Summary: How can you bring material from being just words on paper to being words of life lived from your heart?
“Words on Paper”
July 7, 2001
What if you were a new Christian in the church in Corinth, having come into Christianity after a lifetime of worshipping all the many gods and goddesses around you in that ancient city? What if you were someone who had been diligent about that worship and who had thrown yourself into your religious involvement? But now, you were a Christian, having been convicted by the message of grace you had heard preached, and having responded to that wonderful message? You still had baggage, of course, but knew you’d deal with that over time.
One of these areas of baggage has to do with those idols you used to worship. In your mind, now, you were serving a greater God, but still those idols meant something to you. They had been a huge part of your life for so many years, and still, whenever, you saw a statue or walked by particular centres of worship for those idols, your heart raced a bit and memories of wonderful times of worship stirred in your mind.
Then you had a chance to hear a long and special letter read to you. This letter was written by the apostle, named Paul; you respected him very highly. (Not everyone around you, in the church, did, but you found him to be engaging and his writing to be very sound.) As you’re listening to this letter, you hear this:
1 Cor. 8. 5, 6, 7- you hear this and you want to believe it, but those idols aren’t nothing to you, and you find that, at this moment, these words are simply ‘words on a page’ to you. You can’t really wrap your mind around them very well. What are you supposed to do? How can these words become more than just ‘words on a page’ to you?
This situation might sound a bit far-fetched, but it’s not really. Any one of us, in reading the Bible, will find something that we can’t quite get our minds around. We’ll find- and have found- passages that we just can’t quite believe. To us, at first, they are ‘words on a page’ only. Perhaps you came from a Christian faith where idols were used significantly in worship or as part of the architecture where you used to worship. Perhaps you have had a difficult coming to terms with the idea that an idol is nothing. Perhaps, even today, if you were to attend a worship event in such a building, you have a difficulty with this idea which you want to be more than words on a page, but which seems to be something you might wrestle with.
What if you find yourself wrestling with wording of something that expresses scriptural ideas but in different words. It might be a denominational Vision statement, for instance. You can find one on the back of the monthly Northern Light, expressing the vision of the WCG (Canada). To you, these might be “words on a page” only. Yet, because you’re part of the WCG (Canada), you know that you don’t want this to be the way it stays.
You might be a member of a congregation that develops a vision, mission, or purpose statement, and this might seem to you, at first, to be just ‘words on paper’. You might be wonder how to take the words of such a Purpose Statement, which expresses scriptural ideas and directions from God. How are you to respond to your desire for them to become more than ‘words on a paper’ and to become something that you feel and believe deeply and intensely? You might have some feeling that you ‘ought’ to feel or believe deeper and wonder what to do.
We’re considering various levels of importance of ‘words on a page’ here, but the principles are the same when it comes to internalizing something that is written. Whether you are wrestling, in Corinth, with the idea that idols are nothing, or with a Christian congregation’s Purpose Statement, having something written to be more than just ‘words on a page’ is very important. God doesn’t want us just going along with something or just ‘giving in’, but consciously and intentionally agreeing and bringing what comes from Him into the midst of our hearts, minds, and lives.
How can we make something more than it appears? In other words, what are we able to do to bring scripture or a purpose statement from the head, where we might understand it with our eyes and ears, to our hearts?
Let’s consider five actions that we can take to make this important transition.
1. We have to approach any challenge like this with humility. This is a hard concept for 21st century people! We don’t like the idea of humility. It can be perceived as being weak. However, according to God’s Word, it is vital for us to humble ourselves before God and before others.