Today we are going to explore just a few more of those tensions.
4 Stories that tell 1 Story Differently: Perhaps you are new to the Bible and you are still trying to get a lay of the land. At the beginning of the New Testament, there are four books, each of which have a man’s name. Their names, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These books together are called the Gospels (stories of good news). Each of them have the same objective: faithfully communicate the story of Jesus in various contexts. Each of them tell the same story…the story of Jesus. However, each story tells that same story in a different way. Each of them is speaking to a specific context, makes references that the others don’t, highlights themes and episodes that the others don’t. Some of the data points along the way can even sound a bit contradictory (a cursory reading of the Resurrection stories will reveal this). Reading through these books you come to discover that three of them (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) sound “sorta” similar, but John’s Gospel is completely different. Within the first few hundred years of the church (up to about 300 AD or so) there was a press to combine all four gospels into one. Some were afraid that four tellings of the same story differently would be confusing (it would lack the neat and tidy that so many desired). However, the early church refused this push, suggesting that four gospels held together a richness and texture in the stories of Jesus that would be lost in the homogeneity of one text. We discover angles in Jesus and the intentions of the early story tellers that would be lost in one gospel. So they held these four together. In reading these gospels, we allow the texture and richness to illuminate the various ways His early followers witness His life, His teachings, His death, and His resurrection.
Live in the tensions.
Note: There were other Gospels circulating at this time as well. If you’ve been to a Barnes and Noble, there will be books on the shelves that talk about the “Gnostic Gospels” or the one’s left out. We will deal with this next week when I discuss how the Bible came to exist in its current form, however, I say that what’s really important in this is that each of the four accepted gospels hold together similar themes and threads with the rest of the Biblical narrative and follow what’s called the “Rule of Faith.” Again we will discuss this more later next week.
Shouts of Warning and Whispers of Hope: Throughout the Old Testament, there are several books that hold together a tension that is often lost on us. We want it either/or rather than both/and. God’s serious about His business of restoring this world back to His original design. Likewise, God is serious about enlisting His people to fulfill that desire by embodying in their lives complete and unhindered allegiance and obedience to Him. He’s offered them a life, a way forward, a path to a life of meaning and purpose. However, our story tells us we are a bit hard-headed and seek our own way, our own path, and attempt to construct our own meaning by enlisting the help of self-made gods. This grieves/angers the heart of a jealous loving God. God then sends messengers to shout from the rooftops the need for repentance, a faithful turning away from sin and toward God. We are an obstinate bunch. God then warns of destruction and promises He will not forever boundary the forces of chaos from sweeping in and destroying God’s people. Sounds ominous! This is where “hell, fire, and brimstone” preaching goes wrong. It focuses only on one side of the coin…awaiting destruction. However, keep reading because the same people that shout warnings and destruction from the rooftops, pages later whisper hope. They make promises of a God that will not forever abandon them to their destruction, but that God will restore and make a new way forward, a new story is possible. God is a God of hope and restoration. However, this is where other preachers go wrong. They focus so much on all that is good that they miss the reality of repentance and the call to faithful obedience. These are always to be held in tension.
HE knows everything, SURPRISE!!: This is a complicated discussion for sure, because this strikes at the nature and character of God. However, I just want to touch on it today to give caution in reading the Bible that key tensions aren’t missed. We usually, in speaking of God throw around words and sayings like, “God is in control, God is Omniscient (All Knowing), Omnipotent (All Powerful), and Omnipresent (Everywhere all the time), God is in charge.” Now, again this is complicated. However, when you read the Bible some of these statements will come under scrutiny. For instance, for some… “God is in charge” often means that God has prescribed or scripted everything. But…if you read the text faithfully, you will discover that’s not always the case. Sometimes God changes his mind. Sometimes God haggles with people. Sometimes God’s course of action changes or is influenced by the prayers of His people. Besides, we ought to caution ourselves that God does not script evil. Sometimes this God that knows everything is surprised. In Jeremiah 7:31, when the Israelites are accused of sacrificing their children, it says, “something I did not command, nor did it enter into my mind.” This seems to suggest that evil can actually shock God. I know right? This adds a layer of tension. We love the neat and tidy world of everything scripted. But what if it is more dynamic than that? What if it requires more of us than that? What if the tensions call us to a faith that the static doesn’t regard?
Ok…so that gives you enough today to chew on. Tensions = Faith-filled wrestling
Back to the Story of Luke…
How ya coming? Let’s turn our attention to Luke chapter 12 today. This is a powerful chapter. I want you as you read Luke 12 to stay connected to kinds of warnings that Jesus gives to those listening. He warns against hypocrisy, greed, worry, fear, laziness, and injustice. In reading this passage, how have the very things that Jesus warns against disrupted or affected your life in significant ways. Imagine standing in the crowd hearing Jesus speaking these words over your life for the first time. What would your response be?