Jump Start # 2634
Ephesians 5:17 “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
One of my favorite stories about the author Ernest Hemingway involves him in a Cuban nightclub with a group of journalists. The conversation turned to short stories, which Hemingway was a master of. In the course of the conversations, one boasted that the famous author could not write a story with less than one hundred words. Hemingway said he could write a story with only six words. That caught the attention of the group and they laughingly said there was no way. Hemingway took a napkin and wrote:
He slid the napkin before the eyes of the journalists. They looked at those six words and their minds were running. What happened? Did the baby die? Was the baby kidnapped? Was the mother never pregnant? Theories and questions filled the next hour. Everyone had their own idea. Hemingway was enjoying watching all of this. Finally, in frustration, they asked the author, “What’s the truth behind this? Tell us about the baby.” Hemingway smiled, picked up his hat and walked out.
Our verse today reminds us that God doesn’t leave things to our imagination. He tells us what He wants us to do. His will is understandable. There is no guessing. There are no alternative theories. It’s not everyone having their own idea. When things are revealed, it’s a matter of doing them.
From this we learn:
First, subjection to God eliminates independent thought and individualism. Many are bent on being different, unique, one of a kind. With that type of thinking, rather than walking with God, they will go the opposite direction. Counter culture. Original. One-of-a-kind. Doing what no one else is doing. That may work in picking out pieces of art, getting a new hair style, or even in buy crazy socks, like I do, but it doesn’t fly with God. That spirit will cause one to do things that are not in the Bible. It will lead one to new paths which the Lord has not traveled. It will cause one to walk not with the Lord but away from Him. God wants us to follow Him, not be ahead of Him. Let God lead and you follow. Yes, this means we will all practice alike. Yes, this means we will have a common faith. Yes, this means the Bible reads the same.
Second, the common idea that we cannot understand the Bible allows for differences, division and chaos. How is it that so many churches claim to follow the Bible but they are all practicing and believing different things? Not only that, the accepted idea today is that not only are we different, but that’s ok and we are all in this together. Different ways to worship. Different ideas about salvation. Different beliefs about organization of the church. Different concepts about what the church ought to be doing and its purpose. So different but all of them correct? That’s the thought today. That arises from a premise that we cannot agree upon what the Bible says. Two different people reading the same verse will get two different ideas. Yet, if that is true, what about our verse today? The Ephesians were told to understand the will of God. The Bible teaches us to have one mind and one voice. There is one God, one faith, one baptism, one body. That implies and necessitates one answer.
The premise behind the idea that we cannot understand the Bible points to God as a terrible author. Somehow we can understand physics, Shakespeare, the weather, outer space, Tom Clancy novels, the daily newspaper, but we cannot understand the Bible. We either understand it or we don’t. There is no understanding it “alike.”
In Nehemiah’s day, they read from the law and made sense so the people understood. The eunuch understood Isaiah after Philip explained it to him. The Gospel taken into all the world could be understood by Gentiles, idol worshippers and everyone else. The sermon on the mount does not require you holding a dictionary in one hand and the Bible in the other. The example of prayer or the model prayer is short, simple and easy to understand.
The Ephesians were told that when they read what Paul wrote they would understand his insight into the mystery of Christ. It was not only understandable, but by simply reading what he wrote, they would get it. Paul told Timothy that by reading what the apostle wrote he would know how to conduct himself in the household of God. He would know. There was no guessing. There was no “I don’t understand.” There was no “each person has his own interpretation.” Later Paul would tell this young preacher that the things he learned from Paul, the same things were to be taught to others. There was a common understanding and they found what it was.
No, the difficulty is not with the author or the message. It’s with the heart of those who are reading that message. If one begins with certain preconceived ideas, then he will look for them until he finds them. It’s like wearing sunglasses, they give everything a certain tint based upon the color of the lenses.
Third, understanding God’s will not only makes us approved of God but it unites us with other believers. There is a unity of faith and practice when we are joined in heart, mind, soul and purpose. Division is of the devil. Satan likes to separate and confuse. God unites. He unites us around Him.
God doesn’t write a few words on a napkin and the leaves it up to us to figure it out. He explains. He connects the dots. The Old Testament points to the Christ. The New Testament points to the cross. One message. One hope. One author. And, upon this our faith can be assured with confidence and hope.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!