Categories
Can You Trust the Bible? Spiritual Development Studying the Bible

The Certainty of Truth

Author: Charles Hegwood

One of the questions we should always ask of any book of the Bible we are reading is, “Why was this book written?” Part of understanding the meaning is understanding the purpose. Often the writer will tell you the ‘why’. Others will require more thought and some light research to uncover. So what about Luke? We see that Luke begins his gospel with an explanation of why he is writing this. He wanted his audience to know his purpose and intent in writing this gospel. We need to consider the purposes and intentions of Luke as we read and interpret his gospel. If we do not then we risk missing the meaning entirely. So why did Luke write? Luke wrote to a specific person or people to tell them that they can have confidence in the truth of Christ that they were taught. So let us look at each part of the first four verses and answer the questions.

The Recipient

The recipient is the original audience the author is writing. This may sound obvious but we must identify the original audience as we consider how to interpret and understand the message that Luke is trying to convey. We discover that the recipient is Theophilus. We do not know who this is. His name means ‘lover of God’ which could be a person’s name or a pseudonym. Some scholars even suggest this could be a pseudonym for a local church as well, so not one person but many. And while we are not sure of exactly who Theophilus was, we do know enough to understand Luke’s message and purpose.
Theophilus was a person or people that Luke knew and had respect for. We know that Theophilus was a believer as well. Luke is not sharing the gospel for the first time with him either, but instead writing to give Theophilus more confidence in what he already believed. This information helps us as we read and understand Luke. It is written to believers like us. We have believed and therefore Luke’s purpose is to give us more confidence in what we already believe.

The Process and Message

How does Luke compile his information? Or another question we can ask is, “How can we trust Luke’s information?” For the first question, we see that Luke took it upon himself to compile information from interviews with eyewitnesses. He sought to investigate from sources who saw and heard Jesus, what he believed to be true. This corrects the claim that Christians are not allowed to test and question their faith. We should have confidence to research our faith and the claims it makes. It can withstand scrutiny. We must of course go to valid sources and that is just what Luke did. Luke went and asked eyewitnesses who saw and heard Jesus. He likely asked some of the apostles. Luke also asked other people who were compiling accounts of Jesus too.
Let us take a second and marvel that within the first twenty years after Jesus and likely earlier than that, people were already writing down what they heard and saw. They knew it was important. And these witnesses to the gospel and recorders of what happened were already busy writing these things down and passing the message to all who believed.
Some criticism of the gospels you might hear is that the accounts were written down much later than the events. For example, Luke was written down sometime before 70 AD. That means Luke may have written his account decades after Jesus was resurrected. However, these detractors fail to realize that much of what Luke contained was from writings that had been written much closer to the event. We do see from Luke that he got his information from people who were speaking and writing with the purpose to pass down the information. His goal was to be orderly. He wanted to take all of the accounts and put them in an order that would best convey the message to his audience.

The Purpose

Luke, among many others, was investigating and researching the claims of the gospel he heard. And what did Luke find? He found that what he had received as the gospel was trustworthy. So much so that he compiled the information and underwent the difficult process of writing down all that he had learned so that he could share it. His purpose was so that Theophilus would have the same confidence in the gospel that Luke did. The gospel is not simply good information. It is good news that calls us to follow a risen Jesus. Luke is not a simple historian. He writes with a purpose to grant confidence in what has been thoroughly investigated. Luke wrote to defend this certainty to his reader. Even in the first century, God had set people about the task of writing to defend the truthfulness of what happened.

Conclusion

So with Luke, we can see the recipient, process, and purpose are all to give us confidence in the things that we believe regarding Jesus. Luke is a great book to build your confidence in what you have already learned. Luke desired to show the importance of the truthfulness of the gospel. It is not a mere story. Jesus really came, taught, died, and rose again. We can have confidence in the truthfulness of God’s word to us. God’s word has the purpose of bringing us life. So read with confidence the good news that Jesus is our Savior and many throughout the ages have gone to great lengths to ensure that we have and can trust that good news.

 

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Digging Deeper into the Word Studying the Bible Uncategorized

The Spirit of the Ten Commandments

In the tapestry of human civilization, few threads have woven themselves as deeply into the fabric of societies as the Ten Commandments. These ancient directives, gifted to humanity as the backbone of God’s law, transcend mere rules; they embody the very essence of divine guidance and human flourishing. Yet, as we delve into their significance, we uncover a profound truth: while the Law is a gift that illuminates the path, it is faith in Jesus Christ that truly saves, lest anyone should boast.

Understanding the Purpose of the Law

The Scriptures are filled with insights on the function and purpose of the law. In Romans 3:20, we learn that no one is declared righteous by observing the law; rather, it serves to make us conscious of sin. This sentiment is echoed in Romans 7:7, where Paul acknowledges that he wouldn’t have recognized sin without the law’s guidance. The crux of the matter is made clear in Romans 3:28 and Galatians 2:16, emphasizing that righteousness comes through faith in Jesus, not through legalistic observance.

The Dual Purpose and Benefit of the Law

God’s intention behind the commandments is multifaceted. They are designed to teach humanity how to love God rightly, bring honor and glory to His name, and foster harmonious relationships among people (Matt. 22:40). Additionally, adherence to these commandments leads to blessings and a peaceful life, as stated in Exodus 20:1-17.

The reciprocal benefit for mankind is evident: obeying the law promotes harmony in relationships and peace in the streets. The law is a loving gift that God has revealed to His special creation to know how to love Him and one another. The Ten Commandments are a blessing that if honored will bring peace and a long life. Even if your peace is internal in the midst of external chaos, following God’s instruction leads to true life.

Man wasn’t made for the law; the law was made for man. This is exactly what Jesus meant when he described on many occasions that the spirit of the law was and is for God and man’s benefit, not their detriment. The law is not more important to God than carrying your paralyzed friend on the Sabbath. This breaking of the letter of man’s law was the exact display of love and faith that fulfilled God’s law (Mark 2:3-11).

The Transformative Power of Understanding the Spirit of the Law

Integrating the Old and New Testaments is crucial for a holistic understanding of God’s divine plan. Jesus Himself affirmed the continuity of the law and the prophets, stating that He came not to abolish but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). This underscores the significance of interpreting the New Testament in light of the Old, recognizing the timeless principles and moral truths encapsulated in the commandments. We must be careful to rightly interpret and discern the letter of the law as well as the spirit of the law in every area of our lives.

The Law’s Application in Real Life

Jesus’s teachings shed light on the spirit of the law. In Matthew 5 He emphasized the importance of understanding the law’s intent and living accordingly, rather than rigidly following its letter. He exemplified this in His actions, such as healing on the Sabbath, which showcased the primacy of compassion and love over legalistic adherence. In Matthew 22:36-40 Jesus says that all the Law and Prophets can be wrapped up in the essence of loving God and man with all your heart, soul, and strength. It is through Jesus’ indwelling Spirit we are able to live out the spirit of the law, applying it with wisdom and discernment.

The Spirit of the Ten Commandments

In Exodus 20:2, God tells Moses, “I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.”

The title Lord means judge, authority or ruler. God as Judge is the ultimate authority, law giver and keeper. This God is a perfect and benevolent ruler and rescuer to His people. He reminds Moses of each other’s identity, purpose, and position. The Judge then gives Moses these Ten Commandments to give to His people and to live by them.

  • “You must not have any other god but me Ex 20:3

Honor God as Lord of all (Acts 10:36). Make God primary in all areas and decisions in life. Live by His statutes, ordinances, and law and He will direct your paths.

  • “You must not make for yourself an idol Ex 20:4

Seek God alone for all your needs, desires, and comfort. He is all knowing and powerful and hallowed. He is our Father in Heaven, the only one who can graciously give our daily bread, and forgive us of our sins, and lead us out of temptation (Matthew 6:9-13)

  • “You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God.” Ex 20:7

Live in a manner worthy of your calling (Eph. 4:1). Not that God needs us to help His reputation, but we should live in a way that doesn’t contradict His character, Word or calling on our lives. Beware the way of the hypocrite.

  • “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” Ex 20:8

There were many man-made laws surrounding God’s law of keeping rest on the sabbath to honor His rest and our health.

  • “Honor your father and mother.” Ex 20:12

As adults, it’s important to maintain respect for our parents by honoring them even when we disagree. Respect, care, and provide for the elderly as they have respected, cared, and provided for you. Parents, strive to live in a manner that earns respect from your children.

  • “You must not murder.” Ex 20:13

The commandment carries a profound message about the sanctity of human life. It urges us to regard life with utmost respect, regardless of circumstances like accidental or intentional harm. The essence is to honor life by exercising self-control and engaging in actions that build and uplift rather than destroy. The literal meaning of the commandment is to not murder with premeditative will. Jesus said that if you harbor anger or resentment in your heart for another person, you are guilty of murder.

  • “You must not commit adultery.” Ex 20:14

Respect and love your spouse and the commitment you’ve made. Flee sexual immorality and be true to yourself and others. If you make a vow, make every effort to keep it.

  • “You must not steal.” Ex 20:15

The eighth commandment prohibits taking what isn’t rightfully ours or harming others through unfair possession of their property. It stresses fairness, kindness, and respect for private ownership, contributing to both individual and societal well-being. This commandment serves as a reminder to live ethically even in regard to material possessions, respecting others’ rights and avoiding actions that cause harm.

  • “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” Ex 20:16

This commandment covers one’s words, honesty and intentions of the heart (Luke 6:45). Promote human flourishing by letting your yes be yes, and your no be no.

  • “You must not covet.” Ex 20:17

The tenth commandment promotes human and societal well-being by encouraging contentment, gratitude towards God for blessings, and honoring our neighbors. It encourages diligence and ethical conduct in business, advising against exploiting others for personal gain.

Conclusion

The spirit of the Ten Commandments extends far beyond mere legalistic observance. It embodies the fundamental principles of love, righteousness, and reverence for God and others. While the law serves as guideposts for righteous living and societal harmony, it is faith in Jesus Christ that ultimately leads to salvation and fulfills God’s purposes. By grasping the spirit behind the law, believers can navigate life with wisdom, discernment, and a genuine desire to honor God and fulfill our calling and purpose as ambassadors, and therefore an integral part in global human flourishing.

Study our free course Genesis and Exodus here.

Watch this complete lesson here.

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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.

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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

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All Studying the Bible

What is the Bible?

Author: Jon Slenker

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119:103

Communication is one way that sets humanity apart from other living things. The bible is one of God’s primary ways of communicating to mankind. The bible is a compilation of stories that tells one grand story. It is divided into two overarching testaments (Old and New Testaments), also known as covenants or promises by God to his people. So what is the bible and what is the bible about? In one word, the bible is God’s story. It is God’s identity, word, will and ways. This is that we may know God, know ourselves, know the world we exist in and what or who we find our meaning in.

The bible is a compilation of 66 books or letters that chronicles history, kingdoms, prophecy and God’s relationship with his creation. It was written by 36 inspired authors in three different languages, spanning three continents and a few thousand years. And yet, it tells one great story with a scarlet thread. While the bible answers many of life’s questions, it is not ultimately a story about us as the main characters. All the Old Testament points to Christ, while all the New Testament presents Christ. It is helpful to answer the question, “what is the bible?” if we understand the overarching narrative of the Bible by observing it as one book in four parts, Creation, Fall, Rescue and Restoration.

It is within the pages of the bible that we are introduced to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, Angels, the Evil one Satan, demons and man and every living creature and thing. It speaks of the galaxies, birds of the air, fish of the sea, great beasts, pools in the desert, mountains and miracles. As a Creator God, he has written for us about science, art, relationship, love, identity, meaning and everything in between.

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.”
Psalm 34:8

Creation

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

In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, the creation account starts the story with “In the beginning, God…” (Genesis 1:1). God was and is, has always been and always will be. He is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8). “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Gen. 1:1) He is a creator God who spoke everything that exists, including man, into being. He makes them in his image and likeness (Gen. 1:27), breathes life into his creation (Gen. 2:7-8) and gives Adam and Eve their first command known as the “creation mandate”. He tells them to be “fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28). This does not simply mean to make warm bodies, but to make worshipers as his “vice-regents” governing the earth. God entrusted his creation to us to care for and manage.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
Hebrews 11:3

Fall

“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Genesis 3:15

The Fall of man is recorded in Genesis 3 when Adam stood passively by and Eve entertained the Serpent questioning God’s word, “Did God really say…?” (Gen. 3:1).  The curse of sin is passed down through man. Sin twisted the creation mandate and instead of worshiping God, man now worshiped self and multiplied twisted worshippers (Rom 5:12). Eventually, man only did evil in the sight of the Lord (Gen. 6:5-22). The consequence of disobedience and sin is a broken relationship with God, decay and death that is physical and spiritual. We are in grave need of a savior to restore us to the right relationship with God and grant us new life.

Shortly after sin infected man, God promised to send a rescuer (Gen. 3:15). He called this Rescuer the “Messiah” in Hebrew, translated into Greek as “Christ”, meaning “anointed one.” This anointed one would be God incarnate, his own Son, a prophet who would come and offer a perfect atonement as a sinless sacrifice. He was sinless because he was born of the Holy Spirit, not from a sin-corrupted man.

From Genesis 3 to Malachi, we get a front row seat as to how God interacts with, relates to and rules over his creation; prophesying over 300 times that the Christ shall come and rescue the Lord’s people from sin and death.

“He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities.”
Isaiah 53:11

Rescue

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…”
John 1:1-4

Jesus the Christ would do more than be a sacrifice, he would be the supreme example for life and godliness as a worshiper, family member and friend. We are still living under the curse and consequence of the Fall, but God did send the promised rescuer, modeled the very life of God and how one should live. He embodied all of God’s character, chemistry, credibility and competence.

The Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament, as well as the letters, are accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings, tendencies and relationships. It is fascinating that we get the chance to read from eyewitnesses about their first-hand accounts as to how he nurtured, challenged, dealt with conflict and stood up for the oppressed. These writings also detail the times when he spoke up and the times he remained silent or spoke in confusing parables.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
John 1:14

“But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Matthew 13:16-17

Restoration

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God…On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
Revelation 19:11-16

Christ has come, and will come again! This time, to bind Satan and restore God’s own people and creation back to himself once and for all. There will be eternal peace, joy, community with God, the angels, people from every tribe, tongue and nation worshiping God, and enjoying him forever.

Conclusion

By God’s word he spoke creation into existence. By questioning his word mankind’s hearts and eyes were open to good and evil and broke the right relationship with God. By God’s word he promised a savior and the Word became flesh and dwelt among men (John 1:14). By God’s word he spread the good news, the gospel, and by the telling of it many have been and still are being saved through faith. By God’s word he promises to come again and restore all that was broken and marred by evil, sin and death. By God’s word he promises to bind Satan and redeem that which was lost. God’s word is holy, trustworthy, authoritative, inspired, powerful, relevant, unchanging, and much much more. Taste and see that the Lord is good.

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
Psalm 119:103

 

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 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?  

 

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.