How does God explain Himself to us?

This question represents the first challenge we have to face in the task of making disciples out of younger members of the Church. The Church has been asking itself this question for 2,000 years, which means you do not have face this issue alone. There have been men and women in every generation who wanted to know the answer to this question, and my goal here is to share the best answers they found with you.

I want to share the insights into their successes (and failures) with you so you will not have to dedicate your time to learning something people in the past have already discovered the answers to. So let’s get started.

The first thing we need to say about interacting with God is that God is a person.

Like any other person, God can choose to speak (or not speak) to us about His thoughts, feelings and expectations for our lives. Let me tell you a story to explain what I mean by that. A few years ago, I sat down with a Christian to help him improve his relationship with God.

My strategy was for the two of us to sit down together and take turns reading the Bible, one chapter at a time. We would take one chapter at a time, and stay with that one chapter until my friend understood the information written in that chapter.

As soon as my friend was able to explain the facts correctly, I would tell him the reason you understand it now is because God just spoke to you and told you what it means. This is what a healthy and well balanced Christian Mysticism looks like: we sit down with a copy of the Bible and practice reading it, while anticipating the moment God will reward our efforts by explaining what it means to us.

The BIble shows us an example of this in Matthew, chapter 16 verse 17 which says this: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.”

So this Bible passage shows us that the Church leaders within the first generation of the Church understood God approaches us through the mind (instead of going around it). When we decide to approach God the way God intended, there are some things you will have in common with everyone else who has come to God on God’s terms.

Now, I want to show you what those common things are.

#1. The Bible is the Word of God.

This is the application of the Doctrine of the Word of God, which simply means when God wants to explain Himself to us, he prefers to use words. This is more important than you may realize at first. You see, God is a spirit, and spirits have two options available to them when they want to interact with people.

The first option is to speak to our minds, and the second option is to influence our feelings. So the question becomes this: does God communicate to people intellectually or emotionally? In Hebrews, chapter 11 the Bible says without faith it is impossible to please God…but is this faith based on information or emotion?

Does God interact with people through facts or feelings?

The Church has chosen to believe God interacts with people on the basis of information, although there have been times in the past when Church leaders have chosen feelings as being the more reliable path…we can talk about that at another time.

So what happens when we decide to base our faith in God on information?

The first result is that we begin to celebrate the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who base their faith in God on their feelings will not examine carefully or correctly anything the Bible says about Jesus Christ because they depend on personal introspection to guide them to the truth.

To state it simply, there have been mystics who believed they encountered God because of an emotional reaction they had during a process of self examination. The Bible offers a completely different path to reach God., although there have been “Christians in name only” who do not follow the Bible’s instructions.

In 2 Timothy, chapter 3 verses 15 through 17, when we let the Bible speak for itself we discover “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

In opposition to this, there have been mystics who try to become wise for salvation through faith in them selves, they try to put themselves up on Jesus’ level through private devotional times and personal introspection, and consider their efforts a success when their efforts produce an emotional response.

The Church has found this kind of method to be counterproductive. This kind of mysticism holds us back from having a real encounter with God. The Church prefers to listen to the Canon of Scripture.

#2. The Canon of Scripture

Wayne Grudem wrote that “the Canon of Scripture is the list of the books that belong in the Bible” and this statement is a reliable summary of what every generation of the Church has believed for the last 2,000 years.

Believing in the doctrine of the Canon of Scripture is an invitation into a community of people who are members of every generation from the last 2,000 years around the world. I am writing this because I am one of them, and I want to invite you to join us.

So here is a list of books that you must become familiar with if you want to become one of us.

The Old Testament Writings:

Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

The New Testament Writings:

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude and the Revelation.

In Ephesians, chapter 4 verse 11 the Bible says God has given teachers to the Church, and I am one of them. As a teacher in the Church I want to help you become familiar with how to read the books of the Canon of Scripture correctly.

#3. You Will Obey What is Written in the Bible.

In 1 Corinthians chapter 14 verse 37 the Bible says “what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.”

This is the application of the Authority of Scripture, which simply means when we disagree with what the Bible says, we are having a disagreement with God Himself. These disagreements can create barriers in our lives, separating us from God. God has invited His Church into a relationship, but sometimes in life there are moments when our ability to communicate breaks down while the relationship continues on.

This kind of thing can happen between us and God, and when it does, God simply waits for us to return to the place we never should have wandered away from because that is how relationships between people work.

#4. You will trust every detail recorded in the Bible.

In the book of Acts, chapter 24 verse 14 we are told that Paul believed “everything that was laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.”

This is the application of the Inerrancy of Scripture. God has reason for everything recorded in the Bible, and all of that information was written to help us understand how God communicates with people he has a relationship with.

There are also times when God communicates with people he does not have a relationship with, but I will have more to say about that when we get to the text of the Bible itself.

#5. You will study every part of the Bible.

in 2 Timothy, chapter 2 verse 15 the Bible says “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

This is the application of the Clarity of Scripture. This is important because the Bible itself recognizes that there are some things written in it which can be hard to understand at times (see 2 Peter 3:15-16).

The Bible was written in a foreign culture, with foreign social customs, by people living in a different time and place. God has made provisions for potential misunderstandings that these differences can cause by choosing people to be teachers (see Ephesians 4:11-16).

#6. You will need to examine the Bible constantly.

In Deuteronomy chapter 8 verse 3 the Bible says “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

This is the application of the the Necessity of Scripture. To state it simply, Bible study makes it easier to communicate with God. A deeper, more personal relationship with God cannot be obtained without a deep, personal understanding of the entire Bible. You could spend your entire life reading the Bible, and everything you would learn would improve your relationship with God.

The opposite is also true: You can add things to the Bible, and the things you have added will make it harder to interact with God. There is also the possibility that adding things to the Bible will cause you to wander so far away from God that you will never be a part of the community that God is building around the death, burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Passing these ideas on to younger, less experienced Christians is the first task of the teacher in the discipleship process. We need older, more mature Christians to help younger less experienced Christians understand why Christians from every generation have believed these doctrines, and supervise how younger, less experienced Christians apply these doctrines in their lives.

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Here are some recommended resources to help you learn more about the Bible.

I. Recommended Books: