While I was working at getting my Masters of Theology degree, one of the classes I took was “Preaching”. The professor of the class would regularly say to the class, “one of the worst sins a pastor of a local church can commit is to bore those who take the time to listen to him with the Word of God.” And then he would follow that up with this, “but a worse sin is to bore them every week”. Other memorable quotes that used to worry me were, “Just because you have good content, doesn’t mean you won’t bore those listening”, or this one, “Just because you have good stories doesn’t mean you won’t bore them”.
James 3:1 was a regular verse read in class, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”
There were many good things taught in the class that have helped me immensely as I have preached and taught the Bible for these 42 years, but there was one thing that stood out above all the rest that I heard. When Jesus taught it says that the crowds marveled because He didn’t teach like the local Bible teachers of the day, but that He taught with authority. That authority caused the people to listen, and to believe what He said was true. Those who read the Bible faithfully, study it, and memorize it develop a confidence and faith that causes them to teach in a way that prompts people to listen. I am a teacher of the Bible, and I don’t want to commit the ultimate sin and bore people so I read the Bible faithfully every day.
A foundational fear of mankind is the fear of death. A trip to the doctor that results in the word cancer can ruin a person’s day! Most get anxious to downright fearful when they start feeling like something is wrong with their health.
Hebrews 2:14-15 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
This passage says that our faith in Jesus will free us from the fear of death. The problem is that most believers that I see deal with death, both their own impending death and that of a loved one, don’t really exhibit much freedom from the fear of death.
The reason for the fear of death is the unknown. I went sky diving with little fear because I talked to many who had done it, and enjoyed it immensely . I have never talked to a person who has died and then come back and given me a detailed description of the experience and how cool it was.
If a person is going to conquer the fear of dying they must decide what their authority for truth is, and focus on it for information about life after death. I have decided that if there is a God then He for sure would communicate with us, and as I consider the options there is none that is reasonable except for the Bible. A God powerful enough to create all I see is certainly powerful enough to orchestrate the writing of truth over time, and the collecting in one book those books and letters.
The Bible has a lot to say about death and life after death, and the various destinations of those who die depending on their relationship with Jesus. I have read, studied, memorized, and taught on most of the passages in the Bible that deal with death and what happens then.
John 14:1-3, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”
The more I read the Bible the less fear I have, and the more I begin to anticipate that incomprehensible experience of seeing, and talking to God, of getting a new, glorified body, of being able to think, really think, and seeing all the amazing beauty of heaven.
I am way more motivated to grow fast in character and to bear much fruit for God, to do significant things that make a difference and last, than most people. I wasn’t born that way and I don’t have any advantage physically or mentally over others who have little to no motivation to excel in life. The key difference between me and others is that I think a lot about eternity and the judgment seat of Christ. The Judgment Seat of Christ is the finish line for believers in Christ, where we will be rewarded by Jesus for who we are and what we have done. These rewards are very significant and make a huge difference for us for all eternity. I visualize myself standing before Jesus having done super well in life and what He will say to me because of that and the rewards I will receive from Him and the difference that will make for me for ever and ever and ever. I then think about what I will hear and receive if I do poorly, and what that will feel like. I begin every day with a few minutes of meditating about this event and again as I go to sleep I do the same. Doing that as a discipline results in my thinking about this most significant event all day long. This life is short, eternity is eternity so making sacrifices in this life, for the sake of the next, working hard in this life to be rewarded in the next life is a no-brainer if you truly believe in the reality of a judgment from Jesus that results in reward or consequence that makes a huge difference in eternity for eternity. Colossians 3:1 says, “set your mind on the things above, not on the things of this life”. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says we will all stand before Jesus and “give an account of our life and be rewarded according to what we have done, whether good or bad”. Most live their lives now in an incredibly naive way, that is, they just don’t think about judgment, reward and consequence that lasts forever, and just hope that it will all turn out alright.
A person who reads the Bible every day will gradually become increasingly more eternal minded as apposed to earthly minded, and as a result will become a person who runs the race that has been been set before us with their eye on the finish line always.
I was chatting with a person who I hadn’t seen at JBC for some time so I asked them how they were doing spiritually. They responded by saying that they had lost their faith. I asked what that meant and how it happened. They then proceeded to tell me a series of stories about themselves that were basically stories of the hard things and trials that they had gone through for the last 6 months, and because of those trials they no longer believed in God, because according to their theology, God, if He existed certainly wouldn’t let those kinds of things happen. I said, “what about Jesus, and all the bad things that happened to Him?” They started mumbling things that strongly suggested that they weren’t interested in my reasons or my rebuttals of their theology.
Hebrews 11 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Jesus regularly scolded His disciples, and called them men of little faith. It is said of Abraham that he grew strong in his faith. Jesus tells His disciples that if they have faith as small as a mustard seed that they will be able to move mountains and nothing will be Impossible for them to accomplish. We are saved from an eternity in hell by our faith and if we don’t have faith there isn’t much reason to pray.
I know how to grow tomatoes, and I know it is pretty straight forward, not what you would call a mystery. I grow stronger and stronger in my faith in God by reading His Word. Faith is not an event or a burst of belief on my part, it is not something that I somehow crank up in my mind, Faith is a character trait, a quality of my soul, and I grow it by faithfully choosing to read the Bible.
Today everyone has an opinion on just about everything, and they truly believe that their opinion is right. The number of divergent views and opinions on just about everything is increasing exponentially, and the difference or distance between those views is growing greater everyday. So what is true? How do you know? 2 Corinthians chapter 2 says that the great wisdom of man is foolishness to God.
Hebrews 5:13-14 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
I am not what you would call musical, I don’t sing special music in church, I don’t play a single musical instrument, but I do enjoy listening to good music, and I do enjoy singing during our worship times at our weekend services at JBC. One thing I can do is hear when a wrong note is played or sung by someone performing in church or a concert. In fact I can feel sort of like a little shiver run up my back when someone goes off key even a little bit. I don’t think I was born with that, it simply was developed by listening to lots of good music over the years.
In the passage in Hebrews it says “because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil”. The Word practice simple means to read the Bible a lot, “He is accustomed to the Word of righteousness. To discern good and evil, to know almost intuitively what is true and what is not. I hear things said and claims made about what is right and true, and I can feel this little shiver run up my spine. It is a great blessing to walk through the world today and have a well tuned ear and heart to what is true and what is not, just read the Bible every day.
I am not sure what I did yesterday when I put my blog on Facebook, but it ended up being published 3 times!😖 I will try and do it right tonight.
Psalms 119:72 says, “The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
And Psalms 119:127 repeats the principle, “Therefore I love Your commandments Above gold, yes, above fine gold.”
Several different Pastors whose books I read have said that the love of the world and the stuff in it is the most difficult barrier for those in our churches to becoming faithful, committed, growing, and serving disciples. They have to work lots of hours to earn the money to buy the toys, and then they have to miss worship services often so the can play with it. It is a very easy path to get started on, and it seems to be very easy to justify being gone from church weekend after weekend.
Reading the Word of God each and every day is a powerful inoculate against the disease of worldliness. God’s Word gives wisdom to think right about life but it also is the nutrition of many character traits including contentment.
Those in our church who are committed to reading th Bible every day every day at a pace that gets them through the Bible in in year.
I have identified 26 different character traits that I can work on growing in my soul. They are all important but several are super important because without them none of the others would exist in us let alone grow. Endurance as I wrote about several weeks ago is numero uno as far as I understand the Bible and right next to endurance is Self-Control, though at times I will switch them around. They are very related and one without the other is impossible. Our three enemies are Satan and his demons, the world and all the stuff that is in it, and our own flesh. Without self-Control those three enemies will win every time. We need self-control to control what we speak out of our mouth, the New Testament book of James says if we can control our tongue we are a perfect person. We need to control our thinking and grow to the place that we are consistently taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. We need to control our emotions, especially our anger. There are a dozen more things that each of us needs to grow in exercising self control over, but it is very difficult and so slow.
Self-control is like a muscle, it can be very strong or it can be very flabby. We grow strong in self-control by exercising that muscle until we are strong enough to whip all of our enemies at once! One of the most effective weight training regimens to becoming super strong as a disciple of Jesus is reading your Bible everyday. Our flesh hates reading the Bible, and when we choose to keep our goal and commitment of reading the Bible everyday even when we are sleepy, tired, busy, whatever self- control grows rapidly.
One of the biggest complaints that I get from people as I try and motivate them to read the Bible daily with some significant time given to it is that they don’t understand most of what they read. One of the obvious solutions is to have some commentaries and Bible Dictionaries identified and available that are written so farmers, mechanics, and construction workers can understand them that I can loan, give, or recommend to them. That does help with much of the geographical, cultural, and historical background information that is part of any passage of scripture. But the most important thing needed is to be taught, led, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit as they read.
Psalms 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may behold Wonderful things from Your law.
Psalms 119:27 Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders.
Psalms 119:34 Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law And keep it with all my heart.
So, who does the Holy Spirit teach? Anybody? Everybody? My answer to that question is those who read the Bible faithfully, with a high level of commitment demonstrated by time, and a strong desire to understand in order to grow, obey, and serve.
I tell people to read faithfully and they will understand a little bit, and the next time through it they will get a little bit more, and then a little bit more. Every bit of understanding lays a foundation to help understand more that is deeper. There comes a time after faithfully reading that an insight, understanding, and wisdom of the Word comes and then the person not only reads with understanding but teaches what they learn with power and clarity. It takes time, faithfulness, diligence, and patience that most don’t have, but those who do will be like the Psalmist in chapter 1, “his delight is in the law of the Lord”.
Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord, always, again I say, rejoice”. Philippians 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing”. Those verses are commands, not just good suggestions, but very few people keep them or even try.
In our culture most people grumble and complain just about everything, it is the basis and content of most discussions. If a person can be super positive and rejoice all the time and never complain, grumble or be negative about anything they will be very attractive, and everyone will notice them. To maintain that discipline of speaking and acting will be very difficult in light of everyone around us.
A very positive blessing that comes from faithfully reading the Bible, God’s Word, is that we will become more and more this kind of person. Being a person who rejoices always and never grumbles is more than a discipline, though it starts there, it is a character quality that we have become on the inside, that is who we are, that is how we think, and that is what we feel.
The molding and shaping of our soul, and becoming a genuine positive person is a process that takes some time as we follow the training regimen that is required to become this kind of person. A key discipline in the training is reading the Bible faithfully, and memorizing and meditating on the truths in it. The power of the living, active and supernatural Word of God moves and shapes us on the inside gradually, and it isn’t that long of a time until we begin to notice this change in our heart. It is so much more enjoyable being a positive person instead of a negative and critical person.
Psalms 119:7 I shall give thanks to You with uprightness of heart, When I learn Your righteous judgments.
Psalms 119:14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, As much as in all riches.
Psalms 119:62 At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You Because of Your righteous ordinances.
I am preaching this weekend at JBC, Saturday night and both Sunday morning sermons, and I am so nervous. Preaching the Bible is way more than just giving a speech or a motivational talk. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, and God’s will and plan is that it is taught. It is also His will and desire that it is taught well, and that the one doing the teaching has worked very hard in the preparation to speak to people about the truth revealed in His Word.
Colossians 1:25 and 28-29; Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, ….We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.
1 Timothy 4:13 and 16, Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching……Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.
James 3:1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.
The world, even believers tend to have a low view of preaching, but it is God’s will and method, it is what He uses to cause growth in those in His family. If we are the preacher/teacher we have a huge responsibility put on us by God, and if we are the one being preached to we need to humbly acknowledge that God is in charge, and that He has chosen to use the “foolishness of preaching” to grow people into the character of Christ.