose, and then asking him to show me what he would like to. Then as I read the text, I spend time thinking about it, maybe reading a sentence many times giving stress to different words each time. The method is not the key, God is greater than any method, but I prefer having a Biblical base. Usually some insight comes, often about life in general, but occasionally as guidance for a life situation. As I tried to teach this, I could tell that people were trying and getting no where. It was to me a most frustrating experience.
Finally I realised that Jesus uses different approaches with different people. Whereas he gives me this more subjective relationship with him, there are others whom he holds to the objective – and I am infinitely indebted to Jesus for them. They hold me to the highest standards in Bible study, their lives are of a very high moral standing and their teaching is excellent. There is a way in which Jesus complements each of us in the way he leads. He has a many faceted purpose in the church, a purpose that is too big for any one believer to express but needs the vast range of Christian experience.
USE OF BIBLE