How to Study the Bible for Yourself

How to Study the Bible for Yourself

Have you ever wanted to study the Bible, but didn’t know how to get started? This was the question I attempted to answer in a 3 hour session (including breaks) with the ladies at Still Waters Outreach Center. This audio playlist was recorded at Still Waters Outreach Center by permission of Joanne Ray Lewis.


***Image Attribution

Image courtesy of Joanne Ray Lewis Downloaded from FaceBook.com

Responsibilities

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Introduction

Johnny could hear his heart pounding in his ears as beads of sweat puddled on his brow. He sat in the cockpit of a Cessna staring at all the gauges, dials, levers, and buttons. It was only his second time training behind the controls of this bird, but the medical emergency with his flight instructor promoted him from trainee to pilot. It was his responsibility now to listen to the voices of instruction from ground control. It was on his shoulders to land this craft safely and get his instructor the medical attention he needed. In a few minutes, all the time he had spent reading old flight manuals as a child and dreaming of flight would be time well spent.

Have you ever been promoted without fully understanding the responsibilities and roles? Okay, more than likely it was not in the cockpit of a plane hurtling toward earth, but have you?   It may have been a permanent position or maybe filling in for the day. Maybe you didn’t realize all the responsibilities that came with the job, and you felt as though you were dancing with two left feet. All the while hoping no one would notice, right?  Now these are physical illustrations, but let’s turn to the spiritual.

What responsibilities follow a person after coming to faith in Christ? Whether you realize it or not, if you are a believer in Christ, you have received a promotion in position. The Apostle Paul writes, “And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:” (KJV Eph 2:6). So, what are our responsibilities as believers? Although the answer can be quite lengthy, today’s teaching will focus on three key responsibilities of the redeemed due to the relationship provided by Christ’s sacrifice.

In Hebrews 10:19-25, the author gives three exhortations after explaining the new relationship with God the Father through Christ’s atonement. This passage is laden with inferences to the Old Testament sacrificial system’s rituals, which were fulfilled in the sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth. The author begins with addressing how believers have access to a relationship with God through the sacrifice of Christ (verses 19-21). The author then turns his attention to three appeals (verses 22-25), which begin with the phrase “Let us” (v.22, 23, 24). The first exhortation states, “Let us draw near…” (KJV Heb 10:22) This appeal deals with the obligation to faith. The second exhortation states, “Let us hold fast…” (KJV Heb 10:23) This exhortation relates to the believer’s commitment to hope. Finally, the author writes, “Let us consider…”. The appeal corresponds to the command of love. These appeals are all the responsibilities of the redeemed.

 

Relationship (vv. 19-21)

First, the believer’s actions should spring forth from their knowledge of their position (or reconciled relation) with God. Many in American evangelicalism attempt to divorce doctrine from deeds. All too often people only care for the pragmatic. They turn to practices over correct theological reflection. However, theology should be the foundation of our actions. Proper thought leads to appropriate actions!

In verses 19-20, the author utilizes imagery from Jewish temple worship. In the temple, the worshipper was separated from the presence of God, which dwelt in the holy of holies behind a veil. Only once a year the High Priest was allowed into this sacred area to offer up atonement for the sins of the people. If he had not prepared properly, he would be struck dead before the holiness of God. One can only imagine the fear and trepidation this chosen individual experienced. All the while, the worshippers outside looked on in anxiety to see if God would accept their devotions.

On the other hand, Christians are told they can come with “boldness …into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (KJV Heb 10:19). In the original Greek, the word translated boldness carries the meaning of confidence. Much like when a child comes before a parent to ask for something they need. There is no veil which separates a believer and the Father’s throne of mercy. Unlike those under the Old Testament, believers have access to a relationship with God through the sacrifice of Christ.

This concept was extremely radical for the Jewish believers who were familiar with the old sacrificial system. The Christian’s privileged access is only “…by a new and living way, which he [Jesus] hath consecrated for us…” (KJV Heb 10:19). What does this phrase mean? The word translated new here carries the imagery of a freshly slain sacrifice on the altar. But this sacrifice is more than “fresh” He is alive and well! Yes, Jesus was slain, but He resurrected and ascended to the right hand of the Father to make intercession on our behalf. This brings up the next point.

Often, believers tend to imagine Christ as distant, but He is not. Although we cannot physically witness Christ, he is still present with the Church. The author reminds his audience, “And having an high priest over the house of God;” (v. 21). We can rest assured He is ever present to help us with our responsibilities as believers!

In the conclusion of this section, it must be mentioned before moving onto the pragmatic portion of the passage. The author reveals all of this is possible “by his blood” (v.19). He equates the torn temple veil as “his [Jesus’] flesh” (v.21). How can we, if we believe this to be true, do any other than the following exhortations?

Responsibilities (vv. 22-25)

The belief (or doctrine) in this radical reconciliation with God ought to compel true believers to relish in the following duties. Due to the relationship provided by Christ’s sacrifice, believers should resolve to react in faith, hope, and love. Now, what are the believer’s responsibilities?

Let Us Draw Near

First, the author encourages his audience to draw near in faith. He writes, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” (KJV Heb 10:22). There are four conditions for “drawing near” contained in this verse.

The first is a “true heart”. Other translations render the word true as pure or sincere. The NASB is one of the translations, which renders this word as sincere. The interesting fact about the word sincere is that it comes from two words that mean “without wax.” In ancient days, some potters would fill the defects in their pottery with wax and passed them off as good. But when the buyer placed it in the oven the defects would be revealed as the wax oozed out of the cracks and crevices; revealing the vessels were useless. The pure clay vessels would have the selling point of being “without wax” or sincere. In other words, there is no room for falsehood in the heart of a believer.

Second, to draw near to God one must come “…in full assurance of faith…”. The author later writes, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (KJV Heb 11:6). God must be approached by faith in Christ alone.

The final two conditions are “…having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.” The consolidation of the two is because the author alludes to the old Levitical priestly preparation. They would be sprinkled with blood and washed with pure water. Some scholars argue the water could be alluding to water baptism, which should only come after conversion.

How can we apply this today? We can draw near to God through times of personal prayer. The believer can come before God by simply taking the time to read and feast on the Word of God on a daily schedule. We have access to Almighty God. Have you sought God lately?

Let Us Hold Fast

Secondly, we have the responsibility of holding onto our hope. The author writes, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)” (KJV Heb 10:23). The NASB renders “profession of faith” as “confession of our hope”.  This profession/confession is much like when one confesses their love through wedding vows. The sign of the confession of faith for the Christian is water baptism. It states, “I belong to Jesus…I will follow Him.” This point was crucial because the original audience was facing tremendous persecution, which was causing some to turn from the faith.  However, we can remain faithful because He is faithful (v. 23).

We can apply this in our lives today! We see all around us the swelling of persecution. We must hold fast our profession of faith. The Gospel of Mark records Jesus saying, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (KJV Mk 8:38).

Let Us Consider

Finally, the author of Hebrews appeals to the believer’s responsibility to love. The author states, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto to love and to good works:” (KJV Heb 11:24). The exhortation is to stimulate others to love and good deeds. How can this be done? The author is adamant in urging them to continue assembling. The Christian life is one of community.

Why is church attendance important? Attendance is not only necessary for personal benefits but also because others are depending on you being present. When you decide not to attend something gets left undone. We are all members of the Body of Christ. We need one another. We should consider the role we play in the spiritual growth of others. We should consider others are needing us to be accountable. Believers have a responsibility to one another! Especially, as Christ’s return hastens.

How can this apply to our lives? Before we miss, consider the people who need you in the assembly. You may think that you are not missed, but remember all have a role to fill. What will be the repercussions of your spot in the pew being empty?  Christians do life together!

Conclusion

In conclusion, the responsibilities of having a relationship with God can be summed up to three key areas of faith, hope, and love. The first area of faith is very personal, but springing from it is a very public display of hope and ministry of love. All three responsibilities of drawing near, holding fast, and considering one another are a result of the great reconciling sacrifice of Jesus.


 

Halloween or Harvest Time?

Golden light filters its way through fiery leaves struggling to keep there grasp on life. You can smell the aroma of earth as farmers turn peanuts over for harvest. Hunters are seen with fluorescent orange vests, sipping steaming coffee, at crowded convenience stores in morning; heading to or returning from their tree-stands. Can you believe it’s already October in South Georgia, again?

This time of year brings images of pumpkins, candy corn, and fall festivals to the forefront of my mind. Also, it brings to mind the endless debate over whether or not Christians should participate in Halloween. I know people have strong opinions on this topic and I don’t want to down play their convictions. If your conscience won’t allow you to engage in any of the festivities, then by all means don’t! But personally, I think we have a prime opportunity to share our faith in creative ways!

Think about it! What other “holiday” (I use the term loosely) brings people to our front door? We could use this to our advantage.  Here are 4 ways we can see Halloween turned into a true “Harvest time” for souls:

  1.  Give “Testa-mints” or candy with Scripture on it. God said, “My Word will not return void”!!
  2. Give out glow sticks with the words, “Light of the World”, taped to it. As you distribute them, share the gospel message with all who receive them.     Also, this is a practical gift! It makes kids visible to traffic.
  3. Simply hand out gospel tracts to those who appear on your steps.
  4. Finally, pray over the kids as you put candy in their bags. Don’t be afraid… think about it, they’re on your porch! Pray for a safe and fun night for all.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but please share your idea(s) on how to redeem the Halloween season in the comments below!

6 Awesome Online Bible Study Tools

6 Awesome Online Bible Study Tools

bibles

bibles (Photo credit: fancycwabs)

Are you connected? Of course you probably have every kind of social media available to man, but are you really connected? We can Skype with loved ones on the other side of the globe, have the latest news delivered directly to our mobile device, and know exactly what all of our friends had for dinner last night. Yet, I am not talking about being connected by the newest form of technology. I am talking about being connected to God through the study of His word!

Since we spend so much of our time being “connected” by the internet, I thought it would be cool to point you to “6 Awesome Online Bible Study Tools”. This list is only scratching the surface of the vast resources that can help us understand His Word. Here goes:

1. Bible Outlines

Outlines help us get the “big picture” of what is being said in the Bible. Also, it helps break this “big picture” down into manageable bits

2. Bible Study Tools

3. Bible Gateway

Sometimes reading different translations helps us comprehend the message. Also, words evolve over time and we can learn a lot by studying the original biblical languages.

4. Enduring Word Media

5. Christian Classics Ethereal Library

6.Bible Commentaries

When in doubt…see what others are saying about a subject. Commentaries are a great way to unlock hard to grasp Bible passages.

Like I said before, this is just scratching the surface of online resources. You can search the web and find more! If you know of any great sites that I didn’t mention, leave a link in the comments. Go get your Bible and get connected!

On the Fence?

I love witnessing for Christ. I look for opportunities to share my faith in Christ and how He has radically changed my life. Yet, all to often I come across a person, who in our conversation, they say, “ I am on the fence about this Jesus stuff.” Also, I have heard of people in church “riding or straddling the fence”. What does one mean when they say these things? What is this proverbial fence everyone is talking about? Can one stay on the fence when it comes to Christ?

As I think upon these questions I often think of my childhood. I can remember when I was young, how I would perform a balancing act on the old wooden fences of my neighborhood. I recall the contests my friends and I would have to see who could go further . One foot in front of the other, arms extended to the horizons. We would teeter back and forth in effort to maintain our balance. Eventually, we would lean a little too far and off we would go. All the while, hoping not to fall among the briers that grew along the fence rows.

Is this what people mean by “being on the fence”? I understand a person can be undecided about the claims of Christ, but to be undecided means to not believe the claims. Right? I know there is a period of time when a person is drawn by the Spirit of God to come into a relationship with Christ, but if a person dies undecided the person has not believed the Gospel. When one is faced with the Gospel of Christ, one can only accept or reject it. “God has also said that he gave us eternal life and that this life comes to us from his Son. And so, if we have God’s Son, we have this life. But if we don’t have the Son, we don’t have this life.”(1 John 5:11-12 CEV)This Scripture is quiet clear on this matter!

What about those, who name Christ as Savior, that teeter back in forth from the world to God? In the book of James, it says, “You people aren’t faithful to God! Don’t you know that if you love the world, you are God’s enemies? And if you decide to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.”(James 4:4 CEV) One can not “straddle the fence” because there is no fence, according to 1 John 5:11,12!  You either believe the gospel or you don’t! Jesus said you would know the tree by the fruit that it bears. I am not suggesting a Christian can not be tempted by the things of the world, because this happens occasionally. I am speaking to those who habitually practice sin. I know we all slip, but there is a difference between slipping and diving into sin.  When a person is born again there is a change! If this change is not evident then I would question that person’s salvation experience. Jesus said, “Not everyone who calls me their Lord will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only the ones who obey my Father in heaven will get in.”(Matthew 7:21 CEV)

I would encourage anyone who is trying to perform a spiritual balancing act to choose life today! Christ came to redeem that which was lost in the Garden of Eden. He lived the perfect life that was impossible for us to live. He took away our sins on the cross. In exchange for our filthy rags, He gave us His righteousness or right standing with God. He not only died for us, but He triumphantly rose again over death, hell, and the grave! Jesus wasn’t “on the fence” about His love for you! He came and died to give to you eternal life! Choose Jesus and live today!