So my husband decided to go through a women’s Bible study with me just to see how it was, and we’ve been talking about discernment and reverence over the past two weeks based on Titus 2. Initially I’ve always looked at these two topics as separate things that aren’t really related, but last week I started to see a connection. And my hope is to share that here in this blog.
The Plumb Line and Discernment
When you think of a plumb line, you think about an accurate guideline that you use to measure other things against to make sure things are being built properly. A more modern adaptation is a level that you see people use around the house for everything from hanging pictures or making sure windows and countertops are even.
As a Christian I think the easiest thing for us to keep in mind is that the Word of God is our standard, our plumb line in this life. It is our only true and infallible authority for how to live and how we should believe. But a problem comes in when we began to interpret the Bible for ourselves and derive our own conclusions from the text. Here comes the importance of discernment.
Proper discernment is not just something a person ‘has’, it is something that is learned, a skill practiced over and over throughout the life of a believer. And the biggest foundation for having proper discernment is having sound doctrine. If you are sitting under someone who is not teaching sound doctrine, you cannot expect your discernment to be good or right all the time. And the worse the teaching you are receiving, the worse your discernment will be over time. But let me come back around to the plumb line.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized that it is God who ‘snaps’ the plumb line for every Christian, and that plumb line always looks the same. Titus 2:11-14 gives us an excellent summation of that line:
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Q: What is the plumb line for all Christians?
A: The renouncement of ungodliness and worldly passions. Lives that are characterized by self-control, righteousness, godliness, good works, and patience as we wait for our Lord’s return.
Now, all of this sounds good and Christ-like and all, but I find that there is often a gap between what we know to do and our motivation for doing it. And my focus here is motivation because I know I’m good at doing what I’m supposed to do out of duty alone, but I often find myself looking for a good reason to keep it up when I feel like I’ve done enough already. So here enters the importance of reverence.
Our Reverence for the Lord
My husband and I are also nearing the end of our study on 1 Timothy, and chapter 6, verse 1 stood out to me the other night:
Let all who are under a yoke as slaves regard their own masters as worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled.
Now clearly we aren’t slaves in the sense of our station in society, but we are slaves (or bondservants) to the Lord. But the reason Paul gives for why the slaves should have all honor for their masters is so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled. When I got to this phrase, I took some time to ponder on it for a while because it sounded highly familiar. God has always been consistently zealous for His own glory and not allowing His name to be treated profanely among people. (Take a look at this article for more examples.) Consequently, we are often guilty of irreverence, that is, failing to value something of great worth…making little of something we should make much of (taken from our study book).
So when I started to think about these things together, I realized that it is very easy to take the commands and exhortations of Scripture in a light way. I mean, it provides the plumb line for our lives, set by God Himself, and we often fail to see how important that truly is. Now, we easily see the importance of minding our roles in the marriage relationship because it portrays the relationship between Christ and His Church, but are we equally as mindful when it comes to progressing in righteousness, godliness, and good works. Are we concerned about the fact that the way we live our lives can cause the name of God and His Word to be scorned, attacked, and angrily criticized by the rest of world? And do we have a deep enough reverence for God to be mindful of this and get ourselves in line according to His standard?
And I get that’s a hard pill to swallow. I don’t know how many times I’ve “stopped caring” about what other people think about me. And truly, we should not be seeking to be people-pleasers in this life to any degree. However, with all of that attitude, have I stopped demonstrating that I have a much much deeper reverence for God that will cause me to exercise self-control to the extent that I would be willing to not just buffet my body, but cut something completely off if it brings dishonor to Him by giving the world a reason to scorn Him and fall further into sin? (Consider Matthew 18:7) Or do I even have that deep of a reverence for Him in the first place?
Faithful and Diligent Practice
But while we are standing here on the edge examining the gulf that is between what we’re actually doing and what we should be doing, I feel like it’s important to keep in mind that we have to grow in our reverence for God. That just like we have to practice discernment to grow more spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:14), spiritual maturity is demonstrated by a deeper reverence for God by having a consistent practice of lining ourselves up to His Word. That means that we have to take time in our Word and come to understand what is truly pleasing to Him. Ephesians 4 tells us
Walk as children of light…and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord…Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
So we shouldn’t expect God to just “speak a word” and give us hearts that love, honor, and revere Him more and more, but we actually have to apply some effort and work, praying that the Spirit will guide and bless our work. And we ultimately do this out of deep reverence for our Lord and so that His name and His Word are not reviled.
Listening to my pastor’s sermon yesterday evening, he was talking about the apostasy that characterized the children of Israel throughout the course of the Old Testament. When I thought about it, I remembered that apostasy doesn’t happen overnight. It is a gradually turning and falling away from God, and oftentimes, it is a failure to rightly know and hold fast to the Word that causes us to fall away, aside from the deceitfulness of sin (Consider Hebrews 3:12-14 and 2 Timothy 4:3-4).
Now, as Christians considering ourselves as apostates would be the furthest thing from our minds, but I wondered last night: Are we guilty of apostatizing at times? Are there some things in the Word that we hold so loosely that it gently falls out of our hands and out our lives? Do we turn away from some portions of Scripture because they require more of us than what we want to give? Are we content when we find out that we haven’t lined up as well to that plumb line as we originally thought? Do we fail to see that measuring up to that plumb line is the goal of the Christian life?
Well, I had a lot of questions as I thought about that, and I think that honestly I do turn away from some parts of the Word of God because it just seems like ‘a lot’. And sometimes when the Spirit is leading me to deal with some aspects of my life, I like to turn away from those too. And you know, I’m going to have to get myself before the Lord about those things, and I pray that you also would be encouraged to have some self-examination time with all of this. Blessings!
Oh, and if you’re wondering about that women’s study we’re doing, it’s True Woman 201: Ten Elements of Biblical Womanhood by Nancy Leigh Demoss and Mary Kassian. Excellent study so far!