he longer I live, the more “bullish” I’m becoming on the Word of God. The Scriptures have always represented a serious stabilizing force in my life, and they continue to do so. The Bible is the one thing that makes sense to me all the time, every time. Some might diagnose this kind of dependence on the Word as a crutch. My response is: Great call! The Bible is, in fact, a crutch for me; and I would have it no other way. I have learned to “lean” on Scripture as a great guide for my life.
The Word says “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Many believers lack this perpetual joy and strength because they’re not consistently in the Word.
I also get training and instruction in the Word. What a powerful experience! To access this training, however, we must permit the Holy Spirit to establish in our hearts that the entirety of the Scriptures is the infallible, unalterable Word of God. That’s critical.
Much to my surprise (and I suppose I shouldn’t be), I’m coming across a growing number of people who profess Christ as Savior but who relegate selected portions of the Scriptures as nothing more than opinion pieces. This plays out most noticeably when they encounter biblical instructions that “brush up” against their lives. As opposed to openly receiving the Word and permitting it to do its corrective work on their hearts, they chalk it up as the bias of the biblical writer. Yet the Bible is clear as to its origin: “Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). Either I accept that as a believer, or I don’t.
I’m a pretty simple guy with an intentionally simple faith; I try to take God at His Word. As such, I embrace key “takeaways” that are a direct result of an honest, teachable, and openhearted approach to the Bible. These takeaways are threefold: (1) the Scriptures are profitable in teaching sound doctrine; (2) they are a corrective when we cross its boundaries; (3) they are a “training table” where we learn what is right and act accordingly (2 Tim. 3:16).
Some of what mitigates against openly accepting the Word as the direct means by which we encounter God and receive instruction about living is a growing phenomenon occurring within the walls of Western culture, namely, religious pluralism (the acceptance of all religious paths as equally valid). Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the effects of religious pluralism are having some impact relative to certain issues within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The mere existence of this phenomenon will increasingly present challenges to our denomination in years to come on a whole range of issues.
The Kingdom Agenda
I use this column to write each month about matters that I hope will advance God’s kingdom agenda in our lives and in our church. The kingdom agenda is not a personal view as to what I, or anyone else, determine is important to God. It’s what God says is important to Him as expressed in His Word. But we won’t know what’s important if we aren’t students of that Word. Trying to navigate the ever-shifting culture around us without feet planted firmly in the Word is a recipe for disastrous living. It’s exactly why I keep talking about the necessity of having a biblical worldview.
When culture is filtered through the lens of Scripture, we navigate life with surefootedness. But when we filter Scripture through the lens of culture, uncertainty in our steps and accommodation to unbiblical traits of culture can prevail.
I’ve decided to take my stand on the side of the Word in daily praying for clearer understanding. I have to stay diligent to avoid attempting to bend the Word to my way of thinking. That is a great danger for all of us. We need the Holy Spirit to be our Host and Guide when we encounter the Word.
My constant desire: Give me the Bible!
Fredrick A. Russell is president of the Allegheny West Conference, with headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. This article was published May 20, 2010.