We live in a time of a seismic upheaval that is transforming the moral landscape of our culture. To take one example of the changes that are occurring at unprecedented speed, the familiar landmarks that enabled us to know how to think about sexuality have largely been demolished. If our forefathers were to take a look around our culture, it would appear more like a lunar landscape than the world they once knew.

So where are the "ancient paths" in the midst of the rubble of the upheaval? How can we help young Christians find them? And how can we defend and proclaim God 's truth in a culture that has largely lost any connection with what was once so familiar?

In a helpful article, Al Mohler explores how the church must respond to the crisis that the rampant sexual revolution presents. He makes the point that our response must be radically different to the one that we thought worked before cultural earthquake moved the goal posts. He writes:

Why the Concordance Method Fails
Proof-texting is the first reflex of conservative Protestants seeking a strategy of theological retrieval and restatement. This hermeneutical reflex comes naturally to evangelical Christians because we believe the Bible to be the inerrant and infallible word of God. We understand that, as B.B. Warfield said, “When Scripture speaks, God speaks.” I should make clear that this reflex is not entirely wrong, but it’s not entirely right either. It’s not entirely wrong because certain Scriptures (that is, “proof texts”) speak to specific issues in a direct and identifiable way.

There are, however, obvious limitations to this type of theological method—what I like to call the “concordance reflex.” What happens when you are wrestling with a theological issue for which no corresponding word appears in the concordance? Many of the most important theological issues cannot be reduced to merely finding relevant words and their corresponding verses in a concordance. Try looking up “transgender” in your concordance. How about “lesbian”? Or “in vitro fertilization”? They’re certainly not in the back of my Bible.
It’s not that Scripture is insufficient. The problem is not a failure of Scripture but a failure of our approach to Scripture. The concordance approach to theology produces a flat Bible without context, covenant, or master-narrative—three hermeneutical foundations that are essential to understand Scripture rightly.
Needed:  A Biblical Theology of the Body
Biblical theology is absolutely indispensable for the church to craft an appropriate response to the current sexual crisis. The church must learn to read Scripture according to its context, embedded in its master-narrative, and progressively revealed along covenantal lines. We must learn to interpret each theological issue through Scripture’s metanarrative of creation, fall, redemption, and new creation. Specifically, evangelicals need a theology of the body that is anchored in the Bible’s own unfolding drama of redemption. Read more...

Mohler is right. We need a theology rather than concordance in order to be able to navigate the unstable terrain of the new moral landscape.

We all have stories to tell. Some are born raconteurs; others are shy. But we all like it when people are interested when we tell our stories. And many of us have stories that we think are worth telling.

One man who had no shortage of stories to tell was Adoniram Judson.The great pioneer missionary to Burma passed through unimaginable hardships and dangers and embarked on some remarkable exploits. Whole books are filled with the stories of his life of adventure.

But Judson's view of his stories was rater more muted. He returned to America after 30 years' absence. Thirty action-packed, incident-filled years.An after-dinner speaker's dream with so many anecdotes to choose from.

As Judson was welcomed back home he was introduced to speak to a crowd that had gathered from great distances to hear him. To hear his stories.

Charles Spurgeon tells the story of that event, in a sermon on Exodus 12:13 called 'The Blood'. "He rose at the close of the usual service and as all eyes were fixed and every ear attent he spoke for about fifteen minutes, with much pathos, of the precious Saviour, of what he done for us; ...and sat down, visibly affected."

"The people are very much disappointed," said a friend to him on the way home; "they wonder you did not talk of something else. They wanted something new of a man who had just come from the Antipodes"

Judson's reply, as reported by Spurgeon, provides the perfect perspective for story-tellers everywhere:

Then I am glad they have to it to say, that a man coming from the Antipodes had nothing better to tell them than the wondrous story of the dying love of Jesus. My, how could I hereafter meet the fearful charge, 'I gave you one opportunity to tell them of ME; you spent it in describing your own adventures!'?

Psalm 119 is a kind of universal Psalm. Sort of.

It's a Psalm which, in their way, everybody is singing. It's almost a One-Psalm-fits-all kind of a Psalm. It expresses the thoughts and feelings of Marxist political ideologues, social liberals, pantheistic environmentalists, radical Islamists, hard-living hedonists, and laid-back, live-in-my-own-little- world individualists, to name but a few. Almost.

It's a Psalm that could be framed to fit all such people, for all people have a philosophy of life, a world view, a set of values or beliefs or commitments that are quasi-religious. In many instances they may not be able to articulate it clearly, but their life is defined by a Word, even if that Word operates at a sub-conscious, presuppositional level.

It is a well known piece of Bible trivia that Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and that the Psalmist ingeniously manages to fit in a reference to the Word in almost every verse. He does so by coming up with all kinds of other words for Word. Maybe if he had been writing it today he would have found a way to fit in words like 'worldview' or 'presupposition'. As it is, we have references to rules, laws, precepts, testimonies and the like - words that help us define the way we think and how we live.

In its generic sense, the Psalm makes sense of the ways all kinds of people think and act in the context of their defining "word". We can hear the left-wing ideologue, for example, passionately sighing, "My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfilling of your righteous promise" (v.123) - though the salvation he yearns for is that of the socialist Utopia and his hope is in the promises of Karl Marx. And we can understand the frustration of the social liberals saying "I look at the faithless with disgust because they do not keep your commands" (v.158) when they consider the conservatives behaving in such blatant disregard of what they believe to be the self-evident truths about how life should be lived according to the 'word' that has been a lamp to their feet.

Our environmentalist friends find reassurance here. In their radically green lifestyle and love for Mother Nature they can say in the Psalmist's words, "My soul keeps your testimonies; I love them exceedingly. I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you" (vs 167,168). Life is lived in the orbit and aura of Nature. Even the self-assured hedonist declares with confidence "I hold back my feet from every evil way [though of course in his mind evil has been defined as anything that gets in the way of maximum pleasure] in order to keep your word [a word which, in his case, has persuaded him that the good life is a life of partying rather than a morally upright life]" (v.101).

The Psalm is universal in the way that it recognize that all of life revolves around a word that draws us on, that inspires us, that informs us, that defines reality for us. A word that is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (see v.105). A word that enables the jihadist to be convinced that "All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross" (v.119), and encourages the self-centred, self-made individualist to lie back and think of his philosophy of life as "sweeter than honey to my mouth" (v.103). For, "as a man thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7), so every man and woman thinks in words that are born from a word.

How crucial it is, then, that we have the right Word! Suddenly the Psalmist ceases to be universal and we see him to be radically exclusive. "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walks in the law of the Lord!" (v.1). There is only one true Word - the Word of God, the Word of the true God who has truly revealed himself in Scripture and in his Son. How easily we are deceived into the lie of some other word defining our reality and framing our lives. How relentlessly we are bombarded with other words clamoring for our attention and consideration, seduced by the apparent appeal and plausibility of other philosophies and worldviews. With the Psalmist we determine, "I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways" (v.15). Understanding our vulnerability to be deceived from within and without, we say with the Psalmist, "Let my cry come before you, O Lord' give me understanding according to YOUR Word" (v.169).

"Have a Nice Day!" we are frequently told by well-meaning people. If they have anything in mind when they say these words, it would be a reference to the next few hours: at best a short-lived kind of secular blessing that would run out when darkness falls.

As Christians we have our own more biblical saying. "This is the day that the Lord has made!" We often say it on Sundays where it sometimes has an ever shorter time-frame in mind. A kind of religious version of "Have a nice meeting!" but the blessing will wear off by lunch time.

We say it to genuinely encourage one another, desiring, as the verse continues, that "we will rejoice and be glad in it". But the "it" in which we will rejoice is equally short lived: "it" is the day that our calendars tell us we are currently inhabiting. Tomorrow, will be another day, albeit another day that the Lord will also have made.

All of this reflects our focus to live in the now: it's this current 24-hour slice of history that is uppermost in our mind. And, since that is what we are most concerned about, we really want it to be nice. A nice day. We want to enjoy it. If we are Christians, we will talk of that in terms of rejoicing.

It all seems so biblical. God has made today just for me to enjoy! But it's another of those feel-good verses that we unthinkingly pull out of context to make them mean what we want them to mean without stopping to think what they really mean. We claim it as a promise of something neither God nor the verse ever said.

"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!" (Psalm 118:24). Like all texts it has a context. It comes at the end of a stanza that includes another well-known verse, yet the two are rarely quoted together. We read two verses earlier: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone".

This is the day? Which day is that? Not just your average Sunday morning. But The Day when Jesus, having been rejected by the Jews, became the the foundational center-piece of the the New Covenant people of God who were thereby built into a new Temple. As the earlier part of the stanza tells us, it is the day when the gates of the Lord were opened for the righteous, those who are righteous in Christ. The day when were given access to enter forever into the presence of the Lord.

This is The Day in which we are to rejoice, for the Lord, after centuries of planning, has made it for us! It is the Day of the New Covenant, the Day of the Gospel, the Day on which the Spirit of the Lord is poured out onto all flesh to draw men and women of every tribe and nation into God's family. It is the Day of the Lord. Our rejoicing is not in the happiness of having a nice day between now and when the sun goes down. It is in the forever Day that is filled with forever joy that is found in being built into the family of God through the righteousness of Christ.

So even if, despite the positive thoughts of so many well-wishers, this current 24-hour period doesn't prove to be particularly nice, it is only what Paul calls momentary. Of this we can be sure: we will have a nice forever day, even if it rains this afternoon. 

We are more familiar with anarchy than monarchy. That makes it difficult to understand biblical language about a kingdom. Modern man has forgotten how to relate to kings. As the deposed Egyptian King Farouk once said: “There are but five kings left on earth: the King of England, and the kings of clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds.”

We have seen that God’s throne takes central place in the whole universe. So we can be sure that our relation to his throne will determine every issue in life. Since the Kingdom of God is built on a submissive attitude towards the throne, it is no surprise that Satan constantly puts pressure on people to rebel.

Part of our dilemma is in the fact that we see so few role models of what wholesome authority looks like. Kings are often seen to be tyrants, and in so many spheres, leadership of other kinds is exercised in abusive or domineering ways. No wonder we shy away from vocabulary associated with “kingdom”: we prefer the ideas of democracy, or better still, self-government.

But the root of the dilemma also lies closer to home. Not only do we all have bad experiences of life under poor leadership; we also have a bad attitude toward the very idea of leadership. There is something in all of us, born in the heart of Adam, that says, “Why should I have to do what he tells me? Why can’t I decide for myself what I want to do?”

Fortunately the answer to both aspects of the dilemma is found in Jesus. He is our example of a king who rules well rather than badly, and also of a subject who submits to appropriate authority well rather than badly.

In the second chapter of The Treasure in the Field, we consider what it means to have a Submissive Spirit. Here’s what we shall see:
  • Who’s your father? There are two contrasting heart attitudes toward authority, and each expresses a different kind of family likeness 
  • How to respond to authority in the Kingdom of God. Submitting with honour and freedom 
  • How to rule in the Kingdom of God. Authority wihtout authoritarianism 
  • The example of Jesus: submissive and sovereign

The Treasure in the Field is now available as an e-book for only $1.99

Available for Kindle at Amazon

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For a preview, you can read the first chapter here: The Centrality of the Throne
Or, you can listen to Chapter 2 as audio files: Part 1;  Part 2;  Part 3;   Part 4