Thursday, August 22, 2013
The empowering that comes from digging
WHETHER you have been a Christian for two weeks or too many decades to remember, God wants you to go deeper with Him, and the way into this starts with His Word – that should always be the gate. Otherwise you could be heading further and deeper in a direction that does not turn out to be of God.
Read this passage, which was written to a relatively young man who was being propelled into a testing responsibility in planting and leading churches. You may be a relatively young believer, coming into a knowledge of the Word “from infancy” and conscious that you need to be wiser in your ongoing growth and freedom and healing. This is an ongoing process – I call it ‘salvation beyond the start line’ – that God is working in us all, as His truth continues to set us free. So “wise for salvation” has the sense of “aware of my need for more salvation” – bear in mind that Timothy was a believer and one already carrying shepherding responsibility for others.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.
– What allusions to the Holy Spirit are in this passage?
– How will “continuing in” or studying or going deeper in Scripture equip you?
– “Rebuking” doesn’t come easily to the British temperament (a taxi driver in Rome or Athens might have a different view!). What everyday application for rebuking will God’s word empower you to do in an entirely Jesus-like way?
All of us are called to be disciples. Being disciples means learning, growing, trying things out, failing at times – and passing on our experience to others – disciples who help others become disciples, too. If you are a relatively new Christian, you will know plenty of other not-yet Christians. That is your personal mission field. As you pray for them and God gives you opportunity, you will find yourself engaging with them, fielding their questions and helping them to make steps in their faith. Who better – you have recent experience of that journey yourself! As you think about this passage, hold that thought, alongside the value of spending time in the Word generally for your own growth.
BIBLES AND RESOURCES
You will see a variety of Bibles around the fellowship. An excellent place to browse is St Andrew’s Bookshop in Great Missenden (I do recommend going into a bookshop and making comparisons, sustaining a local business rather than just purchasing online).
• There are study Bibles – the NIV Study Bible has been around for a while but it still is one of the best. There’s an excellent ESV Study Bible out now, too.
• There are various resources that help with the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words and Bible dictionaries that explain the culture and context of the time (we will find room for a library of some of these that everyone can access). Some of the online bibles are keyed into the (old but still respected) Strong’s dictionary, so you can select an English word and see the Greek word and its definitions, or your paper Bible might have a Strong’s dictionary in the back.
• Nave’s Topical Bible is another old but useful one which groups Scriptures into topics. Even better is the Thompson Chain Reference Bible where you can follow ‘chains’ of Scriptures across thousands of topics.
• Commentaries can be very wordy as they discuss what the commentator considers the possible interpretations of a passage. The IVP Tyndale series are concise and accessible for deeper study – and reliable. You’ll find them in any Christian bookshop.
THE WORD PREACHED
They (the new Christians) devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they The leaders) did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.
(Paul recalls his discipling approach to the Ephesian elders) You yourselves know… How I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house… Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Let’s not play down the central importance of the word preached and taught from the front. Pastors go through a rigorous training and apprenticeship to be ‘set apart’ to bring God’s word week by week. This kind of teaching was a key part of the early church’s activity, coupled with a more interactive approach carried out from house to house – a pattern we seek to follow with everyone learning and growing in home groups which give some time to applying the preached word. The rise and impact of Methodism in the 18th century was largely due to John Wesley’s diligence or ‘method’ in setting up this same preach-and-process structure in chapels and in homes.
At times, the message from the front will encourage you, and at other times it will bring challenge, correction or rebuke – although always with the intention of building up. So listen with an open heart – and take notes. We often put an outline on the back of the weekly bulletin with plenty of space for you to write all over it and make it your own. Research shows that taking notes more than doubles what you remember – and you will also have something to take to your growth group and discuss. Note what stands out to you, and how you sense God speaking to you, and share as appropriate.
Realistically not everyone can make every Sunday, although being a fellowship means prioritising it. If you have to miss a Sunday, the audio for the message is put up online as quickly as possible, usually with a written summary as well. It’s a challenge to get this done sometimes but we believe it is important, because ‘Growing in God’s Word’ is how we grow and become a church of people who are ‘together, effective and empowered’.
– In the first Scripture above (Acts 2:42) what is the first thing mentioned that new Christians were devoted to? How is this echoed in the other two passages?
– Talk about your commitment to set aside the time of the Sunday gathering and your group in the week. Why are they both essential and complementary?