Discipline and spontaneity. We need both in reading the Bible. Discipline to move steadily through books of the Bible. Spontaneity to go to a part of the Bible that we sense will meet a particular need. Both can be powerful with encouragement for faith.
Early Sunday morning my discipline was taking me through Luke 18. It was one of those times when God came near with unusual force. Christ stood forth from the pages as irresistibly compelling. Every paragraph made my soul yearn to be radically obedient to Jesus. I felt that no one ever spoke like this man. No one ever lived free like this man. No one ever demanded what he demanded and gave what he gave.
So I wanted to take this chapter with me all day and feed on it and fight with it. But there wasn’t time to memorize it all. What could I do?
Here’s what I did. I decided to try to tag each paragraph and remember a key statement from the paragraph under that tag. I noticed that I could think of a tag for each paragraph that began with “P”. It went like this:
- Prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
God will vindicate his elect who cry to him day and night.
- Pride (Luke 18:9-14)
“God be merciful to me a sinner.” This man went down to his house justified. For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
- Pusillanimity (Luke 18:15-17)
(It’s just as well you don’t know the word. It used to mean childlikeness. That’s the way I mean it. Not cowardly, which it means now.) Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Jonathan Edwards used to commend a “holy pusillanimity.”
- Prosperity (Luke 18:18-30)
How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of heaven. There is no one who has left (anything) for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive manifold more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.
- Pain (Luke 18:31-34)
The Son of Man will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon; they will scourge him and kill him, and on the third day he will rise.
- Perspective (Luke 18:35-43)
“What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord let me receive my sight.” And immediately he received his sight and followed him, glorifying God.
With these six “P’s” I have been able to carry the point of these paragraphs with me all day. I have loved Christ in his pain. I have hated the destructive power of riches. I have feared pride. I have craved to be like a child. I have yearned for my eyes to be opened to the glory of God. And I have prayed for the vindication of the church around the world.
O come with me to the word of God!