Developing discipline, developing character
Glenn and I often joke about how God chose us to be in ministry because everyone will know it is God, not us, doing the work. Why? Because Glenn and I are both inherently lazy people. Don’t get me wrong, we can both be work horses, but you have to appropriately motivate us. In actual fact, it usually takes God to motivate us to get off our backsides!
Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. (Zechariah 4:6) – Yep, definitely is by His Spirit!
I am completely content spending my days reading novels or working on whatever latest project strikes my fancy. Glenn is equally happy to play computer games all day, with a little travel interspersed in between. Whilst this all might be fine in relaxation time, it is not a great choice for daily life. Laziness is not life giving and it certainly doesn’t bring a sense of purpose. Yet, even experiencing a feeling of purposelessness, it still feels easier to live for the flesh than to train (discipline) ourselves in the things of the Lord.
Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? (Ecc 1:2-3) . . . Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; (Ecc 12:1) . . . The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Why am I sharing this wonderful (hehem) insight into our character? Despite joking about God’s choice with Glenn, I have often had people make my life choices seem to be more to do with my person than with God at work in me. And so I bring this up in a blog about Bible study because this discipline is one I’m sure most people assume I find really easy to live out – because I am fiercely passionate about the Word of God and making it known. I want you to know that it is a choice I must make to strive after God, and I have to let Him put strategies into my life that push me into Bible study.
Even though I love the Bible, it takes effort to study it. It takes energy to dig beyond the initial surface level of a passage. It takes time to study inductively (exploring what the Word says), rather than deductively (reading the Word with preconceived notions and established beliefs). Yet if we are really hungry for truth, and if we desire God’s heart rather than religion, then we will make the time to study inductively.
Gimel. Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:17-18)
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble. (Psalm 119:165)
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Digging into the Word means coming to a greater revelation of Christ, Jesus, who is the living Word! What a great gift we have; and yet, what a gift that is set aside, unwrapped, by far too many of God’s people!
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)
For me, making the time is the key. Life tries to put many demands on our time. We need to make sure that Bible study is included in our daily life. I’ve learnt that I need to be pushed into study. I am always thankful when I am, but my innate laziness stops me from studying from sheer desire. To turn my desire and ideals into practice I need to have some goal in mind, or an obligation to keep. I love teaching for this reason – I can’t teach what I don’t know and thus I am “forced” back into study.
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:13)
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 complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
This is not to say that reading through and meditating on Scripture isn’t important, too – it just serves a different purpose in the life of God’s people. We need to do all three – read, meditate on and study the Word of God. [I’ll look at Scripture mediation and memorisation in upcoming blogs).
And, most importantly of all, we must allow the truths of Scripture to dwell in our hearts richly, transforming us into His likeness and producing fruits of righteousness. Studying the Word must lead to APPLICATION, or it is useless. Understanding without application is dead knowledge.
And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2)
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Proverbs 9:9-10)
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22-25)
We also see that Scripture knowledge is needed for evangelism, and that believers are also to teach each other from their knowledge. There seems to be an unwillingness today to debate the Word – not argue, but wrestle through passages together to come to greater understanding of the truth and its application. We need to start studying the Word for ourselves; we need to know it ourselves. There is such Bible poverty within the church today that pastors preach falsehoods from the pulpit and their congregations are none the wiser. Would you know if your pastor taught something scripturally unsound? Would you be prepared to bring it up to him (in love)?
Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus. (Acts 18:24-28)
So how will you study the Word? Will you faithfully work through a Bible study book? Will you join a Bible study group? Will you agree to lead a home group, or commit to running a Bible study, thus forcing yourself into Bible study? Will you sign up for a Bible study course through a distant learning theology school? The Word is the truth we are to live by; we must know it to walk in the truth!
If you want a free PDF copy of my Bible study resource, The Inductive Bible Study Companion; Unlock the Word, please just send me an email! Let’s end Bible poverty!