Encouraging One Another
I write, but I also read. The two actually go hand in hand. To read only is to be a wisdom vortex, to take in but never breath out. To write only is to embrace the folly that wisdom ends with you. Without drinking deeply of the wisdom of others we will soon become clouds without rain. As a writer I am well acquainted with the temptations that come to writers. We are easily discouraged. We think we are speaking into the wind, that no one is hearing us. As a reader, however, I have the great privilege of hearing. I get to see God at work in the lives of others as they receive wisdom from the Spirit, and then pass it along to the rest of us. For what it’s worth, my internet reading tends to begin with the wisdom of David and Tim Bayly at Baylyblog. It includes the insights of my friend Lane Keister and his friends at Green Baggins. I also benefit from reading the insights from the sundry contributors at Pyromaniacs. Tim Challies and Doug Phillips are likewise among my favorites.
Were one to construct a theological continuum one would see a fairly clear distinction between the Bayly Brothers and the Pyromaniacs. Though there is of course overlap and continuity, one would see a rather yawning gap between Doug Phillips and Lane Keister. What one would find in common among all these men is a commitment to be in submission to the Word of God. This, I pray, is where I aspire to intersect with all this diversity.
What history has shown us is that we cannot rightly measure commitment to the plain teaching of God’s Word on the basis of one’s conclusions. One can both reach the right conclusions for the wrong reasons, and, though this might be slightly more difficult, the wrong conclusions for the right reasons. That is, some may have a deep passion for God’s Word, but still end up parroting the wisdom of their heroes. There is no body of conclusions that come equipped with some kind of organic seal of approval—All conclusions reached here can be traced clearly to the perspicuous Word of God. Sin always gets in our way.
The hard reality is that the more we grasp the sinfulness of man the more we must watch for the sinfulness of those we hope will teach us wisdom. We are indeed all sinners, which explains why even the most pious among us take wrong turns theologically. But even those who take wrong turns know and teach that the Bible is the map. And what that map always shows us, not surprisingly, is our own sin.
Which means that the ones we ought to be listening to are those who are least likely to tell us what to think, who are most likely to tell us where to look. Those who speak, who write about their own sin, those are the ones who have been given wisdom. Those, on the other hand, who are most quick to point out the sins of others, that is where we need a godly skepticism. Sinners speak of their own sin and God’s grace and pronounce peace. The proud, on the other hand, speak of the sins of others and pronounce judgment. In short, where the gospel shows its impact is where we see ourselves. Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.