Word and Spirit


As is it with the guitar…

For those of us who play guitar, we often look back in amazement of those before us. Guitarists like Mississippi John Hurt, who taught himself in his spare time when he wasn’t in the fields, up to Stevie Ray Vaughan who was also influenced, and learned from, the blues musicians before him. The former, had no training or helps in his playing, and the latter mimicked the styles of those before him. In both examples, there was a limited amount of material, other than good ears and a love for music or certain styles of music. 

I first started playing guitar in my teens, several years before the ease of looking up and printing tab off the web. I had to learn by copying the playing of others and looking at chord books.

On the contrary, in our present day, there are a plethora of resources to help anyone who would desire to learn. There are YouTube videos galore that will teach you every song, scale, and riff that you could imagine. The amount of data is absolutely overwhelming. 

Yet, I think this hinders the learning of many. There lacks a drive, a creativeness, a development in which one wants results without putting in the work. We can watch the video on repeat and memorize the intro to Little Wing, yet gain absolutely nothing in terms of the technicality of the notes or progressions. We can wow people with our new riff, but not be able to take that and grow from it. 

So it is with the Bible…

I also believe the same is true today with the massive amount of biblical resources we have. We have study bibles, handbooks, commentaries, computer software, etc., all of which are helpful and needed, yet it often keeps us from having to do any work; and the discouraging thing is that “work” can be a great tool of communing with our triune God. 

For instance, I was reading 2 Corinthians 5:17 the other day and thinking over it. I read…”if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature, old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” The thought arose….. old things are passed away; gone; yet, all things are become new. The ‘all things’ that have become new, overwrite and cover the old things. The old passes and all things, including the old things, are become new. 

Now this is a simple thought, but it was very comforting and gave me a profound sense of assurance. However, unfortunately, I then proceeded to grab my study bible to see what their notes on that passage said to be sure what I was thinking was not out of line or out of norm of the majority interpretation of that text. 

Then I thought, WHY???? I know it is biblical. I can turn to a number of passages that reaffirm the same truth. Why then do I need to go extra-biblical to confirm something I know to be true? Why did I not turn that truth back into praise and prayer to my God.

This is what I am talking about! Often in my Bible reading I keep a study bible or commentary open and check the notes on things that I read.

Now please hear me out I do not adhere to a SOLO scriptura. We of course should use helps and tools from those who came before us, and should always be cautious, especially if we formulate something we consider “new.” And at the same time, God speaks through his word, teaches and confirms, by way of the Holy Spirit. This is known as the Holy Spirit’s ministry of illumination. John Owen puts it this way: 

…it is “the especial work of the Spirit of God on the minds of men, communicating spiritual wisdom, light, and understanding unto them, necessary unto their discerning and apprehending aright the mind of God in his word, and the understanding of the mysteries of heavenly truth contained therein.”

I believe this is why many of us are still Bible deficient, craving the milk; namely we are surrounded by so many helps, that we are not seeking answers, and thus not retaining His Word in our minds and more importantly in our hearts. 

Again, I repeat, we are so grateful to live in an age where we have so many helpful resources in our grasp. In addition, we have 2000 years of church history to keep us from going astray in false doctrine. Yet, we must not forget that God speaks to use today through His living and active Word and we should thus seek Him in it. It is a glorious place to be deep in his Word and to seek out truth within it. 

His Word is how he reveals himself to us. Without his special revelation we cannot know who God is and what is needed for salvation in Christ. The Holy Spirit reveals this truth to us, teaches us, and helps us to apply these to our current situations. George Mueller once wrote:

“That the word of God alone is our standard of judgment in spiritual things; that it can be explained only by the Holy Spirit; and that in our day, as well as in former times, he is the teacher of his people. The office of the Holy Spirit I had not experimentally understood before that time. Indeed, of the office of each of the blessed persons, in what is commonly called the Trinity, I had no experimental apprehension. I had not before seen from the Scriptures that the Father chose us before the foundation of the world; that in him that wonderful plan of our redemption originated, and that he also appointed all the means by which it was to be brought about. Further, that the Son, to save us, had fulfilled the law, to satisfy its demands, and with it also the holiness of God; that he had borne the punishment due to our sins, and had thus satisfied the justice of God. And, further, that the Holy Spirit alone can teach us about our state by nature, show us the need of a Saviour, enable us to believe in Christ, explain to us the Scriptures, help us in preaching, etc. It was my beginning to understand this latter point in particular which had a great effect on me; for the Lord enabled me to put it to the test of experience, by laying aside commentaries, and almost every other book, and simply reading the word of God and studying it. The result of this was, that the first evening that I shut myself into my room, to give myself to prayer and meditation over the Scriptures, I learned more in a few hours than I had done during a period of several months previously. But the particular difference was, that I received real strength for my soul in doing so. I now began to try by the test of the Scriptures the things which I had learned and seen, and found that only those principles which stood the test were really of value.”

Muller found, when he put away the commentaries and other books and went one on one with God, through prayer and meditation, that he “received real strength” for his soul. He gained more knowledge by not having the answers in books, but by diligent study and communion with God through the Holy Spirit.

The Proposition

So here is what I propose. During your morning devotions or daily Bible reading, put away the commentaries, the books, the study bible, etc., and pour over his glorious word in meditation and prayer; compare Scripture with Scripture; allow the Holy Spirit to teach you and to help you to apply His promises and truths. I guarantee you will be blessed and you will grow deeper in your relationship with God and knowledge of his Word.  

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