Unpacking the Box of My Life

I have a good friend who is dying of cancer.  She is young and vibrant  with a laugh that just can’t help but make you chuckle and smile.

My friend has been sending email updates about her life to a distribution list and the news is not good.  She probably won’t receive a cure.  She lovingly shares her journey with us.  With good intentions, she shares how God is working in her life and describes how she views God through this experience called cancer.  Her emails are touching and beautiful.  They bring our future death into our own reality view and make us look it straight in the face.  Her strength is incredible.

A recent email she sent caused my heart to sink a little this morning because though her words were lovely, they promoted a feelings-based faith.  It’s not that anything she said was heretical, but it was misleading and over-simplified.  She said many things, one of which was: “being a person after the heart of God doesn’t always look like what we think it should.  My experience of finding God  means he just expects me just to be me.  We are so limited in our minds.  He is way bigger than scripture.”

How do I tell her that her words misrepresent Christ?  How do I tell her how they affect me  — the person who was misled by another who did not know what the Bible accurately had to say and was merely expressing her “feelings” about God.  How do I gently and lovingly exhort her while explaining that she could be misleading others by her words?

She is dying.

My conscience is searing from the pain of this email — partly on her behalf because of her struggle to live — and partly on  behalf of those who are reading her emails.   Her words do much more than just step us through her cancer experience.  Through her words I fear that some may come to believe that all you have to do is to “feel” God and “express” God the way each of us personally sees him.  I’ve been innocently deceived in the past and I don’t wish that path for anyone who desires to know God.

There is a better way – a more sure way!  I’m going to keep this simplified because it’s not my desire to go deeply into every aspect of theology in this particular post.  To explain, there are two general ways we can know God.  Through “general revelation” — (nature, God’s providence and our own conscience); and through “special revelation” – (God’s Word).  General revelation is insufficient to teach us about God although it shouts loudly of his existence to our hearts.  Special revelation includes all those events included in the Bible such as dreams, visions, the words of Jesus, angels, historical experiences of God’s people and the very words of God Almighty, recorded for all men to see.  Psalm 119:105: Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

J. I. Packer, author of the incredible book, Knowing God, quotes Bishop J.C. Ryle in his paper entitled, “Our Need of  Scripture.”

You live in a world where your soul is in constant danger. Enemies are around you on every side. Your own heart is deceitful. Bad examples are numerous. Satan is always laboring to lead you astray. Above all false doctrine and false teachers of every kind abound. This is your great danger.

To be safe you must be well armed. You must provide yourself with the weapons which God has given you for your help. You must store your mind with Holy Scripture. This is to be well armed.

Arm yourself with a thorough knowledge of the written word of God. Read your Bible regularly. Become familiar with your Bible.  Neglect your Bible and nothing that I know of can prevent you from error if a plausible advocate of false teaching shall happen to meet you. Make it a rule to believe nothing except it can be proved from Scripture. The Bible alone is infallible.  Do you really use your Bible as much as you ought?

Packer  goes on to say that today there are many people who believe the Bible, yet read very little of it.  If you are one of these people, Packer says, you are the person that is unlikely to become established in the truth.  If so, you are the person that is likely to be carried away by some false teacher for a time.

This happened to me 33 years ago.  The impact on my life was immense.

In another paper called “Revelation: Scripture is the Word of God,” Packer reminds us that scripture is the revelation of God.  Without this revelation, no one would know the truth of God — nor would they be able to relate to him in a personal way had not God first acted to make himself known.  But, Packer says, God has so acted!  Christians should be grateful to God for the gift of his written Word and conscientious in basing their faith and life entirely and exclusively upon it.  Otherwise, Packer says, we cannot ever honor or please him as he calls us to do.

When my friend says that “he just reveals himself to me through anything and everything in a way that is easy and freeing” my heart aches for those who might read these misguided words, as well-intended as they are.  As much as I love this wonderful woman and ache for her personal trial, the legacy we leave our friends and family must be accurate.  It must not be our view, but God’s view.

When I die and my children are unpacking all of the boxes in the basement which contain my life, it is my prayer that they will see the kinds of books I read and view the markings in my Bible which hopefully will show that I have faithfully attempted to study God’s Word.   I hope they will not see my faith as being based on comforting feelings of who I thought God was, but that I consistently sought to understand God from God’s point of view rather than my own.

There is no richer legacy I hope for than to leave my children with a strong understanding that the Bible is their hope in all circumstances and that its teaching is accurate and true.  I pray they will teach this book to my grandchildren and continue the legacy of truth. Deuteronomy 6:7  – “You shall teach them diligently to your children and shall talk of them when you sit in the house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise.”

And  hopefully, when you die.

Image by Ruthanne Reid – Creative Commons License

Image by Dave Cruz – Creative Commons License

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