As a child, nothing was more exciting for me than getting a new toy. From Batman to a water gun, I thoroughly enjoyed toys. I'm not sure if it was because I had nothing better to do or that toys were always accessible, but whatever it may be, I never had to play with just one. If I got tired of my water gun, I went to the Gameboy. Tired of the Gameboy? No problem. Just open up the toy chest and find something else that will peak your interest! One toy never had to satisfy my desire to play.
Sadly, I see the same thing happening with Christians today who treat the Bible as a toy. They have a lot of them (many different colors and versions of course!), but don't feel the need to read them if they don't feel like it. The problem lies within the heart. People who treat the Bible like a toy that can be picked up whenever they feel like it don't understand that the Bible is the very thing that feeds our souls. Neglect of reading the Bible is self-starvation. Jonathan Edwards said "He that has a Bible, and doesn't observe what is contained in it, is like a man that has a box of silver and gold, and doesn't know it, doesn't observe that it is anything more than a vessel filled with common stones." On the other hand, he who has a Bible and understands what the Bible truly is, understands he has a great treasure.
Kent Hughes gives us greater insight to this by telling this illustration,
"Mrs. Bertha Adams, died of malnutrition in Florida in 1976. Her neighbors testified to her begging for food at their doors, and her clothes came from the Salvation Army. When her home was investigated, however, two keys were discovered to safety deposit boxes that contained stocks, bonds, securities, and cash totaling over $1,000,000 dollars."
"The crucial question is not whether we can explain what is in the Bible, but whether we can enjoy it."
This is a great illustration that helps us understand how we should view the Bible. We must not live in abject poverty of soul when the great remedy, the great treasure, awaits, needing simply to be accessed. However, this must not lead us to go over the other side of the cliff. Wanting to know the Bible so well that we refuse to enjoy it. One theologian writes, "The crucial question is not whether we can explain what is in the Bible, but whether we can enjoy it." Dane Ortlund describes a person who knows the Bible so well but doesn't enjoy it as a chef who has mastered an elaborate recipe yet does not enjoy eating it. Edwards said "Such is the nature of man, that nothing can come at the heart but through the door of understanding." As the chef's dish is not meant to be dissected and scrutinized but eaten, so the Bible should be read. Yes, we must study the Word of God. Yes, we must constantly be testing our understanding of the Scripture so that we may not be led astray by false doctrine (Eph. 4; Heb. 13). But if our aim is to merely understand the Bible and not view it as our treasure by placing all our delight and pleasure in reading it, we've done God a great injustice.
Friends, do you view the Bible as a toy or treasure?
If you are like me, you will sometimes run across words that you have in your vocabulary but have no clue what it practically looks like in everyday living. From reasonableness to love, we sometimes need to sit down and dig into not only what words mean but what they look like when acted out in the lives of people. Recently, I've been working through Dane Ourtlund's book Edwards on the Christian Life (see other books I'm reading by going here). It's been refreshing and challenging to me as Ortlund walks through the life of Edwards as well as many of his most popular writings. One thing that caught my attention right away was his focus on one of the words many of us know, but aren't sure what it exactly looks like: Gentleness.
Edwards saw gentleness not as a mere word that was to be breezed by when reading about the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) but rather as a word that is to be defined and lived out in the life of a Christian. Edwards said this, "A lamblike, dovelike spirit and temper is the true, and distinguishing disposition of the hearts of Christians." If gentleness is truly that important, then what is it? And how can people like you and I have a spirit of gentleness?
1. What is gentleness?
Whenever Edwards spoke of gentleness, he always used these words: calmness, long-suffering, forbearance, patience, lamb-like or dove-like, and meekness. He said "Gentleness makes us like little children." How does this happen? Paul is clear in Galatians 5:22-23 that gentleness is not a gift of the Spirit, but a fruit of the Spirit. This means that just as patience comes from walking in the Spirit, gentleness is no different. With all that said, what exactly is gentleness? Gentleness is the calm, humble spirit a Christian has when they are consumed with God's beauty and walking in obedience to Him.
"Gentleness is the calm, humble spirit a Christian has when they are consumed with God's beauty and walking in obedience to Him."
2. How do we obtain gentleness?
Edwards said that when his own eyes were opened to the beauty of God, he saw two things above all else: "God's majesty and meekness joined together." What exactly was Edwards getting at? Hymn writer John Newton once said this:
"Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at the obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose."
Edwards and Newton were thinking what we desperately need to understand: that a spirit of gentleness is bred on the grounds of humble reliance on God and the right view of self. When we see ourselves as those who can do nothing apart from God (John 15:5) and see God as the sovereign, loving God that He is (1 John 4:18; Ps. 115:3), we walk away humbled and in deeper love with Him and people.
I pray that we, like Edwards, would see the great importance of gentleness. That we would be overcome by the majesty and beauty of God on the Cross and walk away humbled and in awe of all that He is. Because when we see Him, we see the fulness of gentleness.
I am a Husband to Clarissa, Pastor at Liberty Baptist Church, reader of many books, and tweeter at @brad_merchant.