Last week I described the difference between logos and rhema: logos referring to the whole of scripture, and rhema to those verses which from time to time light up for us. The whole Bible is the word of God, but a particular verse may be His personal word to us at a certain time.
Just as the words of Jesus are printed in red in some Bibles, I propose that these rhema verses might be highlighted in green.
Behind red letter editions of the Bible lies an implied theology: namely, that the direct words of Jesus are to be taken as more noteworthy than the rest of scripture. A similar theology underlies my green letter Bible. Of course, from a purely objective viewpoint, no portion of holy writ should be elevated above any other. Subjectively speaking, however, it is quite impractical, if not impossible, for anyone to follow or adhere to all of scripture all at once. It is too vast, too complex, even too contradictory a book.
The underlying theology of the green letter Bible is that the words of scripture which the Holy Spirit has quickened to one’s heart are more noteworthy than all the rest of scripture—that is, more noteworthy to one individual at a certain time. For these are direct marching orders from the Lord, words to be taken to heart, even acted upon, immediately.
Thus, in deciding how to conform our lives to scripture, we must be selective. Legalistic minds make this selection rationally, prioritizing scriptures according to a preconceived theological grid. The true disciple, however, reads by the light of the Holy Spirit, letting the Lord Himself quicken those verses which He wishes to highlight. Sometimes a verse may speak into a particular situation, unique to one day or even one hour. Other times a certain passage, such as Isaiah 26:3 as mentioned last week, may guide a certain season of life or even an entire life, and so become a “life verse.”
One of my life verses, Psalm 25:4-5, is a prayer which I have prayed countless times:
Show me Your ways, O Lord,
teach me Your paths;
Guide me in Your truth
and instruct me.
In the final line, according to need, I might change the word instruct to lead, inspire, enlighten, motivate, or discipline.
Another of my life verses is Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths. (NIV)
For many years I lived with this verse, reflecting on it regularly in a multitude of situations. These days I don’t think of it often—perhaps because I’ve learned it so well that it’s been incorporated into my life. In any case, it’s one for my green letter Bible.
The Lord is continually presenting me with new green letter verses. My current favorite is Revelation 3:17: “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” I’m also very fond of two words in 2 Timothy 4:5: “Endure suffering.” So you see, what we need to hear changes over time.
The virtue of the green letter Bible is that, by paying special attention to those directives that God Himself has spoken to our hearts, we can stay on the path that He has laid out for us. This may seem an obvious principle, but for young Christians, especially, it can be all too easy to wander all over the map of scripture without holding tight to the hand of Jesus. As He Himself pointed out, “You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life … yet you refuse to come to Me to have life” (John 5:39).
This brings me to the question: Why green? Because green signifies GO: that is, these rhema verses are ones that need to be acted on—even if the required action is something like rest, patience, or faith. Otherwise the use of green for this purpose is quite arbitrary. You may prefer blue, or even one of those ugly flourescent colors. (Nowadays, I grant, it might be more fitting to reserve green for scripture passages that concern the environment.)
In the end, choice of color doesn’t matter. Use all the colors you like to bring scripture to life and fasten it in your heart, until eventually your Bible resembles a rainbow: an appropriate symbol for the promises of God.
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