Turning Confusing Problems into Clear Principles, Pt. 4
Study Guide, June 10, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
In recent church research concerning spiritual growth in 1,000 churches, the researcher came to this conclusion: “Nothing has a greater impact on spiritual growth than reflection on the Scriptures. If churches were to do only one thing to help people at all levels of spiritual maturity grow in their relationship to Christ, their choice would be clear. They would inspire, encourage, and equip their people to read the Bible – specifically, to reflect on Scripture for meaning in their lives…The Bible’s power to advance spiritual growth is unrivaled by anything else we’ve discovered.”1
Does this still ring in your head? ‘The B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the Book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God. The B-I-B-L-E’. Right, many of us learned the ‘Bible Song’ when we were kids. How about, do you know how the rest of it goes? ‘The B-L-O-O-D that Jesus shed for me; Christ paid the price, our sacrifice, the B-L-O-O-D!’ And the next verse is: ‘I’m S-A-V-E-D, by G-R-A-C-E; I’m saved by grace, the Scripture says, the B-I-B-L-E!’
That’s a great little song to learn as a kid because it proclaims a great big truth to live by the rest of your life: “I stand alone on the Word of God!” Of course, we’re not alone, but the Word of God stands alone as the clear truth of the Lord Jesus Christ for a world stuck in confusion. And how not surprising is it, that the world is not equipped to deal with the confusion and complexity of this world, because God has revealed that the truths and the principles that equip anyone for life are found in the B-I-B-L-E.
Notice: 2 Tim 3:16-17- “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” NASU Now, let’s read it again in the Amplified Version for extra clarity: 2 Tim 3:16-17- “Every Scripture is God-breathed (given by His inspiration) and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience, [and] for training in righteousness (in holy living, in conformity to God’s will in thought, purpose, and action), So that the man of God may be complete and proficient, well fitted and thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
It’s simply astounding what God is revealing to all people here: that the only way for anyone to become equipped to learn truth from error, to understand right from wrong, to become convicted and corrected, to be trained for useful service and every good work is through the revelations that God inspired certain ones to record and then distribute to all people everywhere in His Scriptures. This reveals that one of the central reasons that people the world over are confused and conflicted in living out their lives is that they are not equipped to do so. The only way anyone can become equipped to live life as it was designed to be lived is by becoming equipped through the instruction, reproof, conviction, correction, and training in right living through the Word of God!
And that’s why we tell others that one of the main things that characterizes Chapel By The Sea is the centrality and authority of the Word of God in all things in our lives. For if the Bible is not central to everything you believe and do, then no one can be equipped for doing anything of lasting value for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom.
I’m always struck by what God said in Malachi 1:10 after the people stopped revering God’s Scriptures and were, instead, following their own reasoning and traditions and religious ideas of what seemed right in their own eyes. As God watched them mix their worldly ways with their religious traditions He said this: “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you.” NASU What a statement about how God feels about religious activities and false religions that are not obeying His instructions nor worshiping Him in spirit and in truth!
Mark it down: If any religious organization or so-called ‘church’ is not worshiping, serving, and following God according to His revealed Scriptures, then God would rather that they just close the doors to their so-called houses of worship, rather than going through their religious rituals or traditions that are so displeasing to Him!
You look around at so many so-called churches in America and you see that the Bible is not honored as the inerrant authority in all areas of life from family to business to history and science and government and so on, but rather the Scriptures are being dishonored as simply writings that were tainted with man’s culturally bound-up ideas. And thus, they then think that they should now be revised to fit society’s progressive preferences about what is truth and what is morally right or wrong, acceptable or unacceptable…of which many religious groups have trouble saying that anything is unacceptable anymore. But then this statement by God flashes out like a neon sign; that He would rather that they just close their doors altogether, rather than to dishonor and disparage His Word, and thus, lead people even further into falsehood.
Remember this about God: We come to God on His terms, not ours. And for anyone in any period of history who does not humble themselves in repentance and faith and come to God according to His Gospel on His terms, they will one day hear what Jesus said He will say to them: Matt 7:21-23- “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’” NASU
Remember, many people the world over profess to know God, but only those who possess a relationship with God actually ‘know’ Him and, thus, have eternal life in union with God. As the Apostle Paul pointed out in Rom 8:8-10- “…and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” NASU
Being in a saving union with Christ is not just about being religious or associating with some religion or church. It’s about having the Spirit of Christ living in union with you. It’s having a relationship with Christ based upon having come to a saving knowledge of Christ’s words, His Gospel, and thus receiving Christ’s forgiveness and His gift of eternal life.
Again, it’s about coming to know God on His terms, not ours. And after coming to know Him as Savior, it’s then about following Him as your Lord, by observing all things which Jesus instructed us about in His Word. And right here we can give you another clear principle that you can count on to help take you through a very confusing problem that the world keeps distorting and fostering and festering when it comes to the authority and the reliability of the Bible.
And of course, God saw this coming long before people ever thought about coming up with this false accusation that the Bible is only a collection of mans own interpretations and opinions about religion and that the writers of the Bible themselves originated these ideas and teachings. Listen to what the Apostle Peter says about that claim: 2 Peter 1:20-21- “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy (no teaching) of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” NIV Isn’t that an amazing and absolutely wonderful explanation by God that no person came up with these teachings in the Bible on their own. None of these commandments or teachings or revelations of the Scriptures had their origin in any of these writers. No, they had their origin in God the Holy Spirit, who ‘carried these men along’ in writing what God wanted written, just like the wind would carry a ship along the way it should go.
So to a world that has twisted the teachings of the Bible into being some confusing problem about just representing the opinions and ideas of men we have this clear principle from the Scriptures to clarify it all: ‘The Bible has one author, God the Holy Spirit, who used many writers as His ‘human pens’ in order to record the exact truths and teachings that God wanted everyone to know, so that they could come to know their God as their Savior and then follow Him as their Lord.’ Remember, reading your Bible is just like listening to the voice of God. Remind others about that, too.
Now that brings us back to our premise today, because in order for you and for me to now ‘follow’ the Lord we have to pay close attention to His words. How close? Well, the Psalmist gave us the answer to that: Ps 119:105- “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” KJV Now then, when does a person use a lamp? They use a lamp when it’s dark? Guess what? In this world, regardless of what time of day it is – it’s always dark! We live in a spiritually, morally, and mentally dark world. No wonder people are stumbling into spiritual traps and falling into moral pits and walking into mental quagmires. Without the lamp of God’s Word they are walking in the dark every day of their lives. But how ironic that they think they see and think they know where they’re going.
No, the only way anyone can see what is really going on around them and what is also ahead of them is by using the Word of God; as a lamp for your feet and a light for your path. And the only lamp there is on planet Earth by which to spiritually, morally, and mentally see your way through this dark world is the lamp of the Word of God!
So the lamp shows us the right steps to take each day, and the light shows us where those steps will take us day after day. Or, the lamp of the Word helps us with our actions; the light of the Word helps us with our directions. And that’s why we need to pay close attention to both; both our immediate actions and our future directions or consequences, like where our actions take us as well as what they make of us, and what they make of our future destiny.
So this is why we so often talk about not just having a ‘knowledge of the Word of God’, but of having a ‘working knowledge of the Word of God’. When we are challenged by others concerning a spiritual question or a moral action or a mental decision, can we pick up our lamp of a truth from the Scriptures to shed some light on whatever subject it is? Remember, if you haven’t practiced using the lamp for your spiritual, moral, and mental guidance and decisions, then you’re apt to stumble in the dark right along with others who are walking in the dark without the Bible as lamp to their feet and a light for their path.
Actually, the way you gain the most light from the Bible is by looking for the Light in the Bible, looking for everything the Bible is revealing to you about the true Light of the World, the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words, you will find a great change in your Bible reading when you change your focus from looking at ‘what’ to looking at ‘Who’. Remember, your Bible reading will become transformational for you when it becomes relational to you. Yes, we need to learn what it is that God wants us to know in His Word, but we need to learn most about ‘Who our God is’ while we are discovering what He wants us to know. Listen to what God said about what He wants most in our relationship with Him: Jer 9:23-24- “Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the Lord.” NASU And the Hebrew word for ‘boast’ here refers to the ‘celebration of an accomplishment’. This revelation that one of the things God wants most is for us to better understand Him should inspire us to make our life quest become the discovery of coming to better understand our God in His character and His Person-hood and even His personality. And to then celebrate each step forward in this accomplishment of better understanding our God.
Make the focus of your daily Bible reading a discovery of coming to better understand and know God and it will change not only the way you think about your Bible reading…it will also change the way you think about everything. You will find yourself not only becoming more informed about our God and His world, but you will find yourself becoming more transformed by God through His Word. And it will make your want to celebrate that with your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
1. J.R. Briggs, Ideas for Improving Bible Engagement in Your Church, CTPastors, Spring 2018, p18