Saturday, February 9, 2013

Loving God's Word, Head and Heart

(This is the text of a chapel devotional I gave at my alma mater, Florida College, yesterday).

In keeping with the lectureship theme of the resurrection, this morning I am going to read some selected verses from Luke 24.

13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself...  31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 
When I was a student here I always hated it when old preachers would show up and tell long, boring stories about when they were students at FC, involving people I had never heard of. This morning I would like to tell you a long, boring story about something that happened when I was a student here involving a teacher many of you have never heard of!

My fourth year here I had a class before chapel on Matthew, Mark, and Luke with Dr. Melvin Curry. We were studying the parable of the Good Samaritan, and he related to us a story he heard about a professor at a seminary who assigned one of his classes a paper on the Good Samaritan. As soon as class was dismissed, his students rushed from the classroom to get to the library as fast as they could to get the best resources on the parable. Unbeknownst to them, the professor had planted someone on the sidewalk between the classroom building and the library, doctored up to look like the victim of a savage beating. He then took up a position to observe what would happen as these students rushed to the library. Some ran around the apparently injured student, others literally hurdled over him, but no one stopped to help him. When the class reassembled next, the professor took up all of the papers, then ceremoniously dumped them into garbage and told his class that regardless of what they had read or written, none of them had learned the lesson of the parable.

Well, my roommate and I decided that Dr. Curry needed to be put to the same test. So after class, we immediately scrambled out to the sidewalk between Hailey King and chapel, and waited. Mind you, my roommate was a big guy like me, so there we were, like two super-sized speed bumps, laying across the sidewalk.

Sure enough, Curry came down the stairway and made his way toward chapel. First, I heard him chuckle. Next, I heard the sound of his keys jingling in his pocket, indicating he had broken into a trot. And then, as I stared straight up into the sky, I saw Dr. Melvin Curry go airborne and leap right over me, briefcase in hand, then over Darrell, all while hollering, “Sorry I can’t help, I’m late to chapel!” Considering our size, he had to have set some sort of record for the high jump!

Why is it that there are students like those in this story who are serious and intense about the academic study of the Bible but fail to put it into practice, and on the other hand there are students who are filled with zeal but lack the desire to carefully analyze the Scriptures?

The academic study of the word of God and a passionate commitment to practice the word of God are not mutually exclusive, but sometimes we act as if they are. You are blessed to attend a college in which the curriculum is centered on the serious study of the Scriptures. And if you are like I was when I was a student, or like some of my students were when I taught, then perhaps you get restless as your teachers delve into the historical and grammatical background of the Bible. “This is boring; give me something practical!”

But you cannot love the Lord if you do not love His word, and you can’t love his word if you aren’t interested in what it actually says. And the only way to know what His word actually says is to understand what it meant when it was written, in a time and culture much different than ours. And unless you take the time to know what the divinely inspired author intended, then you will inevitably download your own meaning and your own ideas onto the text, so that what you are practicing and what you are loving, is not really God’s word, but yours!

But on the other hand, once you have mined the treasure of God’s word to understand the meaning of the text, that word is of such power it will set logic on fire, and it will ignite within you the same passion it did the two men on the road to Emmaus, whose hearts were ablaze as the Lord explained the Scripture to them.  

We must not accept the false choice between the scholarly and the practical; between the academic and the authentic. Our prayer must be that of the psalmist in Psalm 119:129-131:

129 Your testimonies are wonderful;    therefore my soul keeps them.130 The unfolding of your words gives light;    it imparts understanding to the simple.131 I open my mouth and pant,    because I long for your commandments.

May the Lord help us all to have a heart warmed by the knowledge of His word, and a mind that is enlightened to love Him and passionately do His will.

No comments:

Post a Comment