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Why study the Bible?

readThere are many reasons to read and study the Bible but one of those reasons is so that you can live your life the way God wants you to, not just the way you think you should.

Good ideas are a dime a dozen but God’s word often directs us in ways that we, ourselves, would not think of.  Even more important, some of those things that we think of as good ideas are not just bad ideas, they are offensive to God and His holiness.  They are also ultimately harmful to us: There is a way that seems right to a man but the end is way to death. (prov 14:12) The Bible is filled with passages that show us the problems of doing what we think is a good idea.

Abraham and Sarah thought it was a good idea to bring about God’s promised son through Hagar.

Saul thought that holding onto some of the Amalekite animals for sacrifice to God was a good idea.

David thought it was a good idea to take a census of the people.

People during Jeremiah’s day thought it was a good idea to go to Egypt.

The leaders of Israel thought it was a good idea to crucify Jesus.

Ananias and Sapphira thought it was a good idea to lie to God.

The list can go on and on but each of these people could have avoided the problems, curses,  and consequences if they had simply combined a desire to serve God with a knowledge of His will.  Paul wrote of his people:  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. (Rom 10:2)

God warned through Hosea that His people were destroy by a lack of knowledge; they did not know His word. He warned Timothy to study to show himself approved.

Often the zeal to do so is not the problem but the knowledge is. Of course, you could also argue that if one knew what God wanted of them, the zeal might diminish.  In other words, we believe we are serving God when all we are doing is serving God according to our desires, not according to His. We don’t know His will and so we are unable to do so and yet, if we did know, would we be willing to serve?

I think a desire to serve God that is based on the recognition of our having sinned against Him and His Grace by sending His son to save us is a good foundation to build on. One may never know everything, nor is knowledge itself the goal, but it is part of our growth. We learn about Jesus by the preached Gospel, we are baptized in His name, and then we are taught the things he wants us to do (Matt 28:19-20) That last part is important too.

Paul wrote to Timothy so that “one may know how to behave himself in the household of God which is the church of God” (I tim 3:15)

Do you know how to behave in the household of God? If you do not read your Bible quite often, you may be as surprised as Josiah (2 Kings 22:1-13) to find out that you don’t!

What are the benefits to listening to five sermons a week?

Five sermonsWhile reading John Maxwell’s book  The15 invaluable laws of Growth, I was intrigued by his statement that while he was young preacher for his denomination, he would listen to five sermons a week.  Five sermons a week? FIVE?!?  It seemed like an incredible amount. I suppose it might have been Seven a week if you include the two that he presented on Sunday. (At least I hope all preachers listen to their own sermon too!)

Thing is, that was like 30 years ago and for those of you who are not yet 30, there was no iPod to listen to. He would have had to listen on cassette tape! That is a lot of tapes and bulky too. Today, of course, we have access to hundreds and even thousands of downloadable  audio files.

There are many reasons why a person might add sermons  to their phones and mp3 devices, but if you haven’t been doing it, it may simply be because no one ever suggested it.  So let me suggest that you do.  Here are some of the benefits of downloading and listening to 5 sermons a week.

1. You get to hear different perspectives. We all know our own preacher’s style and we can sometimes even come to know his illustrations, questions, and jokes so well, we expect them.  This isn’t to say that the preacher is stale or boring but when you listen to another expound on God’s word, even the same passage, it can be like listening to it for the first time!

2.  It is a good resource for stirring up your own thoughts. As you listen to a sermon, if you are truly trying to gain wisdom and insight into God’s will,  you will find yourself thinking “That’s a good point” or “That is something that can help me in this area of life” or “i never knew that, WOW! That makes this parable more meaningful”. And when those thoughts stick with you or help you improve your life in some way, the benefit is very long lasting.

3. For preacher’s it can be an invaluable tool of learning from others. No preacher would ever think he knows it all, but how many think they have to DO it ALL on their own? That is a fallacy. Listening to fellow Christians teach is a way for teachers to sharpen their skills and increase their knowledge. They may even pick up a style, delivery technique, or a new illustration (see point 1).

4. It helps keep the world out of your head. That is always a good thing.  Let’s face it, if you don’t spend 30 to 40 minutes listening to a sermon as you drive along, exercise, or relax, what will you listen too? Something from the world? Will you watch a TV show that is mindless and has no value (at best) or one that is full of worldly morals and standards (at worst)?  Reading God’s word, listening to God’s word preached, hearing the reading of the Scriptures as you go through your day will help keep you more focused on what is important, truly important.

When Paul said in Phil 4 to think on the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, of good report, etc, I think that God’s word would be one of those things. David said that he hid God’s word in his heart so that he would not sin against God. Jesus said “Pay attention to what you hear” and one way to do that is to pay attention to what you allow yourself to listen to.

5. You can grow in an area that you have a need to grow in.  All the podcasts I know of use titles, so search for a topic or passage you want to or need to know about.  So look for lessons in areas that you already know you need to learn about. Do you want to learn more about Sin and how to Overcome it? Maybe my lesson here will help.  Do you want to develop more humility?  Click here to listen to Jason, as he fills in for the regular preacher of a local congregation, share his study with you. Want to develop a more evangelistic mindset? I challenge you to not be challenged by this lesson.

Now you can find these anywhere, many congregations will publish them, the only thing you need to do is go look for them and subscribe to the podcast.  It is more convenient than ever to find God’s word published in print, audio, or even audio/visual.

One word of caution, however, NEVER take a sermon preached by a man and elevate it to the level of God’s word. Men are fallible, God is not. Take note of Acts 17:11 where the Bereans (see verse 10), listened to what Paul said and yet they still searched the Scriptures to verify his claims and HE was an apostle of God. Preachers today are not so it is more imperative to search the scriptures for yourself.  Listen but verify and you will find yourself growing in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord.

Question: What are other benefits you might receive from listening to more sermons?

7 things you need to go to heaven

How much clearer could Peter be when he said:

For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2Pe 1:8-11)

There are seven things that we need to add to our faith in order to be fruitful and make it to Heaven.

As we finish our look at these characteristics, we have spent many weeks writing about these qualities. This post will review them as we finish this line of study. Should you wish to read  posts about these individual qualities, you can do a search on the characteristic you want in the search box to the right.

Lest we forget what they are, I will list them and a brief description:

Virtue (or moral excellence)

This is the characterisitc that you need to have which says “I will do what God wants me to do, regardless of the costs.”  This quality is needed because we don’t yet know everything God will require of us or that Satan will tempt us with. When Joseph fled from Potipher’s wife, he showed great virtue and it did cost him.

Knowledge

It makes sense that the faith we start with is not the faith we will die with if we live any length of time. Learning more about what God wants and meditating on His word will give us that knowledge to live more holy lives.

Self-control

A wonderful quality that more of us should practice. We should note that this is not “other” control. Once we have a little knowledge, it is easy to look at others and judge where they are. However, we need to focus first on our self, then we can see clearly to pull the mote from our brother’s eye.

Steadfastness

Without this, we may quit. To be able to beat  a temptation once may be easy but to endure the temptations of Satan, or to bear with those who are still learning, or to continue to grow even when we think we have attained all we need to do requires dedication to the race. When you retire from your work, you do not retire from God.

Godliness

This quality says, what I do, I do with God in mind. In being pious, I show the attributes that God would show were He on Earth. It is something to be trained in, is not to be used superficially for gain but to be coupled with contentment so that I can gain even more…in the next life.

Brotherly love

I owe it to my brothers to have a warm feeling for them, to desire to be around them more than the world. There is a companionship in the church that needs to be fostered to encourage others and allow yourself to be encouraged.

Love (Agape)

This is a duty bound love that does what is in the best interest of the person loved. Sometimes it is your neighbor, sometimes it is God, sometimes (occasionally) it is your self. You cannot love God unless you love your fellow man. This is the love that we are commanded to show to enemies because when we were enemies of God, He showed it to us!
This is not some check list that you can just mark off and say “I got that covered”, it is not that simple. You cannot simply do godliness for a day and think you have it. You cannot be steadfast for a week and mark it off. These are qualities that you ADD to your faith and CONTINUE IN and GROW IN.

Conclusion:

Notice Peter didn’t say if you ‘have them’ but if you have them and they “abound.” That is, if you grow in them. And if you grow in them, you will not be “unfruitful”, you will not “stumble” and you will be “abundantly” supplied entrance into the Kingdom of Jesus.

Those that do not, are soooooooooo short sighted (blind) that they can’t see past this world. In other words, unlike the great men of faith, they do not look for a heavenly home, it is not real to them. They also have forgotten that they were cleansed from their sin. Imagine someone barely saved from death by a liver transplant. Grateful, they stop drinking which caused the problem in the first place. Then they forget that they were barely saved and go back to the bottle and ruin the new liver.  Such are those who were saved and do not grow in these virtues.

Peter made a point of reminding his readers about these qualities. It wasn’t that they didn’t know these things but he wanted them always to be able to remember them, even after his death. Let’s work to add these qualities to our faith so that we may be fruitful for Jesus.

Training for godliness-Need number 3

The third thing you will need to help you train for godliness is an education. Remember that while what Paul said in I tim 4:7 was in a context of physical training at a gymnasium, he was making a spiritual application.  If you want to train for a physical event such as a marathon, you soon realize that having the desire to run a marathon and the goal for running it (e.g. to finish or beat your last effort) must be followed up by learning what you need to know in order to  training for that race.

Let’s say you decided that your goal for being godly is to get to Heaven. (In other words, you would rather live than die!) Now what? How do you know if you are training correctly or not? How do you know if you are progressing toward godliness or moving further from it? You will need knowledge. God’s word tells Christians:

So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation– if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.   (1Pe 2:1-3 ESV)

Just as a newborn baby will feed on milk, so the Christian must feed on God’s word. Remember you when you obeyed the Gospel, becoming a Christian, how you wanted to know everything? The milk was good and helped you grow. Knowledge, in training for a marathon, says ‘put away milkshakes, sugars, and french fries” and, in a spiritual training, you put away ‘malice, deceit, hypocrisy.”

Yet at some point, milk needs to be left behind:

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness… solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  (Heb 5:12-14 ESV)

Christians, who should have progressed on to meat in their training, have actually reverted back to a need for milk. Just like an athlete with good training habits who stops those habits will soon find that even a simple 1 mile run is hard, so Christians will find that godliness is hard if they revert back and do not progress.

The Knowledge we need is in God’s word. David spoke often of his delight in the law of the Lord. Below is one passage. Many more exist in Psalms, I would suggest you read Psalm 119 and see what David says about God’s law, precepts, commandments, and ways.

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law, (Psa 94:12 ESV)

Knowledge also comes by example. We learn what to do, or what not to do, by seeing what others have done. The Bible is full of examples of those who serve as models to follow and examples to avoid. What was written before was truly written for our learning.  (Romans 15:4)

The knowledge you gain by studying God’s word is both of God’s law and of His character.  Truly, a person will be godly when they are like God but until such a time as we actually reach that perfection, we continue to exercise ourselves toward godliness learning from the knowledge He has given us about Himself.

as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (2Pe 1:3 NKJV)

Before you get Knowledge you need…

Today’s morning lesson moved on from the topic of Virtue and moved to the second item in Peter’s list of characteristics that Christian should develop. In fact, Peter’s lesson is that that these characteristics need to exist and abound. They are the characteristics which seem to be basic foundational characteristics. While you might read Peter’s statement to say “If you don’t have them, you won’t make it; I would suggest that we look at it more as “we have already made it and we need to grow or else we will go backwards”  No Christian should fail to make it to Heaven but if you are not willing to grow in these characteristics you are so shortsighted as to be blind.

Virtue coming before knowledge makes sense since Virtue is when we say “I will do it ” and knowledge says “This is what I need to do”. Determining to do God’s will and then being taught it has been the way people of faith have always responded. Israel agreed to do God covenant in Exodus 19 and then learned what it was in Exodus 20.

So we see that the second characteristic is Knowledge. A word that contains many meanings. To know something as a fact, to understand something from study or to comprehend something from experience are all types of knowledge and this time, in Peter, knowledge is likely a bit of all: facts, study and comprehension. If we want to know God, we need to know Jesus. This is more than just a fact but an understanding of who Jesus is as well.

We should not think that we have NO knowledge right now, in fact Peter uses the phrases “knowledge of him” and “knowledge of God” in verses 2 and 3 to show that by this knowledge we have those things that pertain to life and godliness, or put simply: “You are Christians because of what you know of God (implied: obedience to the Gospel). That makes sense doesn’t it? Peter couldn’t very well be talking to Christians who had never heard the Gospel and had no knowledge at all of Jesus.

This is in line with the Great Commision of Matthew where Jesus sends the Apostles out to Make disciples, baptize them, and teach them the commandments. (Mt 28) You make a disciple by preaching the Gospel, those that believe and respond are baptized and then taught the other commands (knowledge) later on. Read though Acts 2 and you will see this exemplified. The Gospel preached, the people respond, the disciples are then taught more things to build upon the knowledge they have.

Two points are worth noting about this. One is that we GROW in knowledge and the other is we need certain attributes to be able to gain knowledge.

As we look through the Bible, we see Abraham, Moses and even the Apostles learning more as they spend time with God and/or Jesus. In fact, in a particular stunning example, Luke records two times in Luke 9 and Luke 22 when the Apostles argued over who was the greatest. (I guess some lessons take longer to learn than others). Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 8 that some didn’t even have settled in their mind such a basic concept as there is only one God and idols are not a god at all. Still, patience is needed with these brethren not criticism. We all grow in knowledge and knowledge is not the basis for our Salvation. Some basic knowledge is needed so that we can have faith but, for example,  an in-depth study and knowledge of eschatology (some reading this might think “huh? what’s that?) is not needed to get into Heaven.

An attitude that wants to learn is also needed. The humility that children bring to the learning process, as well as the questions is essential. We need to be teachable. Additionally, we need to be quick hearers and slow speakers. (James 1:19) It is hard to learn when you are talking. A third element is to “NOT” know. When we say that we know or understand or see and do not take the time to investigate and study or listen to a teacher, we remain blind. (Many teenagers fit this category) The Pharisees had this problem as well. They thought they were so tight with God that nothing could shake it. They did not realize that they had a bad relationship with him.

So before we get knowledge, we need to realize we are adding to what we have, we should be patient (with ourselves and others) as we learn and we should develop the attitude that says I want to learn, not I have already learned all I need to know.

The sermon is here.

 

 

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