The (right) doctrinal drop

We’ve been spending time as a church in John’s gospel, and what it says continues to impact my life. I’ve been thinking about how Jesus affirms the religious folk of the day – “you search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life” (John 5:39).

That’s me, I think. I search, diligently search, the Scriptures. I think that in them is life. I read and consider and meditate. I want to obey.

But actually, Jesus slams these diligent searchers: “…yet you refuse to come to me, that you may have life.”


It is possible to be a Scripture-searcher and not get the content.

Now, before you jump right to the “normal” conclusion – that doctrine has to go the 15 inches from the head to the heart – please bear with me. That’s not really what Jesus is saying.

When we say that, we mean that people are “eggheads,” full of knowledge about Jesus but not “doing” the Christian life.

Jesus, though, is saying that the “doctrine” of these Bible-searchers is actually wrong because it is not grounded in Him.

He’s saying that all their “doing” of Scripture gets them nowhere… they’ve made a head-to-heart connection all right, but it is the wrong one. They are are busy practically “doing” Scripture… and they have no life.

Why? Because Scripture isn’t primarily a collection of rules, a list of behaviors, or even an instruction manual on life.

Scripture is about Jesus.

If we don’t understand the reality of Jesus, we won’t really understand the Bible. And we won’t get life. That’s because of what the Bible actually says. The Bible points us to salvation by faith alone, through grace alone, in Christ alone.

Many – most, perhaps – nod heads sagely at this brief recitation of the Solas. Yet too many of us (me included) often don’t actually function like this amazing message — the main content of the Bible — is true.

Yes, the Bible is about Jesus.
Yes, the Bible is about the gospel… pointing to the redeemer, the messiah, the savior of the world.
Yes, the Bible is about life in Him – by faith.

Yet we still show that we don’t really get the Bible by our faithlessness, by our trusting in other things (ourselves, our works, our goodness) than in Jesus Christ.

I like how Tim Chester puts it. See if this makes sense to you:

“Problems for Christians do not often arise because of disbelief in a confessional or theoretical sense (though this may be case). More often they arise from functional or practical disbelief. Asked if I believe in justification by faith, I may reply that I do (confessional faith), but still feel the need to prove myself (functional disbelief). I may affirm that God is sovereign (confessional faith), but still get anxious when I cannot control my life (functional disbelief). Indeed, sanctification can be viewed as the progressive narrowing of the gap between confessional faith and functional faith.”

If you say – yes, that’s me – then there’s hope for you, in turning back to God in faith. In actually believing in our justification by our Savior, in actually trusting in His sovereignty and His work in us. And in crying out to Him who bore our sins on the cross when we fail.

Hmm… maybe there’s something to that doctrinal drop into the heart after all… as long as what is actually dropping down is the wondrous truth of the gospel.

May we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18)!

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