Reading the bible yourself
Gullibility is a liability! Not everything that ‘sounds’ spiritual or deep is Godly or helpful. We live in an age of information overload, the access to options or alternate thought positions has never been easier.
Therefore being able to discern right from wrong, good from evil is an important life skill. The apostle John writes warning believers affectionately; “Beloved, do not believe every spirit” (1 John 4:1) or as the NLT puts it; “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit.”
In our day in the name of God, church leaders are sadly often in the news for telling those who follow them to perform all manner of crazy acts, claiming this is what God wants or torturing Scripture to say that what they are teaching is what Scripture commands!
Discernment, therefore, is a vital aspect of faith for all Christ-followers. But how does one discern orthodoxy from heresy?
1. Listen to God’s Holy Spirit!
God’s Holy Spirit will always make much of Jesus, who He is and what He has done for us. So listen to the content and the focus of someone’s teaching and if Jesus is not the BIG IDEA, if anyone, anything is, then tune out! Remember that;
- The Holy Spirit will teach us and will remind us of everything Jesus said. (John 14:26)
- The Holy Spirit will testify about Jesus (John 15:26)
- The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth (John 16:13)
- The Holy Spirit will bring glory to Jesus (John 16:14)
Hearing from the Holy Spirit is not for some elite group of Christians. Adam and Eve used to walk and talk with God in the Garden. Now that you have been reconciled to God through Jesus, you too can walk and talk every day with God. This is your joy and your privilege as a believer!
Try this: As you read, or listen to anything/anyone – ask the Holy Spirit to confirm in your Spirit whether this is helpful or unhelpful in your spiritual walk.
2. Use the Weapon of Scripture
One of the primary ways God has put on display His will for our lives is in Holy Scripture. The more you read and internalise Scripture, the better equipped you will be to discern spiritual nonsense from the good stuff.
So, if some teaching doesn’t line up with Scripture – toss it out! Our LORD did this when He was tested in the desert by the devil, and yet Jesus resisted him, Jesus exposed the falsehood through quoting Scripture to the enemy.
So read your Bible daily, commit to that discipline, and it will protect you in ways you cannot begin to imagine. Internalise Scripture, memorise Scripture – doing so is that arming yourself with the sword of the Spirit, taking the sword out of its sheath to protect yourself from enemy attacks (Ephesians 6:17).
3. Be in intentional Christian Community
Being on your own, isolated with your thoughts, leaves one vulnerable to false teaching and potentially being persuaded or lead astray. The people John was writing to had a relationship with the apostle John, and that relationship helped them to remain strong in the face of false teaching as they could ask John for his opinion.
Who are you in intentional Christian Community with? Is the Bible and listening to the Holy Spirit a key aspect of that friendship? In Reconciliation Road Church we urge every believer to be in a TRIO or a COMMUNITY GROUP or to be in both if possible. Why? Because Community protects one, keeps us from the pain of being diverted from the path God has for us.
Do you have an intentional Christian Community? If not, take a step and reach out to some other people.
May we, may you be fortified against gullibility. May you obey the Holy Spirit daily, devote yourself to Scripture daily and may you have an authentic and intentional Christian Community around you to protect you from dangerous spiritual gullibility.
Believing in the bible is unfashionable. This is because the bible is absolute truth in a fake news world. Declaring fidelity to the very words of God won’t win you may friends, or provide credibility in discussions with those who don’t know Jesus. In this setting, it can feel increasingly hard to treasure the gift of God’s words to us.
2 Timothy 4 is a continuation of Paul’s comments in chapter 3, where he spent time exposing the sinfulness of the world and gave Timothy some specific tips to combatting the sinfulness around him as he leads the church in Ephesus. Timothy was encouraged to “continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, … how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings” Paul is making it clear, the way Timothy was to protect himself and model holiness in the church was to treasure and rely on the power of the word of God. Timothy had clearly spent his whole life being shaped by the Word of God, and Paul is eager that this transformative effect keeps going.
Paul’s argument in chapters 3 and 4 is that when we trust and rely on the Word of God, it will empower both our pursuit of holiness and our missional effectiveness in the world.
How can the bible aid our pursuit of holiness in a world full of sinfulness? Well Paul says in 3:16 “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” This is something he repeats in 4:2 when he says, “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” The bible is inspired by God, as His means of revealing Himself and causing faith in the world, and therefore it is eternally relevant in our lives, no matter the situation we are in. It can be used to build up the people of God, through training and teaching, and it can be used to in the fight against ungodliness, through challenging the sin around us and restore people towards righteousness. There is never a moment or situation that the bible is irrelevant or untrustworthy in. Absolute truth is absolutely trustworthy.
These are the final words, in the final chapter of the final book to his spiritual son Timothy. And so, with his final words Paul leaves Timothy his final command; “preach the word.” In other words, make Jesus known by communicating the bible. As Ellicott’s commentary states: “the language of the original here is abrupt and emphatic, written evidently under strong emotion and with intense earnestness.” Do you sense the importance and earnestness of Paul’s tone when you re-read this? Can you feel the communication of his deep love and confidence in the word of God.
Paul’s message to Timothy is the same as God’s message to us today. Our effectiveness in living for God in the world is linked to our dependency on the bible. We cannot stray from complete dedication to the bible and total surrender to God’s Word. Our personal holiness depends on it. Our public proclamation depends on it. Build your life on a deep trust in the inspired words of God.
 I have used the word final here, even though this is not Paul’s last command to Timothy (that is 4:21 “do your best to come”). My use of the word ‘final’ conveys the final emphasis of Paul’s heart to Timothy’s – Paul’s great and lasting charge.
I want to start of by asking a question: Are we looking at the Bible through the world’s eyes or are we looking at the world through the Bible’s eyes?
You see, there is a difference; and history is full of horrible examples of how people have manipulated God’s word to do the unthinkable. Both Apartheid and the Crusades were fueled by the misinterpretation of scripture and the arrogence of self centered leaders. This is unthinkable! How could people be so easily deceived?
Verse 1: “by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons”
These people did not devote themselves to God’s Spirit and God’s Word. Rather than being changed by the Spirit of God and His Word, they tried to change God’s Spirit and God’s Word to suit themselves. They looked at the scriptures to prove their worldly view, to justify their sinful hearts. Is there an area in your life where you do the same?
The Bible is there to interpret the world around us. It is not just a book full of wonderful stories of God’s faithfulness, it is a guide to our everyday life. It is the living word!
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart”.
We have been given a weapon to fight these deceitful teachings: God’s Word. His word will enable us to discern between right and wrong. We must thus study His word and apply His word.
Verse 4-5: For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.
You see, if we live in the world through the guidelines of God’s Word, God will keep us safe. I think alcohol is a good example of what is talked about in verse 4. Alcohol in itself is not bad; drinking a glass of red wine per day actually has cardiovascular benefits! However we all know the consequences of abusing alcohol; it is the cause for so many hurt in our society today. There are things in our lives, like drinking alcohol or watch certain TV series, that can be made holy by the word of God, when used in the ways that honors God. The word of God is there to guide our every move in life, so that we can to grow in godliness. In other words, the gospel transforms everything!
Verse 7: “have nothing to do with irrelevant, silly myths. Rather train yourself in godliness ( being like God). For while bodily training is of some value , godliness is of value in every wayas it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
Believers must first be dedicated to God’s word and His teachings, before we spend our time reading weird and wonderful theories of other peoples interpretations of God’s word. We should rather use our time to grow in godliness and place our hope in God.
Verse 10: “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God You see our hope can not be in other people with fancy words, new teachings and interpretations. Our hope is in Christ Jesus and in His Word.”
I want to end of by honouring all of you that do read this bible plan and who are dedicated to His word. Keep going, training yourselves in godliness for it has value even in the life to come!
My hope today, is that you will be encouraged in reading the Word and equipping yourself to discern between what is good and evil in these confusing times. I hope this scripture challenges you to not only read His word, but to allow His word to change the way you see the world around you. How can you apply His word today in your life and the lives of the people around you? For God’s Word is alive, and is actively working in you!
The renewal that started as Ezra read out the from the Book of the Law in 8:1-8 continues into a second day of rediscovering God’s word. In verse 13 we read that a group of people; heads of household, levites and priests got together for the express purpose of studying God’s Word together.
As they do so, they uncover a festival (the festival of Booths/Tabernacles) that had been ignored. It was a festival that looked back on the goodness of God’s care and provision for the people of God during the Wilderness years. They instruct the people to not mourn but to rejoice and to partake in this 7 day festival of feasting, sharing and joyful thanks to God.
So what? What relevance does this have to your life and mine?
Two things strike me from this verses.
1. Reading in Community
This rediscovery of God’s will for His people came about because a group of people got together to study God’s Word together. Historically, God’s word has not been read primarily in private but was more a communal activity.
We find this hard to imagine in our era which has the Bible unprecedentedly available on every device we own, and many believers frequently having more than one Bible in their homes.
There is something powerful about reading God’s Word in community, with others, allowing God to speak to you through others and to others from His Word. I love how this renewal of this festival God had initiated 1000yrs earlier was re-discovered as it were by the returning exiles as they read God’s word, studying it together.
I urge you to, not just read the bible alone, but to find ways to read it ‘in-community’. This will not only stimulate group learning but will also help to keep you from incorrect conclusions as you read and also provides some form of accountability for what you’ve felt God say through His Word.
This is one of the reasons in our church we have a Bible Reading Plan! By doing so, we are creating the context where by you and I can read the same passage in a day and share with one another even if we are not physically able to be in the same room.
You can also read in community, with your TRIO (A TRIO is 2-3 Christ followers who have committed themselves to an intentional spiritual friendship focussed on helping one another to follow Christ and His mission for their lives and the church) and or your Community Group.
2. The Ultimate Fruit of Repentance
The second stand out in this passage, is that the re-sensitisation to God’s word, the realisation by God’s people that they had sinned and failed to obey God’s commands did not only result in repentance and contrition.
When we have sinned and we see it, contrition (sadness over our sin) is appropriate but it is not appropriate to stay in that place! Contrition is part of repentance, it makes repentance possible in one sense but for repentance to be complete it needs to make way for the ultimate fruit of repentance which is JOY.
Where there has been true repentance joy is appropriate because having seen one’s sin, and having taken responsibility for one’s sin, and having asked God to forgive you of your sin, and having turned from your way of sin to a new way – then joy is the only appropriate response.
Scripture is clear that if we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Because God is faithful to forgive the repentant sinner, joy is the appropriate response for those who have been forgiven, as joy honours God as having forgiven.
Therefore, to wallow in self-pity and shame does not honour Jesus but rather implies that Jesus can’t or hasn’t forgiven you, or implies that what Jesus did on the cross was not enough or that God has withheld forgiveness from you.
Friend, when we see that we have sinned, wronged God, wronged others, contrition is appropriate but it leads to what is ultimate because of Jesus – the joy of having been forgiven and set free.
So, face up to your sin, be sad about it but then repent and be forgiven and then rejoice in your great Jesus who is able to save you to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25). Amen.
Wellness is a just modern term for an old idea. Wellness refers to the holistic mental, physical, relational & spiritual well-being of a person. I would argue that the term could also be applied to a group of people – the whole groups sense of stability and well-being in all these areas.
In terms of physical & relational wellness, the people of God in Nehemiah’s time had returned to the Promised Land and to Jerusalem, they had rebuilt the walls together side-by-side in a show of unity and as a result were secure and had rebuilt their esteem before the other nations, relationally injustices had been dealt with through repentance and restitution and yet something was still missing…
As we saw from the previous devotional, Nehemiah clearly had a life-giving relationship with God, but the people’s spirituality, their rhythms of worship had broken down and their lives did not reflect God’s covenant or God’s commandments. So although there was great improvement there was still a need for spiritual renewal amongst God’s people.
Nehemiah chapters 8-12 records the spiritual renewal of God’s people that all started with the reading of God’s word in Nehemiah 8:1-8 by the priest & scribe – Ezra.
And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. (Nehemiah 8:1)
We read that all the men, the women & the children who could understand gathered as a mighty assembly to listen to God’s Word being read out to them all by Ezra. We also read that there was great care taken by the Levites to help explain God’s Word and presumably apply it into the lives of the gathered congregation (vs7-8).
Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading. (Nehemiah 8:7-8)
Wellness is not possible without spiritual renewal! Jesus urges us to ‘seek first the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 6:33) we need a life-giving relationship with Jesus restored in our life if we have any hope of wellness in all other areas.
What we learn from this passage is that wellness requires spiritual renewal and spiritual renewal is founded on God’s Word. Our attitude to and commitment to God’s word is probably the single greatest factor in our spiritual well-being. And so our own personal commitment to the authority of God’s word in our lives, our own reading and obeying God’s word and our listening to God’s word expounded and explained through preaching is crucial to spiritual vitality!
I love how the levites take pains to ensure that the people were helped (vs7) so that the people would understand and be able to obey and apply God’s Word to their lives (vs8). This is the main reason I blog and write these devotionals each day, this is why we have a Bible Reading Plan in our church and this is why when we preach we want to preach from the text, reading, explaining and applying God’s word, not trying to impress or entertain but trying to help people understand and then apply God’s word so that they will be spiritually renewed and inspired to obey God.
Do you desire wellness?
May I urge you to submit to God’s Word in your life, commit to reading, understanding and applying God’s word and then I promise you, you will grow spiritually.
Parables, simple stories with profound revelation. Jesus had a way of engaging with people through stories that were instantly recognisable everyday scenarios and yet contained within them veiled revelations, truths about God, His kingdom and the life of the listener. The key to unlocking the revelation was a humble heart combined with a desire to know more about God. In Mark 4:9 Jesus said; “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
So, I urge you with the Parables to pay keen attention to the audience Jesus was addressing, consider the context of the day, repetition, take notice of surprise twists in the parable and especially the ending and then try to discern the BIG IDEA as there is normally one BIG IDEA in a parable.
Why don’t you do this yourself with;
- The Parable of the Sower
- The Parable of the Seed Growing
- The Parable of the Mustard Seed
‘The day of the Lord’ – (vs2) is the great and the terrible day spoken of all through the Old Testament when Yahweh will come to save His faithful ones and will come to punish the those who rejected His kind offer of forgiveness through His Son.
It is a day with two distinct perspectives depending on one’s faith trajectory. For some, it’s a great day, a day to be longed for and anticipated, and yet for those who rejected God’s Son as their Lord & Saviour, its a terrible day.
This day will come suddenly, will come when people aren’t expecting it (vs3). To some the suddenness is negative & not welcomed – ‘like a thief’. Yet for others the suddenness is positive & welcomed like a pregnant woman suddenly going into labor. (vs3)
These contrasting ‘suddenly’s’ refer to the contrasting experience on ‘the day of the Lord’ depending on ones state of faith.
But this coming day in all our futures isn’t to be feared for those who are God’s children, ‘children of the light’ (vs4-5), for we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into Jesus’ kingdom (Colossians 1:13) which is the kingdom of light as Jesus is Himself, the light of the world (John 8:12).
Knowing these things, believing these things helps us to be at peace with our future, and helps us to stay alert, awake, sober ready for Jesus’ return. (Vs6)
Knowing these things, believing these things helps us to choose to keep putting on the breastplate of faith and love and the helmet of the hope of our salvation to protect us until that day (vs8).
We who have believed in Jesus Christ, we are not destined for wrath but for salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, the one who died in our place for our sin so that we might live forever with Him (vs9).
So let’s encourage one another and build one another up!
And let’s reach out to all we know with the good news that those who put their trust in Jesus, those who ask Him to forgive them of their sins, will be forgiven and then this THAT DAY will be the first of an eternity of GREAT DAYS.