One of the hidden gems of pastoral ministry is watching God turn the lights on in a Christian’s mind. And, when he turns the lights on, he also turns on the heat. God is kind to open minds to understand the Word of God, and as he does, he enflames hearts to rejoice in the God of the Word. Like Mary, I treasure these things up in my heart.
If there is a time for rejoicing, there is also a time for grimacing. And, as we know, things like this are common in a broken world. Instead of focusing upon the clear (and essential) doctrines revealed in the Scriptures, some can become fixated on things that are less important and even less straightforward. Like walking in the muddy brook when the path is clear, some seem to fixate on peripheral or even trivial matters.
This is as dangerous as it is discouraging. With an eye toward the mysterious or unclear, we can wander away from the Bible’s clear teachings—even in the name of serious study.
With love for the church and the Word, John Calvin provides some helpful words:
And in fact, while the Spirit ever teaches us to our profit, he either remains silent upon those things of little value for edification, or only lightly or cursorily touches them. It is also our duty to renounce those things which are unprofitable.
Here Calvin expresses confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture. God has truly revealed to us what we need to know, love, and serve him faithfully (2 Tim. 3:16-17). We can then be confident that what he has emphasized we should emphasize. And, what he has not, we should not.
He goes on:
Let us remember here, as in all religious doctrine, that we ought to hold to one rule of modesty and sobriety: not to speak, or guess, or even to seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything except what has been imparted to us by God’s Word.
Furthermore, in the reading of Scripture, we ought ceaselessly to endeavor to seek out and meditate upon those things which make for edification. Let us not indulge in curiosity or in the investigation of unprofitable things.
And then he connects the dots. It’s not just curiosity that we might have but rather discontentment with the revealed Word.
And because the Lord willed to instruct us, not in fruitless questions, but in sound godliness, in the fear of his name, in true trust, and in the duties of holiness, let us be satisfied with this knowledge.
For this reason, if we would be duly wise, we must leave those empty speculations which idle men have taught apart from God’s Word concerning the nature, orders, and number of angels. I know that many persons more greedily seize upon and take more delight in them than in such things as have been put to daily use. But, if we are not ashamed of being Christ’s disciples, let us not be ashamed to follow that method which he has prescribed. Thus it will come to pass that, content with his teaching, we shall not only abandon but also abhor those utterly empty speculations which he calls us back.
I find this reminder and instruction refreshing. Focus on what God has revealed, not concealed. Search it out and do so with an emphasis that reflects God’s emphasis. And as we do, God turns on the lights and the heat.