I’m part of the second year cohort in the Missional Training Center, a paradigm-shifting experiment in theological education that will–God willing–result in me having a Master’s Degree a few years from now. Here are some reflections from last week.
Interpreting the Prophets — Mike Goheen
This week we continued to explore the Old Testament prophets. Our class time was valuable and contained a number of helpful things, but one stood out above the others. Mike shared a diagram that helps make sense of what it looks like to live in covenant with God.
1. God speaks his word to his people. This word contains promises, commands, and warnings. All of these express God’s heart, will, and character. And all are important for God’s people to hear.
2. God’s people have to choose whether to trust and obey God. Upon hearing the word of God, Israel had a choice. Would they trust God (leaning into his promises) and obey him (heeding his commands and warnings) or would they distrust God and disobey him?
3. God’s people experience either the blessing or cursing that accompanies their choice. If God’s people trust and obey, they will experience life, prosperity, and blessing. If they distrust and disobey, they will experience death, destruction, and curse.
Simple and Powerful
This doesn’t seem like rocket science to anybody who has studied the Bible for a meaningful period of time. Yet this diagram was immensely helpful for me. I shared it with our pastors a few days later and they also were helped by it. Here’s why I found it so valuable:
1. It reminds me that God speaks to his people with a multi-faceted approach. Sometimes gospel-centered people talk as though God only gives promises. But he also gives commands and warnings. These commands and warnings are not heeded in order to achieve relationship with God — we are already his covenant people by grace. Rather, these commands and warnings are good words that our Heavenly Father gives us in order to guide us into blessing and protect us from harm.
2. It links faith and obedience. When we hear God’s word, we will trust and obey or distrust and disobey. Either way, our trust and our obedience are linked. This strikes me as remarkably biblical. If we trust God, we obey him. To think that we can trust God while walking in disobedience is folly (1 John 1:6). While I rejoice that justification by faith alone has been so strongly recovered in what’s known as the gospel-centered movement, I often wonder if we under-emphasize how obedience must flow from genuine faith. One of the best articles I’ve read on how these are linked is “Pleasing God by Our Obedience: A Neglected New Testament Teaching” by Dr. Wayne Grudem.
3. It’s simple and easy to share. As a pastor, I’m continually looking for simple, effective ways to communicate with people. The best tools are sticky. This diagram is. I can imagine myself in a counseling or discipleship setting pulling out a sheet of paper and drawing this picture. I trust that many people will be helped.
I don’t know what God has for you or me today — but I know he wants us to hear his word and respond with trust and obedience. It will surely lead to blessing and life.
Trust and obey, for there’s no other way
To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.