The New Year: Turning Demas Into Onesimus

DemasAs we head into the New Year a phrase has been rolling through my mind, “I want to turn Demas into Onesimus.”

One of the things sincere Christians must be vigilant about his not giving place to nominalism.  Not only is it bad for our personal life, but it also distorts the purpose for which God savee us.  He has clearly called His people to be salt and light as they demonstrate and declare the message of the gospel.  Nominalism will seek to pull us out of that purpose.

Spiritual nominalism is always lurking at our door. It is that polluted part of our flesh that longs for the easy way. half-hearted living, lack of sacrifice, and a life of spiritual ease.   When nominalism is dressed in religious clothing and given place in individuals and among the church it not only drains Spiritual life away, but it distorts the testimony of God.

A dangerous thing about nominalism is it is never satisfied. When it is given place in individual lives or among a group of people it always keeps lowering the standards and life.  It works like gravity in that respect as it is always pulling things downward.  It is comfortable hanging out with others who are on a downward trajectory or seeks to pull others down.  It works much like a deteriorating neighborhood. It begins with little things and if not addressed they multiply and become bigger things. Pretty soon the whole neighborhood deteriorates and people hardly notice anymore.  A good neighborhood becomes a ghetto and people coming in from the outside notice it immediately.

Demas and Onesimus

Demas was only mentioned three times in the New Testament. Two of the times he is on the front line with Paul and others building the church and expanding in mission (Colossians 4:14, Philemon 1:23-24).  The last time he is mentioned it’s a much different story 2 Timothy 4:10-11 for Demas, having love this present world, has deserted me and going to Thessalonica.

What a disappointing account of someone who was being used by God. Paul did not mince words. He showed clearly the motivation of Demas moving from the front line towards a nominal posture.  Demas “loved this present world and deserted.” It caused him to seek the easier path of nominalism. Who knows, he may have even gone back and gotten involved with the church at Thessalonica becoming a nominal Sunday morning attender.

Unfortunately I have seen people like Demas over my 34 years of serving God.  They backslidingmove from the frontlines of serving Jesus to a posture of abandonment to nominalism. Usually a “love for this present world” becomes the dominant force in their life.  I have even seen people who like Demas were in leadership and on the front lines of serving Jesus but became nominal Sunday morning attenders.  They lost spiritual vitality and their quest for enjoyment from this word never seems satisfied. This is sad not only for their life and family, but also for  the people who knew them when they were on the front lines.

Onesimus the other hand had a much different testimony written about him. He was an individual who is running away from his master.  He was useless to his master.  Paul encountered him and he became a follower of Jesus. Paul then appeal to his master Philemon and you see a very different testimony than Demas.  Phil 1:10-11 I appeal to you for my child Onesimus, whom I have forgotten and my imprisonment, Who formerly was useless to you, but now is useful both to you and to me. 

Resisting Nominalism

Two men, one who became useless, and the other who became useful as a  he follower of Jesus.  As we head into the New Year one of the first things we need to ask Jesus is to burn out any nominalism inside of us.  We need to take the posture of David when it came to the temptation of nominalism.  Wesee three things in his approach.

  1. He made up his mind that he was going to walk in the presence of God and resist any hint of nominalism in him.
  2. He made up his mind that he was going to walk with spiritual heroes, those who lived authentic lives as followers of Jesus.
  3. He was going to avoid the influence the nominal backsliders of His day. He was determined to not let their influence get hold of him.

Psa 101:1-8…To You, O LORD, I will sing praises.  2  I will give heed to the blameless way…I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.  3  I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me.  4  A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil.  5  Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy; No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.  6  My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me ( TLB I will make the godly of the land my heroes and invite them to my home. Only those who are truly good shall be my servants.).  7  He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me.  8  Every morning I will destroy (silence) all the wicked of the land, So as to cut off from the city of the LORD all those who do iniquity.

If we take this posture everyday we will see the flames of the Holy Spirit burning brightly in our lives.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/nO0k0HPdiE8[/youtube]

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Help! Wisdom For Finances In The Coming Year

Now that Christmas is over and we are looking toward the New Year there is a slight possibility that you may have gone a little overboard with credit cards etc. According to a recent Fed survey the average American debt load in credit cards is $15,593. This is in addition to all the other debt like mortgages and student loans, etc.  As we look at setting wise patterns for the New Year it is good to be motivated by the greatest book ever written.  Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.  Romans 13:8 NIV “Let no debt remain outstanding” Check out this video that presents wisdom in a palatable way.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Qb8hTzUoI54[/youtube]

 

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The “Why” Of The Two Great Holidays – Christmas And Easter

BirthWe are in the midst of the two great holidays celebrated by most of western civilization Christmas and Easter.  From God’s perspective the events that spawned these two holidays, Christ virgin birth and His death and resurrection, are the cornerstone of God’s work through Christ.

Not long ago I was at a Christmas celebration at a public park in which they did anresurrection excellent job of narrating through the Christmas story.  It was very moving.  As I stood among the large gathering and the narrative was being read I reflected on how our culture has drifted away from the foundational Christian influence of it’s first 2000 years.  You see it in public education removing all references to Christ in these two events, all the fights over Nativity scenes being removed from public display, changing the phrase “Merry Christmas”  to “Happy Holidays,” and changing “Easter Break” to “Spring Break.”  In this drift away from Christian influence there is a corresponding drift away from understanding the “why” of these two great events.

Even God’s people in the midst of this secularization can miss or minimize the real importance of Christ coming through the virgin birth, and His death and resurrection.    Like the writer of Hebrews said we can drift away from and neglect these things.   Heb 2:1-3  Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip…3  how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…  It is easy to “neglect” (make light of or minimize) Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection when we lost sight of “why” these things are important.

What is more cute than a baby born in a manager?  You average Nativity scene with the adorable baby lying there, animals standing by, and shepherds and wise men bowing creates a warm fuzzy feeling.  Almost everyone has warm feelings upon seeing a baby.  How about the crucifixion?  It is nice thought to think Jesus suffered and died  for people but is there anything beyond that?  There are many people who sacrificially die for others.  There are examples like a soldier who jumps on a hand grenade to save his fellow soldiers or a parent to sacrificially dies to provide an organ for their child.   Why was His sacrifice any different or more important?

More Than Nostalgia

Christ’s  work in coming to the earth born of a virgin and dying on the cross are more than just acts of kindness creating nostalgic feelings.  When you really understand “why” you value them in a whole different way than sentimental nostalgia.  You begin to understand and appreciate it in a much deeper way like Peter did.  Act 4:12  “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

nostolgiaWhy was He born of a virgin and why was that so important?  God loved the world and didn’t want to see people end up suffering the same fate as the devil and the angles who fell before mankind was created (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 1:6, Rev 12:3-9).  Out of His perfection God had to administer a just penalty for this transgression, both on the enemy and anyone else who sinned in the same manner.  This polluting nature of sin and it’s penalty was passed down through family lineage.  Every human is born with that pollution (the urge to go against God and His ways) and end up sinning and incurring that same penalty.

Jesus came to pay that penalty for us and bring us into a restored relationship with God.  No one on earth could have paid that penalty because all of mankind had their own penalty to pay (Rom 3:21-24).  It would take One without His own penalty and sin in order to take it on behalf of others.  Jesus had to come from His perfect state in heaven and be birthed in a perfect process (the Holy Spirit placing the seed in a virgin) so that none of the pollution and penalty of sin would be passed into Him (Phil 2:5-7 Lk 1:26-39).

As Jesus walked on this earth He faced all the temptations everyone faces but He did not succumb to any of them ( Mat 4, 1 Pet 1:18-20, Heb 4:15, 5:8-10).  He lived a sinless life.  He then offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice on a cross (Isa 53:11-12).  He wasn’t a helpless victim.  He could have called on God to deliver Him from death on the cross (Mt 26:51-52) but there would have been no other way for anyone to escape their own eternal punishment.  Out of love He was obedient to God’s plan in His  death and suffering (Phil 2:8) .

His death on the cross was more than just a physical death.  If physical death was all it took then the two criminals crucified with Him could have done it or anyone else (Lk 23:32).  It was what happened in the spiritual realm as He physically died and suffered that was the main significance.  As He died as a criminal (even though He committed no sin) God was doing something behind the scenes to provide a way of escape for everyone from the penalty for sin incurred upon all mankind (Heb 12:2).

Like the High Priest in the Old Testament (Lev 22:21) God took all of our sins and placed them upon Jesus as He hung on the cross (2 Cor 5:21, Gal 3:13, 1 Peter 2:22-25).  All the pollution, the alienation from God, the sickness, and everything else associated with sin Jesus took upon Himself as He hung on the cross.  Then as He hung there, filled with the mankind’s sin, God released the penalty for sin on Him.  God poured out His wrath/punishment  upon Him (Mt 27:46, Rom 3:25-26, 1 Jn 2:1-2, 1 Jn 4:7-16, Heb 2:2-17) in order to satisfy the demand of  justice.

After three days under the burning punishment God’s justice was satisfied and He raised Jesus up to life right in the midst of His torment (1 Tim 3:16, 1 Pet 3:18-19).  Jesus then utterly defeated Satan and the fallen angels in the midst of His resurrection (Gen 3:15, Col 2:13-15, Rom 4:25, Heb 2:14-15).

When He rose from the dead He did something else very important.  Like the High priest in the Old Testament did year after year in the earthly dwelling place of God, Christ went up to the heavenly dwelling place of God in heaven and offered His blood and His sacrificial work there once and for all (Heb 7:27, 9:12).  As He did He prepared a place for us with God (Jn 14:2-6, Heb 9:11-28, 10:10-13)    God received His blood as the perfect payment for our sins then begin to purchase us and free us from the bondage and penalty of sin (Rom 5:9-10, Eph 1:7, 1 Pet 1:18-19, Rev 1:5-6, 5:9).

Jesus then took His place at the right hand of the Father and They poured out Holy Spirit to birth His life in us adopting us in His family, cleansing us of our sin, bringing a new life inside of us, and bringing us into Christ which guarantees our future (Jn 3:3-8, Rom 8:15, Gal 4:4-6, Eph 1:19-2:6, 1 Jn 3:24, 1 Cor 12:13).

It was more than just a nice baby being born in the earth or a nice man dying on a cross.  When you understand all that God did behind the scenes through Jesus, you can’t “neglect” it. There truly is “salvation in no one else.”  There is only two options.  We can stay in our current condition facing a certain fate suffering the penalty for our sins.  Or we can receive the second option by responding to God’s great love and give our life to Him.  It truly is a great exchange.  Our messed up sin filled life that is under the judgment given to Him and we receive His new eternal life purchased through Jesus Christ in us.  Only one option makes sense.  Respond today to His loving initiative through Jesus.

 

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We Need Biblical Opinions – Not Just Opinions Pt 3

verseIn the last two post I explored the importance of God’s word guiding and shaping our thoughts as well as our actions.  Our thoughts almost always determine our actions and reactions.  If we get our thinking right then right actions will follow but if our thinking is not based on the Bible then our actions will not follow in God’s design.

Most Spiritual warfare is a battle over thoughts.  In the famous passage on warfare in 2 Corinthians 10 Paul describes the “weapons of our warfare not being of the flish but divinly powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (wrong ways of thinking erected against the truth).  He goes on to describe the nature of using the weapons 2Co 10:5  MSG We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.

If we allow ideas that are against God’s will (revealed in His word) we end up with what the false ideas at Colosee were described as, “having the appearance of wisdom” but are really “self-made religion” (Col 2:23).   We don’t want to live in “self-made religion” in the name of Jesus or Christianity.

Reading Devotionally or “Study to show yourself approved”

In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul exhorts Timothy to “Study to show yourself approved a studyworkman…rightly dividing the word of truth.”  The background of this exhortation was Paul sending Timothy to Ephesus to correct false ideas (1Tim 1:3-4).  In order to do this it takes more of a “study” and “workman” approach to Scripture than just reading a verse here and there.  This doesn’t mean we have to become Bible scholars. It is using simple tools and resources available to everyone to look a little deeper than just skimming verses.

Many Christians read their Bible devotionally with a “what does that verse say to me” mentality.   The danger of this approach is what I referred to in the last post as “spin.”  We see this quite a bit in the media nowdays.  People will interview someone or listen to an interview and only roport a few quotes or clips, out of context, in order to support their own opinions instead of the opinions of the interviewee.  If we do this with the Bible it can be spiritually dangerous and facilitate “self-made” religion.

Most of us have experienced in relational life someone coming to us with things we said to someone else from another conversation (usually a line or phrase).  When they relayed it to us it had a completely different meaning than the context of the actual conversation.  We  may have had an hour conversation that that phrase was used in that contained the actual meaning.  When taken out of context it got spun completely different than our intention.  We know how frustrating this can be and if we do this with the Bible it is a quick path to “self-made” Christianity.

Every verse is written in a context.  In “studying to show ourselves approved” we read it in the context and determine what God was saying there.  Once that is established then by the Spirit we determine what He is saying to us now.  If we simply pull the verses out of context we miss an important step.  This keeps us from error of spin (understanding based on our own desires and ideas) and provides a broader foundation from which God speaks to us.

 Three simple and important approaches to studying God’s word

During the last two posts I discussed three approaches that every Christian can employ by the Spirit to accurately understand God’s Word.  The first was a systematic study of any area.  The second was evaluating every verse in the context in which it was written.  Four of the essential contexts we should take into account are the following:

The Historical Context:  When it was written, this issues that are being addressed, and the time sequence in light of the other books gives us the historical context.

The Book Context: What is the background, message, and theme of the book? What issues is the author addressing, what is the occasion of the writing,  and who was he addressing it to?

The Passage Context:  Each verse within a passage and must be interpreted in the light of the passage and whole book.

The Testament Context: Which Testament was the verse written in.  Each of the two Testaments have their own distinctive, character, and emphasis.  The Old Testament was looking forward to the work of Christ but the New Testament was proceeding from His work which was already accomplished.

A third approach is:

3. Using available resources to put valuable tools into practice.

Three essential resources that are useful in study:

Concordances:  Concordances show key words and list every place they are found in the Bible (this is greatly helpful in systematic studies of what the Bible reveals on any subject).  They also give you the definitions of the Greek and Hebrew words translated into the English words you are searching.

Commentaries:  They are writers giving scholarly commentary on the various versus you are reading.  They give background and insight into the particular verse and its relation to other verses.  They also give introductions at the beginning of the books to help you understand the “occasion of the writing” and the context of the book.

Bible Dictionaries:  They give background of key words, thoughts, books, characters, and writers of the Bible.  They go into great detail and are valuable in gaining the background surrounding verses, books, and subjects in the Bible.

Secondary resource that is also helpful:

Bible Surveys:  These are very valuable in gaining the context of the books and verses.  They go in depth to give us the more complete meaning.

Most study Bibles have some of these resources right in the Bible.  There is also Bible software that is free or can be purchased for a minimal fee. They are also within easy reach of every Christian online for free.  You can start today to put the tools into practice.

Free online resources:   Anyone can access good sites online such as the following.  Most of them have an option to download apps for phones and pads.

http://www.biblestudytools.com/

https://www.biblegateway.com/

https://www.olivetree.com/   (this has apps to download for phones and pads)

Using simple study approaches and tools will help the Bible come alive to us and helps us avoid “self-made religion.”

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We Need Biblical Opinions – Not Just Opinions Pt 2

Don't Butcher The Bible

Don’t Butcher The Bible

In the last post I explored the importance of God’s word shaping our thoughts as well as our actions.  God’s people get into trouble when they embrace ideas that lead to actions that are not in line with the word of God.  I know in my own life I have embraced ideas that seemed to be right only to later realize they were really in contradiction to God’s Word.  The best way to describe these types of things among God’s people is the phrase Paul used in describing the false ideas at Colosee as having,  “the appearance of wisdom” but are really “self-made religion” (Col 2:23).

We don’t want to live in “self-made religion.”  God’s Word is His will.  If we are going to follow Christ, His Word has to be the foundational path on which we walk.  Jesus tells us in  Joh 8:31-32 “If you continue in My word (stay, remain, abide, build upon), then you are truly disciples of Mine;  32  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (Mt 7:24-27)

God’s Word is eternal and is to be our objective basis of our faith and practice.  It has to be an objective standard.  The other way would be to see it as subjective.  That means other factors go into our approach in understanding and applying it.  Things like cultural opinions, how we are emotionally feeling, the family or community we grew up in, and our personal preferences can color how we receive His Word.  If it becomes subjective or subject to personal ideas  and opinions then we can drift off track and not even know it.   An even worse state than that would be to ignore His Word altogether.  This was the state God’s people found themselves in under King Josiah as was referred to in previous post (2 Kings 22:1-13).

 Three simple and important approaches to studying God’s word

During the last post I discussed three tools that every Christian can employ by the Spirit to accurately understand God’s Word.  The first was a systematic study of any area.  A second approach is:

 2. Evaluating every verse in the context in which it was written.

We live in an era of 24-hour news. Radio, television, and online news sites constantly fill the airwaves with a barrage of news.  One thing that has become very clear in the past few years is that every news source has a liberal or conservative bias.  Rarely do we now get news free of ideological or political spin.

When you hear the same story reported by different channels or news sites it can often seem like a completely different story.  Video snippits used out of context with additional commentary from the reporters can reinforce whatever ideology the site seems to stand for.   We call it spin.  When you hear the complete interview or speech in its context it is often different than the way the news channel has spun it.

A Text Out Of Context Becomes A Pretext

A Text Out Of Context Becomes A Pretext

We can do the same thing with the Bible   We must always remember that the Bible was written by authors addressing issues. Verses are set in passages and books in the context of thoughts God inspired the authors to write.   To understand what is being said we need to understand the context in which it was written.  Once we see the verses in their context we determine by the Spirit what God is saying to us through them.

If we fail to do this we can pick verses out of context and easily spin them in a way God didn’t intend.  One day we can flip open our Bible and read that Judas “went away and hanged himself” (Mat 27:5).  The next day we flip it open and read, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same'” (Lk 10:37).  If you link those two verses together out of context and act on them it can be deadly.

Verses Out Of Context

A good example is the New Testament epistles.  They were letters written to local churches.  They were written to disciples following the Lord together under the oversight of God’s appointed leaders.   In reading particular verses we need to keep in mind the context of what was being said to get an accurate idea of what God would be saying to us.  Consider Romans 12:1-2 which tells is to ” present your bodies a living sacrifice…acceptable to God…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is.”  It is easy to read those verses and miss the context of how Paul says to do it in the verses that come after it.

3-16  For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  4  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,  5  so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (amp “mutually dependent on one another”).  6  Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;  7  if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;  8  or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.  9  Let love be without hypocrisy… 10  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor…12  rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer,  13  contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality… 15  Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  16  Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

When you look at the context of presenting yourselves to Christ it is in the context of being “among” the saints as “members of His body.”  I have heard Christians lift Romans 12:1-2 out of context and use it to justify an attitude that says, “I am living for Christ…I don’t need to be involved among His people (after all the church is a mess) as long as I am living for Him I am okay”   This attitude misses the conext.

Consider another verse often lifted out of context, Romans 11:26 “all Israel will be saved.”   Paul mentions Israel 9 times in that book.  What did he say about Israel in the other passages?  For example in 9:6 Paul says, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel.”  We need to see what was whole context of the book of Romans?  Most study bibles give a short account of “the occasion of the writing” at the beginning of each book.  You can also find this information easily online.  This helps us put verses in the context of thought then once we see them there we determine what they mean to us.

A phrase I heard years ago is “a verse taken out of context becomes a pretext (a reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason).  If we are going to walk on the foundation of God’s Word we must read it in the context it is written, then by the Spirit determine how it applies to us.

 

 

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We need Biblical Opinions – Not Just Opinions

As I look back over the last 35 years of serving God’s people it seems almost Psalms 119weekly I have some sort of interaction with Christians who are embracing, or want others to embrace, a line of thinking that is in opposition to God’s word.  What is even more scary is that they are often clueless about it.  Much of the time it is similar to Paul’s description of false teachers that have “the appearance of wisdom” but as he goes on to say are putting forth “self-made religion” (Col 2:23).   Having these interactions usually cause me to yearn for what the Psalmist did, “revive me according to Your word” (Ps 119:25, 107, 149, 154, 156).

All of our thoughts, ideas, desires, and feelings should come under the measurement of God’s word.  What matches His word should be embraced and what runs contrary to it should be resisted.  Yet many times Christians fail to even consider what the word has to say about issues they are thinking or feeling.  It reminds me of what it was like during King Josiah’ reign in 2 Kings 22:1-13

In this story God’s people had drifted away from Him under the previous kings and were doing evil in the sight of the Lord.  When Josiah became king he sent the High Priest to lead the repair of the House of God which had been neglected under the previous rulers (in the Bible restoration of God’s House from neglect and destruction is a sign of revival).  While the High Priest was beginning to repair God’s house he found God’s word which had been lost and began to read it. He was alarmed by how far they had drifted off God’s path as they read His Word.   They brought the Word to Josiah.  When Josiah read it he had a similar response.

2 Kings 22:10-13 NASB  Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it in the presence of the king.  (11)  When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.  (12)  Then the king commanded Hilkiah…,and Asaiah the king’s servant saying,  (13)  “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the LORD that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

agree to disagreeMany times it is good God loving people like Josiah and Shaphan are embracing ideas that have little to do with His word and they don’t even realize it!   When you bring up the fact that their thoughts are not in line with the weight of scriptures it is often met by “we will just agree to disagree.”  That could be a good idea except for one critical thing, what we agree or disagree on should be based the scriptures.  We should both look at the scripture regarding any idea  and form our opinions based on that.  Often the people that argue the most are the ones that haven’t taken the time to examine the scriptures in totality in that particular area.  A worst condition is that they aren’t even willing to do so.

Timothy was facing similar things at the church in Ephesus as people were putting forth ideas that were leading people astray.  Paul urged him to give serious attention to study and sharing God’s word.  2Ti 2:14-18  Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.  15  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. 

A “workman” who “accurately handles the word of truth” is more than just reading an occasional verse.  It is exercising common spiritual sense approaches to studying and understanding the word of God in any area.

Three simple and important approaches to studying God’s word

There are three simple approaches to studying and understanding God’s word that are often neglected in approaching differing ideas.  If we will employ these three things it will greatly help us understand what God is saying on any particular subject so that if we agree to disagree it will at least be based on His word.

1. A systematic study of any area. The entails looking up all the verses on any subject, examine them together, and then determining with the help of the Spirit what God is saying about it. It sound’s hard but is very easy in this day and age when simple online concordances are available to everyone.  This gives us an overall Biblical perspective on any subject, especially controversial ones.

I remember doing this once on the area of Biblical expressions of praise and worship. I was running into people who said things like “I just am not comfortable doing ….when I worship” or “I prefer silence to noise in worship” or “I don’t think we should have those types of instruments in church.”  Not growing up in church I didn’t have any of the preconceived preferences regarding most issues.  I just figured that if the Bible says it then it must be God’s desire. When I ran into people who put forth ideas that seemed “wise” but troubling I did the systematic study myself.  I was amazed to find out what the Bible had to say about God’s desires for our expressions of praise and worship.  Consider the statistics.

Shouting or raising a loud voice is encouraged – 265 times.  (Ps 47:1, Ps 66:1-2, 95:1-2 etc.)   Note:  Silence is mentioned only 12 times with only 3 mentioned in terms of interaction with Him.  The other’s were things like “meditation on His word.”  Also in the 5 scenes showing interactions with God in the eternal states seen in the book of Revelation (Revelation 7:9-12; 8:1-13; 14:1-7;  19:1-6; and 21:1-3) they contained a lot of loud expressions.  The only silence is mentioned 1/2 hour before judgment is poured out on the earth.

Playing music and instruments – 58 times (Ps 33:2, 45:8, 81:1-2, 140:1-4, 150:2-6 etc).

Singing – 29 times (Ps 33:1-3, 95:1-11, Eph 5:19 etc).

Lifting our hands – 14 times (Ps 28:2, 141:2, 1 Timothy 2:8 etc).

Clapping hands – 12 times (Ps 47:1, 98:8 etc).

Bowing or kneeling 12 times bowing down or kneeling (Ps 95:6, Rev 19:4 etc).

Dancing – 9 Times (Ps 149:3, 150:4 etc).

Standing – 7 Times (Ps 122:2, 134:1,135:2 etc).

The only expression that wasn’t mentioned was doing nothing.  As I examined the scriptures systematically it was easy to determine a few clear Biblical facts.

  1. God desires physically expressive worship with all the Biblical expressions.
  2. A high premium is put on lifting up our voices and shouting.
  3. Non expressive worship simply isn’t in the Bible.

We must orientate our faith and practice around Biblical truth.  The word of God has to be paramount in any discussion of things “we will agree to disagree” or “you have the way you are comfortable with and I have mine.”  Before drawing any conclusions that appear to be wisdom, a systematic study in that area should be examined to make sure our opinions have a Biblical basis.

More in Part 2

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