Monday, April 02, 2007

Is God's Word Relevant and Practical?

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (Colossians 3:16).

I plan to take a one-week break from the study in Isaiah this week with the students to deal specifically with the issue of the relevance and practicality of God's Word. You may ask, "why?", and the answer is that I'm not sure that any of us really understand or embrace the comprehensive competency of God's Word for life. I believe we even struggle to wholeheartedly believe that God's Word provides sufficient answers and help in all of life's circumstances.

But here is a related thought to the issue that struck me as I read in Colossians 3 this morning. As the Apostle Paul writes the church at Colossae and gives instruction about setting one's mind on Christ, laying aside self-centered desires for glory, and clothing oneself with Jesus, who is our life, he speaks of all of this within the context of community or Christian fellowship. Paul tells us to mortify desires which often cause us to use, harm or manipulate others for our own perverse appetities such as sexual immorality,covetousness, slander and obscene talk. As we take these things off he tells us to put on, by the power of the life of Christ within us, attitudes and actions that are indicatitve that the grace of God we proclaim lives within us. He tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. He calls on us to bear with one another and to forgive each other even when we have a complaint against one another. Above all, Paul challenges us to love one another.

What, though, does this have to do with the relevance of God's Word, besides the fact that Paul's words are said to be inspired by the Holy Spirit and are found within God's Word? Paul understands that this action - the putting off of sin in our lives and clothing ourselves with the character of Jesus - is stimulated by the Word, yes, but ultimately becomes regular practice in our lives through the life lived in intimate fellowship with other believers. This brings us to 3:16.

When Paul says "Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly..." he may well mean that we are to make Word of God at home within our own hearts in such a way that its influence shapes every thought, desire, action and word. And how does the Word dwell in us? It makes itself at home in our hearts when we hear it and receive it with meekness (Matt 13:9; James 1:21), when we handle it (2Tim 2:15), hide it (Psalm 119:11) and hold it fast (Phil 2:16). There is a clear personal application and incorporation of God's Word into our lives.

However, if we stop here, this may be why some believers miss the true power and impact of the word of Christ in our lives. There is a mistaken notion that God's Word and Christian faith is meant to be personal only. When we try to obey, live, abide and feast on God's Word without probing interaction and application of God's Word among others, we miss the impact it is intended to have in our lives because we are often blind, and sometimes even indifferent, to the areas of our lives that need attention from the word of Christ.

Contextually Paul is talking about an application of the word of Christ that happens corporately when two or more Christians are engaged in meaningful, God-centered admiration and praise to the glory of Christ and the edification of their own souls. Paul is clearly making this statement within the Christian community. It is quite possible, if not even probable, that when Paul says, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly..." that he means "among you", and not exclusively "within in" (in an individual sense). He may not mean this corporate interpretation exclusively, but it would be unwise to dismiss it entirely.

In other words, God's Word becomes extremely relevant and practical when it becomes the centerpiece of our relationships with one another. After all, isn't this the purpose of the word of Christ dwelling in us richly so that we might teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. I'm afraid we dismiss the relevance and practicality of God's Word because there are too few people in our lives applying the truth of God's Word in the areas of our lives that we need it most. We need truth-tellers and true friends who will be willing to speak God's Word into every area of our lives so that we might more effectively clothe ourselves with Christ and put to death what is earthly within us.


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