The Berean Approach – Andy Brown

I don’t want you to just take my word for it… We take a little break from our current series on Psalm 103 to discuss something important. It is an immense privilege to share God’s Word with you through this blog, and I take that responsibility very seriously. But you, the reader, have a responsibility…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2018/04/12/the-berean-approach/

In At The Deep End – #TestimonyTuesday

I knew that I had a teaching gift long before I knew anything (really) about the Bible. I accidentally volunteered to lead a Bible study group once, when I very much considered myself to be a baby Christian! That is a story for another day perhaps…

I had been praying about how I might get an opportunity to teach a Bible message. And the Lord answered in a clear way.

While I was at university (during this time), I attended the Christian Union meetings. I often arrived early to help set up chairs and whatever else needed doing. On this one occasion, the man scheduled to come and speak to the group had unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute.

I remember vividly the look on the organiser’s face as she said, “What are we going to do! We’ve got X number of people coming!” I say “X” because I really do not remember how many were coming!

In a small voice, I said, “I can speak, if you want me to…” About what, I had little idea! “Would you!” She asked excitedly. “Sure,” I said, excitement growing inside of me. In that moment, I knew that this had been my answer to prayer and that this was the opportunity God had blessed me with.

Grabbing a Bible, reviewing the passage, and praying as much as I could with what time I had, I “prepared”.

The crowd gathered and I stood up to speak. This is when the miracle happened… words came out! And they were not wholly nonsensical, as I recall!

I often think of this verse, when I remember that night:

For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say.”

Luke 12:12 (WEB)

He certainly did that evening!

I’m pleased to report it was the first of many times God would give me the privilege of speaking to a group of Christians about His amazing Word. Mostly, I am slightly more prepared than that first time!

I praise and thank God He was in charge that night, and indeed – every night!

For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that same hour what you must say – Luke12:12 #Bible #Jesus #Christianity


Hope Comes Looking (audio)

It was my pleasure to share in the teaching at our churches Lent meeting last week. we were considering the subject of hope, and looking at four encounters from the book of Luke-chapter 8.

I share below a recording of the message I gave, and hope it encourages you today.



Psalm 32 – Sermon

A few years ago I gave a sermon on Psalm 32, and was reviewing my notes from it this morning.

It is one of the penitential Psalms, or Psalms of repentance. It is a wonderful set of verses, and I share below the audio message I gave at the time.

Do have a read of the whole Psalm before listening, as it is not included in the recording.

Teach Them

The Great Commission #5

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18-20 (WEB)

The substance of our Christian lives ought to be different from that of the world. If we talk the same, act the same, think the same, and do all the same things that the world does, then we must question whether we are truly born anew. Disciples are not meant to be the “same” as those who follow their own fleshy or sinful desires.

If that is a shock to you, then perhaps the Great Commission has yet to be fulfilled in your life. Maybe you have believed in Christ, accepting Him as Lord and Saviour, yet no one has taken the time to teach you to obey.

And so, we come to the third part of the Great Commission which Jesus gave to us. To teach disciples all that He commanded.

Obedience may not seem like a very exciting topic to you, yet it is crucial we learn to observe what Jesus told us to do. It will lead us to God’s kind of success, blessing and most importantly, the glory of God.

Having made disciples, and baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, we must then teach them. This task will take a lifetime, and most people (myself definitely included) are slow learners!

Where do we begin? I suspect there is no right or wrong answer to this, and it might be different for everyone.

Firstly, we are to teach people to obey all that Jesus commanded. We might strictly interpret this to mean following only the red letters in our Bible, and thus dismissing most of the epistles and the entirety of the Old Testament… I do not think this is so however!

Every Scripture is God-breathed and[a] profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,

2 Timothy 3:16 (WEB)

The entirety of Scripture, the totality of God’s Word in both the Old and New Testaments, the letters, the history and the prophecy are all inspired by the Spirit of Christ. In my opinion, it is all to be taught and learned.

Now can you see why it might take a lifetime?

How can we teach the entirety of the Bible ourselves? Again, I believe it is a team effort. If you are a pastor, or are called to teach, then it might be more obvious how you can fulfil this part of the Great Commission. Use your pulpit, wherever it is, and teach the people to obey Christ. You may lead a church or be privileged to speak at one, you may write a blog or books, or you may be recording and sharing videos on YouTube or other media platforms. All of that contributes to the teaching of God’s people.

For the rest though, who do not have such platforms, or who do not feel called to teach, how can they comply with Christ’s instruction to teach?

Parents can and should teach their children. Older members of the church family may instruct the younger. The members of a small group will encourage and challenge one another, whether they are leading the discussion or just participating. As we do life together, the church ought to be helping each other to grow in faith and obedience.

Even if you personally have little opportunity to teach someone with your words, let your actions be the lesson.

If you have little opportunity to #teach someone with your words, let your actions be the lesson. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

Be imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (WEB)

Here, the apostle Paul, urges the Corinthian church to follow him, as he follows Jesus. Imitate me, he cries, as I imitate Christ. This is not easy, and if we take a hard look at ourselves, we may not feel like the best examples of Jesus’ lifestyle. But each of us should be striving forward to observe what Christ has taught us, and as we do, let us bring others along for the ride.

Sometimes we think of the Great Commission as only relating to evangelism. I hope these words have shown you that it is not so. Fulfilling this Commission does, of course, involve telling others about our faith, but it also encapsulates our journey into maturity as believers. I do not think there is one Christian who can claim to observe all that Jesus commanded us, and so we are all to keep walking with Him, bearing fruit and growing in faith.

What will you do?

I want to ask you:

  • How well do you feel you obeying Jesus at the moment?
  • What is your “pulpit”? i.e. in what ways can you be a teacher and encourage others to obey Christ?
  • What one thing can you do to be a better example for Jesus?

False Teachers

Listening to some Christian radio the other day, the person being interviewed happened to mention the name of a fairly well-known speaker who I listen to quite often. They suggested this person was a “false teacher,” and make a passing remark about why they thought that.

I then did what I probably should not have done… (check out my series on Proverbs for advice on wise choices!). I googled! A few simple key words led me straight to a web site which laid out in detail why this particular preacher was a false teacher. Naturally, they had links to other Bible teachers I am familiar with, and foolishly, I clicked.

Before long, I had a whole list of so-called “false teachers” to deal with. This was, of course, just one opinion, but I personally find it difficult once seeds of doubt have been sown.

We should be wary of false teachers:

But false prophets also arose among the people, as false teachers will also be among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, denying even the Master who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction. 2 Many will follow their immoral[a] ways, and as a result, the way of the truth will be maligned. 3 In covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words: whose sentence now from of old doesn’t linger, and their destruction will not slumber.

2 Peter 2:1-3 (WEB)

There are clearly false teachers in the world and in the church, proclaiming a distorted gospel which is no Gospel at all. Some deny Christ, and others deny the truth of the Bible. We must be on the look out for such people, and defend the faith against those who would malign it (to borrow from Peter’s words above).

There are clearly false teachers in the world and in the church, proclaiming a distorted gospel which is no Gospel at all. #Bible #truth #Christianity

This is a very difficult issue however, and the problem with being deceived is that you do not know about it, otherwise you would not be deceived at all. How do we guard against such things? I will give you my thoughts shortly.

Before I do, I want to point out that there is no ministry of criticism. The website I stumbled across yesterday listed many preachers and their faults, but gave little or no alternatives. It is no one’s job or calling to simply point out what everyone else is doing wrong. We should be alert to false teaching, and address it appropriately when we encounter it, but that is very different to setting yourself up as the Gospel police.

So how do we defend against false teaching? Here are a few thoughts.

Know your Bible

You cannot hope to detect falsities if you do not know the truth. Set about knowing the Scriptures for yourself. If someone makes a claim which is clearly contrary to what the Bible says, you know you can safely dismiss it.

When travelling on a journey, you need to know your route. If you know the destination and how to reach it, then you will soon know if you take a wrong turn. If you know now the destination nor the path to get there, every road looks the same.

Systematically study the Word of God. Let Scripture speak for itself. Let it be its own defence. One verse out of context does not a doctrine make. Scripture must be interpreted in the light of other Scripture.

Know the teacher

Get to know the Bible teacher you are listening to, and I do not mean personally (although that is always helpful!). Find out a bit more about them. Anyone who’s anyone can get a website, write a blog or publish a book these days (including me) and unfortunately that does not always qualify them to speak into your life.

Jesus said:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)

If the teacher is bearing bad fruit, then I would suggest not listening to them, even if they are charismatic, interesting or exciting – or if everyone else listens to them.

If they are bearing good fruit, then it gives you confidence that they are at least attempting to follow Jesus.

Listening to the radio or watching Christian TV makes it very difficult to be a fruit inspector however. What someone portrays on screen may be very different to what they are like behind closed doors. Be discerning, do your research (bearing in mind it is easier to criticise than anything else) and measure what you hear against the Bible.

Know the Truth Giver

If you have made every effort to get to know the teachers you are following, and based that against your hopefully good knowledge of the Bible, then the last and most important point I can make is this – know the Bringer of Truth.

However when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth, for he will not speak from himself; but whatever he hears, he will speak. He will declare to you things that are coming.

John 16:13 (WEB)

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He will guide you. Do not attempt to follow the Spirit without first knowing your Bible, as it can be all too easy to be deceived if you do. But, the Spirit, hand in hand with the Bible, will lead you into all truth.

Avoiding false teachers is not as easy as it might seem. If you search for anyone on the web, you will find something wrong with them. We are all imperfect, and not one of us has complete understanding. All we can do is be mindful of false teaching around us, take the steps above and ensure we are following Christ and bearing fruit.

May the Lord protect you from all falsehood and deception, and may the Spirit of Truth bless you with insight and understanding. In the name of Jesus! Amen

Every Christian is a Teacher

Yesterday, I wrote a post entitled – Confession Time – and part of that featured the following verse from James’ epistle.

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment.

James 3:1 (NLT)

The phrase “heavier judgement” caught my attention, and reminded me (and hopefully you also) that those who teach, will be held to a higher standard because we are supposed to be leading the way for others to follow.

I made the point that this was not restricted to church pastors, but indeed anyone with a ministry (including bloggers!).

As it happens, I am reading a commentary on James at the moment, and there was a point made about this verse that every Christian is a teacher of one form or another. While we may think of those stationed in the pulpit as “teachers” (and they are), it is not restricted to that.

For instance, parents are teaching their children all the time. Whether directly instructing the children, or in turn being observed by said children, parents are very much passing on information to the next generation.

Perhaps you are not a parent, but we can find other examples. Business men and women in leadership “teach” their employees in one way or another – especially if they are known to be believers. Doctors and medical professionals impart knowledge to one another and their patients, teaching them how to care for themselves and others. We could go on…

I do not want to stretch this too far, as clearly James had in mind those who were teaching the Word of God. We naturally include in this: pastors, teachers, preachers, evangelists, home group leaders and Sunday school leaders. Each one of those is sharing knowledge of the Bible with others.

It would be rather easy, if outside of one of those categories, to assume that James 3:1 does not apply to you. I would challenge that however. If you are going to witness for Jesus, as every Christian is called to do, then you will – at some point – need to “teach” someone else about Him. Even if not called into full time Christian ministry, you are called by Jesus Himself to share your faith.

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

Notice that first word of verse 20… “teaching.” If you believe that Jesus was giving each one of us this Great Commission, then you must accept the responsibility of being a teacher.

School teachers spend many hours preparing for class. And pastors giving sermons on a Sunday must also give sufficient time to preparing their messages. How much time have you spent preparing to share your faith? Do you have your testimony memorised? Could you give a clear explanation of the Gospel if the opportunity arose?

Peter says:

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear,

1 Peter 3:15 (WEB)

Are you ready to give that answer? Mine could do with work if I am honest. The key is to be clear and concise. Most people will give you around 45 seconds to say your piece before they decide if they want to hear more or not. That really isn’t long. Most of us could prepare and rehearse a short few words setting out the truth of the Gospel, so that we are fully prepared to teach someone who is asking.

Do not squander those opportunities to share your faith. Do not allow yourself to be caught unprepared. As it has been said, you may be the only Bible some people ever get to read, so make the most of the chance. If your memory is not all that good, then keep a flash card in your pocket, wallet or purse so it is there if you need it.

Every Christian is a teacher. That includes you dear reader.

Don’t let this post just pass you by. Set aside some time and prepare you answer. Write it down and memorise it. You do not know when the next opportunity may come. Be ready when it does!

God bless you.

On (Christian) Blogging – Andy Brown (repost)

I remember writing this post from a few years ago, and the algorithms which drive traffic to one’s blog still baffle me today!

For me, what remains true, is that even if one person read my blog and is blessed by it, it was all worthwhile.

I hope you enjoy this repost

-

This post lands on Tuesday 31st March, and I think is the 15th day in a row where I have posted. That is a pretty good run, and although I did not start this because of COVID-19, I am carrying on because of it. There is so much negative news going around, and I just…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2020/03/31/on-christian-blogging/

The Pattern of Sound Teaching (Guest Author)

I’m so pleased to be able to welcome the very first guest author to this blog. I asked Phill Sacre if he would write something for us and he very kindly agreed.

Phill has been a personal friend of mine for a long time, and forms part of the ordained ministry team at our church.

Alongside his church ministry, Phill has launched an online ministry called Understand the Bible. This video ministry supports Christians in their walk with God and… well, helps them to understand the Bible!

I’ll say more at the end, but for now, I hope you enjoy Phill’s post.


The Pattern of Sound Teaching

“What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you – guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.” (2 Timothy 1:13-14)


“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)

A few years ago Carl Trueman wrote a book called “The Creedal Imperative”. In the introduction to that book he said: “The burden that motivates my writing of this book is my belief that creeds and confessions are vital to the present and future well-being of the church.” I found the book very stimulating and it is well worth reading.

In the book, Trueman argues that 2 Timothy 1:13, the “pattern” (or “form”) of sound teaching is important for the church: this is not simply learning the Scriptures – as important as that is – but, more than that, learning the truth contained within the Bible.

Let’s consider an example: the Trinity. You may well be aware that the word “Trinity” does not occur within the Bible. However, does that mean that the Trinity is un-Biblical? Of course not! Trinity is simply a word which theologians over the centuries have come up with to explain what is in the Bible. As they studied the Bible, they realised that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity may be simply a word, but it expresses an important Biblical truth. It is a precious truth which has been passed down to us through many faithful Christians over the generations.

But if the Trinity is a deeply Biblical and important truth for our faith, why is it that Christians seem to have so little confidence with this doctrine? Why is it, as Andrew Wilson highlighted in a blog a few years ago, that modern worship songs are rarely Trinitarian (they tend to address God only as ‘God’ or ‘Lord’, rather than the specific Father / Son / Holy Spirit)?

You could extend this to many different areas. I, along with many other Christians, have been deeply distressed over the last few years that many churches in the UK have changed their minds on a number of significant moral issues of the day e.g. about marriage and sexuality, end-of-life issues, and so on. Why is it that churches in the 21st century seem too often to take on the values of the surrounding culture rather than being counter cultural?

I believe the answer to both of these questions is that many churches have neglected the “pattern of sound teaching” which we started out with. Over the last few years I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of people who have only recently come to Christ. They’ve been a variety of ages and from a variety of backgrounds, but one thing is common to virtually all of them: they started out knowing next to nothing about the Christian faith.

What became abundantly clear to me while as I tried to teach them the faith was that our traditional way of doing things in the church – a sermon on a Sunday, with a home group mid-week, looking at a section of the Bible – was simply not enough. For one, most of them didn’t come to church every Sunday – we’ve found it extraordinarily difficult to encourage young families to come to church! We found that home groups are attended much more regularly – but even a home group doing a traditional home group study on a Bible passage didn’t hit the spot.

It’s not that the Bible isn’t good enough – of course the Bible is sufficient. But rather, our teaching methods weren’t sufficient: I found that we needed to find a way of teaching people ‘from the ground up.’ One of my regrets with our group is that I tried to do too much too soon – we moved onto a traditional Bible study before I think they were really ready for it; they needed more time to learn.

So, the million dollar question is, what should we be doing instead?

Over the last few years, I have rediscovered something which the church largely forgot during the 20th century: catechism. A catechism is simply a way of teaching and learning the Christian faith through a series of questions and answers. Catechisms were originally developed in the early church to teach people the faith before coming to baptism. They have been used through the centuries to teach new believers (and children) the faith. They were rediscovered at the time of the reformation, and two of the most famous catechisms still in use today were produced at that time (the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism).

Why did they fall out of favour in the 20th century? Perhaps churches became complacent. Perhaps churches thought “everyone’s a Christian”, and so stopped doing it. There are probably many answers – but I think the weakness of the church now is simply the fruit of what was sowed then. At the start I quoted, George Santayana – “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. We ought to learn from the experience of the church in previous generations. Not long ago I was listening to a podcast on the early church which talked about people being converted from pagan backgrounds needing to be taught the faith from the ground up. The church has been in our situation before – what we are going through in the 21st century is nothing new. We already have the wisdom of previous generations in dealing with this!

I have been enormously encouraged recently by signs that the church is beginning to learn. Tim Keller’s church, Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, has published the New City Catechism – a modern language catechism with lots of teaching resources including a Sunday School curriculum. The church in the 21st Century is starting to wake up to the fact that people need to be taught the Christian faith systematically in order to understand it.

This is where Understand the Bible comes in. Over the last few months I’ve been working on a website called Understand the Bible. This is my effort at trying to help the 21st century church to teach people the faith. I have recorded lots of videos on different topics (e.g. the New City Catechism, Justification, Sin, and I am currently working on the Heidelberg Catechism). People can then sign up to the website and be guided through these videos, watching them in their own time at their own convenience. I have even just released a mobile app so people can watch / listen on their smartphones!

It is still a work on progress – one thing I really want to do is make it easy for local churches to link into it, to create a stronger link between UTB and the local church. I don’t want people simply to sit at home and watch the videos without getting connected to the church!

But my hope and prayer is that these videos will help people to understand the Christian faith by providing a “pattern of sound teaching” from the ground up. I hope that it will both strengthen existing believers and teach new believers the wonderful truths of the gospel which have been passed down from generation to generation.


 

A huge thanks to Phill for contributing his thoughts on this subject.

You can find out more about Phill at his personal website – phillsacre.me

Understand the Bible has a whole host of videos to take you from the basics of the Christian faith through to studies of particular books. There really is something for everyone no matter where you are on your journey with Christ. I encourage you to take a look.

The Challenging Word of God

I love it when the Bible catches you off guard. And especially so when it is a passage you think you know well.

That very thing happened to me this morning. I was looking over the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5. I cannot say I was actually reading it, but was more just scanning through a few verses. I certainly wasn’t doing any quality study!

One of the statements Jesus made really hit me. I am not even going to say which one it was, because that’s not the point of this post. It was just a vivid reminder that God’s Word is alive and God so often is wanting to speak to us through it.

God’s word is living and full of power. It is more sharp than any sword that cuts on both sides. What God says cuts through and divides the mind and spirit. It cuts through and divides the place where the bones are joined, and the part inside the bone. What God says is able to judge the things people think and plan in their hearts.

Hebrews 4:12 (WEB)

There was a real challenge for me in the words of Christ which I read this morning. It was as though the Holy Spirit lifted the curtain slightly, so I could see how far I still have to go. It was convicting, but not condemning. I didn’t walk away feeling depressed or deflated, but the prick of pain I felt from my own shame has caused me to dive deeper into God.

Jesus’ words often take us to a much higher level. The Sermon on the Mount is a great example of this. Jesus tells His audience to “go the extra mile,” or “to hate is to murder,2 or “to lust after a woman in your heart is the same as adultery…” These are difficult teachings to take in.

When we think we are doing well, then there is always another, deeper level we must strive for. I don’t mind confessing the sin of pride to you today. At some point, I must have thought I was doing well on my Christian journey. But of late, God has shown me a number of areas in which I’m falling rather short.

God’s Word is like a mirror we can study ourselves in.

But obey God’s word. Do not just listen to it. If you just listen to it, you fool yourselves.

23 Anyone who just listens to the word, and does not obey it, is like a man who looks at his face in a looking glass.

24 He looks at himself and goes away, and right away he forgets what he looked like.

James 1:22-24 (WEB)

In a physical mirror in your bathroom, you take a look at yourself and make sure you are presentable before leaving the house. Now I know your mirror may be underused during this lockdown period, but you catch the meaning! The mirror shows you if anything is out of place or needs fixing. You cannot look directly at your own face, so you use a reflection to aid you.

The Bible is just like this. It allows you to look deeply into it and show you things that are out of place. When you compare your life to that described in the Bible, you can begin to see areas where you need to change. We cannot change simply by our own effort, because that is called “works of the flesh,” meaning doing it in our own strength. Instead, we need to pray and study, and the more we rely on God, the more He can change us.

The Word of God should challenge us.

All that is written in the holy writings comes from the Spirit of God. The holy writings are good for these things: to teach people, to show them when they are wrong, to make them see what is right, to teach them to do what is right.

2 Timothy 3:16 (WEB)

Paul uses four separate words here to describe why God’s Word is useful to us.

For teaching – God’s Word teaches us how we should live. It shows us the way to conduct ourselves to please God with our lives.

For training – Training goes beyond teaching. To teach is to share knowledge, whereas training is to fully equip them with practical knowledge to do a particular task or job. God’s Word teaches us about Christ on the one hand, and trains us to live for Him on the other.

For reproof – Reproof is not a word we often encounter in our daily lives. To reprove someone is to sharply reprimand them. In this case, God’s Word can bring about discipline and rebuke us for our sins.

For correction – To reprove is to point out the wrong thing we have done, but to correct is to give a steer to show us the right way to go. Reproof and correction go hand in hand. One teaches us what we’ve done wrong, and the other what to do differently in the future.

God’s Word has challenged me today, as it so often does. It drives me forward to change, and leads me to want to please God in every way that I can. It could never do this if I did not take it seriously and regularly read and understand it.

Learn to love God’s Word today and everyday!

The Bible can a little difficult to get to grips with at first, and will take your entire life to master. I suggest you start reading the book of Luke and then Acts. These tell the story of the life of Jesus Christ, and how the church was born. 

For some other resources, I also recommend Understand the Bible

R. E. A. P.

I often read the Bible on the train, and so it is handy to have a number of tools to help study. A few days ago I encountered this little study technique and thought I would share it with you today.

It is called R. E. A. P. And stands for read, examine, apply and pray.

R is for Read – the first part of the technique is to read. You take a passage and read it. Simple right? Pay attention to the things that stand out to you . Always think about the context as this can affect the meaning. Ask yourself if the passage is poetic, historical, prophetic or another type of literature. Watch out for who is speaking, and to whom.

E is for Evaluate – Having read the passage thoroughly, we then move on to evaluate it. Here we go a little deeper and try to listen to the Holy Spirit and what He is saying to us through this part of the Bible. We consider the main themes of the passage and what it would have meant to those who first received it. Before we can apply it to our own lives, we need to understand how it would have applied to those originally hearing or reading it.

A is for Apply – At this stage, we start to think about how this passage applies to us. The Bible is timeless, but sometimes we need to think about the way that what we have read applies to our modern day lives. Does the passage require us to do anything? Is God asking us to give something up, or to start doing something positive? Do we learn something about God here, and if so, how does that affect the decisions we make today?

P is for Pray – Lastly, having read and applied the passage, we take it back to God. We pray about the passage at hand, and ask God to help us apply it and live for Him more. It may result in us praising God, and thanking Him for a particular blessing or worshipping an aspect of His character.  We may realise we need to pray for someone we know, or for ourselves, and it is great to be led by the Spirit in that respect.

 

So there you have it! It is not a perfect tool, nor should it replace dedicated study, but in certain situations, you may find it a helpful way of looking at a Bible passage.

Whatever you do, I pray that your Bible study time is fruitful this week.

Where To Draw the Line

Last time, I wrote about how to defend yourself against deception. This time, I want to think about where we draw the line when it comes to Bible teachers we disagree with.

What I mean is, no single teacher has everything 100% correct. And if you are looking for a theologically perfect teacher, then you will be searching for a very long time. All of us are on a journey, including those with a gift to teach, and so there may be elements of their teaching which is not quite correct.

Myt question, therefore, is where do we draw the line?

Clearly if someone is teaching blatant heracy, we should avoid them like the plague. You probably don’t need me to tell you that! If they teach that Christ is not the only way to God, or that we can earn our way into heaven (as examples) then have nothing to do with them.

But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any “good news” other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed. 9 As we have said before, so I now say again: if any man preaches to you any “good news” other than that which you received, let him be cursed.

Galatians 1:8-9 (WEB)

Usually however, false teaching is rarely so obvious.

I was listening to a sermon the other day and was learning from what was being said. At one point however, the speaker made a comment about God’s Sovereignty. As you know, this is something I’ve been thinking about over the last year and so I was perhaps more attentive to such a statement than I might otherwise have been.

What they actually said is not relevant here, but it suggested they had a more liberal view of what God’s Sovereignty actually meant. It was a passing remark, and not a full statement of their beliefs. What if though, they had a mistaken or false view of God’s Sovereignty? Should I abandon the teaching altogether and forget all that they said?

The doctrine of God’s Sovereignty, like some others, is a critical doctrine and so likely affects all other aspects of our faith. If we have a wrong belief about such a foundational truth, then that will likely have a knock effect on what else we believe.

There are some issues in the Bible which I think are fundamental. I mentioned some of these above, but would also include the inerrancy of Scripture and the deity of Christ. There are other matters however, which are perhaps less clear cut and there is space for believers to disagree (agreeably).

So how can we decide if we should listen to and accept one Bible teacher’s lessons over another?

There is no easy answer I’m afraid. I cannot give you a single formula where you can plug in certain factors and get out a Yes or No answer.

We must start with what I discussed last time. We must attempt to gain a systematic and complete view of Scripture. The better we understand the Bible as a complete message, the easier it will be to detect false teaching when we encounter it. And by “false teaching” it could be mistaken teaching rather than deliberately deceptive.

As I said last time, we must interpret Scripture in the light of other Scripture. We must not take individual verses and make a new doctrine out of them. Context helps us understand what the message is meant to be.

Secondly, i think we should take each case in its own right. There may be a difference between us listening to a single message from someone, and us choosing to regularly sit under their teaching. A single message may be fine, but when we sit under someone’s teaching for a length of time, we will inevitably be learning more about their perspective and theology.

While of course we need to be on guard, I also don’t think we should be closed minded. Within reason, I try to listen to a variety of teachers in order to try to gain a wider perspective. That’s not to say I swallow any and every teaching that comes along, but if you only listen to one teacher, you only get that one perspective.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must take everything back to God in prayer and His Word. If you encounter a teaching which you are not sure about, then take the time to see what the Bible says about it. Instead of just listening to a teacher, discuss it with the Teacher. Be a Berean!

Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Acts 17:11 (WEB)


But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and will remind you of all that I said to you.

John 14:26 (WEB)

Understanding the Bible is not an easy or simple task. It is a complex book, but it is meant for believers. If you know the Lord and are seeking to follow Him with your life, then the Bible is there for you. Speak to God about it and He will teach you from it. It may take a lifetime to learn, but it is worth every effort you put in.

I hope this has been helpful.