Categories
All Christian History Digging Deeper into the Word

Genesis 1: Genesis and Creation

Author: Jon Slenker

Genesis Chapter One

Genesis chapter one. Those words are profound in themselves. So much is wrapped up in those three words. Opportunity, beginnings, hope, life, love, the galaxies, volcanoes, pigs and plants, seascapes and mountain vistas, smells, colors, texture. Creation is truly marvelous! Evil will come and distort God’s good creation, but for now, we sit back in awe and wonder at God speaking earth into existence and his plan for it.

Creation and the Nature of God

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Genesis 1:1

God exists outside of time and space. He is Spirit who creates as part of his nature (John 4:24). The creation account tells us much about God’s nature. God values order, prescribes value, and mandates his creation fulfill their identity and purpose. He is creative and orderly. He is intentional and desires to relate to and care for his creation. God spoke and it came to be. Out of nothing, God created.

The doctrine of the Trinity finds solid evidence for a Triune God in the creation account. In verse 26 God says, “let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”

Order, Harmony and Intentionality

The author of Genesis records the events of God’s creation as one of order, harmony and intentionality. Most creative people lack the ability to be orderly. In fact, sometimes following the rules impedes the creative process. God, however, is perfectly creative and orderly. We can see beyond having an orderly, harmonious and intentional plan that he values action. But to what end? What is his plan of action? That all creation would fulfill its purpose and therefore propagate a more vibrant and full life. His mandate is that we would worship and obey through being fruitful and multiplying. Healthy things are fruitful and fruitful things multiply.

As God brought order from disorder and did it in a timely fashion, he also built it into nature that plants, sea and land creatures and man would reproduce, each of their own kind (Gen. 1:11-12, 21-22, 24-25, 28). Each thing in creation  is unique and in a constant state of changing.  A law in Physics states there is a set number of molecules in existence. None can be added or destroyed, they merely change states. One concept within Thermodynamics is entropy, which states that left to its own creation will naturally fall into decay and disorder, the effect of sin marring God’s good creation.

Day 1 – God created light (1:3-5)
Day 2 – God separated the water and created the heavens (skies) (1:6-8)
Day 3 – God separated the waters from land (1:9-10) and created vegetation (1:11-13)
Day 4 – God created the stars and the moon and sun (1:14-19)
Day 5 – God created living creatures in the sea (1:20-23)
Day 6 – God created living creatures on land and man (1:24-31)

There is harmony in creation, an interdependent relationship among all created things and beings. Each aspect of creation is dependent on the other in some way. How glorious is our God that we would all excel in certain abilities and require the assistance from others in areas we don’t. God built community into nature and His intentions are that creation would exist in perfect harmony with itself and Himself.

Identity, Value and Purpose

God is relentless for his creation. He proves it by giving identity, value and purpose. There was a purpose behind creation. God did not want to create and then leave it to itself, it was too valuable to him. He wants to be intimately involved with his handiwork as the author, shepherd, high priest, king, judge and redeemer. He is ever present in the creation event with his Spirit hovering over the face of the waters, and reviewing his work and calling it good (Gen. 1:2). God is ascribing worth and value to his creation by calling it “good” or “very good” six times (1:10, 12, 18, 21, 25; 1:31). This tells us that God cares for his creation and that it brings him joy.

God displays order and harmony within identity through the unique individuality of each thing according to its kind. Everything plays its part and has a role in God’s creation order. The heavens, land, sea, vegetation, birds, animals, fish and humans all play a vital role in different life cycles that regenerates and reproduces life and the atmosphere for it.  Life is important to God. You are important to God and have an incredible purpose.

Imago Dei

One theologian writes that “Genesis 1 and 2 provides the backdrop for God’s relationship with humanity and with the rest of creation.”[1] Five times God calls his creation “good”, but on the sixth, he said “behold, it was very good” (1:31). ““Good” does not exist abstractly apart from God. Rather, God’s pronouncement that His work was “good” conveys that creation was rightly related to Himself and thus His work was “good” conveys that creation was rightly related to Himself and thus existing as a display of His glory.”[2] Man was made in the image of God, or “imago dei” in the Greek, as his special creation whom he wanted to be after his own image and heart. This emphasizes that we are more like God than like other creatures.[3] We were made to reflect God’s image on earth as his vice regents, children, stewards and ambassadors. We are to be like him. To conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of our calling and nature (Phil. 1:27).

The Creation Mandate

“God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”
Genesis 1:28-30

The creation mandate is the foundation of the great commission. Jesus echoes his creation mandate in Matthew 28:18-20 to his disciples and thus to the Church and to you and I. We see the creation mandate restated multiple times throughout history in the scriptures. First to Adam and Eve, then to the animals, Noah, Abraham, Jacob that we should be fruitful and multiply.  One Teacher writes that “few understand that the mission “to make disciples of all nations” is actually grounded in God’s original “Creation Order.”” This first command carries with it the implication to “worship and obey.” The Teacher adds, “the means by which dominion would be exercised would be through the intentional multiplication and dispersion of image-bearers throughout the earth.” God’s first commandment to Adam and Eve carries the same thrust and importance as Christ’s commission to us. He promises that he will be with us even to the end of the age (Mt. 28:20). This is an incredible promise and blessing![4]

God has entrusted his creation to man and woman. We are to be his stewards, ruling over ourselves and his creation as he would. We are therefore covenanted image bearers of God. What a blessing! As his image bearers we are to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth with other image bearers. Healthy things grow and growing things multiply. How are you stewarding, or managing what God has entrusted to you? Are you caring gently for God’s creation? Different cultures value and honor and mistreat different things,  creatures or people. To the best of your ability, small or large, are you treating God’s people and his/our creation as He would?

Conclusion

How are you fulfilling the creation mandate by worshiping and obeying as God’s vice regent and ambassador? What does caring for his creation and making disciples look like for you right now? What is your favorite way that you ‘image’ God? What areas of life are you orderly or messy? When are you most creative? What drains your creativity? How are you intentional or accidental? What does it look like? Like a mirror we are to reflect God’s image to the earth, creative, intentional, What a privilege to be welcomed into God’s work and entrusted with his creation.


[1] Robinson, George, article, published in www.GlobalMissiology.org October 2015  “Grounding Disciple-Making in God’s Creation Order: Filling the Earth with the Image of God”
[2] Robinson, George, article, October 2015
[3]  Robinson, George, article, October 2015
[4] Robinson, George, article, October 2015

Categories
All Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Study the Bible

Author: Jon Slenker

God chose to speak to mankind through the bible. This is why it is referred to as his “word”. It has been said that when you open the word of God, you open the mouth of God. It is important to know how to study the bible not just to know the book, but to know the Author. Learning how to study the bible is an incredible journey filled with excitement, beauty, wisdom, deep love and strong justice. Sometimes it makes perfect sense at the perfect moment, other times you set it down and have more questions about your circumstance than when you started.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”
Joshua 1:8

God’s people are commanded to study his word (Josh. 1:8). The benefits of studying the bible are profound and eternal. When you study, take it slow, be patient, prayerful and cautious not to jump to conclusions. Learning how to study the bible for yourself gives you freedom to know and relate to God in more personal and practical ways. It also helps to know when someone is mishandling the text’s meaning and purpose. The bible warns us and encourages us to entrust it to those that will remain faithful hearers, students, and doers of it. The challenge remains that many interpret the bible wrongly either intentionally or accidentally. Interpreting God’s Word is an art and science to be practiced with care.

3 Phases of Bible Study

1 Observation

The first phase of bible study is Observation. As you open God’s word, approach it with reverence, humility and a healthy curiosity. Sometimes we study for different purposes. We may study a topic or doctrine, a word, verse, or entire book or letter. A healthy practice for studying the bible is one book at a time. Read the book in its entirety like you would watch a movie. Then start back at the beginning and practice observation, interpretation and application for each chapter. Observation, interpretation and application may be used for a passage containing a few verses or one. Remember the broader context. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. A student of the bible is like a detective attempting to see the big picture by correctly piecing together important data.

Taking your time studying an entire book or letter over weeks or months is helpful  to understand the bible in its entirety. The student should not approach a text simply to gain knowledge, but allow it to affect their heart, mind, soul and to put it into practice. Becoming a good observer is an acquired skill. It is our first line of defense for not misreading the text or making it about ourselves. Observation rightly aligns us and places us in the audience, not on stage.

Questions for Observation

  • Who: Author, audience, characters?
  • What: Events, occasions, theme, topic?
  • When: What was life like, global events that occurred during that time period?
  • Where: Place and culture, weather, distance, geography, topography, market, temple, home?

As you build evidence, record things that stand out to you and are emphasized, repeated, related, alike, unlike, or true to life. During observation, fight the feeling to make meaning of the clues. Note the questions you have, but avoid chasing them at this time. Keep inspecting!

2 Interpretation

The second phase is Interpretation. Now that you have collected your data, it’s time to make sense of it. This can be difficult at times due to language, cultural or communication barriers. Interpretation is important. Across the world, the Church gathers in different denominations solely for the purpose of how we interpret the bible. It is important for you to study the bible to know God and his ways to develop your own convictions and beliefs without needing to solely rely on someone else’s. Knowing how to study the bible as a faithful observer and interpreter reveals to us the pillars and principles that God established. He wants us to be knowledgeable, wise and aware to live an abundant, quiet and peaceful life (John 10:10; 1 Thess. 4:11).

“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

Characteristics of the Bible

Like God, his word is unchanging and eternal (Psalms 119:89). It does not contradict itself or contain errors. It is inspired, meaning it was “breathed out” by God (Psalms 119:105). The bible affirms itself as the holy, inspired word of God (1 Cor. 2:12-13). The bible tells a unified story centered around the primary character, Christ (Rom. 1:1-4). Jesus himself modeled how to interpret the things concerning Christ in all the scriptures beginning with “Moses and all the Prophets” (Luke 24:27). Peter would follow his lead preaching at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-36). Stephen, mimicked this in Acts 7 when he was martyred for preaching from a christ-centered interpretation of the bible. Paul teaches that the righteousness of God comes through faith and not works, explaining that “the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it– the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.” (Rom. 3:21-22). These passages show us that the Old Testament is the foundation of the New Testament and the New Testament assumes and affirms the Old Testament.

Begin your interpretation by establishing the context. Using the information from your observation, determine the author’s intent for writing this book or letter. Ask the following questions to build the original context, meaning and purpose. Answer the questions that relate.

Questions for Interpretation

  • What is the main point or big idea of the book or letter?
  • What is the structure of the book or letter? Are there sections of the book that transcend the chapters? The 5 ‘books’ or sections of Psalms is a good example of this. Chapters 1-41, 42-72, 73-89, 90-106 and 107-150 each have a unique tone or theme.
  • How does this text or passage fit into the book as a whole?
  • Does the author talk about this topic elsewhere?
  • What is the occasion?
  • What events are taking place and why is the author including them?
  • Determine a timeline of events as is helpful
  • What is the genre of writing? (Is it historical narrative, poetry, prophecy, an eye witness or secondary account?)
  • What does it say about God’s or man’s nature?
  • How does God relate to, or treat man and vice-versa?
  • How does man relate to, or treat man?
  • Is there a truth being told?
  • Is there a promise to believe?
  • Is there a sin to avoid?
  • Is there a command to obey?
  • Is there a principle to follow?
  • Is there an example to follow?
  • Has the pace of an account sped up or slowed down to emphasize something important?
  • What is being left out?
  • What is clear or unclear?

As you work to put the pieces together, fight the urge to apply it to yourself or others. Determine what the main point of the text is. What does the author want the recipient to know, believe or do? Is there a theme, topic, or belief the author explicitly or implicitly highlights? Christ-centered interpretation does not mean you should turn over every rock and pebble attempting to find some relation to Christ, but it does seek to know how Christ fulfills, relates to or affirms the main point of the text either in his birth, life, ministry, leadership, sacrifice, resurrection, or teachings. Finally, Utilize other sources like dictionaries, concordances, atlases, or commentaries. Let scripture interpret scripture before consulting outside sources.

3 Application

The final phase of studying the bible is Application. This is where we apply the truths and teachings of the passage studied to our own lives. Remember, the interpretation is one but the application is many. Paul tells Timothy to know himself, therefore, we should continue to inspect and know ourselves (1 Tim. 4:16). Our beliefs, traits, tendencies, emotions, weaknesses, inabilities, how we respond or react under mild or extreme stress (Rom. 12:3). We have to know God to follow him and know ourselves to lead ourselves. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Questions for Application

  • In what ways did the original audience apply the truths passed down to them?
  • How might they have applied it in their context?
  • How are we like or unlike them?
  • How should we be like or unlike them?
  • Is there a tendency or trait that the Spirit is bringing to mind?
  • O.S. Acrostic
    • What is God SAYING to me?
    • How should I OBEY?
    • Who should I SHARE this truth with?
  • How should my character, conduct, or conversation be affected by the Word of God?
  • How should this truth affect my:
    • Attitudes – toward God, others, circumstances, myself
    • Knowledge of God
    • Behavior – habits, reactions, positive or negative
    • Relationships – Where do I need to forgive, seek forgiveness, encourage, rebuke, submit, lead?

Application requires a decision and a specific plan of action in order to allow the Holy Spirit to make scriptural principles part of us. It takes around three months for habits to be replaced. Our tendencies are hardwired in us, and God desires behavior that honors ourselves, our people and him. But studying the bible is not just behavior modification or comprehension, it’s about salvation, truth, transformation, and relationship with God and man. Studying the bible should ultimately prepare you for a life of worshiping God and seeking the highest good of others.

Application is “best served” with prayer and meditation. What is God saying to you? Ask him. What does he want you to know, cling to, be warned of or comforted by? Let his word be ointment for healing, iron for sharpening, sweeter than honey, green pastures filled with peace, a rod for discipline and a staff for direction.

Categories
All Can You Trust the Bible? Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Purpose of the Bible

Author: Jon Slenker

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17

That God would reveal himself to mankind is no mystery! The very act is representative of who he is. His nature, character, personality, virtues and values, mission and vision, is all made known to mankind through the bible. God is a relational God who desires to know and be known. The express purpose of the bible is that we may know God, what he has done for us and how we should live in light of his revelation.

Three Kinds of Revelation

  1. General Revelation: Things that were made by God, like the galaxies, sun, sky, trees, and living things, are all ways that God has revealed himself and his handiwork. No one is without this evidence or knowledge of God. Refer to Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:18-25 for further study.
  2. Special Revelation: God interacting in special ways with his creation, include speaking audibly to man, revealing himself and his power through the Flood, a burning bush, a pillar of cloud and fire, the parting of the Red Sea, handwriting on stone tablets and palace walls, his written word the Bible, Jesus, his Spirit, miracles, dreams, and visions. Refer to Exodus 32:16, Psalm 19:7-13, Hebrews 1:1-3, Luke 1, John 1:1-14, Acts 2:1-4, Romans 1:16-17, 10:9-10.
  3. Progressive Revelation: The teaching that God has continually revealed more and more of his character, will and mission over time. Refer to Psalm 78:1-4, John 16:12-14 and Galatians 1:11-12. 

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
1 Corinthians 3:12

How to Know God

“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”
Isaiah 46:9b–10

There is only one God (Deut 32:39; Isa 45:5-7; 46:9) and “the most fundamental need of humanity is to know God, and to know Him with ever-increasing clarity and intensity.[1]’” More than anything, the bible reveals God’s character, purposes and principles. It has been said “when you open the word of God, you are opening the mouth of God.” God uses the bible to speak to you and me so that we may know him, trust him and live out our identity and calling as faithful worshipers.

“For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
Ps. 100:5

Identity, Character and Attributes of God

The bible reveals God’s character by how he relates with and rules sovereignly over his creation. In the bible, God self-identifies as and is called: Creator, the I AM, Abba Father, the Ancient of Days, the Living God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Lord of Hosts, Alpha and Omega, the God of Knowledge, God Most High, Mighty God, the Anointed One, the Word, the Lord Who Provides, the Lord Who Saves, Our Dwelling Place and more!

As we read the Scriptures observing how God interacts with his creation, we find that God’s character is upright and just. He does not lie, he does not change, does not do evil, is relentless for his people, is all powerful, all knowing, full of grace, truth, mercy and love. He is the light of men, holy, hallowed, a helper, and unique. He is the one true God.

“Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
Psalm 90:2

To Know God’s Will and Mission

One of God’s purposes in giving us his Holy Scriptures is to follow his will, not simply discover it. We read in 1 Timothy 2:2-3 to pray for all people, kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. Paul continues, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”

God has already revealed his will to us through the bible. If there is any discovering for us to do surrounding his will, it is to know God’s character, attributes and personality with greater wisdom and affection than before. God’s will is clear, to be a righteous ruler, on mission to seek and save that which is lost and marred by evil, sin and death. Since creation, God’s will has been to establish a people for himself and to reign as a benevolent and just Father, Counselor, and King. We do not need to seek out God’s will for our lives, it is not hidden from us or kept in secret to be found out later to see. God’s will was established from the beginning and he has already revealed it to us in his word!

If you want to know the will of God, devote yourself to his word and discern the times. Author, J. Grant Howard, Jr. writes that “God doesn’t want confused, bewildered, frustrated Christians wandering around anxiously searching for His will. He wants people who are walking confidently and peacefully in His will.”

Our God, the God of the universe, is a missionary God. Since Genesis 3 and the Fall he has relentlessly pursued to the point of sacrifice for the salvation of his children from every tribe, tongue and nation (Rev. 7:9-10). Jesus entered humanity, put on flesh, forgave sin, granted new life, gave confidence to the broken-hearted and destitute, humbled the proud and corrected poor theology and practice. He laid the foundation for the establishment, the Church, and sits as the chief cornerstone (Eph. 2:19-21). He began and ended his three year ministry with a focus on character as we live out, preach and disciple others on the good news that Christ has come and revealed himself and his salvation to mankind!

To Know Ourselves and Our Purpose

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God–”
John 1:12

Identity and Calling

Another overarching purpose of the bible is to know our own identity and calling in relation to God. We were made to worship and obey. We were created for a spectacular purpose. Therefore, we must know who God is in order to truly know ourselves. We find our meaning, hope and peace in our identity in Christ. The bible is God’s way of telling us who we are and how to live out our days as “Children of God” (1 John 3:1), “ambassadors” of his Kingdom (2 Cor. 5:20), a “holy priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), and “pilgrims”, in a world that is not our home (Hebrews 13:14-16).

The bible reveals our purpose, tells us how to live, grounds us in our physical and spiritual lineage and heritage, and gives us historical context for our lives and the times we now live. It teaches us about the past, present and future.

Every believer can be sure of their identity as adopted children of God, called to worship, obey, love others and make disciples. God gave us his word, so that we might know how to act  and behave in ways that honor him and others as we join him on his mission (Matthew 5; John 13:35). The author of Hebrews tells us an incredible purpose of the bible in chapter 4, verse 12 stating, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It seems at times when we read the bible, it is moreover reading us.

The Great Commission passages in Matthew 28:16-20, Mark 16:14–18, Luke 24:44–49, John 20:19-23, and Acts 1:4–8 lay out our calling and responsibility as God’s ambassadors and Church. We are to preach the gospel, baptize, teach to obey, gather in community for the breaking of bread, worship, pray, make disciples and give of our time, talent, treasure and table as others have need (Acts 2:32-36).

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Ephesians 5:1-2


[1] Merida,  Faithful Preaching, 2009

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Featured Spiritual Development

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 Spiritual Development

Peace Framework : Part II

Author: Rachel Kidd

In the first blog in this series, we talked about peace and what it really is. We also introduced the Peace Framework, a triangular model of the modes of peace.  

The first side of the triangle, place, is something we might not think of initially when we think of peace. But, it is a crucial piece that can really impact your overall feeling, whether peaceful or chaotic.  

What is Place? 

I don’t know if this is a universal experience, but in my family, nothing motivates us to clean the house from top to bottom like having company. Any time we host a party or get together, everyone pitches in, a frenzy of cleaning products and stashing clutter away. We always pull it together for a sparkling home, complete with scented candle, by the time people arrive.   

Why are we so motivated to make our place, our home, sparkle just for company? Why don’t we feel that drive to clean, to prepare, for ourselves? 

It comes down to asking yourself, how am I motivated?  

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic Motivation  

Intrinsic motivation is doing something for its inherent value and what it means to you, without outside influence. Extrinsic motivation is doing something for the outcome, whether that be a reward or to avoid punishment.  

Understanding what is compelling you or motivating you is a great way to get to know your needs better and how to better motivate yourself.  

How hopeful are you that your place will be peaceful for you?  

Place encompasses your environment and how it makes you feel. This could be your home, your city, your job/office, even your digital spaces like a desktop or phone. I like to include mental state here as well. 

When my mind is cluttered, my physical space often reflects that. I feel chaotic inside and so I let things like dishes and clutter pile up. It’s a vicious cycle, because the messier my apartment gets, the more overwhelmed I feel. It takes quite a bit of effort, and medication for me, to tackle the mess that has accumulated.  

But, once I do clean and declutter, I feel so relieved. I feel accomplished and proud of my clean space. I then find it much easier to focus on my work for the day, especially working from home.  

In fact, I’ve begun to find the act of cleaning to be meditative, a menial task with short-term payoff that doesn’t require much mental energy. Like a runner feels when they hit their stride, the rest of the mental clutter fades away and they can only feel the soles of their feet hitting the pavement.  

That’s how I feel when I get deep into cleaning mode, focused on my hands and my  

How hopeful are you that your place will be peaceful for you?  

Mary & Martha 

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 

 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” –Luke 10:38-42 

The story of Mary and Martha is one of my personal favorites. Like me and my family, Martha is worried and focused on preparing the house for their guests.  

This may be her personality, perhaps she wants her home to be welcoming to Jesus (I can imagine we all would!) and His disciples. This could also be reflective of the gendered expectations placed on women of the day, who would have never been permitted to learn from the Torah with men.  

Martha becomes exasperated at doing all the housework alone, while her sister Mary sits with the men at Jesus’ feet. Perhaps Martha was worried for her sister, fearful of what might happen because of Mary’s flagrant disregard for the societal rules placed upon her.  

That’s why I love Jesus’ response here to Martha’s concern. In direct opposition to what is expected of Him, Jesus tells her that Mary has made the right choice in sitting and choosing to listen.  

Mary sought peace at the feet of Jesus, while Martha sought peace in preparing the home for their guests. I wonder if Martha might have felt more comfortable seeking the teachings of Jesus had the cultural norms of the time been more lenient? Or perhaps she might have joined Mary once everything was prepared, feeling at peace with a clean home and dinner on the table.  

Finding your Place 

Like me, like Mary and Martha, we all seek comfort and peace in place. Determining who you are and what you need out of your place is key as you seek peace within the peace framework.  

Maybe you’re a Martha, you have a hard time hearing from God when your home is cluttered or you prefer quiet time while you clean.  

Or maybe you’re a Mary, who seeks peace first at the feet of Jesus, regardless of the societal expectations placed upon you, because you need that peace first.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Prayer Spiritual Development

The Kingdom of Heaven : Part II

Author: Rachel Kidd

Both Matthew and John refer to the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God in their respective gospels. Are these kingdoms the same? Are they a physical place or a spiritual place?  

This second part of the series on the Kingdom of heaven will focus primarily on the kingdom as described by Matthew, centered on the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes.  

Different theological perspectives have different understandings and varied beliefs in the application or ramification of this definition.  However, generally the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom Of Heaven, refers to the “spiritual realm over which God reigns as king, or the fulfillment on Earth of God’s will.” 

It is what the world will look like when God’s will has been fulfilled on earth, making all things new. But, what does that look like exactly? This blog will delve into Matthew chapter 5 and his descriptions of the Kingdom, both what it is and what it is not.  

What the Kingdom is not 

Before defining what the kingdom of heaven is, it’s helpful to understand what it is not. Matthew is clear that the kingdom cannot be found through human righteousness alone.  

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. –Matt. 23:13–15 

The Pharisees followed the law of Moses, the Jewish law, to the letter. They believed themselves to be the only righteous ones, making themselves the arbiters of what is good and what is not. They bend over backwards to create followers, yet their hypocrisy makes their converts just as lost as they are.   

Jesus tells the Pharisees and scribes that they are not the decision makers in the kingdom. They are hypocrites of the highest order, not compelling others to righteousness as they so believed, but they are pulling them down and causing them to stumble.  

He also emphasizes the distinct differences between the condemnation espoused by the religious leaders of the time and the welcoming arms of the Heavenly Father.  

What is it? 

In Matthew chapters 5-7, Jesus describes the Kingdom in His Sermon on the Mount. He paints a picture, inviting the crowd into His vision of the kingdom. 

He begins by welcoming the persecuted Jews around Him, providing comfort for people who are experiencing the torment of the Roman empire. He blesses them, promising them the Kingdom. I can imagine His words were soothing to a hurting, persecuted people, seeking to preserve their community. Jesus says; 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. –Mathew 5:3 

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:10 

Fulfillment of the Law 

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.  

Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. –Matthew 5:17-20 

Jesus tells His Jewish listeners that He has not come to abolish the law they have faithfully followed for generations, but rather to fulfill it. Jesus is the Messiah, the fulfillment of Jewish prophecy who promised to bring renewal to the law of Moses.  

The remainder of the sermon, Jesus walks the crowd through each of the commandments, explaining how the kingdom of heaven will change and renew these laws. He did not come to remove systems of accountability, instead He emphasizes their importance, reminding us that only the most righteous can enter the kingdom.  

The next blog in the series will delve deeper into the commandments, studying the specific changes Jesus proclaims, like plucking one’s own eye out if it causes you to stumble. He flipped the law on its head, calling into question the root ethos of each, asking the crowd to look deeper and understand the meaning behind their rules.  

Righteousness 

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” –Romans 3:10-12 

Because the Jewish people were bound by a lengthy set of rules. The Jewish law, or the Halakhah, is an ordered way of life that includes rules about eating, drinking, bathing, dress, and how to observe Shabbat and other holidays. Many still live by this code today, observing centuries old tradition and living in a righteous manner.  

However, humans cannot be righteous enough for the kingdom by our works alone. The New Testament says that salvation then must come from Christ. Even the Pharisees, who follow the letter of the law, cannot enter into the kingdom without Jesus.  

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. –Matthew 6:1 

Jesus warns us to avoid performing righteousness for the approval of others. While we may be doing good work, like volunteering with a ministry, if we’re doing it for Instagram likes, we’ve already received our reward.  

The kingdom of heaven is the eternal reward, something that cannot be earned or bought. Jesus shared the vision of the kingdom to His people that day, bringing them close with comfort and hope for an eternity with Him.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

The Best Books in the Bible

Author: Rachel Kidd

Study to present yourself approved unto God, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly explaining the word of truth. —2 Timothy 2:15 

Jesus said, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” 

—John 5:39 

Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, [Jesus] explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. —Luke 24:27 

Importance of Studying 

Paul tells Timothy that he must study the scripture, exert himself in the pursuit of Scriptural knowledge so that he will be prepared when he meets the heavenly Father.  

Like any other knowledge base, scripture needs to be studied and pursued. It isn’t just a healing salve, it is wisdom that must be learned and taken to heart. This study of the New Testament is an excellent place to start, a structured course that can help you get into the Word of God.  

As Paul tells us, faith comes by hearing the Word of God. During his time, most in the Roman empire could not read and copies of the Torah were few and sacred. Most people heard the scripture read aloud instead.  

Today with the ability to read and write, we might understand this as faith comes by reading and understanding the Word of God. We have the privilege of accessing the Bible in so many different forms, from a physical copy to a digital one on an app. Take advantage of it and step into the New Testament with us! 

What’s in a Word? 

The first four books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are referred to as the “gospels.”   

The word gospel is derived from the Anglo-Saxon god-spell, meaning “good story.” And god-spell is an early English rendering of the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, meaning “good news” or “good telling.” 

The first three books, Matthew, Mark, and Luke have been referred to as the Synoptic Gospels since the end of the 18th century, due to their incredibly similar structure and narrative treatment of the life and ministry of Jesus.   

While these four gospels tell us about Jesus’ works and detail His teachings, they are far more than a biographical text because they also share the good news of redemption Jesus brought to the world.  

The gospels show us that the whole Bible—both the Old and New Testaments—is all about Jesus Christ. They are therefore the most important books in the Bible, the key to understanding all of Scripture. As we will see, Jesus declared that He is at the center of God’s plan from beginning to end. Everything in Scripture points to Him and His plan to redeem and save lost mankind. 

The Greatest Revelation  

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. –John 1:17-18 

This verse in the first chapter of John explains the great revelation of Jesus, who through Him made God the Father known.  

In the original Greek, John used the word exegesis, which is a deep and critical interrogation into a text to ascertain the meaning. It is the act of bringing out in the verse what is in it, as opposed to inserting meaning that is not in the text.  

In this case, Jesus exegetes God, meaning He brought out all the meaning of God. This means that Jesus Christ is the greatest revelation of truth, of God, the world has ever been given.  

Everything that Jesus was, everything that Jesus said, and everything that Jesus did reveals God to us. And because the gospels are about Jesus, we can determine that these books are at the core or the heart of the scripture.  

Word became Flesh 

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  

–John 1:1-5 

God had a word, truth, that He wanted to communicate with man. Yet, He struggled to communicate with humans, being God. Like humans trying to talk to animals and vice versa, the message gets lost.  

And so God made a great sacrifice because of His love for humanity. He sent Jesus to humble himself and become man. In order for those thoughts to be translated to earth to human comprehension, God had to become human too.  

Jesus is the embodiment of the word, the conductor of translation that became man so that humankind could understand the Word of God. Everything that He was, said, and did on earth revealed God to us.  

It Points to Jesus 

The religious leaders of the day didn’t believe Jesus’ claim that He was God, so they asked for proof, for evidence that He was who He claimed to be.  

In John chapter 5, Jesus lays out a defense, proving that He is in fact the Son of God. He references His miracles and explains the great prophet John the Baptist paved the way for Him.  

“You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.”  

–John 5:33-35 

He then says that the revered Moses wrote about Him, prophesying the coming of Jesus Christ generations earlier. In fact, Jesus cites the scriptures as a whole as a testimony to Him, they’re all about Him.  

When we understand this, we can appreciate that Jesus is the very heart and thread that connects the scripture together.  

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Spiritual Development

The Mysterious Masterpiece

Author: Rachel Kidd

In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.  

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. —Hebrews 1:1-3 

Who’s the author? 

The book of Hebrews is a mysterious masterpiece, because it’s authorship is unknown. Some argue that Paul is author, like in the King James translation of the bible, but there isn’t a general consensus. Paul’s letters always start with his name, Hebrews does not.  

Paul also typically quoted from the Hebrew Old Testament, but the author of Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The grammar used in Hebrews also doesn’t align with Paul’s typical style.  

The author of Hebrews also did not focus on justification by faith, which Paul always emphasized. Unlike Paul, this author does not claim to have personally seen Jesus Christ. 

We also aren’t sure if Hebrews is a letter at all or even what the literary form is, because it lacks a salutation and a discernable form. The group who is addressed in Hebrews is equally mysterious, as we cannot place them in a specific location.  

Bible scholars do not know who wrote it or who the specific Hebrews were, but we do know that they were Jewish Christians or Messianic believers who were suffering persecution. The author of Hebrews offers much-needed assurance of salvation, encouragement, and exhortation to believe. 

We include Hebrews in the general Epistles, not Paul’s Epistiles, because of these key differences. The author could have been Apollos, mentioned in the book of Acts, Barnabas, or even Luke. Whoever wrote this book was an inspired and eloquent scholar, threading intricate knowledge of the bible and the identity of Jesus throughout Hebrews.  

Content Speaks 

However, the authorship of the book is less important than it’s content. Asking ourselves; What does the book say? What does it mean? What does it mean to me?  

 Hebrews is a masterpiece in content. More than any other book, it ties together the Old and New Testaments. Cohesive from beginning to end, a clear argument is threaded throughout.  

 

Hebrews presents Jesus theologically as the Messiah who was prophesied in the Old Testament, the Lord has revealed in the New Testament, and the coming King of Kings. 

Better Belief 

Jesus Christ is better than the prophets. The message God revealed through His son is even better than the message He sent through the beloved and revered prophets. Because Jesus Christ is God’s Son, He is better than the angels, the priesthood, the covenants, the tabernacle, everything.  

Speaking to orthodox Jews, the author of Hebrews says that what they hold most sacred, most Holy, pales in comparison to Jesus. No more animal sacrifices need to be made at the temple, because Jesus’ death fulfilled them all in the same patterns of Jewish tradition.  

Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant. 

Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 

–Hebrews 7: 22-25 

When Jesus died on the cross, He acted as high priest as in Jewish tradition and He was interceding for the sins of the whole world in the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle of heaven. This tabernacle is not made of human hands and the blood offered was not that of an animal, but of Jesus Himself. 

From that time on, the sacrifice of Jesus fulfilled all the animal sacrifices and eliminated the need for the Jewish sacrificial system. He is better than even Solomon’s Temple, fulfilling every one of God’s promises.  

By reading and believing in Christ’s finished work on the cross, we can experience fulfilled salvation. The book of Hebrews is a wonderful place to start, meditating on the greatest promise ever made to humanity.  

 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. –Romans 10:9-10 

Categories
Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible

How to Read the Bible : Part II

Author: Rachel Kidd

In this second part of this series on how to read your bible, we’ll be focusing on how to create a practice that works for you.  

Whether you’re a morning person who reads scripture over a cup of coffee or someone who prefers reading late into the night, it’s about creating a sustainable practice for you. If your practice doesn’t fit well with your lifestyle or personality, you’ll be much less likely to stick to it.  

With busy lives spent running from one thing to the next, it can seem nearly impossible to find time to be still and soak in scripture. Developing a habit that sticks takes time and effort, but this practice of self-discipline is well worth it. 

The Purpose 

Before diving into how to create a sustainable bible reading practice, determining your purpose, your why is crucial. The scripture is clear from Old Testament to New, that reading and meditating on the Word is transformative and part of a strong faith.  

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

–Romans 12:2 

This verse in Romans reminds us that the Word, the written will of God, is perfect. By allowing it to permeate our minds and hearts, we are transformed and renewed.  

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.

–Proverbs 30:5 

Scripture also acts as a shield, like this Proverb tells us. It protects our hearts and provides a refuge, a safe haven from the harsh reality of the world we live in.  

But, in order to experience the transformative power of scripture, we need to spend time reading and meditating on the Word. We need to create time and space to spend time with God, just like we would with any other relationship. So, how do we do that? Where do you start?  

Lifestyle 

Think about your life, consider all the factors. Are you a busy mom without a spare minute to herself on school mornings? Are you a student with a packed schedule? Or are you retired with plenty of hard-earned time on your hands? 

 Consider your personality too, are you introverted or extroverted? Do you like to process new concepts and information alone or with others? Do you prefer independent study or study groups?  

 If you haven’t already, identifying  your learning style and personality type can be really helpful in building a life that is the most effective for you. 

No matter your age, stage in life, or circumstances, I am betting you can find a few minutes each day to dedicate to quiet time. Not only is it a great time to dig into scripture, but its a great time to recenter yourself and connect with both yourself and God.  

With who? 

It can also be a time to connect with others, like your spouse, children, roommates, or prayer group. Especially for extroverts and verbal processors, creating space to discuss scripture and pray with people you love can be so life-giving.  

If you’re like me, sometimes you like to be alone to process and sometimes you prefer to be with others. Create variety in your scripture reading practice by scheduling different groups. Maybe you have a prayer group you attend once a month, once a week you do a devotional with your spouse, and every morning when the house is quiet, you read alone with God.  

When? 

Determine when you have the most time in your day, week, or season and start small. Perhaps you find yourself finishing your lunch within the first thirty minutes of your lunch break and scroll on your phone for the next thirty.  

What if you took just fifteen of those thirty minutes to open your bible app instead? Or listened to an audio version of your bible?  

Finding those pockets of time in your busy day can be incredibly rewarding and helpful in creating a sustainable practice for you.  

How often?  

Maybe you only have time right now for a bible study for an hour once a week sitting in your car while your child is at soccer practice. And that is okay! If you already have a routine bible study, add to it! Build up from three times a week to four, then five. 

Life has seasons, times that are busy and times that are leisurely. Understanding the seasons of your life and patterns of behavior can be helpful in embracing the natural ebbs and flows. 

 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 

a time to be born, and a time to die; 

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted. 

–Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 

(read the rest of this chapter for a complete list of patterns) 

 It can also help you both take advantage of the good times, soaking in the Word, in preparation for the hard and busy times when you lack that time to read scripture.   

Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart. 

–Proverbs 4:21 

 The scripture reading practice you create and follow consistently will only support your faith journey and relationship with God.  

 

 

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?