All The NotesMarch 23, 2023 Bible
One of the benefits of preaching through books of the Bible, seeking to make the point of the passage the point of the sermon, is that it hinders us from only preaching certain themes or doctrines. (I use the word “hinders” because it doesn’t completely stop us from overemphasizing something that ought to be minor) One of the difficult aspects, however, is that it forces us to deal with passages that make us uncomfortable or, frankly, that we don’t like and would have otherwise avoided. The same can be said for how each Christian reads and applies Scripture in their lives.
If I was picking and choosing passages, I might not have preached Jesus’ words in Luke 10 last Sunday, “Woe to you… it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre or Sidon than for you… you shall be brought down to Hades.” If I wasn’t seeking to make the point of the Scripture the point of my sermon, I certainly would have been tempted to underemphasize it. If I was reading this passage devotionally, I would have skimmed by it. But instead, Christ’s judgment became unavoidable, even if uncomfortable. But if we skim past it, what do we miss?
All of Scripture is a melody and our lives are the instrument. Our actions and our words are the notes we play. We must ask ourselves, “Am I playing the tune I read in Scripture? Am I playing ALL of Christ’s song?"
My kids began learning to play musical instruments. I love that Ryder enjoys practicing the piano. However, he often plays the same series of notes over and over… sometimes not very well. He has a tendency to accidentally hit the wrong note or to play the song at the wrong tempo. Of course, that’s exactly how one learns to play. But hearing the same riff over and over can wear on you, even if it is a good song. How does the rest of the song go?
The younger we are in Christ, the more unavoidable it is to emphasize a certain part of the tune. We only know so much of the song and we have limited experience playing the instrument of our life for Christ. We used to play a different song. As we grow in Christ and learn new parts of the melody, as we practice that new part, we tend to play that series of notes more often. At least for a season. The other issue we face is that we may not play the tune, or some part of it, well. We go to the chorus when we needed to play the verse and so on.
The good tune may become a bit annoying to those around us who know other parts of the song and can play it better. This is part of bearing with one another. We must be able to say, “But that is the tune and it is good that he is practicing it. One day, he will know more of the song and what joy it will be to hear him play it.”
When we play a part of the song that bothers someone or perhaps we really do play it poorly, I’ve heard Christians respond, “Jesus is Jesus and Paul is an apostle so they get to say or do that but we are not to say and do that.” In other words, Jesus and Paul have solo parts. This response is effective because most Christians don’t want to put themselves in the place of God or an apostle. The problem, however, is that the conclusion (you don’t get to say that) does not logically follow from the previous argument (Jesus is Jesus). What’s missing is any reasoning as to why those particular notes can only be played, or played in that way, by Jesus as the God-man or by Paul in his role as an apostle.
If Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1), or if Jesus says, “Follow me” (Luke 9:23) then our default is to play the song they are playing. We apply all of God’s Word to all of life. If we are to follow Jesus, then taking up our cross daily really does mean something. That’s part of the song. For some of the apostles, it meant literally taking up a cross and being crucified, not as atonement for sin, as if there was a deficiency in Christ’s work, but to be a witness to it.
Remember the world is playing its own song. Satan is no fool. He doesn’t typically play a song that’s altogether different. Rather, he plays the same notes as Scripture with his left hand but changes some of the notes with his right. The more used to the world’s version that we are, rather than the song of Scripture, the more likely it is that some part of God’s Word will bother us. If this never happens it should concern us. Most likely we are playing our own song, not Christ’s. This is true even of Christians who are seeking to be faithful. What we cannot do, however, is think that if certain notes in the song bother us or if we think people play them poorly, it’s best to not play them at all. If we never play those notes then how will we ever learn to play the whole song well? What will be missing in our lives and churches?
As a father paying for piano lessons, I want my son to practice piano. It brings me joy, even if the song isn’t quite right. How much more is this true for our Father in heaven who wrote the song and paid such a high price and gives us the best teacher in His Spirit? God’s grace for us when we are off-key and to God’s glory when we hit the right notes.