Developing confidence in God’s Word

The primary way a ministry leader can cultivate a trust in the scriptures is to preach them faithfully. In an attempt to appear more relevant, some have departed from sermons robust in biblical exposition to theories from the most recent cultural thought leader.  “If you picked an evangelical church at random and attended a Sunday morning service there, how likely is it that you would hear a faithful expository sermon, one that takes its message and its structure from the biblical text?” The chances are not very high in most American communities. As Dr. Steven Lawson has suggested, “When it comes to solid Bible preaching there is nothing short of a famine in the land.”

In a day where moral ambiguity, situational ethics and relativistic truth seem to be the rule of the day, nothing can be more culturally out of step than to begin a sentence with, “the Bible says” or to open a sermon with the request, “If you have your Bibles, open them to…”. Yet, that is who Christians are- we are people of the book. As Wilder and Jones have well stated, “The truth that a leader is called to proclaim is not the leader’s vision but God’s revelation.”

In a day where moral ambiguity, situational ethics and relativistic truth seem to be the rule of the day, nothing can be more culturally out of step than to begin a sentence with, “the Bible says”. Yet, that is who Christians are- we are people of the book.

The primary way a ministry leader can cultivate a trust in the scriptures is to preach them faithfully. In an attempt to appear more relevant, some have departed from sermons robust in biblical exposition to theories from the most recent cultural thought leader.  “If you picked an evangelical church at random and attended a Sunday morning service there, how likely is it that you would hear a faithful expository sermon, one that takes its message and its structure from the biblical text?” The chances are not very high in most American communities. As Dr. Steven Lawson has suggested, “When it comes to solid Bible preaching there is nothing short of a famine in the land.”

 In a day where moral ambiguity, situational ethics and relativistic truth seem to be the rule of the day, nothing can be more culturally out of step than to begin a sentence with, “the Bible says” or to open a sermon with the request, “If you have your Bibles, open them to…”. Yet, that is who Christians are- we are people of the book. As Wilder and Jones have well stated, “The truth that a leader is called to proclaim is not the leader’s vision but God’s revelation.”

A steady diet of truth from the pulpit reflects the fact that the pastor believes the book. He wields it as a warrior does his weapon; he paints ideas with it as an artist paints with her brush.  The faithful preacher understands, “God’s word is performative speech. Just as God first created something out of nothing, then called forth light from the empty darkness of the initial creation by his declaration: ‘Let there be light,’ so he continues to create new realities by the force of his sheer ‘Word’.”

Secondly, the pastor must teach his people to properly interpret the Word. Much of the doubt expressed by otherwise faithful believers stems from a misunderstanding of how to properly read the scriptures. Teaching a person how to read and interpret ancient literature is incredibly important. The interpretive lens one applies when switching from historic narrative to apocalyptic literature can radically impact interpretation of and confidence in the scriptures. One zealous brother who had recently immigrated to the United States from Africa heard me preach on the covenant sign of circumcision. He approached me a week later and said boldly that he, “had made his appointment to be circumcised.” He was somewhat relieved when I explained the covenant of grace under which a spiritual circumcision of the heart is performed by God upon conversion. 

Finally, it is always appropriate to place oneself in the same emotional situation of the person who is raising questions about the veracity of the scriptures. As Wilder and Jones have well said, “Pastors are brothers with the members of their congregations, called to cultivate the identities of their brothers and sisters in Christ as redeemed sojourners, living stones, and suffering servants.”  Thus, we must be relatable, having been shaken by what shakes them.  Asking interrogative questions to see, if perhaps, some new life experience has caused them to question God’s word. These conversations can allow us to discern the proper angle at which to attack the problem.

As we use these strategies and others, we see confidence grow over time. Exactly how it grows is something that cannot be fully explained. Faith does come by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, from one’s earliest days as a believer, there is a tremendous benefit to one’s faith as they simply read or hear the scriptures. 

Beyond that, there is an ongoing development of a sort of  “internal database of truth” that the believer is perpetually developing and drawing from. It is this reservoir of truth that the Holy Spirit uses to guide us through life. Mature Christian parents can see this phenomenon in their children. At first, the child believes the scripture because he or she has been taught to believe. They appropriate adherence to the word in a rigid, black and white sense (or they do not). Yet, after the parent has faithfully stocked his or her internal biblical library with volume after volume of truth upon truth, the child seems to have an instinctive intuition about those things about which they do not have direct special revelation. In other words, wisdom is conceived in the mind. This experience is true of adults as well. 

Many of the most important decisions we make in life are those in which there is no clear biblical command. Hence, it is extremely important that we cultivate a proper understanding of scripture and appropriate the scriptures faithfully. In the words of King Solomon in Proverbs 16:16 (ESV), “how much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”

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