In Deuteronomy 8:3, Moses told the Israelites, “And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” Part of the purpose of the Lord providing the manna for His people in the wilderness and giving them strict instructions pertaining to it (such as collecting only enough for the day with the one exception being the day before the Sabbath where they were able to collect enough for two days) was to teach them that not only does their life depend on physical food but also knowing and obeying God’s Word. Just as physical food is necessary for our life, so is the knowledge and practice of God’s Word.
What happens if you go an entire day without eating anything physically? You will be hungry and probably feel weak. And if you skip a whole week of meals, even more so. If God’s Word is compared to physical food, what does that say about what happens to our spiritual lives if we go a day, or even worse, an entire week, without ever opening up the Bible to read and study more about the God who made and saved us? Far too many Christians today are starving themselves spiritually by neglecting to set aside time each day to study God’s Word. This explains why so many are weak spiritually. They are not daily getting nourished by God’s Word that brings life. Why several give into temptation so easily. They aren’t being reminded each day of how much more precious the Lord Jesus Christ is compared to sin. Why some struggle to make decisions. They are not continually having their mind renewed by God’s Word to grow to think their thoughts after His.
Waiting until Sunday morning for Sunday School and to hear the preaching of God’s Word is not enough! That’s like eating a huge breakfast on Sunday morning and then not eating anything again until the next Sunday morning. You would practically be destroying your body and lacking what you need to function fully through the week. Many would never dream of doing that yet that is exactly what they do to themselves spiritually. We need to know God’s Word more than we realize. It is essential for our spiritual walk with the Lord, serving as the water to grow and mature us spiritually.
We need to understand that God’s Word is food for our souls. For those who claim that they are just too busy to actually sit down and really look at what the Lord is saying, recognize that you obviously aren’t too busy to stop and eat each day. Why is that? You know you need food and crave it. Take this as a reminder of just how much you need God. Maybe the reason you are not craving Him so much is due to the lack of time that you spend in His Word daily. If you have been born again, then the Holy Spirit has given you a new nature that desires to know God more. God is the ultimate delight of your soul. The reason you should long to read and study His Word is because you love and want to know Him more. If such a desire is not present, you need to examine your heart and it may indicate that you have yet to be born again.
I often have people ask me for good and trusted Bible preachers and teachers that they can read or listen to in order to help them with their daily intake of God’s Word. I am always happy to direct them in hopes that the Lord will use it for their sanctification (their growth in grace). Allow me to share some of the names that have greatly benefited me personally in my own growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. A simple Google search can help you locate their websites and books. They are, in no particular order, John MacArthur, John Piper, Alistair Begg, R. C. Sproul, Mark Dever, David Platt, Matt Chandler, Kevin DeYoung, Paul David Tripp, Paul Washer, and Steve Lawson just to name a few. For the ladies, Jen Wilkin, Nancy Leigh Demoss Wolgemuth, Elizabeth Eliot, Nancy Guthrie, and Gloria Furman are some good ones to help you both study the Bible more and understand what you are studying.
Allow me to end this article with the following quote by Ray Comfort: "One day I asked a congregation if they without fail read the Word every day, and was horrified that no one (not even the pastor) raised a hand. So I made a habit of asking congregations and individuals “Do you read your Bible every day without fail?” When professing Christians offered their sad and pathetic excuses, I would ask them if they fed their stomachs daily. Then I would ask, “Which comes first—your Bible or your belly?” and let their conscience do its duty. How about you? Do you love God enough to give Him a few minutes each day to speak to you?"
Love in Christ,
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. ~2 Timothy 2:15
- I am a young man who is following God's call into pastoral ministry. I have been so blessed with the privileges which the Lord has granted me. I am blessed to serve the Mt. Joy congregation in Mt. Pleasant, PA. I am constantly humbled and amazed at what the Lord is doing in my life.
Monday, July 10, 2017
I will bow down toward your holy temple
and I will praise your name
for your love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.
~2 Timothy 2:15
Let the pastors boldly dare all things by the word of God. . . . Let them constrain all the power, glory, and excellence of the world to give place to and to obey the divine majesty of this word. Let them enjoin everyone by it, from the highest to the lowest. Let them edify the body of Christ. Let them devastate Satan's reign. Let them pasture the sheep, kill the wolves, instruct and exhort the rebellious. Let them bind and loose thunder and lightning, if necessary, but let them do all according to the word of God
Today marks the 508th birthday of John Calvin, one of the instruments God used to spread the Reformation throughout Europe. One could easily argue that he is one of the most influential theologians in history next to the apostle Paul and possibly Augustine. Personally, he is one of the "Johns" whom God has used to greatly impact my life and aid in teaching me His Word. (The other three being John MacArthur, John Piper, and John Charles (J.C.) Ryle). Regardless of whether you agree with him theologically or not (while through my study of Scripture I wholeheartedly affirm, embrace, and cherish the doctrines of grace he purported, I differ with him on his understanding of infant baptism and church order), there are things we all can learn from his life and ministry which had at its heart the glory of God. A fresh look at Calvin teaches us several things:
1) The Importance of the Word of God
The backbone of Calvin's ministry was the Word of God. This was central to his work in Geneva. In fact, upon seeing the many problems which existed in the church at Geneva, Calvin concluded that the only remedy to the problem would be to preach God's Word and let God straighten the people out through it. Calvin labored at teaching the flock that God had entrusted to him what God had communicated to them through His written Word. He preached ten sermons every two weeks at the same time writing several commentaries which he has blessed the church with today. His belief on the centrality of God's Word led him to preach through the Scriptures verse by verse. Such a commitment is shown in his return to Geneva after his banishment to start preaching from the exact verse he left off at his last sermon three years prior. He is known as the "prince of expositors." Every minister would do well in making the Word of God the foundation of his ministry. Every born again believer would do well in making the Word of God the foundation of their life and work; whatever God has called them to do.
2) The Importance of Embracing, Proclaiming, and Sharing the Glory of God
Calvin had one thing which drove his actions. This was his zeal for the glory of God to be made manifest and shared. The impetus for the strong commitment of teaching God's Word just discussed came from Calvin's perspective that to honor the Word of God would be to honor the God of the Word. He felt that the best way to display God's glory to the people was to preach God's Word which revealed His glorious work of redemption throughout history. He even stated at the end of his life that "I have written nothing out of hatred to any one, but I have always faithfully propounded what I esteemed to be for the glory of God."1 Such a commitment to living for the glory of God should be one which envelopes our lives as well. Paul tells us that Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Nothing should be a higher priority for the Christian than seeking to bring glory to God in everything that he or she does.
3) The Importance of Scholarship
Calvin was a pastor-theologian; something many claim today can't exist. In one moment he could write a treatise explaining what Scripture actually says about "free will" and then in another minister to one who was grieving the loss of a loved one. In fact, Calvin at first could not see how the two went together. He desired to be a scholar and write books concerning the faith. His whole purpose in writing The Institutes of the Christian Religion, his "magnum opus" respectfully, was to teach the pastors who were suffering persecution in France the faith that they were dying for. However, God continued to direct the Reformer to the pastorate where he used his scholarship in his teaching. He was not only a pastor shepherding his flock but a scholar seeking to teach God's Word as thoroughly and clearly as possible. It is interesting that for many decades historical scholars were perplexed with what translation of the Bible Calvin used in his teaching. It was not until recently they realized the reason for their mystery. Calvin did not use a translation but translated the original Hebrew and Greek on the spot from the pulpit without ever mentioning a Hebrew or Greek word! Such scholarship is usually laughed at today with ministers who desire to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15) and pine over what God originally spoke in the original languages with them being accused of wasting their time on frivolous matters. I actually think the church would benefit more from scholarly pastors such as Calvin as well as Jonathon Edwards and John Piper which have followed him.
4)The Importance of Dedication
Calvin's hard work in ministry is enough to make the busiest pastor today in 21st century America appear lazy. Not only did he keep up with his extensive preaching schedule and strive relentlessly to write his commentaries, he also visited people in their homes and managed his administrative responsibilities at his church. He also had a wife and kids to minister to, some kids which I believe he took in. He never would have had time to waste hours in front of a TV or playing video games (not saying that these are wrong but we do need to be careful how we spend our time-Ephesians 5:15-16). These would have slowed him down from the work of ministry. Upon his latter years in poor health, people begged him to take a break. He was even preaching in his bedroom when bedfast. The Reformer's answer was "What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?"2 Unfortunately, and not admirable, he occupied himself so much with the work of the church that he did not take care of his health. (Something the current commentator as well as others would be wise to take heed about.) Calvin's dedication to what God called him to do reminds me that no matter how overwhelmed I feel with what God has on my plate, I can accomplish what He would have me to do if I rely on His strength in His grace.
5) How God Uses Men Despite Their Many Flaws
Calvin is another reminder of how God uses the most flawed men to do His perfect work. The Bible is full of those who had several weaknesses which would have hindered their effectiveness if it had not been for God's supernatural work both in and through them. Abraham had wavering faith, Jacob was a trickster, Moses couldn't speak and clearly had a problem with his anger, Jeremiah was too young, Gideon was unsure, David committed adultery and murder, Samson was a womanizer, and Peter denied his Lord. Yet, inspite of all of these, and possibly because of them, God chose to use such weak vessels so that He might get the glory. Calvin is no different. He had his flaws. Just the mention of the name "Michael Servetus" brings the sober reminder of Calvin's role in his execution and no discussion of the church's role with the state is complete without a reference to Calvin's Geneva and how the merging of the two entities was disastrous. This birthday is not a celebration of Calvin. He was a mere man who was nothing. Instead it's a celebration of a great God who sovereignly chose to work through such a weak vessel to bring reform to His church for His glory as He had purposed. Calvin was just an ordinary man who was used by an extraordinary God. Just as we also are. Praise God for John Calvin and the work that He accomplished with his life and ministry. May God use us, as insignificant as we are, to further His Kingdom for His glory as He sees fit.
Soli Deo Gloria!!!
1 John Dillenberger, John Calvin, Selections from His Writings (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1975) 110.
2Preface to John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2009) xiv.
Last month, we discussed what has been called the “regulative principle;” that God’s Word must direct or regulate our corporate worship together. It is clear that God is not only concerned THAT we worship Him but also HOW we worship Him. When we are left to ourselves to determine how to worship God, it inevitably leads to sinful ways of doing so. Israel’s case with the golden bull calf serves as a prime example of this (Exodus 32). They took matters into their own hands and wound up greatly dishonoring God and participating in idolatry. God wants us to have the greatest joy and biggest blessing in worshiping Him as He deserves to be worshiped, so He doesn’t leave us guessing on how to conduct our worship in a way that pleases Him. He spells it out for us in His Word, setting boundaries for us to operate within. And when we come to the Word, we find that those boundaries are to read the Word, preach the Word, pray the Word, sing the Word, and show the Word. Since our worship must be centered on God, it only makes sense that it would be centered on His Word where He has specifically revealed Himself to us. To the way that these directives work out in practice, we now turn.
Read the Word. Paul instructs Timothy to Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13). An essential component to our gathering together for worship on Sunday mornings should be the reading of passages of Scripture. This is why the “Call to Worship” is a Scripture reading, why we read a verse or two before the taking up of the offering, and the passage that is preached is first read. It is as God has directed us. Unfortunately, many congregations today have moved away from much Bible reading in their services. But it is so powerful just to hear God’s Word spoken audibly without any comments or explanations. The Spirit can work to grip our consciences and direct us away from ourselves to our Savior in the reading of the text alone. That of course doesn’t mean that the preaching of the Word is not as important though. In fact, God calls for both to occur in our worship together.
Preach the Word. Paul also told Timothy to preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2). God does not only want His Word read before the company of gathered saints and perhaps visiting unbelievers but also desires for His Word to be proclaimed with the point of what He is communicating in a passage both explained and applied so that His people may be encouraged, challenged, and grow further in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). It is through the preaching of the Word that unbelievers are brought to faith in Christ and believers find their faith strengthened. As we looked at two months ago when I preached on Nehemiah 8:1-8, God has given us a good model both for preaching and the appropriate response to the sermon by the congregation with Ezra and the Levites’ preaching of the law to the returned exiles.
Pray the Word. In the context of giving instructions for how worship should be conducted in the Ephesian church, Paul says that I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people (1 Timothy 2:1). We are to be praying together as a body, expressing our adoration to God, confessing our sins before Him, and admitting our great need and dependence of Him. My wife and I recently visited a congregation while on vacation and it struck me how little we prayed together. The service didn’t even open with prayer asking for God to direct us to Himself and prepare our hearts for this wonderful time together! It was basically just a time of singing and the sermon with the offering plate passed in the middle. We certainly heard God speak to us from His Word but didn’t have much opportunity to speak to Him. He wants to hear from His people as well during our worship.
Sing the Word. Now we come to the music in our worship. How does the Word of God direct our singing and making music before the Lord? We are told in Ephesians 5:19 to address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. This indicates that there are different types of songs that we should be singing together. I think that it is good for us to not only sing the old classic hymns with their rich theology pointing us back to Christ and His wonderful work but also newer songs that have recently been written that encourage us to look to the Lord as well. After all, the early church would not have been singing the hymns we sing today since they weren’t written yet! And as for the instruments used in our singing, the Bible provides quite a list for us to choose from (see Psalm 150 for example). Much more than just an organ and piano! The main thing in regards to our music in the worship service is that it is something that we can sing together which encourages us to center ourselves on Christ and the gospel.
See the Word. And the Bible also directs us to continually see the gospel placed on display in the ordinances; baptism (Matthew 28:19) and communion (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Both of these communicate visually the life changing work of Christ on our behalf. Baptism the changed life that the gospel brings where a new believer identifies with Christ’s death and resurrection and communion the precious body of our Lord and His blood shed in our place. Communion must be practiced often until the Lord’s return.
Let’s seek to worship God according to how He desires to be worshiped. That way He will be honored and pleased and we will be edified and grow. He knows what He is doing in His instructions to us!
Love in Christ,