Episode 229:  The Means of Grace – Hope in Searching the Scripture

May 10, 2022

Today, we’re exploring what it means to “search the scripture” as a means of grace. 

When we search the scripture, we do so to encounter God. We can encounter God in prayer, in creation, in worship, in community, and yes, in the scripture. Encountering God in scripture is one of the primary means of grace. 

Encountering God

As you consider the means of grace and encountering God in scripture, questions emerge. In other words, when we search the scripture, we explore the text. Searching the scripture opens you to the context and nuances of the Bible. Most of all, it points you to the image of God. Searching the scripture helps us to see that each dialogue, prose, or poem invites us to encounter God in different ways. 

Searching the Scripture

Here are a few questions to explore as you search the scriptures. This is not a linear checklist. Instead, these are questions to ask as you seek to encounter God and live as one of God’s beloved:

  • What is this passage saying about God?
  • What is the scripture saying about humanity?
  • What is the scripture saying to the church or to the ministries that I am a part of?
  • How will I respond?

Why Search the Scripture?

In short, understand why you were searching the scriptures. It’s to encounter God. We hope this episode reminds you that encountering God in scripture leads to a transformed heart and life. Throughout this whole series, be reminded that the means of grace are ways to encounter God’s love so we can be transformed into the image of God. When we search the scripture, we’re encountering the love of God.

Learn More

Salvation by Faith

On the Means of Grace

Spiritual Formation Bible

Parable of the Good Samaritan Luke 10

Parable of the Vineyard Matthew 20

Listen to Episode 227: The Means of Grace 

Episode 228: Misunderstandings in the Means of Grace

Episode 229 - The Means of Grace - Hope in Searching the Scripture


[00:00:00] Sara: You're listening to leader cast episode 229.

[00:00:05] You're listening to Leader cast, Transforming Mission's podcast with Tim Bias and Sara Thomas. Providing you with resources to navigate the challenges and opportunities of courageous Christ- centered leaders

[00:00:21] Tim: When was the last time you searched the scriptures before you answer, Sara's going to remind you about the show notes.

[00:00:34] Sara: You can find the show notes for this episode@transformingmission.org forward slash 2, 2 9. And once again, I want to remind you that the show notes page are a great place to find resources for this episode, as well as share the episode with a friend, a colleague or someone in your congregation.

[00:00:53] Tim: Today, we're continuing the series on hope And the means of grace. We've been looking at this for twofold purpose in this series number one's to encourage you as Christ centered leaders, to tend to your faith formation. And the second is to revisit, revisit the means of grace as a source of hope.

[00:01:17] Sara: And so as we continue with this series in each episode, we're exploring one big idea, as well as answer two questions.

[00:01:25] What's the leadership message. And where is hope this week, we're exploring the means of grace and hope and searching the scriptures. And by that Wesley men was hearing, reading and meditating on God's word. And he also taught that scripture leads people to believe in God informs them of salvation and brings to light God's grace.

[00:01:49] Oh gosh. Don't you love Wesley's words. I'm glad I'm not asked to preach his sermons because wow. It was hers. We just speak differently today.

[00:02:03] Tim: So let's start with that first part, the hearing, reading, and meditating on God's word Christ centered leaders, you're likely used to reading the scripture. I mean, you read the scripture every time you preach, but let me ask you again. When was the last time you heard the scripture or meditated on the scripture? Now, Sara, I re remember Man. I, I, I had been preaching for several years. Went to work at the board of discipleship and Nashville and wasn't, wasn't preparing sermon anymore. And there was a time at the beginning there that I began to feel like I was missing something. And what I realized was that the only time I'd been reading the scripture was in sermon preparation. So since that time not only reading the scripture, but searching it meditating upon it and letting it feed me has become more of a practice than just using the scripture for some other purpose, like preparing a sermon or a Bible study. I've allowed it now to kind of shape my life, at least to remind me of God's great love for me and how God puts me in places to love others.

[00:03:25] Sara: I love what you just said. Tim use the scripture part of what I'm hearing you point to is the difference. Different ways that we read scripture or engage with the scripture. So going back to our last episode, part of what I'm hearing you refer to is don't confuse the means with the end, when the end is preparing and preaching a sermon, the means can be different

[00:03:54] not exclusive, but different than reading the Bible for faith formation. As you read the scripture for faith formation. Part of what I'm thinking about is what are the questions that you ask and maybe this little illustration will help get at what I'm pointing to. I was an adult. Let me remind you when I came to faith and in the late nineties, friends gave me.

[00:04:21] Bible and it was a spiritual formation Bible. Now the gift of that Bible was 1000, 10,000, a hundred thousand fold. But one of the things that I love to this day about that specific Bible is in the margin on each page, there is a question to ponder, or there's a quote from one of. The pillars of faith, the people that we, we look to, people like Wesley people like Bonhoeffer, you know, all of the, the people that have gone before us and that quote leads to a question and there are four or five different categories of questions that they break down, encountering God in prayer encounter, and God in creation, encountering God in scripture, in worship, in community, so on and so forth.

[00:05:14] So before. The very beginning of my faith journey. Part of what I learned was to ask questions of the scripture, to talk with God about what I am reading to actually encounter God in scripture. And it wasn't until many years later that I came to realize that, oh, That's not what everybody does. Some people just read the scripture and take it at face value.

[00:05:54] Some people read the scripture to support their, the point that they're trying to make some people sort through Different versions, even of Bible translation to find what they're looking for to be able to, to illustrate what they're trying to prove to, to other people. And for me, as I think about the means of grace and encountering God in scripture, questions are an important part of being able to encounter God in scripture, in scripture.

[00:06:32] Tim: You finished that sermon.

[00:06:35] Sara: Yes.

[00:06:36] Tim: What you're pointing to her means of grace said in slightly different way and what you. Said over and over about not only your Bible, but then I'm giving kind of an invitation. There was to encounter a God.

[00:06:54] That's why we, that's why we participate in the means of grace is to encounter God. And so I, what was coming to mind while you were talking, and it wasn't anything about what you were saying, it's just that you triggered something else and then. I'm always interested in the people who say they're going to read the Bible through in a year and what I want to ask.

[00:07:17] Cause I think that's good. I think that's wonderful. But what I want to ask is how much time do you stop and walk around? And each of the books of the Bible that you read. Kind of searching the scripture or kind of finding out what the context is. Is, is it because you've read it or is it because you've encountered God in the midst of it?

[00:07:41] And that's what you've been saying up to this.

[00:07:44] Sara: Yeah, I'm, I'm going to play with you a little on the reading the Bible through in a year. Part of what I'm thinking is, you know, maybe it's just a personality thing that there are certain people that that's, that is the way that they encounter God. But what that has always felt like to me, and, and I've started those reading plans a couple of times, I don't think I ever made it past January, the end of January, because.

[00:08:11] What it felt like to me was the checking off the list that we talked about in terms of the misunderstanding and confusing the means with an end. And that's not, that's not what we're talking about when we're talking about the means of grace and encountering God in and through the scriptures. And. I don't know.

[00:08:36] Maybe you can help me. I don't know how else you quote, unquote, search the scripture.

[00:08:42] If it isn't in asking, asking questions and being, I'm saying, being in conversation, that conversation really is prayer with God

[00:08:53] Tim: well, if what you're saying is that, and I brought this up, so I'll, I'll bring it to a close if you're going to read Leviticus why not take the time? To understand the context and the world view and understand the truth that's in Leviticus that would be searching and meditating on the scripture more than just reading the words and then saying, thank God I'm finished with Leviticus now let's go onto the next one.

[00:09:20] Sara: Right. Which is the response of most people. So would it help if I shared a couple of the questions that I ask most.

[00:09:30] Tim: Sure.

[00:09:32] Sara: So today is I quote unquote, search the scripture. There are three questions that I ask most often, and these are nuanced. So please don't take these as, as literal they're general enough that they can be applied in multiple contexts.

[00:09:46] That's all. I'll say it. First question is, what is this passage saying about God? Second question is what's the scripture saying about humanity? And the third question, maybe the fourth question, there's a fuzzy line here and you'll understand what I say, what I'm saying. When I say the question, what is it saying to the church or to the ministries that I am a part of?

[00:10:10] And then the last part of that is, so how am I going to respond? And again, that's not a linear linear checklist. It's just the natural ebb and flow for me of reading the scriptures in some days. What I encounter is I'm, I'm all focused on that first question and the goodness of God and who God is and the God that we worship in God's characteristics and how God is showing up and showing off in my life.

[00:10:41] And other days it's more focused on. Ah, crap. Yup. That's how humanity has messed this one up. And, and how do we need to, I'm going to use another good biblical word. How and where do we need to repent turn in a new direction to get back in alignment with God? How are we trying to get our, get our own way and getting in our own way?

[00:11:08] And then how can we get out of the way so that God's presence. I can be at work in our lives. So that's, as I read the scripture, I see. Help but ask questions. And even as I was working on this series of podcasts and exploring grace, I, I think I got lost for an hour and all of the different places that grace has mentioned in scripture and, and what can happen and where it happens and how God is present in the midst of it.

[00:11:45] Because one question leads to the next.

[00:11:48] Tim: Pretty cool to get lost in grace.

[00:11:51] Sara: It is pretty cool to get lost in her grace when I was reminded in that moment was why preaching for me always took me so long because I got, so I get so fascinated by those, those things and, and trying to see, okay, God, is this where you're wanting me to go in this message that yeah, I spent a whole lot of time.

[00:12:18] Going in rabbit holes that weren't necessarily necessary for, for the message. So.

[00:12:24] Tim: I'm going to make a statement that might seem obvious because we don't say it. We assume people know it or they'll know about it, but it's like this, the point of reading and meditating and hearing the scripture is not to find a passage within the Bible to prove your point or support your point of view. I found and maybe more so, and of course I've only lived for 68 years, so it might've been a long time before I ever came around.

[00:12:51] But what I found is that people want to use the Bible to to undergird and to emphasize their position or their point on a certain issue. And I'm going to say, and hopefully you've got this recorded and it comes out loud and clear. I'm going to say, that's not why you have the Bible. That's a misuse of the scripture.

[00:13:18] I mean that the, the scripture is not where we, I mean on either side of any issue, if something's not mentioned in the Bible doesn't mean that you go trying to find it somewhere in the Bible and say, well, this is what this really means. Cause it's gonna under, it's gonna support. Issue. And if it is mentioned in the Bible, understand the context and the worldview at the time, because things have changed and the truth is what we want.

[00:13:50] And the truth may not. And, and I'm, I'm dancing a thin line, but the truth may not be written on the pages of whatever version of the Bible. The truth of that is written on your heart. As you get closer to God and love the people God's asked you to love. I've interrupted you twice. Now. Go ahead.

[00:14:07] Sara: No. I was just going to say to our listeners, you're getting multiple sermons today, folks and Tim you're, you are, you are naming clearly what I was trying to illustrate with an example that I understand why you were searching the scriptures. It's that encounter it's that encounter with God. That is the point it, and all of the ways.

[00:14:35] That the scriptures have been misused to hurt and harm people. And, and what's running through my mind is please go back and listen to episode 2 27. If you haven't listened to it, where we introduce this whole series and the purpose of the means of race. Because what's the purpose. You said it it's it's about a heart, our heart being transformed into the image of God we can't.

[00:15:10] And I would even say going back on what I said earlier about sermon preparation, I would even say that's the point in the sermon preparation, because that's what you're trying to do as you deliver that message. To the people so that they can, once again, hear the message of God and experience the scripture and be transformed.

[00:15:37] It's not about you in the words that you're saying, you're pointing people to Jesus. Now you're going to their sermon. Number four, I'm going to stop.

[00:15:47] Tim: Well, I think one of the other things that we have to be careful about is that we begin to worship the Bible. And we make the Bible, the center of faith. And I'm going to say this, and I don't mean to be offensive to anybody, but I've heard this more than I want to hear it over my years of ministry and it, and it says, it says this in the Bible, it's in the Bible.

[00:16:13] And my question has always been, Yeah.

[00:16:15] I agree with you, but what's the context. And what's the truth that's being brought out in that context. And that's what searching the scripture and meditating the scripture is about. And if you're not doing that, we fall into this thing that well, it's in the Bible.

[00:16:33] That's laziness. In fact, I can tell you

[00:16:36] Sara: Right

[00:16:37] Tim: that's irresponsible.

[00:16:39] Sara: Tim and I might start. Giving you a lesson on exit Jesus here soon if we're not, if we're not careful, I think that's why, what I said, you know, I, I got lost for 45 minutes to an hour in exploring the different places that grace shows up in both the Hebrew scriptures, the old Testament, and in the, in the new Testament, there is a theme.

[00:17:07] In scripture that shows up in multiple places, clearly it is an important message to God. Now contrast that with some of the, some of the topics that happen when, and some of the points that people are trying to make when they pull out that one scripture, the one place that one, one word is in. Is in the scriptures and, and they think that that's the overarching message.

[00:17:38] I, I just can't emphasize enough in this whole series of being reminded that the point is a transformed life, a transformed heart. The point is the love of God that we know in Jesus, helping us to become more like Jesus. The point is not proven your point.

[00:18:02] Tim: I'll just put this period on it. I'd like for someone sometime to read the scripture and say, you know, when I was reading the scripture, my life was changed because what I get most of the time is this is the scripture you need to read about that.

[00:18:22] Sara: So this isn't the question, but I'm going to say it. So why do we use the scripture prescriptive?

[00:18:34] What we're talking about today is reading the scripture formation. Only if I quote,

[00:18:42] Tim: of grace.

[00:18:43] Sara: right. If I quote scripture at you and say, here's the scripture that you need to read about that? Where is the grace in that?

[00:18:55] Now I could see a whole different conversation happening. And it's exactly what you just said. You know, a couple of days ago I was reading the scripture and this was a scripture that I was reading. And here's what, what came to me in my understanding of God, maybe that's a scripture that you would want to explore.

[00:19:21] That's a whole different conversation because, oh, it's a conversation. Okay. Are we on sermon five or six?

[00:19:27] Tim: Take us home, Sara.

[00:19:32] Sara: So the scripture offers a message of God's love for everyone. Well, being written to a particular people at a particular time, it's the universal and the singular appeal of scripture that speak to us. And as we're having this conversation today, Isn't that what the parables do now, hear me. There's many other types of writing in the Bible, analogies, metaphors, poems, prayers, pros, et cetera.

[00:20:03] But as I think about Jesus teaching in the parables, it was a way that Jesus communicated a message to the masses. By speaking to one particular group of.

[00:20:16] Tim: Yeah, Sara. I think of.

[00:20:17] parables. I learned this early in my ministry, a pair of parables are not mirrors of morality, but reflections of reality. So they're, they're not stories that tell us how we should live, but they actually are reflecting back to us how we do live. And if you take the example of the good Samaritan.

[00:20:37] You know, it, the way most of the time we read it is all somebody in the ditch. We need to stop and take care of them. That would be morality Allity the reflection. Who was it that passed by and who was it that stopped? And the person that the people who stepped stopped by where the religious people, but the person who stopped by was somebody who was disregarded and pushed to the edges.

[00:21:02] And so to identify with neighbor, you had to identify with the person who was pushed to the edge of. That's a, that's more of a reflection than it is the um, the mirror of morality. So I, I, I liked that in terms of. The parables, because the reality is something that's timeless and it's specific which we need to hear what Jesus is saying.

[00:21:25] And I think I'd go as far as to say this, that may be another reasons Jesus was crucified because people had to figure out what he was saying about the parables. And about the time they said, you know, he's talking about us. And when he came back to town, they said we better get rid of. Cause he's causing us a lot of trouble.

[00:21:42] I mean, I, you think about it. You get other parables, like a parable of, of, of the people working in the vineyard and the, and the, I comes early in the morning and takes some people and they work all day and he comes back at mid day and take some more and he comes back and get some others.

[00:21:59] And they only work for a few hours, but everybody gets paid the same. Lord have mercy that wouldn't work in the United States of America would it,

[00:22:08] Sara: Oh,

[00:22:08] Tim: but that's a reflection of grace. That's not a mirror of morality of what should happen. It's a reflection of grace of how God deals with us. Some of us are in the vineyard for our whole lives.

[00:22:21] Others never ever make it to the vineyard, but this God say, how many pieces of fruit did you pull? no.

[00:22:30] He just says, I'm glad you worked for me today. I love you. I want you to meet your brother or sister over here who just got here and I want you to love them the way I've loved you. That's more what parables do now, if that irritates you and you don't like it, just to understand, we just did it the way Jesus would do it because parables irritated people, it would make them feel better.

[00:22:57] I'm sorry.

[00:22:59] Sara: Yeah, it's it's that universal. And yet. Singular focus so again, if the means of grace are ways to encounter, God's love, so we can be transformed into the image of God. When we search the scripture, we're encountering the love of God and Tim. That's what you just illustrated.

[00:23:20] Reflecting the reality is reflecting what our heart is. And also the invitation of where God's meeting God's grace is meeting us to be transformed in the midst of that. the God who doesn't give up on us or leave us where we're at, but helps us to become who God created us to be. God helps us to reflect more of the love of God that we know in G. Jesus

[00:23:44] that's why we read the scriptures. That's why we listen to the scripture. That's why we meditate on the scripture. Save me from sermon. Number seven.

[00:23:57] How do you want to wrap this episode up, Tim?

[00:24:01] Tim: Well, I'm, I'm trying to think of a time. Most recently when I dealt with the scriptures in the way we're talking about it, that brought me some hope. So back during lint maybe holy. One of the words of Jesus on the cross was father forgive them for, they know not what they do. And I understand that very really, and rightly that Jesus is talking about the soldiers and the religious leaders and all of that. But as I reflect on it and I study it a little bit, what I, what really comes to mind for me is forgive them for they know not what they do know, not what they do. Sounds a whole lot like ignorance to me. Can we be forgiven for our ignorance? Now I've sat on a lot of Bible studies over the years where people would say, well, you can't be held accountable for what you don't. Can't be held accountable for what you don't know, which is again, another part of what I would say. What I grew up with was works righteousness. So you can't be accountable for what you don't know. So I didn't work at that part. So you can't hold me accountable at that part. So. I actually think that if, if I'm being transformed by the scripture, I began to hear that scripture in a way of father forgive them for their intentional ignorance,

[00:25:30] Sara: Yeah.

[00:25:31] Tim: because I can act like, I don't know something. All of my life I've lived in a culture of racism and what have I done to. Bring an end to racism. I might hear Jesus say, father, forgive him. 'cause he's really being ignorant about this. I can go that, go down that path with, I live in a culture where I can hold a position, even in the church and Sara, someone like you being a woman could hold the same position.

[00:26:06] And a lot of times I'd be paid more than you'd be paid. I can hear Jesus say, father, forgive him because he's acting like he doesn't understand. Now that's transformational for me. I can go down that list. I don't mean to keep going that way, when I find out when I get to the place and it sounds like, oh my goodness, how do you get out of this? If everything it is that you gotta be forgiven because you're not doing this, you're not doing night.

[00:26:38] The good news is, and the hope, and this is who sang it. It's Jesus. And where is he? He's on the. Franz you've already been forgiven, whether you know it or not, your ignorance, which might be the point to the story father, forgive them because they really don't understand what's going on here. It's not the rocks. It's not the insults. It's not the nails father. Forgive them. I'm here for.

[00:27:15] Sara: So what Tim just illustrated for you is what happens when we. Using Wesley's phrase when we searched the scripture. And so again, your hope filled encouragement for this episode is a reminder that searching the scripture is one of the ways that we are formed into the image of God. May you encounter the love of God and scripture, so that same love can be embodied in your life.

[00:27:44] As a reminder, you can find show notes for this episode@transformingmission.org forward slash two. And remember who you are is how you lead bye for now.