A Personal Look at Discipleship, Pt. 4
Study Guide, October 22, 2017
Pastor Clay Olsen
On any visit to Israel one of the sites to see needs to be the Shrine of the Book. They made the building to look like the top of the pottery which contained the first scroll. This museum contains scrolls from the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are the greatest literary and archaeological discovery of our time. And inside you can walk around looking at these scrolls of the Bible which were hidden in caves for nearly 2,000 years at an ancient city called Qumran, near the Dead Sea. They were written in Hebrew, with several in Aramaic and Greek. One of the most fascinating scrolls uncovered was made out of copper—the only scroll not made from animal skin or parchment. These scrolls date back to 300 B.C. And One of the scrolls was the Book of Isaiah, which was 1,000 years older than any previously known copy of the manuscript. It was also about 24 feet long.1 But here’s the thing, how amazing that after examining these 2,000 year old writings, which contain nearly the entire Old Testament, the only differences they found between them and the writings we hold in our hands today were some spelling differences!
What a confirmation of God’s promise to us in the scroll of Isaiah: Isa 40:8- “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” NASU The Apostle Peter repeated that truth as well. And not only will these truths stand forever, but God has even preserved His truths for the people of Earth in His revealed words of the Bible for all people of Earth. And these Dead Sea Scrolls are an excellent example of this.
The Bible is certainly the greatest treasure on Earth, as it contains the very revelation of God and of God’s will for us all. And as we talked about in our last study, the Bible is the very manifestation of God upon Earth to us all. And so for us, as His disciples, in order to follow God and walk with God we are to learn to follow God’s Word and to walk with God’s word. And we noted that we each have an appointment with God when our Lord Jesus Christ is going to review what we did about what He instructed us to do in His personal book to us.
Now of course, here at the Chapel, we celebrate the centrality and the authority of the Word of the God in our church family life and in our own personal lives. We glory in this manifestation of Jesus our Savior to us in His Word. Like the Proverbs say it, we ‘treasure’ God’s instructions and His commandments for our lives. But we have to remember that we live in a culture where everything that we have just said is under attack, as to the authority of the Bible, the relevancy of the Bible, the centrality of the Bible, and even the truth claims of the Bible. And this attack is not just coming from our culture, it’s coming through our culture from the very enemy of God’s Word, who said to our first parents, “Has God said…?” And then he went on and lied about what God had said! Remember, Satan’s primary attack is against the Word of God, because the Word of God is the manifestation to us of our Lord Jesus Christ, who was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, as the Apostle John revealed to us. So Satan is relentlessly seeking to keep people from trusting in and looking to the authority and the centrality of the Word of God in people’s lives. But notice this: If he can’t keep believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, from believing the Word of God, he is going to try to keep those believers from depending on the Word of God and thus from walking with the Word of God.
And how is he doing? A recent poll revealed that less than half of those who regularly attend church read the Bible more than once a week, and one in five say they never read it. In other words, most people, even in the church, do not have a discipline of daily meeting with Jesus in His Word, of communing with Jesus in the Scriptures, and looking to have their minds transformed by the Word of God.
Once Satan has failed to keep a person from coming to Jesus for their salvation, he then tries to keep them from meeting with Jesus for their sanctification, particularly in meeting with Jesus in His Word. Once Satan has lost an unconverted person to becoming converted to Christ, his work is to then keep that person that was converted in their soul from becoming converted in their mind. And, again, the way he does that is by seeking to keep them from depending upon the Word of God, and from walking with the Word of God, and from following the Word of God, which is basically depending upon Jesus and walking with Jesus and following Jesus.
Note this carefully: By definition, a Christian is one who has a converted soul, but by default, this converted soul still has a carnal mind, or a cultural mind. And this converted person will continue to have a carnal mind until their mind becomes more and more a converted by and to the truths and the worldviews of the Word of God. Again, conversion of the soul takes place in a moment through the new birth; whereas the conversion of the mind is a life long process that takes place as a result of the renewing the mind day after day by the continual transformation of the mind by the Word of God.
Many Christians tend to think that when they become a Christian that somehow they will now just think more ‘Christianly’…as though their opinions and judgments about things somehow got sharpened along with their salvation, or somehow got renewed along with their rebirth. Or they think that since they now have a converted soul that they no longer have a carnal mind. Well, because of the Spirit’s indwelling, potentially, yes, but in practice…wait a minute!
The classic passage on this is from Paul’s letter to the Corinthian Church. 1 Cor 3:1-3- “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.” NKJV Actually, Paul went on talking about this concept of them needing to go on to maturity about 10 more times in his letters.
Now the word ‘carnal’ can imply anything from just meaning ‘being of the world’ to ‘being really worldly’. You have to determine the severity of it by it’s context. And here Paul is simply using it to explain to these Corinthian believers that although they were converted to Christ in their souls their thinking hadn’t become very converted yet. They were not committed to having their minds become more converted into thinking more and more like Christ. They were continuing to think like carnal people rather than converted people.
That has been the stumbling block of the Church throughout history. People become converted to Christ in their souls, but they fail to commit themselves to the process of developing a converted mind. That is what so many Christians continually overlook. How ironic that in coming to understand the Gospel of Grace through faith, they realize that instead of trusting in their own works to save them, that they are to place their trust in the works of Jesus Christ for the conversion of their soul. But then for their sanctification, or their growth as a saved person, they just revert back to trusting in their own carnal mind again, instead of distrusting their carnal mind and trusting in the Bible, the mind of Christ, for the conversion of their thinking. Paul also spoke to the Colossian believers about this same thing. Col 2:6-7- “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.” NASU
Just as we received Jesus Christ by trusting in Him and His gospel truths to us we are to go on and mature in our faith and thinking by trusting in His revealed truths to us. Or as Dr. Walvoord put it: “Paul exhorted them not to forsake its divine authority for any human sophistry.” Basically Paul was instructing them to not neglect the study of the Scriptures by their insistence on trusting in their own deceived human reasoning! Or if we could use even more down to earth wording: “If the way you thought about being right with God was all messed up before you got saved, how come you don’t realize your thinking is still going to be all messed up unless you change the way you think and how you think according to Biblical thinking!”
Think about it: God didn’t save us from the mess in our heads; He saved us from the sins in our soul. He converted our soul all at once in a spiritual rebirth, but it’s going to take the rest of our lives for God to convert our minds by transforming them more and more to think more and more in line with His truths, His words: The Word of God. And that’s why you and I have to develop the discipline of feeding on the Bread of Life, taking in the Word of God, the daily manna of God, because it’s the only way we can keep converting our mind to be in line with the truths of God’s Word. Plus, it’s the only way we can prepare for the coming evaluation of the Judgment Seat of Christ when God is going to evaluate our obedience to His command for us love Him with all of our mind. He’s going to evaluate what we did about His commands for us to have our carnal thinking transformed into converted thinking by renewing our mind according to the words of God.
Realize this about our God: God wants us to succeed in this. As our loving God and Heavenly Father, He wants us to succeed in our discipleship. Look at what He said to Joshua. Josh 1:7-8- “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” NLT
First of all: God wanted to see Joshua succeed. And what is ‘success’ in the eyes of God? Success is faithfulness to God. Really, in all of life, for anyone’s life, the measure of anyone’s success in life is the measure of their faithfulness to God. The lasting value of any of our accomplishments in the areas of our family, our jobs, our church experiences, our community contributions, our personal achievements, and so on; the success of any and all of that is being measured and is going to measured by the measure of our faithfulness to God in and through it all. And notice again how that faithfulness is to be set into motion. Notice what God told Joshua what the ‘key’ was to achieving a successful/faithful life: “Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
Bible study is not optional for a saved child of God: it is a required discipline for every disciple of God’s. The Apostle Paul repeats this requirement in the New Testament: 2 Tim 2:15- “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” KJV The Greek word that Paul used here for ‘rightly dividing’ literally means ‘to cut straight’. Paul could have had in mind anything from images of tent-makers to stone masons, but the point is clear: in order for anything to be properly put together, from a tent to a palace to a person’s own life, it has to start with accuracy. After we become saved in our souls, in order for the rest of our lives to be properly put together, we have to be able to think with accuracy. But that requires a new discipline; the discipline of replacing our faulty default thinking, or our natural reasoning, or our carnal mind, with a disciplined mind, a renewed mind; a mind that is continually being converted. And that is exactly what Paul was saying to the Romans in Rom 12:2- “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” NASU
Realize that ‘conformity’ is not an option for a creature of earth. The only option is to what or whom will you be conformed? Every person is either being conformed to their culture or conformed to their Creator. Before we were converted we were conformed both in our soul and in our mind to this world. But when we were born again into the life and family of Christ Jesus, our soul was transferred from this world of death and into the world of eternal life in union with Christ. But our mind is still in need of a complete transformation so that we will become more conformed in our thinking to our Creator rather than to our culture. Our soul was regenerated, but our mind is in need of renewal. And that is the discipline that our Lord has commanded us to practice as His disciples.
And again, that is the discipline that only you can do: this discipline of personally studying the Word of God for the purpose of having your default carnal mind changed more and more into a Biblical disciple’s mindset. Plus, God has also clearly reminded us that we are going to give an account to Him of what we did about His call for us to come to Him and to His Word day after day to have Him transform our minds and renew our thinking to be more and more a faithful and useful disciple of His.
And another ‘Plus’: Plus, we are to also realize that God is depending on us to defend His Word against the truth twisters of the world. And He’s is depending us to follow His Word in being truth lovers; particularly, lovers of the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
1. guideposts.org The Dead Sea Scrolls