The bottom line of why we are to study the Bible is so we may know God, His Way, and grow in our knowledge and faith in Him so we can then be better used by Him. We are called to spiritual growth—that is, the formation of the investment of faith Christ gives us that we give back to Him in dividends. This is a deep conviction of our faith, a practiced submission that shows our obedience, and a life of personal and relational maturity. We can’t do this when we bring what we want into Scripture and not take out what God wants us to have! We have to listen to God; if not, we will not learn and then we will not grow and then we will not have a life of transformation. Instead, we will experience a storm-tossed sea of life, wayward in every perspective because our eyes and ears are not upon our Lord (James 1; Heb. 6:13-20).
We, humanity are the market for His Message and plan. He adopted us as His heirs, to receive His work and grace and blessings (Psalm 110:1; Matt. 14:33; Mark 16:19; Luke 22:69; John 1:1-3; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6-7; Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9; 1 Pet. 1:20). He is the Eternal Creator; the glorious Lord of genuine Holiness. Since Jesus is our Rescuer and Redeemer, He took on our human nature but without our sinfulness, and remained pure to pay our dept for our sins. In the process, His human nature voluntarily became lower than the angels; but as Fully God, He is superior to them in essence, power, purpose, and distinction. The question is are we hearing this? If so, are we being transformed by this? If so, are we applying it in our lives so it also echoes to others around us (Rom. 1:4; Heb. 2: 7, 14-15)?
God desires us to be transformed agents of His Work, which means we must be in a transformative engagement with His Word! This is the essence of being a growing Christian and a vibrant church!
The main issue of Bible illiteracy is not that we should gain trivial knowledge so we can pass a pop test or impress our peers; rather, it is that we make the time and effort to get into His Word. We must not be content engaging the Bible in a cognitive format, just thinking and gleaning information, for this just creates another problem—fat, lazy sheep who know what to do but do not do it. Although thinking on the Bible is very important, the real value is measured in our transformation and renewal. This is the crux of our ministry—teaching people to get to know the Bible, to be transformed, and to be positively eventful in Christ. What is the point of desiring to be a musician if you never intend to learn music and/or practice your instrument? What is the point of doing church if we do not equip the people to learn what we are about and what we are to do from the Bible? What is the point of being a Christian if we never read the directions to know what we should be doing? What point is there to the Christian life without the life-changing transformational life we can have through His Word, Work, and Holy Spirit? The answer is simple: get into the Word! We have the tools to help you do this, such as Bible reading charts, plans, and insights for those just starting out to prepare sermons. You can indeed do it and remove Bible illiteracy from your life and church!
This means God has an important message for us and we must heed it. We can be changed, He does speak to us today; He wants to hear from you; He loves you and cares for you. So, why not clue yourself in to His plan and precepts by just spending some time in the Bible each day? Can there really be something better to do to grow your life and solve your problems? You are not going to find it in a cheap book or on TV; the best stuff comes from Him who has His directions readable and open to us now! What the Prophets of old could only imagine, dream, and hope for, we have now so we can comprehend and apply His message to our lives and pulpits (Num. 12:6-8; Heb. 3:5)!
Are we Reading in our Feelings and Desires?
In Matthew 21:18-32, Jesus gave a seemingly weird illustration and example to get our attention and get us out of our complacency and pride when He cursed a fig tree. Why did He do that? This has always perplexed me and as a youth pastor, I sometimes used it as a joke to make a point. But, in the ten years it took me to research and write an inductive commentary on Matthew, I delved into this fig tree and the answer was easy to find and quite simple and inspirational. This time of year, figs would be just forming leaves and have small, green, uneatable fruit. Apparently, this tree had nothing but leaves, displaying only self-interest. The readiness of the fruit was not the issue; it was the willingness to make the fruit, which is a very profound mirror to us and our churches. A tree that has leaves at that time of year should also have fruit, even though it would not be ready to eat. It was cursed because it refused to produce. This tree promised, but did not deliver; it was just a display having no real intention, impact, or worth.
In this passage, the emphasis is for us not to doubt or to hold back, lest we lose out on what is best for us and those around us! This is exactly what Jesus wants us to get for our lives; we must be fruitful; and we do this by immersing ourselves in His Word. Then, with what He gives, be transformed, and made relevant. We are to build our faith and fruit, which is what we are given when we grow in Him, what we add to, and what He then multiplies. Then, we will have more of the awareness of God and His will, which has more to do with our character and faith then what we do for a living! As Christians, we operate from heaven as God’s ambassadors (Rom. 5:1-5; 1 Cor. 13; 2 Cor. 5:20).
Consider this: making leaves is essential for a tree, especially an evergreen; but, unless it also produces fruit, a fruit tree is useless. We are meant to be fruit trees for our Lord! The fig tree only cared about itself, whereas the other fig trees produced fruit before their leaves. We need to take a deep look into our lives and see ourselves as God sees us. Perhaps you can consider yourself as a tree; are your roots strong and healthy? That is, are you being fed, then carrying His nutrients to all the parts of your being? Is your trunk strong? That is, how is your relationship with Christ? Are your branches supporting the nests of birds? That is, are you nurturing and exhibiting good character, being useful to others? Are your leaves healthy and strong? That is, how is your personality and disposition? Do you attract people or are you revolting to them? And, are you producing fruit or just leaves? If you are not in the Word, none of this will work (Matt. 7:15-20; 1 Pet. 4: 1-11; 2 Pet. 1:1-11)!
Leaves are essential, but the leaves are only good for that plant, not for others. Fruit is to be harvested and shared. Is your faith real so it makes a difference to you and others around you? We must make sure that our lives are not just about the care of ourselves, but the care of others as well. If you think this is too hard, consider and take comfort in the fact that He will not give us anything we cannot handle! So, let us live with excellence, being our best for His glory! We can be a good tree or a bad one. Your church can produce fruit to nourish and impact others, or give out rotten fruit that will discourage and repulse all those in your neighborhood. Faith is the key to allow your determination and His call to move you. Be willing to be led by the truth of His Word, and by your faith and trust in Him (Phil 2:10-13; 4:8-9; Heb. 2:10; 11:1).
Are you having Troubles in Life?
Then it is probably due to the way you go with the Scripture and practice your faith. Run with your faith; put into practice His call and precepts and listen to God’s Word. See what He is actually saying, not what you want Him to say! Try to live at peace with everyone; live a clean and holy life and you will have His serenity. If we do not lead holy lives, how can we be in Christ? Also, look after one another so we can collectively grow in Christ and not miss out on what Christ has for us. However, we must watch out for bitterness that rises from unfulfilled expectations when our focus is not on Christ. Just as Esau traded his birthright to satisfy a temporary hunger with soup, being foolish caused him to lose his blessing, and resulted in a life of bitterness. So come to God, to Jesus Christ who, as Savior and Lord, gives us a new Covenant! Obey Him, live for Him, serve Him, and be grateful. Do not ignore Him or misuse His Word; rather, embrace Him and His Word, the Bible head on, fast and hard. We have a God who is Most Holy and He will not be thwarted or misrepresented or disrespected. Therefore, let us put our faith and hope in Him. Remember your experience in His love and grace and feel His fellowship and empowerment as we are His people and He is our loving Lord. As Christians, let us all be appreciative for who we are in Christ and what He has done for us, so we can worship Him and live contented lives (Hebrews 12:14-29)!
If you are too busy or too preoccupied with life and the struggles thereof, how can you solve them with just adding more stress to them? If your faith is in Christ, then you must rest in Him, pore over His Word, glean the biblical knowledge and apply it to your life for success in life and in faith. If not, you will fail at everything! Keep in mind this very important point: when we engage the text of the Bible, we engage God! We experience His essence; we are enfolded not just within His precepts but also within His presence! We are with the living, eternal God of the universe. Thus, when we open up the Bible, we are opening up to Christ. If we really read the Bible, pay attention to not just the words but the essence, we receive not just our direction; we become transformational in our lives and work!
God desires us to be a transformed agent of His and this takes our being in transformative engagement with His Word, examining and paying attention to the Bible, so we can better trust and obey Him. He gives a warning about bad attitudes and shortsightedness. Bad attitudes cause us to reject God’s Truth and we lose out because we forfeit our growing faith and righteousness. For example, when someone does something bad to you, your first human response is payback and revenge. But, God has a better idea—that of you as a peace maker. The author’s point is: do not be like your bad ancestors who were bad influencers. Rather, be positive examples to encourage others. Pious Jews were embarrassed by Esau and their ancestors who wandered in the desert. We should be embarrassed by our lack of faith; we should be concerned that we might be worse than Esau and the generation of the Exodus (Heb. 12:14-29).
The qualities of our faith and Christian life are exhibited in the quality of our preparations and in discipline! Our receiving of His discipline from His Word, the Bible, and Holy Spirit is the entrance point to our spiritual formation which leads to our Christian maturity and a healthy church. Thus, when you are in a crisis or a troubling time, do not just ask for relief and divergence. Also seek Him by asking what do I learn and take away to build me up further in faith and maturity? God wants us to be squeezed so we produce wine and not whine. If we do not lean on Him, we will not learn and thus will not pass on our experiences to help others. Our trial will be a foolish waste of real suffering. But, if we learn and grow through that trial, it becomes the great classroom of life and educates us better than any university degree. Taking on His strength—not our conditions or unfulfilled desires—is what helps produce our joy (Neh. 8:10; Isa. 40:29; Matt. 11:30).
God does not force Himself or His Word upon us. His grace is offered; we have to accept it by faith alone which requires His precepts, a willingness to listen to His Word, to not read into it for the ability to practice real, authentic faith, to be willing to trust Him regardless of our circumstances, and our surrendered obedience. By these principles, we can seize the knowledge that Christ will prevail greatly; with a moment in His word, we can attain the vastness of His glory. Our abilities and qualifications fall short and it would be impossible for us to do anything grand; but in Him we can!