To venable (verb): To randomly muse upon this and that.

Archive for the ‘The Word’ Category

Understanding God’s Word.

All Christians are geniuses! True or false? The reason we might suspect that Christians could all be geniuses is because they seem to ask so few questions about the word of God. Does this mean therefore that they understand everything? Do they have no need to any engage in discussion/questioning in order to seek out the meaning of the Word of God? Are they all in the genius category?

An answer starts to emerge if we turn to some words of the LORD Jesus and we realise that this lack of questioning does in fact raise some very serious issues. The passage that gives us much help in this context is Mark 4:10-12.

The LORD has been teaching in parables. The meaning was not immediately discerned and so a group; “the twelve and the others around him” asked him about the parables. In doing so they expressed an interest in the teaching. They do not immediately understand it, but they were curious to know the meaning. It is to such a group that the LORD reveals the meaning.

He specifically says in v11 that it is to those, who ask about the meaning, that he will make known the mystery of the kingdom of God. A mystery, in the New Testament understanding of the word, is the revealing of something that was previously hidden. In a sense, the seekers after truth would have the secrets of the truth revealed to them.

At this point it might be useful to clarify what a parable is. It has been quaintly said that it is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. And this really gives us the crux of the meaning. By implication therefore it is a method of teaching where the meaning is not immediately obvious, it has to be sought out. A certain determination is required to ascertain the meaning.

Our Saviour then goes on to say that to those who ask no questions, who ave no interest in enquiring after truth, “everything is said in parables” (v11b). He seems to be saying that all truth becomes like parables to them. He then quotes from Isaiah 6:9-10 to indicate that their lack of questioning reveals that they are still outside, with no perception, no understanding and no sins forgiven. These people just see the outside of the parable. They see it and say “we don’t have the foggiest idea what all that is about and we can’t be bothered to ask; it is just all irrelevant nonsense to us”

This of course contrasts with the first group who have a desire to know the meaning of the Word of God. We might say that as we interact with the Word of God those who want to know get to know more and those who do not want to know, get to know nothing. In a sense, everyone gets what they want.

Let us emphasise at this point that this does not give any excuse for slovenly preaching of God’s Word. Rather, we should have suitably gifted people doing the preaching and these should seek to make the meaning clear. We see this exemplified in the preachers referred to in Nehemiah 8:8 They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read.

However, we must be aware that there are many things in God’s word which are hard to understand. Even Peter found some things in Paul’s writings hard to understand (see 2 Peter 3:16) and so we should not be surprised if we have a similar problem!

It is at this point though that we hit the nub of the matter. When we come across things we do not understand how do we respond? When we hear things in the preaching that we do not grasp how do we react? Remember it is to those that want to know the meaning that the LORD reveals the meaning. So our response should be to go to the LORD and ask Him about the matter. He may help you directly. However, His normal way is to use others who have knowledge of God’s Word to help you. So let us ask one another about the things we don’t understand.

The implications of not being bothered to ask are actually very serious. We say this because from our Lord’s teaching we would conclude that our lack of desire to seek out the meaning of His Word we place ourselves in the camp of the outsiders and perhaps even prove that we at not Christians at all.

Let us, therefore, be helping one another to understand God’s Word. And let us seek to emulate the blessed man of Psalm 1 who has “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psalm 1:2).

(Taken from Feltham Evangelical Newsletter June 2004)

Quiet Time.

Here is another quote from the interview with Victor Jack that I quoted from yesterday I have always maintained a regular time of Bible reading and prayer in the morning. For me this is indispensable; for my own spiritual growth and often this prepares me for situations and individuals I meet during the day.

So taking our cue from these observations may I take the liberty of asking you how it is with your ‘quiet time’? How are you getting on with seeking the Lord? Now I know you may be an owl and are freshest later in the day. But it is a good practice to get the pump of your life primed in the presence of the Lord. I have written about personal devotions here and that may be of some use. Whenever you approach your drawing near to God the most important thing is that you actually do it.

If you are too busy to do it, then you are too busy.

The full interview is on pp14-17 of the June 2018 Counties Ignite magazine which can be found here.

 

Bible Overview – The Pattern

I want today to seek to elucidate how, right at the beginning of the Bible, the pattern I outlined on Friday is operative. Let us look at Genesis 2.

  • God’s People. Here we find Adam and then Eve being added, by his side (see Gen. 2:22-23), So we have the original people of God.
  • God’s Place. In Gen. 2:8 we read The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there He placed the man He had formed. The Lord God could have given Adam the whole planet as his place; after all it was within His gift to do so. But rather, he just gave him a garden in Eden. He wanted Adam and Eve to have a specific place in which to live for and experience God.
  • To be for God’s glory:
    • Obedience was the foundation to the joyous experience of God’s people having fellowship with God, And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but 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.” (Gen. 2:16-17
    • Service. Adam is called to serve the Lord by working the garden and watching over it ((see v15). Moreover Eve is called to his side to be a complementary helper (see v18). Eve was to help Adam in serving the Lord.
    • Worship. When all the forgoing is happening then is fulfilled the worshipping of Romans 12:1. There we read: brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.

Bible Overview.

As we study scripture it is good to have an overarching frame within which to develop our understanding. So easily we get mired in the detail of books and passages and lose any sense of a coherence to the biblical message.

I want to suggest to you a certain frame which reasonably gives a means of understanding the whole of Scripture. When we understand the Bible to be about the following then we have a handle on helpfully and healthily studying scripture:

  • God’s people
  • In God’s place
  • To be for His glory (and that means obedience, worship and service)

If you start thinking about scripture within that frame, I am convinced your appreciation of the Lord and His ways and your involvement therein will start to progress.

Age Of The Church.

This is the age of the church. We live in the church age. We live in the time when God is choosing to bring glory to His name through the church. The church is the bride of Christ, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the body of Christ and more. The universal church of all believers is being built and that church is manifest in all the individual churches which have been created for the honour of our Lord Jesus.

The book of Revelation gives specific messages to this world for the strengthening of God’s people and it gives them to churches. The letters to the seven churches indicate to us that God makes a priority of revealing Himself to and through His church.

All this should remind us of the priority we should give to the church. There seems something amiss when a Christian is casual about church. In doing so they are being casual about something that God sets a high honour to.

We need to think about Him speaking to churches as well. He delights to speak when the people are together in church to hear and consider His Word. So we surely must set a priority on being in church to hear His Word.

Living And Serving.

We have now looked at the necessity for all Christians to consider becoming church members. Following on from this we need to look at how we should live as church members. Interestingly the basis on which we become church members can significantly affect the manner in which we conduct ourselves once we have come to enjoy the privileges of being a member of a church. Someone who drifts into becoming church member seemingly oblivious to what it means is likely to have little commitment to that church. On the other hand someone who makes a determined commitment to be a member of a church fellowship is likely to live as a committed church member, but what does it really mean to be committed to a church?

One helpful image for us in this context which is presented in the Scripture of a local church is that of a body (see 1 Cor 12:12-31). The argument in this passage is that every part of the body is valuable and useful. No-one can argue that they are so insignificant that they have nothing to offer in the church; all have something to give. Moreover, if someone decides that they are not going to support the church and its activities then the church suffers as a result.

The principle that underlies this is that “privilege leads to responsibility”. It is a great privilege to be a part of a local testimony which is established to the glory of God.

This privilege leads to the responsibility to live a life which is appropriate for those who are in church fellowship and to serve to the end that the church will be built up.

We need to be aware therefore that the way we live is vitally important for the life of the church. Not only should we live godly lives in Christ Jesus in the church, but we should also do so in our homes, workplaces and communities. Any failure to do so ultimately reflects detrimentally on the name of the church and more importantly on the name of our God.

One of the sad consequences of David’s sinful acts towards Bathsheba and Uriah was that he had “shown utter contempt for the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:14). How sad it would be if we were to hear the church in Feltham spoken badly of because of the lax ways of one of the members. Let us therefore take heed to how we live. How great it would be if, like Peter and John, people would realise that we “had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13b) because of the righteous quality of our lives.

One of the ways in which we display our commitment to the local fellowship is by supporting the services and activities of the church. Obviously some, through certain circumstances, are hindered from physically being present in church life. However, in many cases, those who are limited in this way, show their commitment by their prayerful interest in the church. Notwithstanding this we should endeavor, like that first church in Jerusalem did, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42), and we should take heed to the exhortation to the Hebrews to be not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing (Heb10:25a).

Furthermore we should commit ourselves to the work of the church. We are not here to build mini-empires in the church like Diotrephes in 3 John:9, but rather to labour together for the faith of the gospel. In all our labours in the church let us remember that we are seeking to set forth the great gospel of our God. So whether we are cleaning the toilets, doing some painting, visiting people at home or preaching the Word we all need to focus on the fact that we are assisting in maintaining a testimony for the LORD.

One crucial way in which we support the church is in having a proper attitude towards those whom the LORD has set to have authority in the church.

Paul says “to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work” (1 Thess. 5:12b-13a). In this anti-authoritarian age we must be careful to assist the elders and deacons in their work. In doing this we are supporting the proper ordering in the church which is all to the LORD’S glory.

So to recap on some of the issues we have considered, this week, we note that a Christian should be baptised and a baptised Christian should be a church member. Finally we have come to the issue we have dealt with in this article that all church members have a responsibility to diligently follow the LORD in the church to which they are affiliated.

Public Bible Reading

We have been reading through the Old Testament at our 11.00.a.m. service at Feltham Evangelical Church for, what must be, about 15 years now. We do not read every week, but very often we do. Last Sunday we concluded 2 Samuel. This means that we have read through 28% of the Bible in terms of verses. We initially just read the passage of Scripture. More recently, though, we have had a brief comment upon the reading.

So why is it good to have such a practice:

  1. It honours God. In reading His Word we are saying to the Lord that His Word matters to us. It is a good principle to have in our public gatherings all that honours the Lord. This is of primary importance and the public reading of scripture stands in that strand of thinking.
  2. The people of the church know we take the Bible seriously. We are not just reading a few verses, we are reading good chunks and are happy to do so.
  3. The people start to get familiar with the flow of scripture. They pick up “a little here and a little there”.
  4. We are fulfilling the injunction to Timothy by Paul to Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching (1 Tim. 4:13). We can be reassured by this verse that we are doing a God-pleasing thing.
  5. It is humbling to hear the scriptures audibly read and to know that you are under the pure Word of Truth. In reading scripture we are acknowledging that God has spoken and we want to humbly listen to what He has said.
  6. People start to understand the Word. This, I think, has been enhanced since we started to give a brief comment along with the reading.

So we are happy to read scripture publicly. One thing we have seen often happen is that the Bible Reading fits in with other aspects of the service. And we think this must be God’s doing and we praise Him.

 

 

 

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