The Bible, Billy Joel and Chocolate Cake

(John 5:39-47)

Ok. So you might be wondering what on earth could be the link between Billy Joel, the Bible and chocolate cake. Well you might be surprised because there is a lesson that we can and must learn from these three things which explain an important part of this section of scripture. They relate to verse 39 which says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” and it is this that I am looking at today.

Billy Joel said…

Lets look at Billy Joel first and see how he fits into this picture.

Billy Joel wrote in his song, “It's still rock and roll to me” a classic line. He wrote, “There's a new band in town but you can't get the sound from a story in a magazine.” What he is saying here is that the words in a magazine article may describe a band, but it is not the band. He is saying that you cannot get the experience of a band from just reading about them in an article. It's the experience of the sound, rhythm, harmony, beat, lighting and the whole performance that makes the music real, not the words in the magazine.

So too it is in the experience of the transformation of the heart and mind of a Christian that comes from coming to the Lord AND understanding the scriptures that is important. The scriptures are words but they are not THE WORD who is Jesus Christ. The scriptures can lead us to Christ, but they are not Christ, and that is the point Jesus was making with the Pharisees. But when they made the law their God and became totally legalistic, rather than utilising the law as God intended, they lost the plot.

The law became their master rather than their guide. They looked to the law as if it was God rather than the wisdom and the means by which they could learn to please God. They sought to please God through self-righteousness by doing the law rather than learning humility and seeking the transforming power of the law in their life.

Making Chocolate Cake

There is a similar lesson that can be seen in the baking of a cake. When you make a chocolate cake you start with the words written in a recipe. It may call for so many cups of flour, so many cups of sugar, some chocolate, milk, eggs, shortening and so on. And if you don't follow the recipe your chocolate cake will fail.

And if you don't understand the recipe it will fail. For instance if it says to use two cups of flour without specifying metric or imperial cups as the measure your cake may not work out. And if it say to bake it in a “moderate hot” oven but you don't know what that is, you may choose the wrong temperature range and the cake will fail.

So too with your walk with Christ. The bible is the textbook, like the recipe for the chocolate cake. If you don't follow it correctly, or worse you don't follow it at all, what will be the impact on your walk with Jesus Christ? Just like the chocolate cake you will fail, just as Jesus was pointing out to the Pharisees in this scripture.

They were seeking eternal life in the scriptures but taking a legalistic approach to it. Jesus said that it was those same scriptures that testified to Him and showed that the life they were seeking would be found in Jesus Christ. Instead they chose to blindly follow the letter of the law rather than the spirit of transformation in the law. Thus they failed believing the letter of the law says you must “do” something, rather than the spirit of the law which says you must “become” something.

Following the Bible

Just as the recipe for a chocolate cake is not the cake, and a story in a magazine about a new band is not the band, so too the scriptures without the transforming power of the Holy Spirit through the working of the new covenant is not Jesus Christ.

The scriptures can guide us to Jesus, just as a recipe can guide us to make a cake, but it is in our relationship with Jesus that the transformation into the image of God occurs. It is not in being able to understand the exegesis of each word or in the nuances of the various Greek and Aramaic texts and language or even finding hidden codes in the writings of the bible! It is about learning from the scriptures how we must follow Christ, and applying the truth of the new covenant and the gospel of Jesus Christ in our life that will lead us to salvation and eternal life.

As I have said above, it is not about what you do with the scripture, it's how the scripture transforms you. Jesus was upbraiding the Pharisees because they failed to see this point, and he showed a number of examples of their failure for our benefit, such as this one that follows.

Consider the Pharisees who tithed mint, dill and cumin but neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice, mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23). The first few items Jesus mentioned are what they we're “doing” but the second part of this scripture is about the transformation. Jesus did not say that they should not follow the law but he was upbraiding them because they thought that was it. They thought that by being legalistic and following the letter of the law, tithing the most minute things, they were pleasing God.

And yet when Jesus was asked which was the greatest of the laws, he did not mention tithing. Instead he said to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10-27) Love is the fulfilling of the law, and these matters relate to the transformation of a person's life that comes not by blindly adhering to a law, but in desiring to do what is right. That is where the Pharisees failed and the lesson we must still learn today.

The truth is in Jesus Christ, not in anything else. It is not by mighty works or wisdom that we shall be saved, but through faith in Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection. The scriptures will lead us to Him and teach us about Him and understanding the scriptures correctly will help us understand the process of transformation that is taking place in us. This is occurring through the working of the Holy Spirit and the new covenant so that we can become like Jesus. The scriptures will teach us how to please God, but in the end it is the walk not the words that will bring us into the presence of the Lord. So let us keep the right perspective and place our faith and trust in Jesus alone.

(photo sourced from stock.xchng www.sxc.hu/ taken by Billy Alexander)

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