The Scriptures mark out a path that guides and leads us to God’s future. In our day, as we sense acutely the new challenges presented to the work of the Gospel, followers of Jesus must hold to the practice faithfulness to God’s word as a key habit to cultivate and embody. Such a way of life will serve as the fuel for revitalizing existing communities of faith and for the launching of new ones.
The Trust Issue
Most of us resonate with a high view of Scripture. We are committed to biblical authority. Yet faithfulness to Scripture is more than a doctrinal confession. It is a way of life marked by a deep trust in God’s Word. Trust is the fundamental starting point for living into God’s future. Trust is lived out in faithful obedience to the guiding vision of the Bible.
Faithfulness to God’s word means trusting at a deep level that God has our best interests at heart so that we are willing to realign our lives with Scripture daily. Reading the Scripture faithfully keeps God as the constant subject of our lives.
In Genesis 3:1, the serpent opens his dialogue with Eve in the garden by asking, “Did God really say…?” Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes the sublime observation that this discussion was the first conversation about God. With a subtle turn of a phrase, the serpent shifts God from being the subject to being the object. When God becomes an object, we run the risk of substituting God-talk, some naïve theology, a political ideology (of the left or right), or even the work of church renewal for a vital moment-by-moment relationship with God. When we remain open to a daily encounter with our Living Lord, the Scriptures will continually astonish us and draw up deeper into the world that God desires to create. Thus, before moving forward in any work of God, we must settle the trust issue.
A continual realignment with Scripture is necessary because God’s mission is a movement rather than some static entity or institution. Jesus’ call was to follow him into the world to make disciples and to serve as visible witnesses to different kind of world—the Kingdom of God.
As soon as we commit to movement, we run the risk of getting off course. As long as we remain faithfully rooted in Scripture, we have access to God’s cosmic GPS navigational system. Scripture serves as the guiding voice to keep us aligned and on course. In times when we find ourselves off course, the Scriptures will call us to realign ourselves with the values and message of the Cross.
The work of church renewal and the planting of new communities is challenging and often leads us into uncharted waters. As disciples of Jesus, we must learn to rely on and trust the Scriptures to lead us to our destination just as much as we rely on GPS equipment for our treks to unknown places in our daily lives. Apart from the Scriptures as our eternal GPS navigational system, we are left only with the folly of self-reliance or trust in the collective wisdom of the very lost world that God desires to send us into for the work of his mission.
Lived Out in a Believing Community
The message of Scripture is lived out in community. Faithfulness to God’s Word involves serving as a missional community. As we seek renewal and revitalization in our day by reengaging the Scripture, we will find ourselves shaped as individuals but drawn together into communities formed by the Scriptures.
How is it possible that the gospel should be credible, that people should come to believe that the power which has the last word in human affairs is represented by a man hanging on a cross? I am suggesting that the only answer, the only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.
Paul describes the purpose of such a community in Philippians 2:15-16, “so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”
Communities that are soaked in and shaped by Scripture serve as clues. They shine brightly as the stars painted on the sky on the blackest night. Paul’s simile is an apt one for our day. We are called to be stars, but resist our tendencies to see this as some individual call. Since ancient times stars have naturally been grouped into clusters and constellations that tell of deep mysteries. When we as Christ’s Church live faithfully in accordance with the Scriptures in the work of church renewal and planting, we will collectively speak to the world the Gospel story in all of its abundance.
© 2015 Brian D. Russell
Creation and Fall, 111.
Lesslie Newbigin, Gospel in a Pluralist Society (Eerdmans, 1989), 227.