July 24, 2016
As most of you know by now, after this morning's service I will be driving down to Springfield, where I will stay for almost 2 weeks as I complete licensing school. After my previous candidacy training led to me being approved this past Spring, I then had to prepare for this final step, which meant completing 31 written assignments, and reading more than a dozen books, in the course of three months. So why would I, or anyone else, want to spend so much time in study?
As our Epistle reading (2 Timothy 2:15, 23-25) says, I want to do my best to present myself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. The Lord has given me a great responsibility as your pastor, and I do not take it lightly. And I when I get to heaven, I am hoping to hear God say, "Well done, good and faithful servant".
But is it just the pastor's job to study? What about everyone else? First of all, in Acts 17:11 we read, "And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth." I do publish all of my sermons on our website, and include the Scripture references that I use. Therefore you can also search the Scriptures day after day to see if I am teaching the truth.
But that isn't the only reason you should personally 'search the Scriptures'. Do you eat a healthy breakfast on Sunday morning and then feast on candy and potato chips the rest of the week? Most of us are very diet conscious these days. We read the nutritional labels, we count calories, and we try to eat right. So shouldn't we feed our spirits God's Word on a daily basis? Or do we instead feed them a diet of 'junk food'? God's Word is high in protein to build strength to fight off the devil, whole grains to give you lasting endurance, 100% of the RDA of spiritual vitamins to protect you from temptation and sin, no added sugar (God never sugar coats His Word!), and the only preservatives are the ones that preserve your spirit unto eternal life. So as it says in 1 Peter 2:2-3, "Like newborn infants, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, since you have tasted that the Lord is good."
Did Peter really say "crave"? I know it is easy to crave ice cream or chocolate, but not so easy to crave kale or broccoli. So how do we get enthused about sitting down to read the Bible, instead of doing something 'more fun'?
Besides knowing that it is something that God wants you to do, let's take a look at some of the benefits Bible study offers:
- It reassures you of God's infinite love for you. And who doesn't like to feel loved?
- It will guide you through all of life's challenges and trials, and provides a multitude of examples of those who have been in situations that you are facing, and how they overcame and persevered.
- It strengthens your faith and gives you hope. And with everything that is happening in today's world, we need all the faith and hope we can get!
- It helps you to help others. Better knowledge of the Bible equips you to help others when their faith is wavering, when they need encouragement, when doubts set in, or when they are ready to give up.
- Reading the thousands of Bible prophecies that have already been fulfilled with 100% accuracy, and then reading the ones yet to be fulfilled, gives you reassurance that God is control of the future, and as His child you have nothing to fear.
- It teaches you how God wants you to live - what you should be doing and not doing - so that you will bring joy to others, and yourself in the process.
- And most importantly, the Bible shows us the only way to eternal salvation, which is through Jesus Christ. (John 3:16, 5:39, 14:6)
So while it is my obligation to study so that I can serve God and this congregation as your pastor in the way that God would have me to do, it is also both your privilege and Christian responsibility to study the Bible personally, as often as possible. Once you get into the habit, you will discover that it is something that you not only look forward to every day, but greatly miss if you must forego for any reason. Sort of like that morning cup of coffee¦ Without it you just don't have the energy and enthusiasm to face the day as you normally would.
Next Sunday Terry Ralston, who is the Vermilion River District Lay Leader, will be coming here to serve in my absence while I am at school. I trust you will all make him feel welcome, and hopefully enjoy the change of pulpit persona. Lord willing, I will be back for the service on August 7. If you need to contact me, I will have my cell phone and laptop, and will check my messages and emails in the evenings. And please keep me in your prayers, as I will you. Amen.