(Old Facebook Post)
What is the best way to teach people how to live godly lives? Michael Lawrence, speaking as a pastor at T4G (Together for the Gospel) 2012, gives an interesting answer. He begins by referring to the American Dream and other meta-narratives:
“Don’t think your people aren’t buying into these stories in one way or another. And those stories, because they tell a beginning and an end, they give purpose, they shape our lives. Without telling me what to do… they tell me what to do. Because they define the goal. And now I begin to live, I begin to make decisions. Nobody has to tell me what to do. I now know, and make decisions in order to get to that goal.
“Biblical theology gives us a different story to tell. It gives us a true story to tell. It gives us the story of what God is doing, has done, and will do. It begins at the beginning, it ends at the end, and we are smack-dab in the middle of it. And it is not through more and more rules that I know how to live; it is by being immersed in the story that I know how to live. Because this story now defines me. It shapes me. It tells me where I came from, who I’m related to, and where I’m going. I can’t give my people enough rules to get them to lead a godly life. There’s no way. But I can give them the story of God and how they fit into it through the gospel. And the Holy Spirit uses that story to redefine themselves [sic], their identity, and now they begin to know how to lead godly lives that fit into the story.”
I would probably want to nuance that to note that the Bible does indeed give rules as explanations of what the two great commandments look like in shoe leather, but that too often we point people to the rules without explaining the story very well. Rules are meaningless without the story! Indeed, we are powerless and unmotivated to heed the rules apart from the story. And the better we understand the story and our place in it, the less we may need reminders of individual rules, for God’s law is written on our hearts.
Here is a talk by Lawrence called “Why Every Pastor Should Be a Biblical Theologian.” Highly recommended! Listening to a talk like this could trigger a permanent change in the way you read and teach the Bible. For example: If you think the story of David and Goliath is mostly about having the courage to face our own personal giants, then you just might be missing the main reason God included the story in the Bible. It’s really a story about Jesus… Enough with mere moralism–let’s find our place in God’s Big Story!