A Fresh Word from the Lord
In the Movie The Jerk, Steve Martin plays the character of Navin, a man with unbelievably little knowledge of the ways of the world, who suddenly becomes very wealthy. He takes his girlfriend to the finest restaurant in town. When the maitre d' recommends a few expensive, well-aged wines, Navin replies with something like, "Don't bring us old wine. We can afford the best. Bring us some fresh wine!"
Many of today's churchgoers are clamoring for novel ideas and experiences. They want to experience God in a fresh, new way. That in itself is not a bad thing. A renewed sense of God's greatness and goodness is perhaps what we need most. But our naiveté is showing, too. More and more frequently, the call for a fresh word from God, long confined to the charismatic movement, is heard among mainstream evangelicals. The old time religion, with its emphasis on the authority and sufficiency of the scriptures, has come to seem stale and irrelevant to us. The Reformational cry, "Sola Scriptura" is nearly drowned in the sea of cries for God to tell us something new.
While God is certainly not silent today, He speaks to us now chiefly through his finished written revelation, the Bible. All that He has to say to the Church, He said therein. Nearly 2000 years ago, the apostle John received the final piece of the blessed revelation. At the end of it, Christ applied the seal—-complete and nonamendable:
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book. - Revelation 22:18-19, NIV
Since then, we have had centuries of commentary and debate on Scripture by some of the greatest minds the world has known. The Church's doctrines have been hammered out, seamed together, and refined through ages of repeated challenges, attacks, and heresies. With each test, the Word has come out clearer, brighter, and stronger, and shown itself to be eternally enduring, relevant, and precious.
Yet some of us would say, "Don't give us the old Word of God. Bring us a fresh word!" And wherever there is a demand, the supply sprouts up. There is no shortage of "ministers," both in pastoral positions and on television and radio, offering people a fresh word, and fresh, new spiritual experiences.
But are those words and experiences really from the Lord of the Church? How can we be sure? Dare we trust our immortal souls to them?
This waiter recommends a drink from a wineskin of first century vintage, of St. Paul's vineyard, from an enduring, inexhaustible batch he sent to his protégé, Timothy. At first, it may not seem to go down well, but, as wise doctors have known for 1900 years, it's good for what ales you. Taste it:
The time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (II Timothy 4:3-4, NIV)