Illustrating the Truth

by Pastor Dan Miller

Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.
1063501_reaching_for_the_light.jpgOne of life’s predictably irritating moments is suffered when you purchase an item requiring assembly only to discover that the directions are all in written form—no pictures! I’m not particularly gifted at mechanical assembly, but give me a picture and I can usually survive. Take the pictures away, and deep depression sets in! Few would disagree that when it comes to mechanical assembly, pictures can prove tremendous teachers.

A proverb has it that a picture is worth a thousand words, which I take to mean that a picture can save you from reading a thousand words of written description. But at times, a picture may do much more than save you reading time. It may go so far as to actually render the written word intelligible. You could read a thousand words a thousand times over and never comprehend what you have read. Throw in a good picture and all those words might suddenly become comprehensible.

Such a picture is of limited consequence when it comes to assembling a new purchase. Such a picture is of inestimable worth when it comes to assembling a life.

In 1656 English Puritan Richard Baxter penned this timeless observation in The Reformed Pastor: “Men would sooner believe that the gospel is from heaven, if they saw more effects of it upon the hearts and lives of those who profess it. The world is better able to read the nature of religion in a man’s life than in the Bible” (p. 98). It is crucial that genuine Christians remember they are living pictures of the transformational truths expressed in the written Word of God. A Christian’s life is a picture that makes God’s truth comprehensible to a watching world.

The story is told of a missionary who worked among a primitive people. The people were dying of disease. Their only hope was a vaccination provided by a remote mission station across the river. There was just one problem. This particular tribe believed that a demon lived in the river and would devour them if they entered the water. The missionary pleaded with them to ford the river, but to no avail. Time was running out. Ignorance seemingly condemned the tribe to extinction.

Finally, the exasperated missionary called the villagers to the banks of the river. In full view of the assembled tribe, he dove into the river, swam under water to heighten the suspense, and emerged unscathed on the other side. Standing safely on the opposite bank, he punched a triumphant fist into the air.

A spontaneous cheer rose from the villagers. They ran toward the river, forded it enthusiastically, and reached the mission station where they were successfully inoculated.

Words are absolutely essential. They are vehicles that convey truth to which we respond with action. Without words, living pictures are stripped of redeeming objectivity. When it comes to the Christian life, however, it is important to remember that the words of Scripture are not intended merely for reading; they are intended for living. They are intended to generate spiritual life (2 Cor. 5:17) which is then displayed in our body parts. Eyes, ears, tongues, sexual organs, arms, hands, legs and feet are to become instruments which paint a living picture of spiritual realities (1 Cor. 6:12-20; Eph. 4:17-5:13; John 1:14).

When believers speak words of grace, purity, and truth; demonstrate marital fidelity; give away material possessions; render an honest day’s work; bear suffering with joy; love the unlovely; and demonstrate a life of pervasive peace with God, it is then that they illumine the reality of the written Word. It is then that they picture in vivid demonstration the inner light that illumines a dark world (Matt. 5:14-16; 2 Cor. 3:1-3).

Dan MillerDan Miller has served as senior pastor of Eden Baptist Church (Savage, MN) since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (Owatonna, MN) with a B.S. degree in 1984. His graduate degrees include an M.A. in History from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He is nearing completion of D.Min. studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Dan is married to Beth, and the Lord has blessed them with four children.
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