I’ve recently had my 5-year health check, and am waiting for a letter from the NHS promising all sorts of details: blood pressure, pulse rate, cholesterol level and so on. Who knows what it might say! But as someone who loves eggs, chocolate and cheese, the temptation when it arrives will be to either not read, or totally ignore, the cholesterol part because I don’t want to be told to cut down on foods I like. In actual fact, of course, I shall not only read the whole thing but do that in company with Katie my wife, because I believe doctors know what they’re talking about, and I would need accountability and help with any parts of the letter requiring challenging changes.
Many of us know this same temptation with Scripture. There are so many commands in the Bible that we can often find one or even a few that chime with our instinct or character or preference. But we need to read the whole of God’s Word and be accountable to others for all of it – otherwise we’re living out of less-than-perfect knowledge and understanding, and quite simply being unwise. At worst, if we edit the Bible to say what we like, our Father isn’t really in the driving seat of our lives as we pursue the Spirit-powered obedience to which Christ calls us. After all, you expect me to read the whole of my NHS letter, don’t you?
This is why I found Lee Gatiss’s ‘Fight Valiantly’ so helpful. He examines all of God’s commands relating to contending, and thereby protects me from simply pursuing what is instinctive, or easiest / hardest – different Christians can be attracted to each of those. Not only in these days of challenge because of LLF, but in every day, I long to live under the whole Scripture, and yet I see in myself and others the temptation to ‘pick a verse’ – to be a “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” Christian or a “have nothing to do with such people” leader, without doing the hard work of prayerfully and accountably pursuing obedience to the entire Bible – and discerning precisely which texts best apply in the various situations I encounter.
For this reason I warmly commend this free PDF of Chapter 8 from Lee’s excellent book, where the whole gamut of New Testament teaching on contending is laid out in simple compressed form. As a PCC we have found this most helpful in discerning all that the Lord is calling us to in this confusing and divisive time of contending, and I’m sure every believer and Christian leader would benefit from praying over each of these 30 Theses (though I’m surprised Lee as a good Anglican couldn’t find 39!). And I confidently expect that time with this short document will not only move us to be back in our Bibles, and on our knees – but to purchase and enjoy the entire ‘Fight Valiantly’ too – as we long to sit under and live out the whole of Scripture, together.