Categories
Church Development Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Teaching Ministry of Jesus

Author: Charles Hegwood

If you were to put all of Jesus’ teachings into one sentence what would it be? The writers of the gospels’ answer to that question may surprise you. If you listen today to many modern sermons you may think that Jesus was a teacher of ethics. Or you may be tempted to think that Jesus was a teacher of love. Perhaps you may think of Jesus as a fiery preacher condemning sinners and preaching repentance. While Jesus taught on all of these topics and more, individually they do not define His teaching ministry. The gospel writers boiled all of Jesus’ teaching down to a summary statement that goes something like this, “The Kingdom of God is coming therefore we must repent.” We see this summary statement primarily in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. So let us consider these two questions: Are we teaching as Jesus taught, and are we living in a way that reflects Jesus’ teaching? Jesus certainly taught on all the above mentioned topics. The coming Kingdom acts as a lens or filter for us to understand Jesus’ teaching on morality, love, and repentance toward God.  

Teaching Summation  

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each contain a summary statement of what Jesus taught. Jesus taught good news about the Kingdom and that as sinners, we need to repent, or turn away from our sins and run to God. Much of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and other teachings like it are about how we are to repent and live as citizens of God’s Kingdom. This summation statement also gives us an urgency to respond and herald Jesus’ message. “The Kingdom is at hand,” means that the time is short. Even as Jesus taught on earth, He was preparing His followers for the day He would return and bring the Kingdom with great finality.  

The gospel writers were saying that Jesus was teaching the “good news” of the Kingdom. God’s coming Kingdom is good news because He was making a way for His people to dwell with God forever. Repentance is our response to this good news. Jesus taught to prepare people for life in the Kingdom. Next, let us look at some of the more specific parts of Jesus’ message.  

Moral Teaching 

Jesus taught a lot of lessons with a theme of morality. However His teaching on morality was not for morality’s sake. That may strike us as odd, but remember Jesus’ teachings had a purpose. He was preparing people for Kingdom life . Consider the Sermon on the Mount, there is a lot of what you could call moral teaching. But the purpose of Jesus’ words was to call His followers to live lives that reflect life in the Kingdom. Matthew was telling the young church how they should live. Jesus taught people how to live a life that brings glory and worship to God. Implicit within Jesus’ moral teaching was the call to repent because we do not live up to His perfect standard. The good news is that where we fail, Jesus has succeeded. We can live according to Jesus’ Words knowing that when we fail we are forgiven and that the Holy Spirit is working in us to help us grow in maturity and godliness in Christ. So what does the way you live say about your love of God?  

Teaching on Love 

Jesus taught a lot about love. He taught people to love God above all else. If we love God above all else, we will also love people as well. However, Jesus did not teach about love for love’s sake alone. He had a purpose for His teaching. He was teaching people how to love God and each other in light of the Kingdom. If you take all of the messages Jesus taught on love and put them together you could say Jesus was saying, “You love God by how you love people.” A repentant follower of Jesus cannot love God and be hateful toward others. We are to love our neighbor and our enemy as well. This is a counter-cultural teaching on love. Jesus wants us to love with a godly love. This is a love that overcomes sin and our failures. Jesus wanted us to love others because this is what love looks like in the Kingdom. What does the way you love people say about your love for God?  

Teaching on Repentance 

One of the central themes of Jesus’ message was repentance. You cannot get around this word. All parts of Jesus’ teaching must be taken together as a whole. Numerous times in the gospels, we see Jesus preaching a message of repentance. “Repent because the Kingdom of God is near.” We repent because there is a purpose to repentance. The Kingdom of God is coming. We cannot live our lives of sin any longer. We live repentant lives and teach repentance in our churches. This message has fallen out of favor with modern audiences. I hope that as we consider Jesus’ teaching for our lives, let us not shy away from the call to repent.  

So you could say that Jesus was a fiery preacher with a message of repentance. But unlike many of the examples filling your head right now, Jesus backed up His message with a moral and loving life. While we must teach repentance and call on sinners to repent, we must model this life to the world. Our life and message should be a reflection of Jesus. How is the way you repent and teach repentance reflecting a love for God?  

Conclusion  

This is only the tip of the iceberg on the topic of Jesus’ teaching ministry. There have been books written about the subject. My purpose here was to illuminate three parts of Jesus’ teaching that we should take into consideration with how we live and teach. Let us live moral and loving lives full of repentance. Let what we teach be a reflection on how we live out our lives. Let your teaching ministry be a reflection of the teaching of Jesus. Do not just teach the comfortable parts. Teach other believers how to live life in light of God’s coming Kingdom. So what does your life and teaching say about your love for God and His Kingdom?  

 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Author: Rachel Kidd

Gifts are always welcome in my book. I love to open a thoughtful present from someone I love, something that shows me they were thinking about me and what I like. It makes me feel valued, cared for, and special.  

God likes to give His loved ones gifts, too. He calls us chosen, beloved, and He has given us many gifts. The world we live in, the air we breathe, and the food that sustains us are incredible gifts from God.  

What are Spiritual Gifts? 

Beyond physical gifts, God also gives us intangible gifts. Most importantly these gifts are given through a relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is a presence that we are gifted as part of our faith in Christ.  

The Spirit imbues us all with particular gifts, unique to our personalities and circumstances.  

These gifts are intended to not only help us as individuals, but to advance the kingdom of God and to be a blessing to others. By sharing our gifts and using them to uplift others, we are following God’s commandment to love one another well.  

This series on spiritual gifts will examine the various types of gifts, how to determine your own gifts, how we can use them to serve others well, and how to use our gifts to further God’s kingdom.  

Denominational Understanding 

Different denominations have varied understandings of spiritual gifts and what it means to be ‘baptized in the Spirit.’ 

Pentecostals believe the Holy Spirit is present in a believer’s body upon conversion. This presence is a powerful experience that manifests through physical expressions, like dancing and singing.  

Often, Pentecostal and Baptist believers express their faith conversion experience through a believer’s baptism, or credo-baptism.1 This is the practice of baptizing in water, whether in a church baptismal, pool, river, or even ocean.  

Different from an infant baptism, where babies are promised to the Lord by their parents, common in many Christian traditions, a believer’s baptism is defined by the agency of the believer. They are making a conscious choice to declare their faith in God.  

In the Charismatic movement, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not of water, but of tongues. Theologically, charisma means a “divinely conferred gift or power.”  

Instead of being submerged in water to represent your faith in Christ, new believers are understood to be given the gift of speaking in tongues. They are imbued with the divinely conferred gift, or power, to speak in heavenly or unknown earthly languages.  

This understanding of the gift of tongues comes from Acts, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles, appearing like tongues of fire, filling them and granting them the ability to share the Gospel in unknown languages.  

The Holy Spirit Comes at Pentecost 

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. 

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  

Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” 

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.” –Acts 2:1-13 

This gift at Pentecost enabled the apostles after the ascension of Jesus to preach to people in their own languages. It allowed them to connect to people for the glory of God.  

Some did not understand, blaming their unusual behavior on the wine. Likewise, some may not agree with or understand your God-given gifts. That does not detract from their God-given power or significance.  

Types of Gifts 

Beyond baptism, many denominations recognize the presence of others’ gifts given to believers by the Holy Spirit to fulfill God’s purpose. These gifts are also divinely conferred, though perhaps less obvious, than speaking in tongues.  

The important link is believing that spiritual gifts are given to help others, to give life, and to further the kingdom of God.  

This is just a brief overview of some spiritual gifts. Later posts in this series will delve deeper into each gift, what they mean, and how to recognize them.   

  • Discernment  
    • The unique ability to determine whether something is good or “of God” by sense. 
  • Evangelism & Ministry 
    • Those called to ministry often are blessed with the gift of evangelism. They have the unique ability to share the Gospel in a way that connects with people, minister to them, and love them well.  
  • Encouragement  
    • Encouragers have the ability to make others feel hopeful, to inspire renewed faith, and uplift the downtrodden.  
  • Leadership  
    • Good and Godly leaders are servant leaders, who lead with love and grace.  
  • Mercy  
    • It can be difficult to show mercy to others, even when God has shown us great mercy. Some believers have a particular heart for the hurting of others and are compelled to act in their aid.  
  • Service 
    • Acts of service is a love language and believers who show love this way often have the gift of service. They are humble in their work, often doing tasks that are crucial but unnoticed.  
  • Teaching  
    • Good teachers have the ability to connect with others and share new information in a way that makes sense to their students. They are able to communicate God’s word to others in a meaningful way.  

 

 

 

 

 

Categories
Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

The Manifesto of the Messiah

Author: Rachel Kidd

Just like Matthew tells us, Luke emphasizes that Jesus was a man on a mission. Jesus came to bring a message of good news to spiritually poor people, the blind, bound, broken-hearted and bruised people. He says that His message will make the blind see, set the bound free, and heal the broken.   

Luke is purposeful in the way in which he presents the message of Christ, making a clear argument for the gospel. Jesus proclaims this message in Luke chapter 4, proves it in chapter 5, and practices it throughout the rest of the book of Luke.  

Jesus continually extends an invitation to us to become a part of His manifesto, a participant in His mission. In a broken world, we are always interacting with the spiritually blind and bound.  

Today, the same Christ that walked the earth is within us. As the body of Christ, the church has the responsibility to fulfill Jesus’ mission on earth. 

We are called to walk with the broken and sick, to share with them the Good News of the Gospel, or to fulfill Jesus’ manifesto.  

Building Bonds 

Throughout Luke, we see Jesus reaching out to the spiritually broken over and over again. We witness the bonds He builds with fishermen, sinners, and tax collectors. 

Simon Peter was an ordinary fisherman from Nazareth, a working class man a bit rough around the edges. But Jesus called him. He gave him a nick-name Petra or Rocky, meaning stability. Peter was nothing but stable, but Jesus called out this quality in him.  

Jesus developed His relationship with Peter, calling him the ‘rock’ and encouraging him for three years. By the book of Acts, Peter became the rock, a cornerstone of the early church.  

Jesus exemplified what it means to encourage our friends, calling out good qualities in them and helping them become the best versions of themselves.  

When I feel encouraged, I am motivated to improve. Words of affirmation from friends, family, or especially from a person of authority, make me feel valued.  

Whatever you call people, they have a tendency of living up to it. It’s what it means to be a good friend, a good leader, and the living embodiment of the body of Christ.  

The Miracle of Fish 

Early one morning, Jesus is preaching to a crowd of people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Despite the crowds, Jesus’ attention is on a fisherman.  

This man is discouraged, he spent all night fishing and didn’t catch a single fish. Jesus knows that one day, this man will be a great church leader and preach to thousands, inciting revival on the day of Pentecost.  

But on this day, this man can’t even catch fish. How can someone who can’t catch fish become a fisher of men? Jesus saw Peter and who he could become.  

With the crowds growing around Him, Jesus has been pushed to the water’s edge and running out of room on dry land. He asks Peter to borrow his boat to use as a pulpit, giving Him more space to preach to the crowds from the water.

Peter, probably reluctantly, agrees to share his boat. Peter continues to wash his fishing nets while Jesus finishes teaching from the boat. Afterwards, Jesus asks Peter to go out fishing with Him once more.  

Now Peter had been fishing all night and was already discouraged, having caught nothing. But, he goes with Jesus anyway. Reluctantly casting his nets once again, he says “Teacher, we’ve fished all night and caught nothing.”  

Jesus tells Peter to pull the nets in and check again. This time, the nets were overflowing with fish, requiring all hands on deck to pull them in. Both Peter’s and his brother’s boat were full of freshly caught fish, nearly sinking them both.  

Peter falls to Jesus’ feet and says “depart from me oh Lord, I’m a sinful man.” Why would Peter respond this way to the miracle Jesus just performed?  

Jesus is trying to recruit Peter to join Him on his mission, His manifesto. He is calling Peter to be a partner as they give sight to the blind, healing to the broken, and freedom to the spiritually bound.  

He is asking Peter to leave behind his simple fisherman’s life and pursue instead a life dedicated to fishing for men. Peter seems to feel unqualified for this role by Jesus’ side, an uneducated, impulsive sinner with a temper and a foul mouth.  

But, Jesus sees something more in Peter. He knows that this man who can’t even catch fish today, can become a great partner in the mission of the Gospel. He also knows that to get there, He must teach Peter a few things.  

Fishing Lessons 

Jesus teaches Peter and future readers of scripture, a few things about fishing for men as partners in His manifesto.  

  1. You are not the fisherman, Jesus is. You are not the deliverer, Jesus is.  

Without Him in the boat with us, we will return with empty nets.  

 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” –Matthew 19:26 

When you try to go fishing for men, or lead someone to Christ, it is an impossible task without the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the evangelist and Jesus is the fisherman.  

You cannot catch men alone, but with Jesus, anything is possible. 

  1. Jesus has control over the boat.  

 When Jesus gets on Peter’s fishing boat, Peter is no longer in charge. Jesus tells Peter when to cast the nets, when to pull them up, and when to return to shore.  

When we accept the Holy Spirit in our lives, we are surrendering control to Jesus. We are giving Him authority over our lives, trusting in His wisdom.  

  1. Forsake everything to follow Jesus.  

 Peter was a career fisherman. He had spent his life learning his trade and earning a living. But, when Jesus calls him to leave it to follow Him, he does.  

Peter doesn’t bring his hard-earned boat with him, he doesn’t continue to hold on to his former life. He leaves it all behind to become a follower of Jesus, a full-time fisher of men.  

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”-Matthew 16:24-26 

Like Peter, we are called to be partner’s in the fulfillment of Jesus’ manifesto. We are called to follow Him, pursue His word, and lead others to Him through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Read the Bible

Author: Rachel Kidd

Nearly every Christian can attest to the benefits of spending time studying scripture. But for most of us who haven’t had formal theological training, it can be difficult to feel like you’re getting the most out of your study.  

This series is designed to be an introductory guide to help you begin a regular Bible study habit. Each blog will walk through a primary question associated with biblical study, a helpful tool while growing deeper in the Word and closer to God. 

What is the Bible?  

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. – Hebrews 4:12 

 First and foremost, the Bible is the living word of God. What we have today has been interpreted by His servants and passed down through the ages.  

It is also a collection of books, written in a few different genres, from poetry to historical text. It is important to understand the original context of the scripture as well as the original languages; ancient Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic.  

 Some translations are more accurate to the original languages than others. For example,  

The Why 

It’s helpful to start by considering why you want to read the Bible. Are you looking for wisdom? Comfort during difficult circumstances?   

Are there particular times you feel drawn to scripture? Is there a time of day or season when you tend to gravitate towards the Bible?  

Take some time to determine why you have decided to make Bible study a habit and use that to help you create your goals (more on that later).  

Helpful Tips 

  • Prayer and meditation are a great way to start this journey, as you refocus and recenter your relationship with God.  
  • Spending time in fellowship with others, especially a mentor or someone who’s habits you admire, is a great way to get motivated.  

Verses on the importance of Scripture

The Bible itself tells us how important it is to study the Word. Reading and meditating on a few key verses might be just what you need to spark the desire to read your Bible regularly.  

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. –Psalm 119:105 

This Psalm beautifully describes the Word of God as a lamp, the light that allows us to see and make our way down a dark path. A metaphor for how the scripture guides us through life, we see the Bible as illuminating and revelatory.   

But He answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ –Matthew 4:4 

 Similarly, many generations later, Jesus tells the devil in the wilderness that the word of God is like bread, crucial to the survival of man.  

This story as a whole reminds us that even Satan is capable of learning scripture, as he quotes them and manipulates the words back to Jesus. Words are so easily warped and twisted, even, and most especially, the scriptures.   

Reading and studying the Word for yourself ensures that you are not manipulated by false teachings or misinterpretations. Ask questions, talk to people and leaders you trust, and spend time with God, as you form your understanding of the Bible.  

Where do you start?  

Whether you are out of the habit or are just starting to grow your faith in this way, It can be daunting to start a Bible study routine.   

These steps can help guide you in creating a routine that works for you and your lifestyle, enabling you to get the most out of God’s word.  

1.Set (Realistic) Goals  

If you aren’t already reading your Bible daily, it isn’t realistic to expect yourself to suddenly start spending an hour in the word everyday.  

 Consider your goals and how you can work up to them in a realistic way. Maybe you want to have a morning quiet time, but feel rushed out the door on an average morning.  

Start by setting aside 10-15 minutes one morning a week for uninterrupted time. Find a quiet spot. I love sitting out on the porch on sunny mornings. Bring your journal, bible, and maybe a cup of coffee, open His word and take the first step in walking with Him.  

Once you’re in the habit of setting aside that time for bible study, it’ll become easier to make it longer or more frequent. Good habits are formed over time, be patient as you incorporate this practice in your life.  

Set SMART goals to set yourself up for success. 

Specific:  

  • Be specific about what you want to achieve.  
  • I want to read my Bible more.  

Measurable:  

  • How will you measure your success? 
  • I want to read my Bible three times a week for 10 minutes.  

Attainable:  

  • Is this a realistic goal for you and your life right now?  
  • I have morning’s available and like to have a slow start to the day with coffee and reading. 

Relevant: 

  • How will this add to your life? (Your why!) 
  • I look to the Bible for comfort during times of stress. 

Timely:   

  • When do you want to achieve this?  
  • I want to be regularly reading the Bible three days a week for 10 minutes by next month.  

More examples of SMART Bible Goals: 

  • Read the Bible every day for 15 minutes. 
  • Read the entire Bible in one year. 
  • Memorize one line of Scripture every week. 
  • Read the New Testament in one month. 

2. Monitor your Progress 

Check in with yourself periodically to make sure you are making progress on your goals. Take a few minutes at the end of each week or month to track your progress.  

 Tracking on a calendar, whether physical or digital, is a great way to see visually how often you’re studying.  

Ask yourself how many times this month did I do my Bible study? Do I feel satisfied with that number? And most importantly, what did I gain from this time? How did God speak to me this week/month? 

3. Re-asses  

At the end of each month, quarter, or year, revisit your goals and take a look at your progress. Look over your calendar or notes and see the progress you have made.  

Take notice of times when you may have spent more time in the Word or less. Do these times have anything in common? How can you help yourself during these times?  

Celebrate your successes and don’t dwell on your shortcomings, it’s okay if you didn’t meet your goal perfectly; anytime spent in scripture is beneficial!  

Forming good habits can be difficult, but making time to study scripture doesn’t have to be hard. Set goals for yourself as you work towards spending more quality time in the Word.