Dear friends, I am excited to share this message with you, a message that my mentor, Vasile Filat, preached at our former church, Good News, last Sunday. It was a powerful message that rebuked, corrected, and encouraged me in my walk with the Lord. I want to share it with you here in written form since most of you do not have the ability to listen to it in Romanian and understand it. I pray that the Word will work in your heart the way that It worked in mine.
I. Major concerns in the Christian world
When I write “concerns” I mean concerns for people who call themselves followers of Jesus Christ yet do not see the value of the Word of God in their daily lives. Many people live Sunday to Sunday, satisfied with what they hear others “explain” what the Word of God teaches and they do not discipline themselves to study the Bible in depth on a daily basis. The majority of Evangelicals do not study the Bible systematically. It is a shotgun approach usually driven by a devotional “quiet time”. Most believers do not feel that they need to study the Word of God profoundly, because, “that is what we pay the pastor to do”. Many treat Bible study as something optional, “if I get around to it, I will do it, but, I’m okay if I don’t. I can always get a sermon podcast and that will do for me”. Others are very undisciplined in their personal Bible study and, again, feel that corporate Bible study is optional. This is anti-Biblical. The first church practiced personal Bible study and corporate Bible study. They were very disciplined in their Bible study and it showed through the fact that the ministry grew on a daily basis. If believers do decide to join Bible study and accountability groups, the slightest excuse keeps them away and they have no problem missing more often than they attend. Another concern in the Evangelical world is the fact that the majority of church attenders are not prepared to give a basic defense of what they believe and why they believe it because, once again, personal Bible study is not that important. Even small group Bible study leaders are unprepared to teach God’s Word. They usually try to facilitate discussion instead of digging into the deep Truths of God’s Word. Or, they simply rehash what the “curriculum” says word for word and do not really know how to handle God’s Word accurately. Another concern is the number of leaders in the church who have never actually read the Bible from cover to cover. This is crucial for all believers, especially leaders and teachers. Personal, profound Bible study is just not popular these days in our microwave and fast food society. We want to pay someone else to do it for us. Many pastors’ messages these days do not equip the body of Christ for the work of service. It’s like their messages do not have power. The reason is that many pastors are too “busy” to study the Scriptures profoundly. It is so easy to cut and paste other people’s sermon and preach it than actually sitting down and coming face to face with God through His Holy Word. Pastors have become good story tellers instead of shepherds who feed the flock by expounding God’s Word. They cannot expound It because they do not spend enough time in It. If a pastor is not an example in profound personal Bible study and also corporate Bible study then his flock will be just like him. This is at epidemic levels in Evangelical churches these days.
Another problem is the fact that parents are not personally investing in the spiritual lives of their children. Instead, they want others to do that, like children’s and youth pastors. God has ordained the parents as the number 1 disciplers of their children and they are to have the most direct impact in the children’s spiritual lives. Parents have abdicated their roles, mostly because they have not learned how to do it, from God’s Word. Children do not study the Bible with their parents and parents rarely set an example of personal Bible study habits for the kids to follow. Children must be taught and encouraged to study the Bible profoundly. They need that teaching and encouragement from their parents. Parents are too busy trying to make a better life for their kids, while missing the most important component in that better life, their spiritual lives and walk with God. Or, parents are too busy trying to live out their own childhood dreams through their children that, as a family, they do not have time to discipline themselves in personal Bible study and corporate Bible study with other believers. Since kids do not see spiritual leadership in their parents, they do not value spiritual things as they should and the cycle continues.
II. The essence of Christianity
This can be found in Matthew 28:19-20. Be discipled and make disciples. Jesus sets the example and then gives the command. He took 3 and 1/2 years to disciple His followers. After they were well trained by Him in the Word of God, He sends them out to repeat the process. A disciple is a learner (student) who applies what he learns and then teaches others to do the same. Jesus tells His disciples that in order to disciple others, you must teach them to “observe” everything that He commanded. Jesus’ commands are found in the Word of God. In order to teach the Word of God, you must first be a good student of the Word and continue being a good student of the Word. So, a Christian/disciple who does not have time to study the Scriptures profoundly, unfortunately, has missed the essence of Christianity. He is not “observing” the commands of the person whom he calls “Lord” (supreme Master, Ruler). If he is not observing what Christ’s commands, is he really even a genuine follower? Throughout the ages, many people have learned to read just so that they could study the Bible, just as Jesus taught His disciples (all of His disciples) to do.
III. Practical example
In Acts 2, we see this principle lived out in the early church. The Holy Spirit descended on the believers and each of the 120 there began to preach the Gospel and evangelize the people around them. Peter preaches a sermon full of quotes from the Old Testament and explains those quotes in the context of what was happening with the Holy Spirit and to explain Jesus Christ to the audience. About 3,000 people accepted the Gospel and bowed their knee to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Immediately they were baptized and on a daily basis, they met with the Apostles and studied the Scriptures. Personal and corporate Bible study was a way of life for each believer. They were disciplined in studying the Scriptures, prayer, taking the Lord’s Supper, and in fellowship. They began applying what they were learning and inviting others to come and study God’s Word. Because of this, God was adding to the number of people saved on a daily basis. A church that understands the essence of Christianity sees spiritual and numerical growth in a miraculous way because they follow God’s strategic plan.
III. Decision time
The early church was full of new believers who were growing. There was so much work to be done and not enough leaders. In Acts 6, the shepherds had to make a decision between administration (management) and shepherding . A shepherd’s main goal is to feed the flock. The other responsibilities come after this one. If feeding the flock does not take place, the rest of the responsibilities do not matter. In First Baptist Church Jerusalem, a conflict arose and the leaders had to choose between managing the people and shepherding them. The leaders made the right decision. They chose capable men to manage the flock while they continued to devote themselves to personal study and teaching (feeding the flock). Many leaders/pastors get caught up in administration and management that they miss the most important responsibility, to feed themselves from the Word of God and to feed the flock. The shepherds valued the Word of God and as a result, the Lord blessed the church and it continued to grow. Leaders must value personal, profound Bible study and teach the members of the body of Christ to value personal, profound Bible study.
IV. Hearer vs. Doer
James was concerned about the same problems all the way back in the first Century. There were many who just wanted to “hear” the Word but it seemed that fewer and fewer wanted to deepen their understanding of the Word of God. They wanted just to listen to someone else teach. The problem with this is that many times, you end up listening to the Word but not applying the Word. When you deepen your understanding by looking intently into the Word of God then you are more likely to apply what you have studied for yourself. Are you satisfied with just listening to someone else tell you what the Bible teaches or, are you one who searches the Scriptures in order to hear from the Lord and allow Him to show you where your are wrong, correct you, and train you in the right way to go.
How much time do you spend studying God’s Word by yourself? How much do you value corporate Bible study? Are you an example for your children in profound Bible study? Is God using you to disciple others? Are you being discipled? Is the goal of your life to know Christ through His Word, observe His commands, and make Him known to the people around you? May the Lord help us be great disciples and make great disciples, people who observe the commands of Christ moment by moment, day by day.