In our culture today that question probably sounds like nonsense. We place ourselves as the final authority in life on all matters, however, this isn’t very logical because all we have to do is look back on the last 6-months of our lives to see that our “final authority” isn’t very reliable.
This is why Scripture is so important.
I know there are some objections and concerns so let me respond quickly:
1. I didn’t grow up going to church: I didn’t either. When I first started reading Scripture I thought David and Goliath was about a bear. It’s okay. You have to start somewhere.
2. I don’t like to read: That’s a lie. You read fiction junk all the time about vampires and hunger games. You read about sports. You read about music. You have all the draft beers memorized at the Flying Saucer. You can do this. It is simply a matter of you coming to a place where you decide if you want to stay in this fight.
2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”
This verse might sound complicated. You see words like, “Approved, diligent, workman, and accurately handling the word of truth”, but it simply means we need to be growing in our understanding of Scripture. Sometimes this can seem a bit broad so let me give you 3 Stages of growing in your understanding of Scripture:
Why does God bring judgments of plagues against the Egyptians? At first glance it looks like God is a vindictive, cruel, war monger, or a religious jihad in the Old Testament. However, when we read Scripture and it is difficult to understand we need to position ourselves in a place of humility to seek understanding.
I didn’t grow up going to church. Not even close. In fact I made fun of people who went to church. I didn’t know anything about the Bible so it is a little funny to me sometimes that I teach Bible today. Early on when I started learning Scripture and teaching Scripture the focus was on finding the timeless principle. It was really helpful. It was grounded in truth. It wasn’t a personal opinion of the day. It was communicating God’s world. However, I have found teaching timeless principles ultimately leads people moral and behavioral modification. It was a timeless principle, but it ultimately fostered legalistic patterns and neglected to exalt and elevate the righteousness we have been given through faith in Jesus Christ’s work on the cross.
For example, when I would study to teach Old Testament Scriptures I would look for timeless principles so that we could have the life of that Old Testament character. When I would study New Testament Scriptures I would look for principles of how we could live with that same dedication or commitment. It wasn’t bad, it was biblical, but it also didn’t seem to lead to life change. It would lead to behavioral modification, but it would never seem to last. It never seemed to result in lasting courage of Joshua or lasting passion of Paul. As a result it would leave you with one or two responses: Either exhausted because you are trying so hard to have courage or passion, or angry because you can never seem to have encourage courage or passion.
In addition, it reduced Christ’s work on the cross to a closing comment at the end of a lesson. There might be moments where there was a powerful illustration that would be used to call people to transformation, but for the Christ-follower it often seemed like the truth of Christ’s work on the cross was repetitive and something that was for other people.
As I examined this pattern in my life it led me to look at the Scripture differently. It led me to study and teach Scripture with the focus of looking for Christ’s work on the cross being exalted. It led me to not settle for teaching moral principles. It led me to a place of seeing the gospel throughout life and not just in a call of transformation. It doesn’t mean the biblical principles are overlooked, but that the biblical principles aren’t the destination either.
Going through Scripture can be a lot of fun, but it can easily turn into simply learning information and seeing who can win the bible trivia championship. It could also turn into religious habits of talking about Scripture, but never really experiencing life transformation. Last night we started reading through Philippians 1:1-11 in the New Testament. It was a lot of fun. We read through the passage, talked about the passage, talked about what it would look like today, but in the last 15 minutes we went through these questions and it was really helpful:
What is the big idea of the passage?
Finding the big idea is just looking at the 11 verses and summing it up to 2-3 of your own words. There really isn’t a wrong answer unless someone says something like “circus and peanuts.” That would be wrong. Scripture is interactive and the Spirit of God will teach us His truth so individually we could come up with “big ideas” and ideally we would all have similar big ideas. For our group, we fumbled through some attempts and generally came up with big ideas about joy. Now, some bibles will have subtitles so try not to cheat and short change the experience 🙂
The Bible teaches us that all of us have run away from home, rejected our parents, and are trying to figure life out on our own. We have basically all become orphans. Scripture teaches that God chases after us, adopts us, and gives us a name, purpose, blessing, and provision.
However, I think most Christ-followers struggle with adoption.
Scripture teaches us that we were created to be holy and blameless. Doesn’t that sound amazing? Most people will teach us how to be holy and blameless. They will create a list of rules of what to do and not to do. Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t listen to rock and roll, don’t take birth control, don’t play cards, don’t watch movies and they will create a list a mile long. This is usually created by a leadership board and then it is the pastor’s job to make sure everyone keeps to the list.
This is a horrible process to accomplish being holy and blameless. Not only is it a poor standard of holy and blameless because it was created by people, but it is also exhausting. Many of us have been exposed to these lists. We have grown up around it and hated God for them.
Scripture teaches us that God doesn’t created a list of how we can be holy and blameless, but instead reveals Himself so that we can know what it looks like to be holy and blameless. He not only shows us what it looks like to be holy and blameless, but then gives us his holiness and blamelessness through the righteousness of Christ through faith in His work on the cross. Romans tells us the righteousness of God has been revealed from heaven through Jesus Christ.
Through faith in Jesus’ work on the cross our position is no longer enemies of God, but holy and blameless. It is why Scripture refers to Christ-followers as saints. When we don’t understand what it means to be saints, to be holy and blameless, it doesn’t mean we create our own definition or list that we all agree to follow, but that we draw close to Jesus in Scripture, prayer, church, and He will supernaturally transform us so that we will better understand what it means to be holy and blameless.
We can end up thinking the Old Testament was about keeping the 10 commandments and the New Testament was about Jesus playing with sheep and children. However, God is the same in the Old and New Testament and both are pointing to God’s work and us resting in His work.
In Exodus 20 we see the list of 10 commandments and it can look like God is just some mean boss up in heaven making us work to keep Him happy, but we forget in the previous verse it teaches us that God is the one who did the work.
In verse 2 it says, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”
The order here is very important to the gospel. Did God say here are some commandments and if you keep them I will deliver you? He is not saying obey me then I will save you. He is saying I have saved you, I brought you out of the land, I brought you out of the house of slavery, and now you get to obey me and experience the rest of my work.
When it comes to the Sabbath it can be really confusing. In the original language the word Sabbath means “a day to cease from work”. I remember when I was a kid that most of the stores were closed on Sunday and it forced most people from commercial activity, however, today it is more odd for a store to be closed on Sunday.
I read an article about the first train in Scotland in 1842 running on a Sunday and people from local churches protested the train. One pastor is quoting as referring to the passengers on the train as people who bought “tickets to hell” because they were riding the train on a Sunday.
It doesn’t help when we look in Scripture and see Jesus seems to ignore the Sabbath, and there are a few passages in the New Testament that seem to discourage us from observing days, weeks, or season and as a result the Sabbath can be really confusing.
We all know how to have unhealthy conflict. Below are a few tips on healthy conflict:
Avoid Reacting to Conflict: All of us are going to find ourselves at a place in our marriage where we are tired, depleted, tense, and we are going to say something that hurts our spouse. It doesn’t make it acceptable, but it is going to happen and often times when it happens we can just react. When we react in conflict we are mirroring the offense that was made toward us. It becomes like a tennis match going back and forth. It starts with a comment, then a slamming door, then walking out, then crying, then yelling, and then throwing things. It is exhausting. Sometimes it goes back and forth so much that it just becomes a tangled mess of Christmas lights that you just want to throw away at the end of the year.
Repentance is a big Bible word that sometimes we think of as feeling sorry, bad, guilty, shame, and much of that is a misunderstanding of repentance. We ultimately have a misunderstanding of repentance because we see want to see ourselves as perfect people that sometimes make mistakes.
When we are wrapped up in perfection repentance of any kind becomes very difficult because we are working and trying so hard to maintain our image of perfection. It creates this constant pressure we live under. We are afraid we might disappoint God. We are afraid we might let someone down. If we are honest with ourselves many of us struggle with this skewed repentance because deep down we want to be perfect. We live under constant duress that every offense, every sin, every conflict is traumatic, unnatural, and horribly threatening because someone or ourselves might find out that we aren’t perfect. If we do finally admit fault then we beat ourselves up, tell ourselves we should have done better, wring our hands and emotions and tell ourselves that it won’t happen again. We think this is repentance, but this is a misunderstanding of repentance.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. 8 They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
In chapter 2 Adam and Eve were in a loving intimate relationship with God and with one another eating fruits and berries, naked, unashamed, and yet after they eat from the tree it says in verse 7 “the eyes of both of them were opened”. Before verse 7 they were in an age of innocence and Satan whispers into their ear that God can’t be trusted, that God is holding something back, God is trying to keep them from experiencing life, which is what Satan whispers into our ear today. He tempts us to do it, try it, God isn’t real, He doesn’t matter, and it will be so much fun!
Our sexuality is created by God to be a good thing, take place within marriage, serving one another, but in our culture today it has been distorted.
1. How did our sexuality get where it is today?
Scripture teaches us that when we take sexuality out of the fireplace, outside of the marriage, that it will bring pain. This pain started in Genesis 3 when sin enters into human history. In Genesis 2 God looks to Adam and tells him that all of creation is for him to enjoy, but don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Instead of responding in obedience Adam responds in disobedience and sin enters in and it takes all that God created for good and taints, distorts, and corrupts it.
It was created by God to be a good thing and to take place within marriage, however, because of sin the devil has taken it and distorted and corrupted a good thing. God created it for good, and Satan corrupts it. The clearest example of this in our culture today is pornography.
Our desire as a church is to have strong marriages and we think if we have healthy sex lives in our marriages it will lead to strong marriages. Maybe talking about your sex life is a normal every day experience for you as a couple…great! Sometimes couples won’t talk about these kinds of things because they feel embarrassed, don’t want to hurt feelings, not sure where to start, so we want to help open some lines of communication to get the ball rolling. Consider this a starting point: