God's Instruction Manual for the So-Called Mechanically Inclined
February 10, 2016 | by: Dave Maniquis | 1 Comments
Posted in: Theology
I’m one of those people who cringe at having to read an owner’s manual or instructions about how to put something together. I would break out in a cold sweat when I had to put together those boxed toys on Christmas morning for my sons. I still don’t like reading instructions about how to put gadgets together due to my inveterate impatience with reading dry information. Give me a 25 volume Bible commentary on Epistle of Jude but please shred that five-page instruction manual for a Schwinn! Well, I purchased a new barbeque grill. And I determined to begin patiently by reading and following the dreary step-by-step instructions. I spent the first five minutes unfolding and flattening the 2’ x 3’ instruction page written in eight languages. After finding the numbered boxes which explained each step in English, with a picture of how things should go, I plunged in.
All was going well despite a neck spasm caused by swiveling my head from the manufacturer’s instructions to the object to be subdued by diligent assembly. Well, after five more minutes that was it. It was time to bag the instructions and go with my mechanical instincts. Who needs instructions? After all, I’m a man with a mind and will. Put a screw driver and a wrench in my hands and I’m good to go. Right? Wrong! Sure, I probably shaved 45 minutes off of wrestling this stainless steel creature into submission. However, sure enough--incorrect assembly. How did I know? It didn’t look like the beloved “picture in step 8!” No burgers or ribs on this baby the way it was.
So, after apologizing to my metallic opponent who would have it only one way, I began the process of disassembly. With less than a twinkle in my eye I followed the inspiring genre of manufacturer’s instructions literature. Yes, yes, my second attempt was successful. The process took me twice as long, filled with palpable frustration over my own impatience and lack of trust in the manufacturer’s detailed instructions. However, I realized that the manufacturer did have my back so I could delight in the fullness of grilling bliss. A bit later I was chomping on a bratwurst slathered with mustard. Yum! Ich bin bratwurster! A lesson taught, a lesson learned. I guess.
I’ve come to appreciate that this is much like what the Bible does. It’s God’s instruction manual, written and delivered to us as the normative authority for the directions we need to enjoy God’s best for us—in joy and in hardship. So that we can delight in the fullness of the experience of God, others and all that living entails. The manufacturer’s instructions were the authority for how that grill was to be put together to function at its best. So it is that our Manufacturer, Creator, has graciously given His manual for living a full life—for now and for eternity--the Bible. However, there’s a difference, our Manufacturer-Creator is a living Person. There’s those inevitable times when our attention drifts from His instructions, what He delights in for His glory and our best good--when we mess up. Yet, He forgives. The evidence is what Jesus Christ has accomplished for us on the Cross. And marvels of marvels, Jesus followed instructions too; those of His Father in heaven. The Father gave His Son instructions to be crucified; a step He took alone for those who would believe in Him. And then the Spirit has come to help the believer comprehend the written Manual with its continuing instructions for “life and godliness.”
We have written instructions variously conveyed to us in the law, history, wisdom literature, gospels and New Testament epistles. And by God’s grace it’s available in a myriad of languages. And, yes, often with pictures included for illustration. We are God’s creation. He means to instruct us in His ways. You see, in an odd way, unlike a barbeque grill, our Creator God has given us much in the way of His marvelous attributes (Gen 1:26) to reflect Him in the world.
This is what Scripture is meant to do. Because it instructs on how to discriminate between truth and falsehood. It’s a Manual to help the Christian, and those on the journey to become a believer, to abandon “as false any idea which is found to be clearly contradicted by the teaching of Scripture. Scripture alone, that’s the normative authority for the guidance of what we should believe and do.” (J.I Packer)
It shows us how we were made to function as His crowning achievement and not just as a gadget. (Psalm 8:5) This is why we are all to be theologians. Bible-based theology tells us what is to be believed and known about God and ourselves. And from there how we are to live and the attitudes we are to have about any situation or any other person. But we need to read the instructions.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT)
Dave Maniquis is a Teaching Elder at Restoration Church. He holds a BA in History from Rutgers University and an MA in Biblical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary. He enjoyed a 23-year career in the U.S. Government, working and traveling extensively in Western and Eastern Europe. He has been a Christian for most of his adult life and has been involved in church planting, overseas as well as here in Port Orange, teaching the Bible and speaking into others’ lives with the Gospel. He is married to Maureen and they have two wonderful sons, Dylan and Evan.