Imagine that someone were to go over something that I had written so that they could beat out lessons that could be gained over my words. Words that I had written in previous papers and posts were utilized to ensure that every grain of truth that were pulled out aligned itself well with previous writings. Discussion groups would then gather together to talk about what I had written and those who spent their lives studying what I had written ensured that the talking points did not disagree with the lessons I presented through the catalog of my writing. To be certain, all of that would be a ridiculous undertaking. If such devotion were to be spent on a writer, there are many more talented and wiser people than I to concentrate on.
The Bible is shallow enough for a child not to drown, yet deep enough for an elephant to swim. (Augustine)
The Bible is nothing like anything I, or any of those more talented writers could possibly write. It is worthy of the time and attention. The Bible is like a mine, where every excursion into it reveals a precious gem. While each of the sixty-six books in the bible had a human hand that brought them into existence, these human hands were nothing more than an arrow whose Archer strung His bow in heaven. As Christians, we too are like an arrow and the Holy Spirit is our Archer. Like an arrow, which needs to be spin tested to ensure its straightness, we sometimes need to evaluate ourselves so that the arrows, which are our lives, allow us to fly straight and true.
The Bible is the inevitable outcome of God’s continuous speech. It is the infallible declaration of His mind (A.W. Tozer)
So what is the Bible? Is it another arrow or is it the Archer? I would say that it is neither, it is the stationary target. If an archer were to string his bow and craft his arrows, the only way for him to know if they flew to their mark is by shooting at a target. By shooting and practice, an archer knows if his arrows need to be adjusted so that they shoot where they are intended. As the Holy Spirit is our Archer, He uses the Bible to influence us and train us to accurately shoot where He desires. With Christ, we see the perfect example of the arrow and the Archer. The human nature of Jesus was like an arrow that never missed its mark and never needed to be adjusted. While Jesus is also the Archer, He is also our example of how to ensure that we, His arrows, fly straight (while still imperfect) and true.
This is seen clearly when Jesus found Himself tempted by Satan. In this encounter, we find out something about our adversary, something that we also found out in the garden. While Satan knows that he cannot remove the target, which is the Bible, from the face of the earth, his craftiness tells him that his purposes are fulfilled by moving it. As the target originated in heaven, it is beyond his reach. We, however, are another matter. If we are unaware of what the Bible really says and the immutable lessons that it teaches, then we allow him to move the target to where he wants it, and us, to go. As Adam and Eve were unwary of the subtle changes that the serpent made to the Lord’s words, Satan obviously thought he could alter the direction that the Archer intended Jesus to go. Maybe he forgot that Jesus, the man, was also God in the flesh or maybe just like when he had the temerity to rebel against God in heaven his audacious pride thought he could beat Him as He now wore this cloak of mortality. If Jesus would have fallen to the first temptation, He would have filled His stomach, but the arrow would have missed the mark. But he resisted this and the other two temptations by keeping the stationary target, the Word of God, in plain view.
We are in a battle, a battle which is hidden behind the shroud of progress. As the world rushes forward and finds more ways to entertain, the church is struggling to keep pace. As every whim of imaginative fancy is at a person’s fingertips, in some circles, the church attempts to show that following Christ, our perfect Arrow and Archer is a simple thing. Say a prayer and off you go. No need to bother with the stationary target, because the target adjusts itself to wherever we are. By this new understanding, if we were truly the arrow, no one ever truly flies straight so it seems more reasonable to them if the target moves along with us. Of course this means that the target moves to the whims of our fancy, just like the world does, but in their view, the grace of God allows for this.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, (Titus 2:11-12)
There is a responsive relationship between obedience and the grace of God where God’s grace promotes obedience. Grace, which means unmerited favor, i.e. nothing that we could possibly do to earn it, allots everyone the possibility of salvation and salvation is realized for those who believe in Christ (1 Tim. 2:4, 6; 4:10). There is the negative response (renounce ungodliness and worldly passions) and the positive response (live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives). Natural passions and desires are not all bad. My natural desire for my wife is a godly inclination. But, when we allow what comes natural to us to be our moral compass, and not the Word, we may make the gospel more appealing, but whose gospel are we then proclaiming? Jesus tells us in Luke 13:3 that repentance is a necessary component of salvation and in 1 John 1:9, John teaches that repentance provides forgiveness and cleanses us. As Paul speaks of our common condition, the natural inclination of the flesh is to oppose the Spirit that lives in us (Romans 7). When we give into the flesh’s sinful desires, repentance re-straightens us, the arrow. It is the grace of God that assures us that no matter how badly we sin, that He will forgive us, when we repent. As Phillip Yancey rightly stated: “Repentance, not proper behavior or even holiness, is the doorway to grace.”
Theology is practical, especially now… If you do not listen to Theology that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot wrong ones. (C.S. Lewis)
The role and purpose of theology is not so that a select few can appear smarter than the Christians around them, but so that the church remembers that the Bible does not change. Theology is the aiming of the arrow. If the target moved to the whims of the arrow, which is us, then theology is unimportant because there would be no need to aim. The Archer knew what he was doing when He gave us His Word. As Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 30:5-6: Every word of God proves true; he is the shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar, and Deut. 4:2 commands that we not take away from His word as well. He does not need us to mute the convicting power of His Word because it might make us uncomfortable. Be wary of preachers who, when reading a passage of Scripture, blatantly skip over some verses because it does not suit their messaging. Despite the many changes that the world has gone through, God has not needed to change His messaging. As the church grew under the iron fist of the Roman Empire, flourished despite the spiritual failings of the Catholic Church’s leadership and survived the schism of the Reformation, the Word, which is our stationary target and standard, stands as a buttress and immovable fortress in the winds of cultural change.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
These verses tell us how the Word prepares us to take flight in service to the Archer. The Word: teaches, reproves (or counsels), corrects and trains us. When we are thus equipped, it is our faith (or trust) in God which determines how far we can fly.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. (Ephesians 4:11-15)
As iron sharpens iron (Prov. 27:17), so too does an arrow sharpen another arrow. That, in a nutshell, is the purpose of any gathering of Christians who have bent their knees and surrendered their hearts to the risen Christ. Sharing the gospel does not come easy to any of us, but when we come together with that common purpose in mind, we promote a spirit of espirit de corps that makes witnessing easier. When a Christian first declares their faith in Jesus, the darling of heaven and the Son of God, the Holy Spirit does not intercede in their lives and instantaneously make them a fully mature Christian and lead them into a life of tranquility where every day is rainbows and butterflies. No, life is war. Not a war where bullets fly and lives are lost, no, Christian warfare is waged differently and the stakes are much higher than the mere loss of life. In a world where revenge is a dish best served cold, Christians wage war by turning their cheek when abused and claiming no recompense for themselves. In this self-serving world, Christians wage war by being self-sacrificing. We are called to be holy, which means set apart. We are called to be different than the world instead of a mirror-image of it.
Last summer I attended a family fun day with my son’s Boy Scout troop. One of the events that we did was archery. To be clear, I have not shot a bow and arrow since I was a kid. I put on my glasses and arm guard and stepped up to the line and did everything I thought I was supposed to do to successfully shoot the arrow. However, when I pulled the string back as far as it would go and released the string, the arrow seemed to get caught up in the string and only went a couple feet. After a couple of failed attempts, the nice lady who was the instructor came over and told me I had to make sure the string went all the way into the nock of the arrow. After listening to her guidance I was able to hit my target with my arrows. For Christians, the nock of the arrow is our love for our fellow man. Without love, we are just a stick with feathers and not an arrow which obediently flies where His Spirit directs.