I’m starting a new series, mostly for our church family that are the research “left overs” from the most recent sermon. Often an effective sermon comes down to what you don’t say as much as what you do, and thus editing out good material becomes essential. Here, then are some of the leftovers from this past week’s message: They are somewhat random and unconnected, but for those wanting more thoughts on Scripture, they may be helpful:
Key Question from Believe Series: How do I know God and his will for my life?
Honestly, this is why I love this series, because it gets down to what really matters and this question is one of the most important questions you can grapple with. How do I know God? If God has a will for my life, what is it? How do I access it?
Dallas Willard, “The will of God is always the next right thing to do.”
Great question: “How, then, are we to live out the Bible today?”
“The Bible- banned, burned, beloved. More widely read, more frequently attacked than any other book in history. Generations of intellectuals have attempted to discredit it; dictators of every age have outlawed it and executed those who read it. Yet soldiers carry it into battle believing it is more powerful than their weapons. Fragments of it smuggled into solitary prison cells have transformed ruthless killers into gentle saints. Pieced together scraps of Scripture have converted whole whole villages of pagan Indians.” ― Charles W. Colson
Examples of Scripture where context helps in our understanding. If we are going to learn context, here are 3 simple examples where context puts the passage back into its context, rather than what we often do with it – pull it out of its own context. This is known as “proof texting.”
Jer. 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
This scripture is most commonly given to young people graduating. ‘Hey,’ we say, ‘you have a bright future!’
That is good. nothing wrong with that. but the context of the passage makes it even more powerful. Israel is decimated. deported. utter ruin. Everything they thought they could count on is taken away. God seems absent, or worse yet, defeated by the Babylonian God. And Jeremiah brings a word from the God they thought was defeated. I have a future for you. You are not at your end. There is more. So, for example, if you’re sitting here now and you’re a follower of Christ, and you wonder if you’ve hit your end, this passage gives you real hope. Or let’s get it down even further to where this passage would have real power: Christians in Syria. While giving this passage to a graduate with a bright future is just fine, putting it into a modern context of destruction and fear is where its real power lies.
Second example: 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast. Where do you most hear it? A wedding. Great, I’m not knocking that. A wedding is a great place to celebrate that passage. But again, the context of this famous passage about love isn’t a wedding ceremony, it is a highly contentious, petty church.
Have you ever been involved in a highly contentious church that fights about things that don’t really matter? Or a church that polices things that don’t really matter? Or how about family. Are you a Christian family but you find yourself fighting, pitting against each other? 1 Corinthians 13 was written for that context. A wedding is fine, but it is very very rare for people to fight during a wedding ceremony. I’ve done a few dozen weddings in my time, and never once yet, have the bride and groom gotten into a fight during the ceremony. Don’t get me wrong, it would be epic if they ever did! But 1 Corinthians 13 has its greatest power where Christians are fighting. We should be seeing 1 Corinthians 13 posted in more Facebook posts…..