What comes to your mind when you hear the words “landing gear”? Typically this term refers to three points of contact in essential equipment located on the undercarriage of an aircraft. The landing gear supports the craft when it is not flying, allowing it to take off, land and usually to taxi without damage. I am concerned that too often our biblical communication is not “landing” with not only the unsaved but also believers! What’s the deal? In contrast with many who are shifting to a less biblical and more relevant message, I believe we have forgotten what God has revealed about our regenerated audience.
How do we allow the Word of God to establish a conversation with those we influence in parenting, teaching, mentoring, coaching, counseling, administering, or pastoring?
Below are the only three approaches of the Bible to believers:
The Bible does more than lay out a broad story line by which to live. It does more than stay at the level of the worldview questions we just considered. It tailors the contours of the story to people who need to hear how God’s redemptive acts impact all aspects of daily life. Geerhardus Vos concurs: “All that God disclosed of Himself has come in response to the practical religious needs of His people as these emerged in the course of history.” And how does God speak to his people in response to their needs? He shapes his story to approach his people as saints, sufferers, and sinners. Why is it important to highlight these aspects of our identity as believers? They describe our experience before Jesus returns to consummate his kingdom. How we live in our “roles” as saints, sufferers, and sinners reveals how aligned we really are with God’s Word. Too often we forget this truth.
1. Saints-Whether or not people are living out their identity as sons or daughters of God reveals how close or far they are from God’s redemptive plotline.
2. Sufferers-How people grapple with the nature and purpose of suffering this side of heaven reveals whether or not (in the moment at least) they are living in line with God’s overarching story.
3. Sinners-How individuals own and act on the sin in their lives also reveals how committed they remain to the details of God’s Word.
Another way of saying this is that each person we meet is wrestling in some way with two problems:
1. The problem of identity and purpose: who am I and what in the world should I be doing? (This corresponds to God’s address to us as saints .)
2. The problem of evil: evil from “without” (which corresponds to our experience as sufferers) and evil from “within” (which corresponds to our experience as sinners).
As you know, “relationship is the context of influence.” The only way to build a bridge between believers and the Bible is to address these two nagging, life-long problems.
To conclude, the Bible speaks to our experiences as saints, sufferers, and sinners. God’s redemptive words confirm our identity as the chosen people of God, console and comfort his afflicted people, and confront the ways we turn away from his character and redemptive work. The worldview the Scriptures present is not depersonalized. Rather, we are meant to enter into the story of God in the very personal experiences of life lived as saints, sufferers, and sinners.
Don’t take issue with the divine Author. Remember what He has said about your audience. He created and redeemed us. He knows not only what we need to hear but who we are. It is not simply academic or abstract. It is relational. Don’t be the leader who walks right from a private realm to your “platform” and retreats along the same isolated path without listening, interacting, making eye contact, and “getting” the people you are called to shepherd. Ask God to enable you to “touch down” with your saved audience by being more in touch with not just the principles of God’s Word but the saints, sufferers, and sinners to whom it was written.