Growing In Godliness Blog
By Larry Coffey
David Norfleet preached a lesson recently entitled “Engaged with the Truth”. He emphasized knowing, teaching, and practicing the truth. In John 8:31-32 we read, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” This clearly stresses the necessity of reading the Bible often.
We all would acknowledge the importance of reading our Bible. What we know about God, Christ and the Holy Spirit, we learn from the Bible. Churches frequently offer annual Bible reading programs. Some have schedules for reading the Bible all the way through in one year. Many people who start the year with good intentions end up not continuing. So, churches reduce the amount to be read and schedule annual reading of just the New Testament. That works better, but still some Christians can’t seem to complete that either.
In reading a book on the life of Walter Scott, a pioneer preacher in the first half of the 19th century, I noted that bro. Scott taught and baptized a 23-year-old-man by the name of Samuel Church. He was a diligent Bible student and by the time he was 40 years old, he had read the New Testament through 150 times and the Old Testament 75 times. One might say they didn’t have as much to do then, since there was no television or internet service. We may forget about all the modern conveniences we have which they didn’t have such as electricity, heating and a/c systems, plumbing, etc. It is probable we have “more time” available for reading than did they.
Also, in February of this year, I talked to a man who had read the Bible all the way through in 20 days in that month. The man has a full-time job and a family. This causes me to think we are making excuses when we say we don’t have time to read the Bible daily.
We do the things we consider to be most important to us. And there are many things that should be priorities. However, I suggest that letting God talk to us each day through the reading of his word should have the highest priority. A familiar scripture is 2 Tim. 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.”
Can your mind fully grasp eternity? Mine can’t. However, it can understand that knowing God’s will for us is absolutely essential for us to prepare for eternity with God. And for us to know God’s will, we must have a regular Bible reading habit to which we commit a portion of our time.
What Happens on Sunday
By Victor A. Osorio
I chuckled as I read the article. The author was describing sitting in his Bible class. While, best I can tell, the writer wasn’t a member of the church, his description was familiar.
In the scenario, the Bible class teacher was discussing a passage, dissecting it, adding historical facts, and providing interpretation. Participants were periodically interjecting with their interpretations and thoughts. Frequently, the class would go down rabbit trails, seemingly unrelated. Through all the exegesis, something was missing.
Finally, “Josh” spoke up. He, probably too provocatively, asked, “How is what we are talking about on Sunday going to help us on Monday?” There was silence.
The participant’s delivery could have been better. But he made a valid point. We naturally want to enhance our biblical knowledge and interpretation. Biblical discussion is important, but so is discussion on application. We should always ask, how do we apply what we are studying to our lives – today.
Don’t misunderstand. Lack of biblical knowledge is a path to destruction. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” But the rest of the verse says, “because you have rejected knowledge.”
So do we focus on “real-world” application enough? Consider the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I commanded you; and, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Did you read it? Does it sound familiar? Is that what Jesus actually said or is something missing? That may be how we often interpret the Great Commission, but look again…
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you; and, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”
Did you catch the difference? We need to teach to obey (apply) God’s commands. Often, our approach to Bible study is like the first quote.
We teach the Bible, but do we take the next step and make application? If not, this is detrimental, especially for our children.
Jesus was God on earth. When He spoke, He was making Scripture. I understand that. But have you ever wondered why He taught so often in human-relatable, real-world stories (“parables”). Why didn’t He just quote the Old Testament Scriptures, explain they were about Him, tell what changes needed to be made in the kingdom, and then sacrifice Himself? He did that sometimes (e.g., Luke 24:27, 44-45). However, Jesus knew people needed examples to aid in their application of Scripture. Certainly we need to teach the Scripture, but sometimes people need more guidance and explanation to understand and apply it (Acts 8:30-35).
Why does this matter so much? Again, we absolutely need biblical knowledge and interpretation. And we excel at that in the Lord’s church. So why do we still lose our children at alarming rates?
Some say it’s the devil’s world that is just too appealing. Others think it’s all the social programs, entertainment, music, and watered-down gospel of denominations.
There’s merit to those positions. But those “outside-focused” causes miss a key point that we can take action on. We can lose our children if they don’t see how their faith is helping them navigate the challenges of life when they go out into the world.
We need to show them how God, the Bible, and the church help them navigate the trials of life like temptation, mental health, finances, discouragement, marriage, the daily grind, etc.
Yes, we need Bible knowledge and interpretation! But how are we “teaching them to obey all that [Jesus] commanded” without discussion on application? Perhaps we follow the example of the way Jesus taught even more in our peaching and teaching to all ages.
Eventually, “Josh” made his point. The Bible class teacher self-corrected by cutting off rabbit trails and trying his best to make application. That’s good. The church isn’t meant to be like Las Vegas. What happens in the church on Sunday is not meant to stay “in the church” on Monday.
Let’s equip our kids for the world before they face it. Then, when they do, they will find a faith worth hanging on to.
By Paul Earnhart
C.S. Lewis, in the preface to his little book, The Screwtape Letters, observed that there were two opposite errors about “devils” into which men could fall. One was to disbelieve in their existence and the other was to have an excessive interest in them. We believe that the wholesome desire to understand what the Bible says about Satan is not to stumble into either of these pitfalls. The following questions will helpfully guide our investigation: Who is Satan? Where did he originate? Why and when did he fall? We begin with the first.
Who or what is Satan? Is he a personal being or merely an idea? The Bible clearly indicates that Satan is a person with an identity, mind, and will of his own. Jesus and the devil confronted and spoke with each other in the wilderness of Judea (Matthew 4:1-11). To question the personal nature of the devil is no more possible than to doubt the personal nature of God’s Son.
Yet, if the devil is personal, he is a spiritual rather than a physical being. In Ephesians 6:11-12, Paul urges Christians to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but… against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Mythical “Satans” abound, but there is no biblical evidence that the devil ever manifested himself as a bat-winged, cloven hoofed creature dressed in a red suit and armed with a pitchfork. Like Jesus, his personal appearance is never described, but his spirit and ideas are discussed at length. It is only in the symbolic visions of Revelation that Satan is seen as “a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns” (Revelations 12:3, 9). In the same visions, Jesus is portrayed as a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes (Revelation 5:6).
We turn now to the origin of the devil, when and how he came to be. That God created Satan seems clear since He created all things, whether visible or invisible, i.e., whether physical or spiritual (Colossians 1:16). But did He create him as he now is— the rebellious purveyor of all evil? The same question might be asked about men. Solomon says that there is not a righteous man upon the earth that does good and sins not (Ecclesiastes 7:20). Is this how God has made us— to live in hatred, selfishness, and rebellion? The testimony of Genesis is that when God had created the universe and man, He “saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). That it is not so now is evident and it is Solomon again who tells us why: “God made man upright but they have sought out many inventions…” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27), a moral creature with a will free to choose, and urged us to choose the good, the high, the holy. But all since Adam have opted instead for the evil and the impure. God could have created us as biological robots and there would have been no sin in the world, but there would have been no true people either, no love, no goodness, no compassion, no faithfulness— for all things are as surely the product of free will as sin is.
There are beings other than men in the universe who are creatures of free will. They are of a higher order (Hebrews 2:7), entirely spiritual (Ephesians 6:12) and entirely free. Of them Peter writes: “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment…” (2nd Peter 2:4; see also Jude 6). Some angels, then, like the whole of the human race, have become rebels against God. Could Satan be a fallen angel? Yes, it is possible, even probable, though it is nowhere explicitly stated in the Scripture. His original fall is never described for us. The reference to the fall of “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12 is speaking fo the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4), not the devil. Jesus’ statement in Luke 10:18 has reference to the defeat of Satan’s agents by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Revelation 12:9-11 is speaking of the downfall of Satan brought about by the redemptive blood of God’s Son.
Still, it is evident that at some point (before creation or after) Satan fell by rebellious pride into sin. In Job he not only accuses man of faithlessness, but charges God with stupidity (Job 1:7-11). He has nothing but contempt for both God and man and is our adversary (satan) and accuser (devil) at the very point where we may be reconciled to each other— in Christ and the cross. To prove man unworthy and and God foolish he tempts us to corrupt ourselves (1st Corinthians 7:5; 1st Thessalonians 3:5). In the pursuit of his purposes he has no scruples. Lies and deceit are his long suit (Genesis 3:4; John 8:44). He is consummately selfish. Unlike God, who wishes to bless and enlarge us, Satan desires only to devour us (1st Peter 5:8).
What is the lesson here? Do not take Satan lightly (Jude 9) for he is stronger than we are, but do not be intimidated by him either. He can be decisively routed by any heart which trusts absolutely in God’s power, wisdom, and grace (James 4:6-7; Romans 8:33-34; Revelation 12:10-11; Ephesians 6:10-17).
Humbled For Service
By Matt Hennecke
The Word of God is an amazing, life-changing tool. Consider, for a moment, the apostle Paul. When we are first introduced to him, he is described as “young” (Acts 7:58). His youth may have contributed to what seems to be a certain cockiness. He seems to have been a self-assured young man who seemingly “knew it all.” It is not unusual for young men (and women, too, I guess) to see everything as black and white, right and wrong. Paul (or Saul as he was then called) was certain that Christianity—like Christ—had to be eliminated. Acts 9:1-2 reveals Saul was obsessed with threats and murder: Self-assured. Cocky. A know-it-all. And flat out wrong.
As he journeyed to Damascus, he had his first dose of humility. A light and a voice cast doubt where before there had been none. For three days he ate and drank nothing. His journey of humility had begun. He was baptized into the very Body which he had sought to destroy. Talk about eating crow. Imagine the shame and the dawning realization of just how wrong he had been.
But Paul’s journey of humility had only begun. His own writings reveal the transformative power of the Word. The Word is amazing, for it first convicts us and then lifts us. Paul’s transformation—indeed, his journey of humility—is seen in his writings. Note the progression:
• In 1 Corinthians 15:9, written about 56 AD, he calls himself the “least of the apostles.” This was still an elite group of men. The least of twelve is still pretty good company. It would almost be like saying, I’m the least of the Super Bowl champion team.”
• Then note what he writes five years later in Ephesians 3:8. He says he is “the very least of all saints.” The circle of comparison has gotten larger—much larger—but is still comprised of a minority.
• Then two years later he writes, “Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15). In his own words, we learn Paul has been completely humbled. By the time he wrote 1 Timothy he says is was the foremost of ALL sinners.
How did this journey of humility come to be? By constant contact with the inspired Word and by contemplation of the gold standard Himself – Jesus Christ. Paul was changed. If we will let it, such is the transforming power of the Word in us. Paul was transformed by the Word and the Word will transform us so we will have our high self-opinion replaced with total gratitude for Jesus Christ; and thus humbled we will become, as Paul did, vessels of service to our Lord.
Ready To Listen
By David Norfleet
For anyone that has been in a relationship for very long, you know it is easier to stick your foot in your mouth than to take it out. We often or frequently need help with how to communicate with others effectively. James does so by providing inspired instruction that will help in those situations. He wrote in James 1:19, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” If we would heed this instruction it would help in all our inter-personal relationships, but especially our relationship with God. And that seems to be James’ primary application as he points to the word of God in James 1:21, “…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls.”
So, what does it means to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” with respect to God’s word?
To be quick to hear points to an eagerness to learn and a willingness to accept the things God has to say to us. We want instruction. We want counsel. We want wisdom from heaven. We need help. This idea is more of a disposition than an action, and it begins with humility – a recognition that we don’t have all the answers, but God does. Peter wrote in I Peter 2:2, “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” Jesus knew of the importance of this quality in His followers so He wrote in Mark 4:24, “Take heed what you hear.”
How does being slow to speak relate to a reception of God’s word? It is generally true when you're talking or even thinking about what to say you are not listening. There is proven value in speaking less and listening more (Proverbs 10:19; 17:28), but it is critical when attending to God. In this text being slow to speak may actually mean “slowness to start speaking,” and have specific reference to ill-considered reactions to what God has said. How will we ever receive God’s instruction if we do all the talking or if we thoughtlessly react to justify ourselves, negate Scripture’s demands, or explain the Bible away? Our attitude needs to reflect the words of Samuel, “Speak, for Your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:9-10)
What do you do when God’s word steps on your toes? Maybe you’re reading it, or hearing it preached. It says something that you don’t like, because it confronts the way you think or live. Do you get angry and defensive, thinking, “What right does that preacher have to say that? How dare he tell me how to live!” Do you have these “flash-reactions” when your conscience is pricked? That is why it is so important to be slow to anger, as an angry spirit is not a teachable spirit. As James would write, “…the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)
Popular author Francis Chan stated, “Whenever I read the Bible and come across something that I disagree with, I have to assume I am wrong.” He understands that the word of God and our reception of it is vital as it reveals, reproves, corrects, trains, revives us, directs us, keeps us from sin, and reveals God to us (Ephesians 3:1-4; II Timothy 3:16; Psalm 119:50, 105; Psalm 19). It is no wonder the psalmist would write, “I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for your commandments.” (Psalm 119:131) If we could only get out of our own way God wants to transform us through His word, James tries to help us with that by reminding us to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.