I admit to being a Facebook junkie regular.  Not only do you get to touch base with those to whom you have some connection and varying levels of relational intimacy and knowledge, but there is some fun stuff too like these neat little quizzes that somehow speak to your character.  Of course, its impossible to really target the essence of who we are through a computer generated response of 10 questions and I have definitely been somewhat disappointed at the outcome of a couple (those who know are probably laughing their heads off right now 🙂  ).  But I certainly recovered with the last one called Which Bible Character are You?  And the response was King David.  I thought “awright, this is cool”.  It got me to thinking about the character of David, especially considering that he was identified as being a man after God’s own heart.

Anyone who has read through the Old Testament knows that David was no choir boy.  He didn’t necessarily do everything right. Yet David eventually would eventually yield to what God wanted.  He recognized that although he had at his disposal resources to affect positive outcomes for himself, it would all be meaningless if it was not aligned with God’s prescription.

I believe the actions were a response to David’s recognition of God’s ultimate authority.  It wasn’t just about doing everything right but about seeing everything right and seeing from God’s perspective according to who God is as He has defined Himself.  Because clearly, David didn’t do everything right. Not only that, but recognizing that all God had laid out at that time was in consideration of His plan and His purpose concerning Himself and His creation that he spoke in the prophets, through provision of His Law for His chosen people in demonstration of His authority.  So as David was confronted with the error of his ways, He saw that against God he has sinned (Psalm 51:4).  That somehow his perspective had become so skewed that he missed who God was to feed who David was and what He wanted.   He recognized that God was the final arbitrator of truth and justice and alignment to His perspective would enable David to live at peace with God.   David respected that authority.

God has spoken to us concerning Himself, His plan and purpose.  Hebrews 1:1-3 indicates that previously He spoke in prophets but then in His Son, being the same essence and emitting His glory so that as we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen the Father.  God revealed Himself to His chosen people and His expectations from them through His prophets, which was a foreshadow of His ultimate revelation in Christ.  He moved His authorized agents, prophets and apostles (2 Peter 1:20-21) to inscribe this revelation (2 Timothy 3:16), which we have laid out for us throughout the 66 books of the Bible.  God has condescended to us to make Himself known, or what He has wanted to make known, so that we may ascend to Him in our hearts.  God has established His authority.

Therefore, the Bible is not just a rulebook, a good book or a textbook.  It is His very word handed down to us so that we may understand His perspective on who He is and His expectations from His people.  It is as if, he has tapped us on the shoulder personally and said “This is who I am, that I’d like you to know”. Now I, being a dispensationalist, believe that God has progressively revealed Himself through selected eras (economies, dispensations, whatever) successively building upon a previous revelation concerning Himself and His requirements from His people in each particular era.  Sorry, this just makes perfect sense to me.  And whether you are dispensationalist or not, there has to at least be the recognition that the inspired writings through 40 authors is how God has chosen to communicate Himself, that this hold ultimate authority for who He is and what He expects. It involves reading it in a holistic consideration to determine how each piece fits into God’s overall story that He has provided to us from Genesis to Revelation.

I don’t think anyone wants to deliberately misinterpret Scripture.  Sure, there are those who desire to prove the Bible wrong but I’m not talking about that.  When someones picks up the Bible to read it, I believe there is a genuine interest to understand what it is saying.  There is a geniune interest in learning what the Bible is communicating.

But we all have rebellious tendencies because we have arrived on earth ensconsed in a package called flesh.  Flesh is the principle at work in our humanity that is inwardly focused and seeks to operate disconnected from God’s moral righteousness and demands.  It makes Me, Myself and I the celebrity with a Burger King mentality that will always want it “my way”.  It serves as willing and facile conduit for sin, since sin is the “lawlessness” that rebels against God and will always miss the mark.  Sin operating through the flesh is opposed to God at every juncture.  Unfortunately, I think one of the greatest misrepresentations made to Christians is that a new nature means we no longer contend with the old one.  Surely, regeneration makes us alive to respond to God correctly that is enabled through the work of the Spirit, whose continual filling will produce movement to Spirit-led outcomes rather than flesh-led outcomes.  It’s why Paul says in Galatians 5:16-17 to follow after the Spirit so that we will not carry out the desire of the flesh, because the flesh is opposed to the Spirit.

Therefore, the “I, me, mine” of the flesh will navigate perspective of who God is and how He has defined things, according to His revelation towards an inward focused perspective of ourselves, our opinions, our experiences and yes even our church traditions and denominational affiliation.  We can take the very breathed out words of God towards application that will not only affirm a flesh-oriented rendering of what Scripture is saying but can skew the overall agenda in a way that disrupts the whole system.  I love this quote by A.A. Hodge,

Since the revelation given in the Scriptures embraces a complete system of truth, every single department must sustain many obvious relations, logical, and otherwise, to every other as the several parts of a whole.  The imperfect development, and the defective or exaggerated conception of any one doctrine, must inevitably lead to confusion and error throughout the entire system.

Do you hear what he is saying?  Every word, thought, idea and presentation counts and must be weighed against the entire system for it to make sense.  If we recognize that the Bible is God’s breathed out word to us and if we are at all serious about understanding who He is, His plan and purpose, then that should give us pause.  It should cause us to approach His word with fear and trembling, with a cautious regard about conclusions and a determination to not misinterpret, misorient, misread, misunderstand or misapply the text in order to benefit ourselves, our opinions or our positions. Consider the times when persons in the Bible had divine encounters, like Isaiah, Joshua and John on Patmos.  They contrasted the holiness of God with the broken impurity of their own humanity, and bowed in a humble worship.  This reverence should be ours when approaching the text, that we treat every word, every paragraph, every chapter and every book with tender care, not looking to quickly impose our own ideas onto the text but carefully examining what it is saying.  And this will cause tension and wrestling with some passages but must be done lest we revolt against the very word of God.

This requires submission, which is a dirty word in relation to some topics but is at the heart of true Christianity.  It is lowering ourselves in relation to God, like John says ‘he must increase but I must decrease’.  It is recognizing that we will have tendencies to bring presuppositions into reading the Biblical text and that our flesh will nudge us to the ‘what’s in it for me’ reading and moreover, how can I show I’m right about what I’m thinking.   Submission will cause us to yield to a consideration of the what is being said and lay our own opinions, agendas and need for rights aside.  Yes, we do have a need for rights and a need to be right.  But Jesus shows us the perfect example regarding this attitude:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled Himself and became obedient to death – even death upon a cross (Philippians 2:5-8, NIV)

How much more should we lay aside our rights.  How much more should we be eager to learn, quick to hear and slow to speak.  How much should we have as our hearts goal a desire to know God on His terms and not ours.

    8 replies to "Authority, Submission and Our Rebellious Tendencies"

    • Brett

      I just took one of those Bible Character questions. It says that I — a middle-aged, 6-foot, 250-pound male — am the Virgin Mary….

    • minnow

      So Lisa–How does one tell the difference between discernment (revelation) and rebellion? If our study of scripture happens to support our point of view but not necessarily what has been “taught” does that mean it is rebellion and not truth? Is my understanding, reading, interpretation automatically suspect because it doesn’t line up with tradition? And if so why? I’m not sure I understand what you mean by calling yourself a dispensationalist but your explanation of the term made me wonder why we don’t still expect God to be revealing Himself.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Minnow, I would say not necessarily rebellion. I mean think of Luther and his challenge to the Catholic church. But in terms of revelation, if you unpack the passage I cited in Hebrews, it shows how God’s revelation has come about. In the past through prophets and now “in His Son”. The writings of the NT are inscribing God’s revelation in Christ as the apostles testified to Him. So Scripture is God’s revelation. That is not to say that God is not active today in our lives or “shows” Himself. The Holy Spirit shouldn’t be grieved or quenched, but given full reign in the life of the believer.

      Also, if Scripture is God-breathed, then that would mean there is only one interpretation, yes? It does get tricky with some passages and clearly there have been disagreements in the development of doctrine. But there is only one meaning. And that, I think, is my point about humility. Its not to say that we are necessarily going to get everything right but it should say that we will want to try in order to understand what God is communicating.

    • Leslie

      Oh, I know you are a Facebook junkie, Lisa! 😉

    • Carol Jean

      Good thoughts, Lisa. 🙂

      I shudder to think that I may be misrepresenting God’s word.

    • minnow

      Only one meaning because…God could not possibly mean for it to have multiple layers of meanings because He’s not as good a “writer” as say Walt Witman, Checov, Charles Dickens…? Even if I agree that there is really only one correct interpretation, which interpretation do we “know” is correct? Yours or mine? We both aproach scripture asking for understanding.
      I get that you were saying scripture was God’s revelation but why would He stop revealing? Certainly He didn’t run out of things to reveal. And, it couldn’t be that we got it all right in our understanding of what He did reveal to the point that He doesn’t need to keep talking to us (or to the next generations). Obviously we should read scripture with pure intent. We need to hear the words, study the examples, understand the content, consider the cultural differences…and let the Spirit inform our hearts and minds. And embracing any extra-Biblical writing/teaching (even when it is presented as “interpretation”) needs to be done with utmost care so that it does not contradict the clear message of the gospel (who Jesus is and what He did).
      Finally, much of the NT is instruction for living so that we as the Body might continue to witness/reflect Christ which is different from the apostles’ testimony of what Christ did while he walked the earth. So, I am not exactly certain what you are saying in this statement: “The writings of the NT are inscribing God’s revelation in Christ as the apostles testified to Him.”
      I think we are on the same page as to how we think we should approach scripture but because of our interactions on other posts I know we come out in different places with regard to specific interpretations. In that light, these kinds of post throw up all sorts of red flags for me because they seem to imply that if my interpretation does not line up with yours I must not be approaching scripture with a contrite/humble enough spirit. You may not be consciously making that accusation but it’s difficult for me to come away with a different understanding. I will try.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Minnow, I think that would be an unfortunate interpretation of what I’ve written. I think Carol Jean gets the heart of the post.

    • Minnow

      Humm…note to self…

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