Foundational Principle #4

The Text Is Never Wrong

The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever – Psalm 119:160 NKJV

 You don’t need to ask too many people and you will soon find the following idea. Many folks indicate they appreciate the Bible as a whole, but don’t think consider all of the Scriptures relevant or even true. They may point to the opening account of creation, describing it as a myth.  They will claim recent scientific discoveries disprove events as described within Scripture. Yet at the same time, still show a magnanimous respect for parts of the Bible, including many of the words of Jesus, and claim those are really the most important verses. Those other stories – especially those stories of the Old Testament – just aren’t vital to being a Christian.

But is this a correct premise? Has modern science disproved the Scriptures? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “No!” There are numerous books, articles, blogs and television programs which address these questions. It is not my intent to respond to those arguments as there are plenty of well-qualified apologetic teachers who can address those issues. My point is one’s mental commitment to the Scriptures.

From this verse in Psalm 119, the Bible makes a claim for its truth. When the psalmist says “The entirety of Your word is truth,” the claim is being made the whole Bible is valid. One section of Scripture is not more inspired, truthful or reliable than another.

If you enter into Bible study with the same commitment as the psalmist, then your foundation is built. You can read a text of Scripture and know for certain — this is truth. Just because it isn’t printed in red ink doesn’t make it less inspired, truthful, or reliable. There are plenty of verses in the Bible you may .find difficult or unclear. You might even say incomprehensible, but all your objections are putting your intellect above the Word. The Bible is still true even if you don’t understand it.

I have developed an interest in mechanical things and particular automotive repair. I perform most vehicle maintenance on our cars. But there are some things I just don’t understand how they work. An automatic transmission is one of those things. The transmission of our cars might be one of the most complex things we own.  Few people completely understand its functions. But the lack of understanding doesn’t keep us from using them. We trust them to work – we don’t know how they work – but we expect our car to move forward when we move the shift lever into “D.”  As the vehicle gains speed, we rarely notice as it shifts gears by itself.

Trust God’s Word. Even if you don’t understand it, even if it makes little sense to you, even if it seems archaic, trust it. Don’t ignore the Old Testament prophets or the Book of Revelation. Go into your personal time of Bible study with the attitude, “The text is never wrong.” God wants us to know His Word and over time, with this foundation of commitment, you will begin to understand His Word.

It may take a long time as there are passages I still wrestle through, but that’s ok! Go into the task knowing the text is never wrong just as the psalmist claims, “The entirety of Your word is truth.”

Blessings my friend!

-jm

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Foundational Principle #3

Bible Study is NEVER a waste of time.

I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. – Psalm 138:2 NKJV

 How important is the Bible to you?  How important do you think it is to understand it?  Is reading and studying the Bible a worthwhile endeavor for you?  Is it worth your time?

I ask these questions because of a disturbing thing I have recently observed.

Too many people attending our churches spend almost zero time in the Bible.  Some might read a 300 word on line devotional, but even those people are the minority.  What’s worse is that many of these same people either grew up in a church or even attended a Christian college or university.  They attend church (mostly) and enjoy worshiping on Sunday mornings.  Yet they spend very little time in the Word.

My guess is most of those afore-mention church attendees would be highly offended if a pastor or church leader used curse words, especially if they were uttered from the platform.  This verse of Psalm 138 is just one of many verses that tell us how important His Word is.  It takes a higher position than even His own name.

One of the reasons why Biblical illiteracy has occurred is the lack of church leaders pushing, encouraging and teaching their attendees about the importance of daily Bible reading/study.  Shockingly, I have read a church leader discouraging the practice of the spiritual discipline of Bible reading.

Recently I was reading from Christian blog site I often peruse and I found an article with a catchy title that I assumed as satirical.  Sadly, it wasn’t.  Here is just one of the quotes from the piece;

Christians are wasting precious time excessively “studying the Bible” in groups and feeling quite content that if they’re practicing the “spiritual disciplines” at home that they’ve done their duty and can call it a day.  The modern-day church places a ridiculous amount of emphasis on studying the Bible.

What’s worse is the author is a pastor.  He leads a very large church in a large city.  At first I was mad at reading the article but quickly I became sad.  There are literally thousands of people sitting under this man who are being taught that Bible study isn’t important.  He further said;

It’s obvious, from historical observation alone, that one can be a sold-out, fully devout, willing to die a martyr’s death follower of Jesus and spend next to no time practicing the spiritual discipline of Bible study.

I would highly disagree with his statement.  I don’t see how someone could be a “sold out…follower of Jesus” and not spend serious time in His Word.

This is Paul’s admonition to Timothy about what pastors are supposed to do with those they are leading;

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

– 2 Timothy 4:2-4 NKJV

Bible study is NEVER a waste of time.  EVER.  If you desire to be a follower of Jesus, if you want to have a “walk worthy of the LORD, fully pleasing Him” (Colossians 1:10), you must be in His Word.  It is through His Word that we able to hear His voice.  It is through His Word we are able to understand the world around us from a spiritual perspective.  It is through His Word we are able to know who we are and who God has called us to be.

The modern church has quite a few problems, but spending too much time studying the Bible isn’t one of them.

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Foundational Principle #2

Sin, left unchecked, always leads to disaster and ruin

Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions. – 2 Chronicles 36:19

The final result of sin is always disaster. Whether it is a moral failing, financial ruin, prison or death, sin if left unchecked, is never satisfied and leads to destruction. We see this plainly with the history of ancient Israel. After being warned many times by God, the people’s stubbornness and unwillingness to submit to and follow God finally lead to their ruin.

Even those not following God understand the necessity for laws. Society must have rules or laws in place to guard it from chaos. It might be called crime, but in reality, it is sin which all society must set boundaries against. Without those laws, anarchy soon reigns and society crumbles.

Within the modern church world, there often is opposition to setting boundaries or standards. Many wish to portray the grace of God much like an absence of laws. After all, the logic goes, the New Testament teaches on the grace of God, the price of sin has been paid by Jesus, everything is forgiven, so we don’t need to subject ourselves to any law. What one does has no real importance on their spiritual life.

Just a quick glance into the Scriptures however teaches us standards are important. Morality is still defined in the Bible and left to itself, sin always ends in disaster.

True, we don’t live under the Old Testament sacrificial laws, but the idea of submitting to God is still applicable. The book of Acts in the New Testament has plenty of examples of how those within the church must still submit to God. Paul’s directives to the Corinthian church are plain as he is writing to them in a forceful way, you can’t live like you did before you knew Jesus! The book of James is full of instruction on how to relate to each other.

Why are these principles so prevalent in Scripture? Because sin, left to itself or unchecked, always leads to disaster. Whether it’s our society at large, civic authorities, and personal accountability, all of us must learn to submit ourselves to various laws or rules. If we don’t, chaos takes over.

God was patient with Old Testament Israel and He is patient with us. But, if we don’t learn the lessons of the past, we too will find out the hard way; sin if left unchecked, always leads to disaster and ruin.

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Foundational Principles of Discipleship # 1 – Sin is a Bad Thing

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

– Genesis 3:6

 In Genesis 1:31, after God’s entire work of the creation week, the Scriptures proclaim “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good.” Not just “good” but “very good.” Obviously, sickness, suffering and death were not originally part of His creation since God would not call any of those things “very good.”

From a theological standpoint, Genesis 3 might be the most important chapter in the entire Bible. From here, the rest of the Bible is dealing with this verse. Paul tells us in Romans 5:12 how from “one man sin entered the world and death through sin.” The single act of Adam and Eve willingly ignoring the ONE rule God had for them in the Garden of Eden brought suffering and death to our world.

Sin is a bad thing and we are wise to treat it as such. Sin is not something to be ignored or excused. Sin is bad and everything bad comes from sin in general. After the fall, we find ourselves living in a sin-stained world.

It is Jesus who takes away our sin. The sin which separates us from God, is eradicated with the cross. God doesn’t look at our sin as our standing with Him is wholly based on work of Christ on the cross. 1 John 2:1-2 tells us we have an advocate with the Father and Jesus paid the price our sin deserved. But we still battle the consequences of sin in this fallen world.

But there are actions one can do which clearly are sinful. As 1 John 2:14-17 refers to this sin as the “lust of the flesh, lust of the eye and the pride of life.” Actions which fall into one or more of those categories are sinful. Growing in Christ means deepening one’s walk in such a way as to modify our behavior.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:5 not to live “according to the flesh” and “to be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” Paul was pushing his readers to let the Holy Spirit empower them to live above the sinful desires of the flesh. It is why we are described as “new creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17) and as such we have been bought with a price – the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). My sin is abhorrent to Him and it is to be the same for me.

Unfortunately, encouraging people to live above sin is not widely mentioned in our modern church. The tendency, is to down-play sin, excuse sin or even ignore sin. Only the Holy Spirit can convict of sin, but if the church is unwilling to point out sin or encourage one to turn away from sin, the individual doesn’t see their sin for what it is and continues their journey of rebellion to God.

Recognizing our own sin and seeing it as God sees it, is necessary step as children of God. As we grow in our relationship with Him, the Holy Spirit will empower us as we face temptation. Sin no longer needs to continue to wreak havoc in our life.

This is where too many of those who claim the name of Christ struggle as they lose a battle to temptation and come to the wrong conclusion, their sin isn’t so bad. Therefore, sin is excused, ignored or explained away.

Sin is a bad thing. Treat it as such and pray for God’s power to consume you. Get into His Word and trust those promises of overcoming temptation and sin. Do not give sin a foothold in your life and learn the truth of this Spiritual Absolute; sin is a bad thing.

-jm

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Don’t Be A Lazy Bible Student

Why do you believe what you believe?  How did you come to the conclusion of your beliefs?  Do you know where your basic Christian beliefs are found in the Bible?  Or have you just repeated things you’ve been taught?

Many years ago, I began a serious study of God’s Word.  Growing up in church I had been taught many church/traditional things, but I didn’t know the scriptures enough to know if those things I was taught were actually in Scripture.  So I did what most curious Bible students do, I got myself a study Bible.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a very good one.  It was good in the sense that was designed well, but the commentary notes were very unbiblical.  The authors didn’t have a high regard for the authority of the Word, their view of Christ’s atonement was far from orthodox along other important issues.

Here is what I soon discovered, when I first read a text that I didn’t understand, I quickly looked to see if there was a commentary note.  If something was written on that passage, I reasoned, “they must be right, so I guess that’s what I believe.”

WRONG!

A man whom mentored me challenged me to come to my own conclusions and use the Bible to interrupt itself.  He instructed me to uses the references in my study Bible, but ignore the commentary notes.  My mentor challenged me to have a high regard for scripture and I developed the discipline of using the Bible to interrupt the Bible. The Bible I was using did contain great references and over time I often came to a different conclusion than the scholarly authors of my study Bible.

During this time I heard a great pastor/teacher, Church Smith of Calvary Chapel make the statement, “The New Testament is in the Old Testament contained and the Old Testament is in the New Testament explained.”  His main point was the best way to understand scripture is to use scripture.

Long ago I ceased using that Bible (although I still have it) and have found great satisfaction of using Scripture references to better understand a passage, along with a concordance and various Bible dictionary etc.

All which brings me to my point; don’t be lazy with your personal Bible study.

I have a growing disdain for today’s study Bibles.  Sure, they have charts, maps, outlines etc.  But they are also full of commentary.  There are study Bibles where the Biblical text fills a minority of the pages.  All the extra notes, maps, charts etc make up most of the pages.

While the intentions of the authors/editor are good, I’m afraid they are a great example of the Law of Unintended Consequences.  Too many Bible readers make the huge mistake of thinking the study notes are Scripture!  More times than I can count I’ve heard the comment, “but my Bible says…” and those asking the question never came to their conclusion on the text themselves, but took on the view of the commentator in their study notes.

To put it bluntly, you are a lazy Bible student if you just read a commentary note and don’t spend time in the Word comparing verses to verses.  Don’t just use the excuse, “But my Bible says…” without looking that information up for yourself.  Remember, while God’s Word is inerrant, those commentary notes are not.

If you read a verse that you are having a hard time understanding and applying, refrain from reading study notes and/or commentary.  Look up references, pray and ask God to direct your personal study.  Grab a concordance and/or a dictionary and dig in the Word.  It is well worth the effort and you will be a strong student of the Word if you put in the time to let Scripture interrupt Scripture.

Don’t be a lazy Bible student.

Blessings My Friend

-jm

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Delight In the Word – Part 4

Joy Is Hopeful

I long for Your salvation, O LORD, And Your law is my delight – Psalm 119:174

While I can’t pin down a percentage, I maintain a large part of joy is hope. When people are hopeless, they lose joy.

The psalmist longs for God’s salvation. We are left to draw our own conclusions about exactly what he was referring to with the phrase “Your salvation,” but it is reasonable to conclude he needed some form of deliverance, help, or rescue.

While he is longing for some form of divine intervention, he clearly knows the solution to his situation comes from God. Salvation is only found in Him. He is looking in the right direction to find answers and as long as he looks that way, he remains hopeful.

His longing is directed to God and His Word. He says he delights in God’s Word and that delight is what gives him hope. He longs for God to act and he knows that God acts through His Word.

To my wife and I, the concept of people feeling hopeless and losing joy hits close to us. Back in the summer of 2013, our youngest daughter took her own life. Getting that phone call late on a Tuesday afternoon changed our lives. While it’s a long story, the bottom-line is she lost hope. Through years of a serious illness, bad choices, and soured relationships, things had turned so poorly in her life she saw no deliverance to her situation.

Faced with what she perceived as no way to redeem and rescue her situation, she took what she thought was her only option. There were plenty of other options, but without hope, she had no joy and saw no resolution to her problem. Without hope, her view of reality was distorted. It’s a tragedy of epic proportions. I expect my wife and I will bear the scars of her decision for the rest of our lives.

Hopelessness not only robs your joy, but it warps your worldview. While our daughter’s situation may be extreme, it isn’t uncommon. Many people go through life hopeless, devoid of joy, and have a warped sense of reality.

The psalmist is not ignoring his situation. His situation might be desperate and it might have existed that way for a long time. This longing he mentions is hard and it may take considerable patience. But he knows his rescue is coming from God and even in his longing, he delights in the Scriptures.

It’s important when we are facing adversity of any sort, to keep ourselves in the Word.    This act of commitment to the Bible will bring us joy. Maybe not all at once, but the Word produces hope, which in turn, brings joy.

Blessings My Friend

-jm

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Delight In the Word – Part 3

Joy Is A Treasure

I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure. – Psalm 119:162

How have you felt when you found something of significant worth?  How would you feel if you found some buried treasure? Here in Psalm 119:162, the psalmist also found some treasure.

Not only did he find treasure but he uses the descriptive term “great” treasure.  Something he sees as having a high value.

Think about how the concepts of “value” and “joy” are related in other areas of our life.  When I say “I value” something, I am not necessarily thinking “expensive” or “costly.”  But I’m speaking of what I treasure.  Many of those things also bring me joy.

Family heirlooms are often things we treasure.  They may not be worth much on a monetary scale, but because of a connection with people, places, or time periods which we look fondly upon, we value them.

I have a dining room table and six chairs which were owned by my paternal grandparents.  As the story has been told to me, they bought this table and chairs, used, in the late 1930’s.

My grandfather was not a man who cared much about how anything looked.  He wanted functionality.  Therefore, there are a variety of “customizations” done by his hand to the table and all six chairs.  Those customizations made the table practical in my grandfather’s way of thinking, but they rendered the table of little monetary value in the eyes of antique furniture dealers 60 years later.

But I don’t care.  This table has great value to me. Why? Because I have such pleasurable memories of him and my grandmother around this table, I don’t care what any expert says about its worth.

They had such a small kitchen that my grandmother had to do most of her food prep work in the dining room.  As a kid, I can remember going to my grandparents’ house (they lived right beside us) and seeing my grandmother rolling out dough for pies she was making.  I can remember her cutting dough into strips to make her special homemade noodles on that table.

I also remember the times when I was sitting to the immediate right of my grandfather for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner listening to his stories.  Since he was a coal miner during the Great Depression, he had plenty of stories.  For a man who had only an eighth grade education, I am still amazed at the wealth of information he acquired over the years.

I loved my grandparents and they loved me.  This table helps me remember them and is a tangible reminder of great times with my grandparents. It is a connection with them as they both passed away years ago.  It’s a treasure of mine and just thinking about this table, brings me joy.

This is how the psalmist is describing his relationship with God’s Word.  Because he values it so highly, treasures it so deeply, it brings him joy.

The questions for you is, do you treasure the Word?  Do you value it so highly that it brings you joy?

Blessings My Friend!

-jm

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