I need to wake up. It is not all about how warm and fuzzy I feel during worship in a place of safety and aesthetically pleasing surroundings.
Generally today, when someone talks uses the word ‘religion’ they mean a set of beliefs, values and practices based on the teaching of some denomination or some cult like leader. The Apostle Paul considered himself on top of the pile when it came to strict religion. In his words: “For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.” [Gal 1:13 ESV]
The real issue of religion is that we have forgotten the source of Christian religion. We have forgotten the Bible. It is not just a collection of musty writings from long-ago out of touch old men. God wants to reveal His story and His vision for us. Religion according to God is learning to find the pathway to Him so that we can live satisfying lives. James, the step brother of Jesus, was not always a Christ follower. Later in life he had this to say about religion: “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” [Jam 1:27 ESV]
At least two or three times a year, we can pick up the newspaper and find some article on how a christian group or leader has fallen. All too often, the source of the fall is embedded in the avoidance of God and not taking seriously personal interaction with Him. This is not about tradition, public practices, parental upbringings or backgrounds. This is about personal relationship with the Sovereign Living God.
So, when you read your Bible, are you focusing on the events you are reading about? Are you possible focusing on how questionable they sound? Or are you focusing on how God is defining life for you? Do you see life-shaping issues in your life that God might want you to trust Him with? You know the stuff I am talking about … those thoughts and actions that simply will not go away no matter what you do.
Yes? Then the very next time that you sit down and start reading your Bible, pause just for 15 seconds and simply ask God to “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” [Psa 119:18 ESV] “Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders.” [MSG]
Try it. Seek God were He can be found. He will find you.
“Remind them of these things, and solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” [1Ti 2:14-15 NASB]
If I need to divide a pie into four equal parts than I need to accurately divide it so each piece is equal. I need to cut straight. When teaching I need to be accurate and not fudge on my research. Communicating the gospel requires care and a willingness to work hard. At each step I need to ensure the Holy Spirit is working and I am not hindering His work in me. Let’s look at the word “approved.” Webster defines this word as: acceptable, tried and refined, proven to be genuine. Synonyms would be worthy, able, chosen, faultless and blameless. The antonym would be reprobate.
I heard a preacher say recently that we cannot know everything in the Bible. And that is a very true statement. The God we worship and serve not only created us but the time frame we live in. He alone is outside our time. If we cannot know everything in the Bible what is the point? Because God loves it when we search to know Him. In His wisdom, we are made of dust but we handle eternal things when we study His ways and means. We are handling eternal beings when we engage people in eternal truth.
Journeymen Electricians must go through a rigorous process. They may either work under a journeyman electrician for 4000 hours and then take the licensing examine or they may first complete an apprentice program. An electrician apprentice program combines classroom work with field training. This program lasts about four years and requires the apprentice to complete at least 144 hours of classroom instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training. While the classroom work teaches about blueprint reading, electrical code requirements, soldering and electrical code requirements, field training allows the apprentice to apply this knowledge to practical work under the supervision of a licensed electrician. After all that, then they are ready to take the licensing examinations. This examination ensures that the apprentice understands the various aspects of electrical theory, the National Code, the state and local building and electrical codes.
Churches should be doing the same thing with every member so that they are trained “as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” We have lots of programs in the church that fill up the calendar. But what are we doing in the average church to provide the opportunities to become a workman approved by God? To become skilled in accurately handling the word of truth, we must provide not only classroom training but also OJT [On the Job Training]. This is where we allow our members to actually practice what they are learning. Teach them how to take a passage of Scripture and create a simple lesson plan. Then get them up in front of the class and give the lesson. Have them pray in front of the church by praying for the offering. Teach them how to witness. Then go out and actually do that in the local park. Have them give a sermon. That is scary, isn’t it pastors!
If we are to fulfill the mandate of Matthew 28 that Jesus left we need to be serious about discipleship and training our flock to do the work God has given us to accomplish. God has only one plan for the prorogation of the Good News regarding Jesus. He has no backup plan for telling people of the comfort, truth and love that He alone can provide. That one plan is us in the fellowship, sitting there comfortably in the pews. The “pastor” cannot do it all nor should he. We are to be the witnesses. The propagation of the Gospel is a participatory ministry. We need to be in the marketplace where the people are, exercising the gifts that He has given us.
He knows that each of us is up to the job. All we need to do is allow ourselves the opportunity to be trained as workmen. The training is available. The Holy Spirit awaits in the wings for us to take what we learn and go to stage center … wherever that is that He directs. We have learned His Script. He promises to direct our feet and our words so that the play unfolds and lost people find Christ.
So what is the point of all this?
First, we will get to not only do what He commands us to do but we will get to see up close and personal His working in the lives of others. Watching a life be redeemed and then transformed is more awesome than any miracle found in the Bible!
Second, Pastors, keep your flock “Reminding them of these things…” and give them the training and opportunity to “accurately handle the word of truth” in the church [that is the training ground] and then in the world around you.
Third, remember you only got proficient in handling the Word by doing it in real time. Practice makes perfect.