Posts categorized “Bible Study”

How to Live Up to God's Expectations

November 21, 2007

This week, we’ll take a look at Philippians 3:16.

16In any case, we should live up to whatever [truth] we have attained.

Philippians 3:16 (HCSB)

In this case, I believe that some context would help. Philippians 3:14 is a very popular verse, but let’s look at verses 12 through 16 to get the full picture.

12Not that I have already reached [the goal] or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, 14I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus. 15Therefore, all who are mature should think this way. And if you think differently about anything, God will reveal this to you also. 16In any case, we should live up to whatever [truth] we have attained.

Philippians 3:12-16 (HCSB)

Paul was a traveling evangelist, and the last person to see Jesus face to face (Acts 9:1-7). If there was anyone on this earth who would have achieved “perfect Christian” status, it would have been Paul. But, here in verse 12, Paul tells the church that he is not a fully mature Christian - he still struggles to grow in Christ. In verses 13 and 14, he tells them that he doesn’t think that he’s arrived, but that he pushes on every day, reaching towards that goal.

In verse 15, Paul encourages the church to adopt his mindset. And, we should adopt it as well - none of us will ever know everything there is to know about the Christian life, and the blessings that God has in store for us. And, notice what Paul says will happen to us when we do this - if we “think differently about anything,” God will correct our errant thinking.

This brings us to verse 16. Whether we’re striving towards the goal, or we’re content to sit stagnant in our current level of knowledge and fellowship with God, we are responsible for living up to the knowledge we have. As the Spider-Man adage goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We have been given knowledge and power by the One Who has all the power and knowledge in the universe. We are definitely responsible for discharging this power and using this knowledge the way He wants us to.

When Jesus was on earth, He told a parable about a servant who had been given responsibility while a master was away, and what happens when that servant does not faithfully use what he has been given.

42The Lord said: "Who then is the faithful and sensible manager his master will put in charge of his household servants to give them their allotted food at the proper time? 43That slave whose master finds him working when he comes will be rewarded. 44I tell you the truth: he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 45But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master is delaying his coming,’ and starts to beat the male and female slaves, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46that slave’s master will come on a day he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the unbelievers. 47And that slave who knew his master’s will and didn’t prepare himself or do it will be severely beaten. 48But the one who did not know and did things deserving of blows will be beaten lightly. Much will be required of everyone who has been given much. And even more will be expected of the one who has been entrusted with more.

Luke 12:42-48 (HCSB)

Notice verses 47 and 48 - the one who knew what he was supposed to do and did not do it would be punished severely, while the one who didn’t know what he was supposed to do would be punished much more lightly. In the case of us knowing God’ Word, though, knowing that God expects us to study and learn the Bible means that we know our Master’s will.

So, then, our responsibility with regards to Philippians 3:12-16 is two-fold. First, we must strive to know God on a deeper, more intimate level, and the way to do that is by studying His Word. Second, we must live up to the knowledge that we do have. While ignorance of the law does not necessarily make one’s actions illegal, knowingly violating the law not only makes one’s actions illegal, but shows a lack of respect for laws and the ones who have made them. The same principle applies spiritually - knowingly disobeying God’s laws shows contempt for the One who has made them.

I pray that each of us will gain knowledge and understanding, and, having gained it, be able to live up to its expectations in our lives.

How to Study the Scriptures

October 17, 2007

This week, we’ll look at 2 Timothy 3:16 (and verse 17, to complete the sentence).

16All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (HCSB)

We know we should study the Bible. But why? When I was growing up, one of the questions they asked every Sunday, right at the start of Sunday School, was “who read their Bible every day last week?” We all wanted to be able to raise our hands; I remember, on the few occasions when I could not, I felt really bad. Back then, it wasn’t for the right reason (it was more that a lot of the other kids had their hands up), but it was the right feeling. Today’s Scripture gives us several great reasons why we should study the Bible.

First, we should study the Bible because It is Inspired by God. (“All Scripture is inspired by God…”) Inspiration literally means “God-breathed”, and is the basis of the Bible’s inerrancy (perfection). God moved through the authors to provide exactly what He wanted to. Revelation 22:18-19, while speaking directly about Revelations, speak a warning that applies to all Bible readers even today…

18I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.

Revelation 22:18-19 (HCSB)

Second, we should study the Bible because It teaches us. (“and profitable for teaching…”) Teaching is the act of imparting knowledge. Studying the Bible can increase our knowledge, and help us develop a proper Biblical world view. Being knowledgeable about Biblical principles can help us when we encounter new situations that may not be directly addressed in Scripture.

Third, we should study the Bible because It reproves us. ("…for reproof…") Reproof is “an act or expression of criticism and censure.” (WordNet) The Bible can call us out when we fail to live us to the standards within It.

Fourth, we should study the Bible because It corrects us. ("…for correction…") Correction is “the act of offering an improvement to replace a mistake; setting right.” (WordNet) This flows naturally after reproof, and is really one of the great things about the Bible that a lot of Christians miss. It not only tells us when we do wrong (and what we do wrong), It tells us how to make it right!

Fifth, we should study the Bible because It shows us God’s righteousness. ("…for training in righteousness;") Righteousness is not something we can do on our own; rather, it is given to us (imputed) based on Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We are declared to have kept the law (something we cannot do on our own) because of Jesus’ ability to keep the law. Training in righteousness helps us live up to the gift we have been given.

Sixth, we should study the Bible because It equips us. (“so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”) A soldier wouldn’t go to war without the proper equipment. The Bible is our main weapon in spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:17 expresses it this way.

17Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is God’s Word.

Ephesians 6:17 (HCSB)

That covers the “why”, but the title of this devotional starts with the word “how.” Paul covered that too, but he did it in a different order than we did. In 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul writes…

15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.

2 Timothy 2:15 (HCSB)

The answer is diligence. Reading the Bible every day, as asked by my Sunday School teachers many years ago, is an important part of Bible study. It will also help us interpret It accurately - by acquainting ourselves with the Bible, we will have no reason to be ashamed. This is important, as certain verses can be taken out of context and twisted to support an argument that is not Biblical. For example, a church used Luke 4:7 as it’s theme verse…

7If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.

Luke 4:7 (KJV)

This sounds like an excellent promise, doesn’t it? There’s only one teensy-weensy problem with this. Let’s read the verse in its context, Luke 4:5-7 (back to the HCSB, although the capitalization gives it away)…

5So he took Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6The Devil said to Him, “I will give You their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. 7If You, then, will worship me, all will be Yours.”

Luke 4:5-7 (HCSB)

That doesn’t sound quite so good now, does it?

I pray that we will have the diligence to study God’s Word as we should, and that we can use what we learn to improve our relationship with Him, and our discernment in spiritual things.

How to Interpret the Scriptures

July 18, 2007

Today, we take a look at 2 Peter 3:16.

16He speaks about these things in all his letters, in which there are some matters that are hard to understand. The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.

2 Peter 3:16 (HCSB)

The “he” in the beginning of the verse is Paul, who wrote many of the letters that are now books in the New Testament. This is a good recommendation from a fellow minister, but it comes with a couple of warnings.

First, Peter warns the church that some of the things which Paul has written to them are difficult to understand. This is certainly true - even today, there is often spirited debate over the meaning of some of the things Paul wrote. Of course, rather than just listening to debate, and deciding which side is more convincing, it is important to search the Scriptures and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal its interpretation. And, knowledge without application is useless - once you have determined what the Scripture says, that knowledge needs to be put into action.

The second warning Peter has for the church is that the “untaught and unstable” will try to twist what the Bible says. Man has been doing this since, quite literally, just after Creation. Let’s look at the first recorded twisting of God’s Word. God gave Adam and Eve specific instructions regarding the Garden of Eden.

16And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, 17but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die.”

Genesis 2:16-17 (HCSB)

But when Eve is talking to the serpent a few verses later, she gets it… well, not quite right.

2The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”

Genesis 3:2-3 (HCSB)

Now, we don’t know whether it was Eve who got it wrong here, or if it was Adam who amplified God’s warning when he was telling Eve what God had said. But either way, what God said is not faithfully represented in Eve’s answer to the serpent. And, just as the Bible begins with this story illustrating (among other things) twisting God’s words, it ends with a warning as well.

18I testify to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19And if anyone takes away from the words of this prophetic book, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, written in this book.

Revelation 22:18-19 (HCSB)

I don’t know if you’ve read the book of Revelation all the way through or not; if you have, you know that you certainly don’t want all the plagues of that book added to you!

Another application of these warnings applies to selecting a version of the Bible to use for study. Before making assumptions, research the translation philosophy, and whether the version is a literal translation or a paraphrase. Using more than one version can help you understand a tough passage.

The key in interpreting the Scripture is to be sure that you know what It says. Don’t rely on what other people say about It - what does It say? I pray that we will all study the Scriptures, and allow God to reveal His interpretation of it to us.

(Note - we’ll discuss more on Bible study when we get to 2 Timothy 3:16.)