After 33 years in the Churches of God, both corporate and independent groups, I’ve seen a lot … some things that seemed to work pretty well … others that were obvious mistakes … some that were disasters. For years, I talked about giving a sermon entitled “The Interactive Book,” did a lot of self-examination, study, and soul-searching before actually giving a sermon with that title. I was overwhelmed with the volume of material that comes into my mind … enough really for several sermons. It ended up as a 3-part sermon, which I’d like to share in a series of blog posts over the next few weeks.
What do you mean“interactive”?
What I’m definitely NOT talking about is inserting present-day human beings into offices described in scripture. “Oh, this church leader is an apostle … this church leader is Zerubbabel … this one is Joshua … this one is the Elijah to come … and this world leader is definitely ‘the beast.’” I’ve “actually” met the two witnesses (or at least a man and his wife who claimed the title). The problem is, if you bother to peruse Revelation 11, there are some things in there that don’t really match up with what I saw. And who among us hasn’t met at least one “watchman on the wall?”
It seems some human beings have such a need for significance, and recognition these days, they’ll make just about any crazy claim just to get that “15 minutes of fame.”You see that happening on Facebook all the time – everyone wants to be a big shot. Well, what I’m talking about is Bible interactivity for little folks who are small in their own eyes, and want to stay that way. When it comes to Bible interaction, the only type of, “I am” statement that should even cross our minds is “I am a servant, son, friend, or slave of God,” or as Paul said in Philemon 1:1 “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”
Seek the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. (Is. 55:6-11)
We should want Bible interaction with the goal of becoming more like God and Jesus Christ, to bring our wayward thoughts and ways into line with Their thoughts and ways. How would you like to be one of those in whom God’s Word does not return void, who accomplishes God’s pleasure for His glory“? And what do you think it would be like to have the next verse as your reward?
For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. (Is. 55:12)
Jesus Christ was sent to show us the way to do just what we read about in Isaiah 55. What was His attitude? “Hey, look at me!” or “I’m the messiah. See, I’m a big shot!” Let’s look at His reaction when “the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him” after He healed a man on the Sabbath day (Matt. 12:14).
But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. Yet He warned them not to make Him known, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. He will not quarrel nor cry out, nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench, till He sends forth justice to victory; and in His name Gentiles will trust.” (Matt 12:16-21)
Jesus knew the violent thoughts plotted against Him, and He left peacefully but He also drove home the lesson that it’s ok to do good on the sabbath! This passage says He healed all who followed him! That was an even greater miracle than the one He did before. His attitude was one of quiet humility before God. The things that He did do, which gained him “fame” were simply to see to it that God’s word accomplished it’s purpose in Him.
This Being is our example of living by every word of God. We were called to “follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21) We were not called to read God’s word faithfully for a half hour a day, and then go back about our business. We were not called to support a man’s vision of what “the work of God” should be, or to pray, pay, stay, and obey. We were not called to give until it hurts – I know families that have done that to the point where their kid’s only impression of “the work of God” was living in grinding poverty, and wearing clothes to school that had another kid’s name on them. If we have truly “returned to the Shepherd and Overseer” of our souls, we will desire to follow His example in every balanced way that we can (1 Pet. 2:25).
How did Christ interact with His Father’s word and will?
We all began our real spiritual walk with God at baptism, so … our example … was baptized in Matthew 3, and this was really a bit confusing for John. He knew that his baptism was just a token of something much greater that would be done by the One Sent, the Christ, the messiah on a spiritual plane (Matt. 3:11-12).
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. (Matt. 3:13-15)
When the One Sent came to him to be baptized, the biggest question on John’s mind was, ”wait a minute! who should be doing the baptizing, here?” Christ’s reply says a lot to us about how He intended to live His converted life. He knew He was going to live a perfect life, and thus had no personal need for physical baptism in water, but He knew it was His father’s will. His father backed Him up with visible signs, and a voice from heaven declaring His pleasure with Christ’s actions (Matt. 3:16-17).
Christ’s interaction with the Father on a very personal level is recorded all through the gospels as an example to us. An example is something you imitate. God is doing a creative work in us now. We are all supposed to end up with the likeness of the Firstborn, so He sent the Word in flesh as our example, our Teacher with that end in mind.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Think about that “in the beginning.” Before the Old Testament, before the New Testament, all the thoughts and then some were in the mind of this being. The character, the thought processes, who and what He was and is came out in the words of this book during His interaction with His creation. Some of that interaction was very positive, some of it was very negative, but all of it shows us a little more about His character and person. His being, and how He has learned to deal with the creation, including us, during the thousands of years of human history, and pre-history.
“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:3). All things: angelic beings, planets, galaxies, constellations, the universe, the elements, DNA. Then, in verse 14 we see a great miracle: “and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” He became the One Sent, the Emmanuel – “God with us” – to dwell with us and to show us the glory of God in the perfect example of His behavior among men. He demonstrated a very personal interactivity with His human creation.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Heb. 4:12)
Is it too much for our minds to think of the Bible as “God, personified” in the One sent, and to begin to interact with it, as we would interact with a far superior human being? We often have no problem at all subjecting ourselves to “ministerial authority,” which sooner or later usually disappoints, betrays, deserts, or fails us entirely. Real faith relies on a conviction in that which is not seen.
“The Interactive Book” series: