*pheh*—Study. (from Sunday, 10/12/08)
(For those just joining us, every we I post the notes from our Sunday School lessons with the youth group. Click “youth studies” to view past entries or to catch up with the current series.)
e have not been studying the Bible that much over the last couple of months, primarily because there were some topical issues to cover. However, I said from the start that the discussion we’ve had on the Gospel was going to lead into our study in the Gospel of John.
So, if you like studying the Bible, you are going to love the next eighteen months or so. If you don’t like studying the Bible, well… I hope you’ll stick around anyway, mainly because of some reasons I will be sharing today.
To begin today off, I would like to recap our time since August. After that, I want to whet your appetite for our upcoming Bible study in this class. Then, next Sunday, I want to introduce you to the meal – the prime cut of beef – you’ll be consuming for the year-and-a-half.
God, the Good News
We looked at this quote before, and I think it bears periodic repetition:
“The critical question for our generation—and for every generation—is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with heaven, if Christ were not there?”
–John Piper, God is the Gospel, Crossway Books, p. 15
This question is gold, and the part of the reason I love Piper. Ask yourself: if you don’t enjoy Christ here, why do you want to go to Heaven? Well, Hell is hot—I suppose that is a good reason. But wouldn’t you just be bored and miserable in Heaven? Everything there will be singing the praises of Jesus! I only somewhat jokingly said the birds chirp “Jesus” and the squeak of your shoes on the golden pavement will resound “Jesus.” Everyone you meet will be captivated with discussion about Christ. Doesn’t Heaven become Hell if you don’t enjoy Jesus Christ?
Perhaps, if you really want to be in Heaven, you should learn to take pleasure in the Heavenly Father. That is, find out what is pleasurable and lovely about knowing Christ, and make Him your desire.
I understand church can be boring at times, and the Bible can be difficult to understand in places. So, I don’t mean you smile and pretend you are enjoying yourself. However, I do mean this: begin to understand why there is delight in reading God’s Word and meeting Him there. Begin to learn the joys of going to church and meeting God in other believers. Begin to desire the presence of God in your everyday life. It takes time, and can only be done through repentance, prayer, and a seeking of God’s spirit in your life.
What the Bible is All About
If you were having trouble understanding the basic theme of the Bible, you may find this sentence I presented helpful:
“God created everything for His glory and made people to help Him rule that creation.”
Do you remember what I said bound together the Bible (besides the glue and stitching)? Consider again the first chapter of the Bible: there is light before there is a sun! In verse 3 (on Day 1), “God said, ‘Let there be light….’” In verse 16 (on Day 4), we read that “God made the two great lights,” the sun and moon. The Bible begins with a world lighted by something other than the sun.
Now turn to the last chapter of the Bible. We read, “And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever” (Rev 22:5). The Bible ends the same way it begins—with a world lighted by a light other than the sun. In this case, the light is defined.
Thus, the glory of God bookends the Scripture! It should be no surprise, then, that His glory is the connecting theme for the rest of the Bible.
For instance, let us consider Christmas time. Luke 2:10–14 reads:
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
‘Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’”
John 1:9–14 reads:
"The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
A Gift to You
God sent the Holy Spirit. Let’s have another John Piper quote… he begins by quoting Jesus:
“[Jesus speaking] ‘Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. . . . John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now . . . You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you’ (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8). The Holy Spirit is the down payment, a guarantee of the fullness of joy we will know in the perfected fellowship with the Father and the Son in the age to come (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). What makes the gospel good news in the end is the enjoyment of the glory of God in Christ. The Holy Spirit provides the present experience of that enjoyment.”
–John Piper, God is the Gospel, pp. 30–31
Do you have enjoyment of the glory of God? Do you have enjoyment during the week? Do you have joy in Christ when someone makes you mad, or when things don’t go your way? It may be a struggle at times, but you have to honestly evaluate your heart. Remember, if you are in Him, you have the gift of the Holy Spirit working in your heart. Look for the fruit of His labors within you.
If you are saved, let this truth fill you every day so you can develop a new appreciation for it. This is part of worship! Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Rom 1:16) A better translation of this might be “to everyone who is believing”—a state of active belief! This is not something you believed once, this is something you breathe, something you eat and drink. It is a daily substance!
The Importance of Knowing the Word
There are, at least, two helps it provides in life.
- We can gain comfort and hope in life’s hardships. Turn to and read 2 Cor 1:3-11. How many times does the Apostle say “comfort?”
Also, bear in mind what he has to say in vv.8–11 in that passage: the Apostle Paul had such hardship that he “despaired of life itself” and had “received the sentence of death.” Do you ever have times like that? It is comforting to know that Paul has experienced the same difficulties we face at times, and yet found hope in God. Knowing the Word gives us reason to have comfort and hope in the face of life’s trials.
- We know what is right and wrong, helping us to avoid self-imposed heartaches. Psalm 119:9 reads, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” James 1:23–24 compares the Word to a mirror, which can show us the filth in our lives. By knowing what is right, we can have confidence in how we need to operate in the world around us.
That knowledge doesn’t just sit in the back of our brains, though. It gets up and wants to push us in the right direction. That brings us to the next point.
Results of “Doing” the Word
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves – Jam 1:22
There are, at least, four results of obeying the Bible.
First, we receive blessing. Want to be blessed in life? Do the Word.
James continues in verse 25 by saying, “But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”
Yes, it is important to remember that the “doing” earns favor with God. However, while the blessing does not come because we deserve a pat on the back from the Heavenly Father, it comes because we protect ourselves from the natural consequences of sin as well as hypocritical religion.
I was telling Pastor Francisco of a story of another pastor who got into a fight with his wife. He left his house for a few minutes to calm down, and decided to go to Starbucks. Three hours later, the pastor found himself in bed with another woman. He had failed to guard his eyes and his heart, and he fell.
It is easy to act religious, and it’s easy to get excited. What’s not so easy is keeping the commands of the Bible. Every one of you is in church today, and tomorrow you have to face people not in church. Are you going to fall prey to sin? Are people going to look at you and say, “See, hypocrites go to church?”
We all make mistakes, and Satan will use our mistakes against us as soon and as often as possible. I do not doubt that I have given many a bad impression of what a Christian is simply because I refused to obey the Word in some instance. All I can do is pray as I reflect back on certain incidents in my life.
However, when I obey I find blessing, which is what James promises here. This is not because we earn a gold star from God. We are blessed in that we treasure what is pure and glorious, and avoid what is unsatisfying and low. We are blessed because, in our doing, we avoid deceiving ourselves.
Of course, Jesus said the same thing: “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17).
Second, we receive peace. There is no need to repeat what I said in the above paragraphs, simply replacing “blessing” with “peace.” Rom 2:10 says it simply enough, “but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good….” Peace in life can come through obeying God.
Third, we receive rest. If we come to Christ, we find rest (Matt 11:28-29). However, how do we come to Christ except through the Word? We must repent and believe, which are the two central commands of Scripture.
Fourth, we receive our preparation. Do you feel ill-equipped for life? Maybe you do love Jesus, but you just don’t know how to live for Him during the week. Maybe you just don’t see how what I’m saying and what you’ve heard countless other pastors preach applies to your unique position.
Second Timothy 3:16-17 lists the following points:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for
correction, and for
training in righteousness,
that the man of God may be
equipped for every good work.
You may get the sense that there are actually more results from “doing” the Word than these and well, you’d be right. These four I share only scratch the surface of what the Bible has to offer.
Does this sound cheesy, too good to be true? Keep in mind that this book comes from the Creator of the universe, who probably has some right ideas of how to get things done well in this world. If we’re in it to glorify Him, then we will obey His word.
Closing Thoughts on the Bible
The Bible is not a rulebook or a treatise on healthy living. It is a message from God to His creation. It is an account of peoples’ failings, and a provision of hope. It is about Jesus Christ – why He came, how He can save us, and how knowing Him will change us today.
As such, there is a certain blessing that comes from reading and applying the Bible in our lives. We must seek Him for salvation, and we must seek Him for daily living. It is only then we will see the light of the world step into the darkness of our lives. It is then we can say we are “believing” the Gospel, for we are putting it on and placing our trust in it.
It is that conviction that an old man felt when he sat down to write about his teenage years. Next week, we will learn about that person and what he had to write.