Over the last few months I’ve been reflecting how easy it is for Christians to over emphasis certain aspects of hearing and knowing the will of God (e.g. prophecy). This ultimately leads to an unbalanced (wonky) approach that then leads to wild craziness or an unhealthy cautiousness. John Stott, in his commentary on the Book of Acts, nails three healthy guiding principles of seeking and discerning the will of God.
“It is instructive to note the cluster of factors which contributed to the discovery of God’s will in this matter. First came the general leading of Scripture that a replacement should be made (16-21). Next, they used their common sense that if Judas’ substitute was to have the same apostolic ministry he must also have the same qualifications, including an eyewitness experience of Jesus and a personal appointment by him. This sound deductive reasoning led to the nomination of Joseph and Matthias. Thirdly, they prayed. For though Jesus had gone, he was still accessible to them by prayer and was acknowledged as having a knowledge of hearts which they lacked. Finally, they drew lots, by which they trusted Jesus to make his choice known. Leaving aside this fourthly factor, because the Spirit has now been given us, the remaining three (Scripture, common sense and prayer) constitute a wholesome combination through which God may be trusted to guide us today.”
As many of you will be aware, sadly, Eugene Peterson passed away this week. His books have had a massive influence on me! I will deeply miss his provocation to live as authentic pilgrims passing through this life. This morning I was reading a sermon from his book ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire‘ and just couldn’t resist quoting the opening. This is Eugene Peterson pastoring and shaping people’s spiritual imagination:
“An ongoing concern I have as your pastor is the unfortunate separation of scripture from prayer; or prayer from Scripture, that is all too common in the Christian way.
The tradition of which we are part doesn’t separate them. Scripture is the Word of God understood, comprehended, honoured. Prayer is the Word of God assimilated, absorbed, lived. Scripture without prayer has no soul; prayer without Scripture has no substance. What I hope to develop in our congregation is a fusion of the two: Scripture-prayer or prayer-scripture. What is the use of knowing Scripture if you aren’t living it? What is the use of praying if you don’t know to whom you are praying?
Worship is the fusion of Scripture and prayer. Our purpose in gathering each Lord’s Day is to prepare us to live what we hear, to get what we hear with our ears into our feet as we follow Jesus”
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)
“The description of the Bible as a sword that can pierce and divide the soul demonstrates the invasive quality of the Word. When we approach Scripture with a humble hermeneutic of submission rather than a haughty hermeneutic of suspicion, then it is not we who read Scripture, it is Scripture that reads us. Scripture untangles the human heart and unearths sin like no other book can. No other book can discern the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Only God’s Word can do that.” Albert Mohler Jr.
”Across this land pastors have turned their studies into “stills,” illegal distilleries that extract ideas and morals from the teeming narrative of Scripture. People, of course, love it. They come to get their Mason-jar lives filled with pure truth so that they won’t have to deal with either the details of Scripture or the details of their own lives.” Eugene Peterson
”Holy Scripture is the garment which our Lord Christ has put on and in which He lets Himself be seen and found. This garment is woven throughout and so wrought together into one that it cannot be cut or parted.” – MARTIN LUTHER