If you were on a journey through unfamiliar territory, a country or region you had not visited before, which of these would you like to have with you: a guide who had travelled the land many times before and was very wise in all its ways and the paths to take, or a guidebook with a map?
Maybe you’d like both, but my guess is that you’d rely on the guide more than the book. Perhaps at times the guide would refer you to the book to point out something of interest, but the book alone would be a poor substitute for the guide him/herself.
In fact, with a guide available at no extra charge you’d be foolish indeed to reject their services in favour of working it out for yourself by following a book, wouldn’t you?
But isn’t that what we do in our lives following Jesus? We insist on the supremacy of the book – the Bible – and rely little on the Guide – the Holy Spirit.
Many of us seem to worship Father, Son and Holy Bible! I think it was Rick Joyner who once wrote that we worship the book of the Lord instead of the Lord of the book!
Why do we do this?
Perhaps we find it easier to read a book that to listen for the whisperings of the Guide. Perhaps we have been taught that this is how it’s supposed to be. “Read your Bible, pray every day, if you want to grow,” as the old chorus puts it. These are good things, but unless they include listening, we’re missing the point.
And have you noticed that Jesus did not promise to send us a book?
Speaking to his disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus did not say, “Don’t worry, when I’ve left you, some of my followers – including one who will first try to wipe you out, by the way – will write letters and accounts of my life, and these will teach you what to do and how to live. You won’t need anything else.”
No, he said this, “It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you… when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth.”
There is no mention of any letters or books.
What if the Bible was some kind of backup plan…
So what if those letters and other documents that were later – some 300 years later – collected as The Bible were some kind of backup plan? Plan B: B for Bible!
God knows what we’re like and maybe he thought, “They’ll get tired of listening to my Spirit, so I’d better make sure that at least if they don’t walk with the Guide they will have a Guidebook,” and sighed.
But, you may protest, the Bible is the foundation of our faith! No! The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the foundation of our faith. Paul writes to the early church in Corinth, “No one can lay another foundation than that which was laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
Am I saying the Bible is useless? Not at all!
Am I saying the Bible is useless? Not at all! I believe it is the way the Holy Spirit most often speaks to us – especially since we are better at reading than listening! On those occasions it becomes His Word to us.
But this is far from being His only means of communication. Who has not been prompted directly to speak to or serve someone – or, indeed, change careers or countries to serve Him differently?
Who has not sensed God speaking to them through a film or book, or the beauty of His creation? And haven’t we all been moved to action by an inspired sermon?
So what if we prioritised Plan A: letting the Holy Spirit guide us into all truth?
Let’s keep the Guidebook handy, but walk with the Guide!