Chapter 8 – The Boring Chapter (on Missional Listening): What Does God Want to Happen to Listeners?
Scot begins this chapter by referring to Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine which is compared to the ancient church’s equivalent of our How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth. Augustine’s book makes the claim that if the Bible leads the reader to be more loving, then the Bible has accomplished its mission. Thus the Bible’s main mission is to help us become people who love God and love others. If our reading of the Bible leads to this, the mission is accomplished. Any method of Bible study that doesn’t lead to transformation abandons the missional path of God and leaves us stranded.
The Relational Approach Is Missional
The relational approach to the Bible goes beyond normal methods to take us to the heart of what reading the Bible is all about. We examine 2 Tim. 3.14-17 and it tells us that God speaks to us so we will be the kind of people he wants and will live the way he wants us to live. When we read up until verse 17, we find that all Scripture is God breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, SO THAT all God’s people may be equipped for good works. This focuses on the outcome of the usefulness of Scripture. To get to the outcomes we have to go through a sequence of thoughts for Paul, unmasking the four stages for missional listening as he writes to Timothy – but remember that everything is aimed at that “so that.” EVERYTHING! Any reading of any passage in the Bible that doesn’t end up with the “so that” of 2 Timothy 3.17 is not done.
Begins with the Wisdom of the Ages
Timothy had been formed by those who knew the gospel (2 Tim. 3.14-15). Education for the community that Timothy was raised in was not simply information; it was also formation. Education was training in righteousness and in good works.
Is Empowered by Inspiration
Too many of us spend too much time arguing about the meaning of “inspiration” and not enough on the point of it all. The Spirit who guided the author through a history and a community to the moment when he put quill to papyrus is the same Spirit at work when you and I sit down with our Bible.
It is a Process
God designs all biblical study to be a “useful” process that leads us to the Bible in such a way that it creates a person who loves God and loves others. Anything less fails to achieve why God speaks to us in the Bible. God’s got a mission in giving us the Bible, and that mission is “useful.”
Missional listeners discover we are in a process of being transformed from what we are into what God wants us to be. Here’s the process:
We become informed;
We get rebuked;
We are restored; and
We become instructed in righteousness.
The outcome of our learning process is righteousness. To be “righteous” means our minds, our wills and our behaviors will be conformed to God’s will. It means holiness, goodness, love, justice, and good works. It takes time, but missional listening leads to righteousness.
Blossoms into a Life of Good Works
The divine outcome, the divine “so that,” of missional listening to the God of the Bible is good works. Any reading and any interpretation that does not lead to good works aborts what the Bible is designed to produce.
What are good works? Peter urged the Christians in Asia Minor to be benevolent in their cities; Paul exhorted Roman Christians to love their neighbors as themselves; John urged his readers to walk in the light and to love one anther; James reminded followers of Jesus to care for widows and orphans, to feed the hungry, and to clothe the naked. Good works are concrete responses to the needs we see in our neighbors