As believers and disciples we have all the benefits of knowing God. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing as it tells us in Ephesians 1:3-14.
We see that we are chosen for salvation, adopted as His children, completely forgiven and set free from sin, we have spiritual insight in His will, we have the gifts of the Spirit, fruit of the Spirit, power to do God’s will, the hope of eternal life.
If we look at the above text we see some of these things mentioned…
- v3 – we are blessed in Christ
- v4 – chosen by Him
- v5 – adopted by Him
- v6 – given grace in Christ
- v7 – redeemed and forgiven
- v8 – wisdom and understanding
- v9 – knowledge of His will
- v11 – chosen and predestined
- v12 – hope in Christ
- v13 – marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit
- v14 – guaranteed our inheritance in Christ
These are things we have in Christ. All the blessings of knowing Him personally. These are things that all religions want and strive for, but as believers we are freely given them in Christ.
Knowing and walking with Jesus is the most amazing experience. It allows us to live our best life and the life God intended for us all before the creation of the world.
My wife and I were reading Matthew 23 yesterday. We were up to verses 13-36 which talks about Jesus and His attack on the Scribes and Pharisees. It is a pretty full on and blunt assessment of where they are at as religious leaders.
Seven times in this passage Jesus uses the term “Woe to you…” So what was Jesus expressing these thoughts about? In this passage there are seven woes He mentions.
- Not letting others enter the Kingdom or heaven or entering themselves (v13)
- Converting people away from God and to following themselves or their own way of doing things (v15)
- Blindly leading people to follow man made traditions rather than God’s Word (v16-22)
- Following the law in detail but forgetting mercy, justice and faith (v23-24)
- Keeping up appearances while inside your private world is corrupt (v25-26)
- Acting spiritual on the outside to cover up personal or hidden sin (v27-28)
- Pretending to have learned from history but repeating the past (v28-29)
In saying these things Jesus showed God was very displeased with the religious “leaders” of the day. They were very strong statements to them. He finishes with the words “You brood of vipers”. Pretty heavy stuff!
For us today we need to be careful that we keep God first place in our hearts and lives. We can get caught up in serving God, studying and reading His Word that we forget that God wants real love, mercy and forgiveness to flow from us.
God wants us to live from a place where our internal lives are right with Him. He doesn’t want us to pretend to be religious on the outside only. He wants to transform our hearts by the power of His Word and His Holy Spirit.
God wants streams of living water to flow from us out of our love and relationship with Him. He doesn’t want religious people, He wants transformed disciples… from the inside out.
My next really helpful Bible resource is one I have only discovered this year. It is the “Life Application Study Bible”. This is the Bible my wife and I use for our morning Bible readings and prayer times.
I have only been using LASB since the end of June but it has been a real blessing. We read the Bible text and then read the extended footnotes for each verse of passage that we are looking at. We have picked up so much extra insight from the footnotes.
Here is some information about the LASB…
“The “Life Application Study Bible” is today’s #1-selling study Bible, containing notes that not only explain difficult passages and give information on Bible life and times but also go a step further to show how God’s Word speaks to every situation and circumstance of your life It’s the one Bible resource that incorporates today’s top scholarship in answering your “now what?” questions. The “Life Application Study Bible” includes nearly 10,000 Life Application notes and features designed to help readers apply God’s truths to everyday life.”
I purchased four of these recently, so as a family we all have one each. Then as we get together we can read the same text and same footnotes. I also wanted it for my girls when they are reading the Bible alone so they can further understand the passages they are reading.
The one pictured above is the 25th Anniversary version and costs about $25 at Koorong and Word Bookstore. It really is a great resource if you are wanting to understand the Bible in a deeper and more practical way.
I have made the decision that when I give Bibles to new people, this is the one I will be giving. It will cost me a bit more money, but it will make a huge difference to their walk with Jesus.
The second Bible resource I find really helpful is “Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary”. Here is some information about it…
“This completely revised and updated edition is the most comprehensive and up-to-date Bible dictionary available. A wealth of basic study information is found in more than 7,000 entries plus over 500 full-color photographs, maps, and pronunciation guides.Includes the Visual Survey of the Bible.
This dictionary puts at the reader’s disposal a wealth of the most current findings and insights to enrich one’s study and teaching of the Bible. Editors have drawn from the world’s finest evangelical scholars–no other dictionary features as much up-to-date information. A new 48-page section includes a guide to the most effective use of the dictionary for personal study or lesson preparation.”
I have three Bible dictionaries in my bookshelf but this is the one I find most useful. I really like the simple English explanations and colour images. It helps give you a lot of useful background information to places, people or situations. It also gives you many Bible references to help you dig deeper into God’s Word.
If you are interested you can find this at Koorong or Word Bookstore for about $40.
Hi all, in the next few posts I thought I would share three really helpful Bible resources I use when preparing sermons, Bible studies or blog posts. The first one is the IVP New Bible Commentary. Here is some information about it…
“For fifty years the New Bible Commentary has served Bible readers worldwide. This 21st Century Edition builds on the strengths of the previous three:
- a one-volume commentary on the whole Bible by an international team of contributors
- general articles on what the Bible is and how to read it
- an introduction to each Bible book
- commentaries dividing each book into sections for ease of reference
Designed to meet the needs of today, the New Bible Commentary is based on the simplicity and clarity of the NIV text, and makes use of recent international scholarship: 80% of the articles are entirely new and the rest have been rewritten. New maps, diagrams, charts and tables illuminate the text, and further reading lists are included with each article.”
I have found this a really useful resource over the years. It has really helped me with my Bible College studies, preparing sermons and Bible studies.
If you are interested you can purchase on at Koorong or Word Bookstores for around $40-45. It is well worth it.
I have been reflecting on the Bible verses that talk about our journey with Christ as a race. In particular about running the race before us. As I have pondered this two, passages have come to mind – 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 and Hebrews 12:1-3. They say…
1 Corinthians 9:24-25 – 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Hebrews 12:1-3 – 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Running the race that Jesus has entered us in involves discipline, training, throwing off things that entangle us, perseverance, running the right way and shunning sin, not growing weary or losing heart and focussing on Jesus.
There is also the element of running the race before us. As I think about this I think of the 400m hurdles. For me to compete correctly I need to stay in my lane and focussing ahead on each hurdle. If I look to the left or right, I might wander out of my lane or not see a hurdle in front of me. Then I would fall.
As disciples of Christ we are in a race. Not against each other, but our own race. It is a race that Jesus has set before us. He marked out the lanes. Let’s focus on doing the things that help us to run our best and be successful in receiving the crown He has waiting for us when we finish line.
One of the things I have been thinking about lately is the way we sometimes interpret the Apostle Paul’s letters.
Sometimes we can read a passage or a few verses and take it as a prescriptive position for all churches and for all time. We can see it as a hard and fast rule.
One thing we need to realise is that often Paul was writing to a particular church or a small group of churches to address an issue that he has heard about.
We need to remember that when Paul writes it is often to a church he planted and he has left them and is giving them feedback, encouragement or correction.
For example, if today Paul wrote a letter to the church in Kings Cross Australia he might say that “A man should not join a club”. In the Kings Cross context that would be talking about “gentlemen’s” clubs where there are strippers ect.
Now if a church in Merredin read that letter the context for “clubs” would be very different. We have bowling clubs, sowing clubs, kids clubs and a footy club. We should not take it as prescriptive that we cannot join those clubs because they are very different to Kings Cross clubs.
I guess what I am saying is that when we approach the Apostle Paul’s letters we need to know as much as we can about the background of the letter and why it was written. What were the major themes and issues.
This is often only done by reading the whole letter. When we understand the themes and issues we can then go back to the passage or a few verses and see them as part of the bigger picture.
The other thing we need to do is to compare what we are reading to other passages of Scripture. What does Paul say on this issue elsewhere? Did Jesus talk about this in the Gospels?
When we do these things we have a better chance of really understanding what Paul was saying and how we can interpret and apply it to our life and churches today.
One of the things I am thinking about lately is running a free one hour introduction to the Bible course.
I have been thinking about people who might be interested in finding our more about it and how it all fits together.
Some of the things I am thinking about looking at are…
- how it all fits together ie one book that includes 66 books
- explaining the Old Testament and New Testament
- looking at the different types of books ie Gospels, history, letters
- reasons why we can trust the Bible
- explaining the numbers and chapters
- how to find what God says about something in the Bible
- who wrote the various books and when they were written
- what the Bible says about itself
- a simple plan for daily Bible reading
My heart is to give people access to the Bible and help them to understand it a whole lot better.
I could see this is something we could run as a fellowship early next year and then run every two months or so.
I went for a walk up Merredin Peak today. Once at the top I sat and prayed by this rock pool from the recent rains.
As I sat I found myself reflecting on Psalm 23:2. It says, “He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams” (NLT).
It was a nice and refreshing time.