|From the Pastors Desk|
Manchaca Bible Fellowship
|23 January 2005||Bible Lessons
While looking for illustrations for this and other lessons, I came across this delightful story. I heard the story in a different format many years ago, but you know about time and memory, especially mine.
This story has nothing to do with the lesson, life, eternity or any other subject I can think of. I tried to twist it enough to work as an illustration for one of the points in this lesson, but I gave up, and decided to just tell it without any purpose at all.
Although.., just maybe.. it could be a modern day "Prodigal Son". Naw! That won’t work either. So… here goes and we’ll get Spiritual later. That’s a good philosophy, or at least one used quite often in life.
Listen to the story, then listen to the lesson and see if you can figure out a way to use it for one of the points in the lesson. I would be glad to hear your conclusions.
Three sons left home. They went out on their own to see how much money they could make. After several years, the boys got together for a little reunion, and a brag session. The conversation obviously came around to which one had given the best gifts their elderly mother.
The first said, "I built a big house for our mother."
The second said, "I sent mother a Mercedes with a driver."
The third said, "You remember how Mom enjoys reading the Bible? She can’t see very well now. So, I sent her a remarkable parrot that recites the entire Bible. It took the elders in the church 12 years to teach him; he’s one of a kind. Momma just has to name the chapter and verse, and the parrot recites it. It cost me $100,000."
Soon thereafter, Mom sent out her letters of thanks.
"Milton", mother wrote, "The house you built is huge. I live in only one room, but I have to clean the whole house."
"Gerald", mother wrote, "I am too old to travel. I spend most of my time in the house, so I rarely use the Mercedes. That driver is so rude, he’s a pain!"
"My dearest Donald", wrote mother, "That skinny little chicken was delicious!"
There you have it. At least it talked about the Bible. After that, maybe we better have a long prayer session!
God’s redemption. It’s easy to say. Yes! It is also easy to receive. In most church’s doctrinal "Statements of Faith", redemption takes a half a dozen lines or so to declare its essence.
However, to have even a surface understanding of the details of redemption, God provided us a Manual of 66 books, written by 40 different authors. Even with such a divinely provided Manual, the best of human thinkers have yet to reach the depth of this inexhaustible subject, and many godly theologians disagree radically on the details of this redemption. I’m quite sure that when we get heaven, we’ll find that much of our earthly musings fell far short of the totality of this eternal truth.
God’s redemptive program spans all of time and at least some of eternity. The fulfillment of God’s plan requires all of heaven’s resources and is opposed by all of Satan’s power.
Humans must work with finite knowledge and flawed reasoning abilities, and we use these, less than perfect tools, to study and draw conclusions concerning this infinite truth. There seems to be more time spent "drawing" conclusions, than in the actual study, however. Under the best of circumstances, even good spiritually qualified people do not always comprehend the full import of God’s program, as we see in…
1 Peter 1:10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven - things which angels desire to look into.
Even the prophets, who personally penned the prophesies, could not figure out all the details of the "ins" and "outs" of this redemption, and this after they inquired and searched diligently.
Please note that these prophets went about their investigations in a manner that not many people or theologians would ever think of doing. They first of all had a craving to know the truth. This craving launched them on investigations that were the strongest form of searching. Too many of us are just "ho hum" about our redemption, to say nothing of really wanting to know the details of it.
Most of us are content to believe some human’s opinion that has been written in a book or preached in a sermon, but we would never think of starting a search of the Scriptures so intense that we would not stop until we had turned over every stone.
These prophets came up short of what they wanted to know. However, they were content with what they found, because it was all that was revealed, by God, at that time. This fact is so important if we want to go deeper and deeper into the truths of the Word.
We must be content with what is revealed in God’s Word, BUT we must not ever be satisfied with the limited knowledge we have. We must keep on, searching and studying the Scriptures. Hang on to that thought, we will expand it more in this lesson and lessons to come.
Please note that these prophets did not add to what God said, nor they did try to enhance what God said with human logic. They were content with JUST what God said, but they were not content until they, to the best of their ability, had exhausted the information provided by God.
These prophets had very limited information about God’s redemption. Today, we have far greater and more extensive revelation from God concerning our redemption. Also, we have advanced study aids, such as computer, etc. PLUS, we have the benefit of the multiplied hours of study by other great Believers of the past. Unlike the prophets, many of us are content to ignore the Word of God and find our satisfaction in the words of men as they write about the Bible.
May I caution you! The only place you can find the truth about your redemption is in the Word of God, ALL the Word of God harmonized. You won’t find that truth in what some person said. You won’t find that truth in any of the sermons I’ve preached. The only thing I can do is to repeat, illuminate and harmonize the many bits of information found in the Word of God through sermons. Anything more or less would be heresy!
It is important what you KNOW about redemption! Because what you KNOW about redemption will control what you BELIEVE about redemption and what you BELIEVE about redemption will dictate how you LIVE within redemption.
You may remember, I told you about some of my relatives, I think they were 3rd cousins twice removed, or something like that. At any rate, in their limited knowledge of redemption, they felt that any time they sinned, they lost their salvation, therefore they needed to be saved all over again, and again.
After they sinned and "lost" their salvation, they figured they might as well enjoy being a sinner for a while. Then after enjoying their sin for a certain length of time, they would get saved again. Therefore, the cycle repeated itself, over and over again.
What they knew of redemption controlled what they believed about redemption and their belief dictated how they lived. Folks, it is important what we know about redemption. To have a proper knowledge of redemption will take the same type of intense searching of the Scriptures as the prophets did.
Please look back in this lesson and review 1 Peter 1:10-12 and the definitions of "inquire" and "search diligently".
These prophets were not content to search what someone else said, or even just what these prophets themselves said. I trust you and I will have the same craving for the truth and engage in an equally intense search of the Word.
Folks, we have such a short time to learn about God’s redemption, and such a short time to live what we’ve learned. Far too many are content to just live with the knowledge they have, and some think that the little knowledge they have acquired, is all there is to know about redemption. BOTH are equally tragic!! Therefore, their advancement in Spiritual knowledge is static.., probably even regressive.
Either way, (being content with the little they know, or thinking that they have all knowledge) they find themselves in a religious "rut". Either of these conditions are a Spiritual shame! They either won’t learn more or think they can’t learn more. They live on the plane of the limited knowledge they presently have. Therefore, they live their entire Christian life in a religious "rut" formed by others, and deepened by their own actions, or lack of action.
By the way, a rut is simply a grave with both ends kicked out
Too often, we want to elevate ourselves, in our knowledge, to be above God. We may not engage this degrading act deliberately, but we do so by trying make God and His actions so small and limited that we can totally comprehend them with the human mind and human logic.
If God and His actions are so small and simplistic that the human mind can totally comprehend them, THEN God must be less that mankind.
Too often, we want to put an infinite God and His actions in a "box" small enough so the limited and finite human mind can, through a human information base, not only know all about God and His actions, BUT dictate Who God is and what His actions must be.
Instead, we MUST discover and categorize what God’s actions have been, as recorded in the Bible. Obviously, the actions of God will NOT neatly fit within the scope of human actions. Nor will they parallel the human concepts of what His actions should be.
By putting God in a "box" of humanly defined actions, we humans free ourselves from continued study in order to reach further and further into the knowledge of the person and word of the infinite God. Once we have God in our "box", we think we have "all" knowledge, SO there is no more to learn.
However, IF we truly believe that God is infinite, and that He has revealed Himself in the Bible, THEN there is no way any person has or will fully deciphered His person or His ways, in this life.
EVERY time we study the Word of God, we will gain more insight into God and His work, and our understanding of God will continue to grow and mature. That does not mean that we will have a new or different doctrine, but the doctrine we do have will continue to expand into greater and greater vistas of understanding. DON’T LIMIT GOD TO YOUR "BOX"!!
Look at what the Holy Spirit through Peter said in…
2 Peter 3:17 You therefore, beloved, since you know these things beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.
Verse 17 refers back to several things in the context. Some of those things have reference to the end times and the new heaven and earth. In this modern theological climate, IF you know about the end times…, you know everything!
In light of that attitude, you would think that if these, to whom Peter was writing, knew of those future events, they would pretty much have all the knowledge and should be content to just remain in that knowledge, alone.
However, our "steadfastness", in the Christian life, does not rest on past knowledge alone, BUT we are to continue to GROW in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Both the "grace" of God and the "knowledge" about God are unlimited. Therefore, when we are convinced that we know the full extent of God’s person and His workings, we are in danger of and maybe already have fallen from our "steadfastness", and are being led away with the error of the wicked. I do believe that our leading should come from the total Word of God and the teaching of the Holy Spirit, not the philosophy of wickedness.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! 34 "For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?"
The passage is NOT saying that we can’t search His judgments, but that no matter how much we search, we will not exhaust the truths yet to be revealed by continued searching.
I beg of you, don’t become a "plaster" saint, in that you feel you have gained all the knowledge of God and His redemption, and have no need for any further growth in grace and knowledge. Continue to be flexible, and pliable so that you can keep on growing.
Don’t shove God into a nice neat "box" of your limited understanding. Realize that your knowledge of God and redemption is finite and limited at best. We MUST also remember that one of the first criteria for knowing God’s doctrine is the desire to do what the doctrine says.
Review in your minds what Christ said about this in…
John 7:17 "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.
Paul echoes this truth with a little different perspective in…
Philippians 3:16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
This verse is near the end of a passage in which Paul states that he had given all to have the knowledge of Christ. However, Paul goes on in that passage to say, even though he has given all to gain that knowledge, he had NOT YET attained to that level of knowledge or living.
Then he concludes in verse 16 with a warning, that we are to live what we know, if we want to continue gaining that knowledge. No one should be so blatant as to claim or infer that they have arrived at the outer limits of the knowledge of Christ and His actions revealed in His Word, and that there is nothing more to learn.
Those who are content with their little knowledge and those who feel they have all the knowledge find that they are getting older, as all of us do, BUT not progressing in holiness. Time is their enemy, not their friend. Too often they think that the passing of time will somehow cause them to live like saints.
After all they have known some good old saints, so in the back of their minds they think getting older will make a person holier and better. Some have the hair-brained idea that youth is a time of folly, and that ageing will somehow help purify them.
BUT they also had that thought the year before last, but they were not holier last year. Time betrayed them. They were no holier last year than they had been the year before, and next year has no hope for improvement,
because what we believe dictates how we live!
1 Timothy 4:11 These things command and teach. 12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.
No, just the passing of time does not automatically produce holiness in the life. Even though Timothy, as a youth, was the standard that we would desire for the best of Christians, young or old, Paul still admonishes him to "give attention" to:
(1) Reading the Scriptures
(2) Exhorting from the Scriptures
(3) Developing doctrine through both the reading and exhortation of the Scriptures
There are many passages that deal with this concept of what we believe about redemption will dictate how we live. There is also much about how we are to use our time, right now, to live properly within our belief structure. By so doing, we will be "buying back" (redeeming) time that has been captured by Satan.
Ephesians 5:15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.
Look at another passage on the subject of the importance of "getting it right", in all aspects of Biblical information, but especially in the matter of redemption.
Galatians 1:6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a servant of Christ.
We must be careful, in our lack of Biblical information properly harmonized, that we do NOT develop a different doctrine than is presented in all of Scripture. If we do deliberate or accidentally develop a different teaching, we will be accursed. Galatians 1:6-10 is pretty tough, as all of Galatians is. I’m glad Paul said it, because if I had to say it, I might get thrown our on my ear.
Do I hear that faint whimper, "I don’t know it all! I don’t have time to search it all out. I can’t attain, so there is no use trying!!"
In that case, I have good news for you. This, like many other things in the Christian life, is a process. In that knowledge, Paul has some even better news for you.
Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. 13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. 16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.
Wherever you are in this process, live by what you know, BUT remember it is a process. Don’t stop at any one of the "degrees" or steps in the process. Keep moving on in the process of gaining Biblical knowledge, AND then live what you’ve gained (that is Christian living or "Walking by the Spirit, etc.). By all means, DON’T become a "plaster saint", and stop learning because you "know all" concerning all Biblical subjects and especially redemption.
Please, look at a passage that is in the context of Spiritual Gifts, (yes, love is a Spiritual Gift) but the truth that is presented, in this passage, applies to our inability to perfectly decipher Divine truth and the hazard of crystallizing our thinking, based of such imperfect human conclusions.
1 Corinthians 13:9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
Paul speaking of himself, says that he only had partial knowledge, and his prophesy was not complete in and of itself. If that was Paul’s condition (and it was), how incomplete must be our knowledge. Paul and the other writers tell us that we must see all the prophetic word as a whole, and even then, we will not have all knowledge.
Remember the Old Testament prophets said of themselves that they did not have all the information. However, those prophets, after a thorough examination of the information they did have, were content and realized there was more to come.
If we come to the study of Scripture (in this case redemption) and are determined to apply only a previous line of thought upon the Scriptures, then we will "twist" or "ignore" the truth of that Scripture, so it will agree with our previously held view. Instead, we should be growing in knowledge and grace, not stagnating.
If on the other hand, we come to the Scripture (in this case redemption) eager to discover what the Scriptures have to say, we will have a delightful experience and will see a growth, for the better, in our opinion and understanding of redemption. This fact is demonstrated by a couple people who relocated to a different part of the country.
A Coloradoan moved to Texas and built a house with a large picture window from which he could view hundreds of miles of rangeland.
"The only problem is," said the Coloradoan, "there’s nothing to see."
About the same time, a Texan moved to Colorado and built a house with a large picture window overlooking the Rockies.
"The only problem is, I can’t see anything," said the Texan. "The mountains are in the way."
People have a way of missing what’s right before them, because they superimpose past opinions on all situations. Instead, they should learn to included new information with the old, so that they may expand their knowledge base and manner of living.
Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
The Word of God is ALIVE!! Not in the sense that it is growing or expanding. It is alive in contrast to being static, as are human writings. Writings by humans, on any subject, are out dated before they are published. Therefore, a new and updated book must be written on the subject and that process continues over and over again.
We can learn the facts of the Bible, BUT just knowing the facts is not what Bible study is all about. That’s only part of the process. Remember what Christ said, we must have a real desire to DO what the Scriptures say, THEN we will know.
This living Word of God, needs to penetrate our body, soul and spirit, our whole being, NOT just church "stuff". When the Word of God "gets into" every aspect of life and living, then it demonstrates some of it living qualities. Of the many living qualities of the Word of God, let’s direct our attention to that of discerner.
Hebrews 4:12 gives us some of the living qualities of the Word of God. However, just as Christians can "squelch" the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can also put a "damper" on the benefits of the living quality of the Word of God in our lives.
Look at the broader context of this well known verse, and we will see one on the many ways that we, Christian, can "hamper" the living work of the Word of God in our lives.
Hebrews 4:1 Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. 2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it.
There is MUCH in the promise (Scripture) that yet remains. We, too, should be "scared to death" (fear) lest we come short of that total promise. Certainly, the "Gospel" was preached to them by Moses, who was just about the best preacher of all time, AND he had the best audio visual teaching aids you could ask for with that burning mountain, thunder, fire, etc, PLUS the very voice of God.
BUT even with all that, the "Gospel" was of no profit to them.., Because of something they did (or better said) SOMETHING THEY DIDN’T DO!!! I hope we can learn from their mistake (sin). Therefore, we won’t have to repeat their mistake (sin).
|© Clyde White, Austin TX, 2005|