Category Archives: Bible Study

What is the Spirit’s Role in Our Reading of Scripture?

Many Christians are unclear how to follow the Holy Spirit. “Do we take prayerful walks and wait on his leading?” inquires Amy Byrd, one of the hosts of Mortification of Spin. “Is that how we receive his teaching? Do we clear our minds and wait for his prompting? Can we quiet ourselves enough to hear God’s whisper? Can others authoritatively deliver a personal message to us through the Spirit?” Listen to Byrd’s response:

BibleBuilding off of our important discussion about traditional doctrine on this week’s Mortification of Spin podcast, I want to address something I see in a lot of popular level Christian books. There is a false notion among evangelicals that we can either trust in the ordinary means of grace and the church’s creedal catechetical tradition, or we can be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. The notion is that we can follow an old custom or we can follow the Source himself.

And so much of this teaching on following the Spirit sounds a lot like the game of telephone. In the game of telephone, one person passes along a message by whispering in another person’s ear. That person then whispers what they think they’ve heard to another ear, and this continues with the goal for the final receiver of the message to try and speak the original message. If you’ve ever played telephone, you know how silly the message can end up. Likewise, to some Christians the idea of following the Spirit goes something like this:  Jesus is calling, his Holy Spirit will deliver the important personal message, and now you need to obey this inner voice and then figure out which Scripture supports it. We may even do some lucky dipping, hoping the Spirit will lead us to our devotion for the day by the “providence” of where our Bible randomly opens and to where our finger falls.  Then maybe we’ll have that light bulb moment of clarity.

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Online Bible Study Resources

When it comes to Bible software, I use Logos more than anything else (though I know BibleWorks and Accordance are excellent too).

But what about free online resources? Thankfully, the web has made it possible for almost anyone with a computer to access hundreds of valuable study tools. For people who don’t have immediate access to a sizable library, that’s great news.

If you’re an avid online Bible student, you are probably already familiar with the ten resources I’ve listed below. But these are the ones that I find most helpful in my own personal study.

Having said that, I’m always looking for new sites, to add even more richness to my online study time. So, if you think of one I’ve missed, be sure to add a comment and mention it.

My Top-Ten Favorite Online Study Resources

1. The John MacArthur Sermon Archive — When it comes to clearly and accurately explaining the Word of God, there is no pastor I trust more than John MacArthur. The fact that he has preached through every verse of the New Testament, and that all of those sermons are available for free online (both in audio and transcript form), means that this resource is as exhaustive as it is valuable. The topical Q&A section is also an expansive resource, giving practical and biblical instruction on a wide variety of issues.

2. The Theological Resource CenterThe featured resource on the site is a growing library of video lectures taught by the TMS faculty. These lectures can be watched, free-of-charge, by anyone with an internet connection. The site currently contains eleven full courses, consisting of more than 200 individual lectures. Over the next few months, the library will grow to include over 20 courses, offering hundreds of hours of seminary-level lecture content. When complete, this online video library will cover a wide range of topics including Bible Survey, Grammar and Exegesis, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, and Biblical Counseling. (They can also be watched on YouTube.)

3. BibleStudyTools.com – This website came in handy even when I was a seminary student. I especially appreciated the interlinear Bible which worked great with the corresponding BST Greek and Hebrew fonts. While it is no substitute for Logos, this website provides a number of helpful study tools for free—including commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and lexicons. Similar sites include http://www.studylight.org, http://www.e-sword.net, and http://www.blueletterbible.org.

4. Online Commentaries – There are probably two dozen classic commentary sets available online. One of the most expansive lists of online commentaries (organized by book of the Bible) is found here. Though the majority of these commentaries are older (which is why they are now in the public domain), they still represent a wealth of insightful information about the biblical text.

5. BibleGateway.com – I appreciate two things about Bible Gateway. First, it is one of the easiest-to-use Bible searching websites. Finding passages of Scripture in multiple versions is quick and painless. Second, it is home to the online-edition of the IVP commentaries . This is one of the few modern commentaries available for free on the web. (Another excellent Bible website is the Lumina Bible. It is especially helpful for those wanting to read the Greek and Hebrew. I’ve also found the Academic Bible website to be helpful.)

6. Google Books– Of course, if I want to peruse modern commentaries (or other books) without going to the library, I use Google Books. I am a huge fan of Google Books; and if you’ve never used it before, you really should try it out. It is incredible. Admittedly, most of the modern books are limited to only a “preview.” But, you can still search the entire book; which makes it an extremely useful database. And, sometimes you find a gem, like the full version of John Broadus on Matthew or Martin Luther on The Sermon on the Mount.

Another nice feature (especially for seminary students) is that, if you cite a source from Google Books, you can cite the actual page in your footnotes, and not some long, messy URL.

On a side note, if a page is not viewable in Google books (because of the “preview” limitations), you can often find it at Amazon.com, using the “Look Inside” feature. Partnering the Google Books database with the Amazon.com database results in more information online and fewer trips to the library.

Google Scholar is a related resource from Google. This is not quite as helpful as Google Books, and it’s still in a Beta Version. But in essence, what Google Books is to books, Google Scholar is to journals. So, it can still turn up helpful information, especially if you’re looking for journal articles on a given topic. (Of course, a number of schools make their journals available on their websites. For example, if you’re looking to search TMSJ, you can just click here.)

7. iTunes U – So, technically, this resource utilizes iTunes and not your normal web browser … but it is an incredible resource nonetheless. A significant number of theological institutions (as well as other universities and colleges) have made lectures available for free download through iTunes. Now you can get a free seminary-level education while you commute to work or run on the treadmill.

I’ve personally benefited greatly from some of the Church History lectures that are available from various evangelical seminaries. And it’s fun to know I can “sit in” on a class at MIT or Harvard anytime I want–even if I don’t get official credit for it. (For theological students, another website that is similar to this is, though on a smaller scale, is http://www.biblicaltraining.org.)

8. Christian Classics Ethereal Library – Speaking of Church History, an area near-and-dear to my heart, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library is undoubtedly the largest collection of historic Christian resources on the web. If I’m looking for something from the church fathers, or Augustine, or Aquinas, or Calvin, or the Puritans, CCEL is usually the first place I look.

9. Bible.org – This site houses an expansive array of articles, organized by both topic and by book of the Bible. Contributors include well-known scholars like Daniel Wallace, Kenneth Boa, Darrel Bock, Eugene Merrill, and John Walvoord. (The site’s connection to Dallas Theological Seminary is no secret.) Also, this site is the home of the NET Bible, which is notable because of the translation notes that accompany the text.

10. Monergism.com – This site is somewhat similar to http://www.bible.org, though from a more Reformed perspective. Also, it serves largely as a topic-based portal—directing visitors to helpful articles on a wide array of subjects. The site includes an excellent database of sermon manuscripts, making it especially helpful for Bible study.

Well, there you have my top ten picks.

There are obviously many more websites that I could have mentioned. You’ll notice I kept the “blog” category completely off of this list. (Perhaps that is due to the fact that blogs tend to distract me from studying, rather than help me study.)

Having said that, I’m always looking to expand this list to include other great websites.

If you think I missed something, please share it with us in the comments section below.

The post Online Bible Study Resources appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

(TMS) Top Ten Countdown: Online Theological Resources

During the final ten days of December, we will be posting our top ten articles from 2015. Today’s post came in at number 5. This article was originally published on July 17.

When it comes to Bible software, I use Logos more than anything else (though I know BibleWorks and Accordance are excellent too).

But what about free online resources? Thankfully, the web has made it possible for almost anyone with a computer to access hundreds of valuable study tools. For people who don’t have immediate access to a sizeable library, that’s great news.

If you’re an avid online Bible student, you are probably already familiar with the ten resources I’ve listed below. But these are the ones that I find most helpful in my own personal study.

Having said that, I’m always looking for new sites, to add even more richness to my online study time. So, if you think of one I’ve missed, be sure to add a comment and mention it.

My Top-Ten Favorite Online Study Resources

1. The John MacArthur Sermon Archive — When it comes to clearly and accurately explaining the Word of God, there is no pastor I trust more than John MacArthur. The fact that he has preached through every verse of the New Testament, and that all of those sermons are available for free online (both in audio and transcript form), means that this resource is as exhaustive as it is valuable. The topical Q&A section is also an expansive resource, giving practical and biblical instruction on a wide variety of issues.

2. The Theological Resource CenterThe featured resource on the site is a growing library of video lectures taught by the TMS faculty. These lectures can be watched, free-of-charge, by anyone with an internet connection. The site currently contains eleven full courses, consisting of more than 200 individual lectures. Over the next few months, the library will grow to include over 20 courses, offering hundreds of hours of seminary-level lecture content. When complete, this online video library will cover a wide range of topics including Bible Survey, Grammar and Exegesis, Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, and Biblical Counseling.

3. BibleStudyTools.com – This website came in handy even when I was a seminary student. I especially appreciated the interlinear Bible which worked great with the corresponding BST Greek and Hebrew fonts. While it is no substitute for Logos, this website provides a number of helpful study tools for free—including commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and lexicons. Similar sites include http://www.studylight.org, http://www.e-sword.net, and http://www.blueletterbible.org.

4. Online Commentaries – There are probably two dozen classic commentary sets available online. One of the most expansive lists of online commentaries (organized by book of the Bible) is found here. Though the majority of these commentaries are older (which is why they are now in the public domain), they still represent a wealth of insightful information about the biblical text.

5. BibleGateway.com – I appreciate two things about Bible Gateway. First, it is one of the easiest-to-use Bible searching websites. Finding passages of Scripture in multiple versions is quick and painless. Second, it is home to the online-edition of the IVP commentaries . This is one of the few modern commentaries available for free on the web.

6. Google Books– Of course, if I want to peruse modern commentaries (or other books) without going to the library, I use Google Books. I am a huge fan of Google Books; and if you’ve never used it before, you really should try it out. It is incredible. Admittedly, most of the modern books are limited to only a “preview.” But, you can still search the entire book; which makes it an extremely useful database. And, sometimes you find a gem, like the full version of John Broadus on Matthew or Martin Luther on The Sermon on the Mount.

Another nice feature (especially for seminary students) is that, if you cite a source from Google Books, you can cite the actual page in your footnotes, and not some long, messy URL.

On a side note, if a page is not viewable in Google books (because of the “preview” limitations), you can often find it at Amazon.com, using the “Look Inside” feature. Partnering the Google Books database with the Amazon.com database results in more information online and fewer trips to the library.

Google Scholar is a related resource from Google. This is not quite as helpful as Google Books, and it’s still in a Beta Version. But in essence, what Google Books is to books, Google Scholar is to journals. So, it can still turn up helpful information, especially if you’re looking for journal articles on a given topic. (Of course, a number of schools make their journals available on their websites. For example, if you’re looking to search TMSJ, you can just click here.)

7. iTunes U – So, technically, this resource utilizes iTunes and not your normal web browser … but it is an incredible resource nonetheless. A significant number of theological institutions (as well as other universities and colleges) have made lectures available for free download through iTunes. Now you can get a free seminary-level education while you commute to work or run on the treadmill.

I’ve personally benefited greatly from some of the Church History lectures that are available from various evangelical seminaries. And it’s fun to know I can “sit in” on a class at MIT or Harvard anytime I want–even if I don’t get official credit for it. (For theological students, another website that is similar to this is, though on a smaller scale, is http://www.biblicaltraining.org.)

8. Christian Classics Ethereal Library – Speaking of Church History, an area near-and-dear to my heart, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library is undoubtedly the largest collection of historic Christian resources on the web. If I’m looking for something from the church fathers, or Augustine, or Aquinas, or Calvin, or the Puritans, CCEL is usually the first place I look.

(Of course, if I’m looking for stuff related to Charles Spurgeon, no site is better than Phil Johnson’s Spurgeon archive.)

9. Bible.org – This site houses an expansive array of articles, organized by both topic and by book of the Bible. Contributors include well-known scholars like Daniel Wallace, Kenneth Boa, Darrel Bock, Eugene Merrill, and John Walvoord. (The site’s connection to Dallas Theological Seminary is no secret.) Also, this site is the home of the NET Bible, which is notable because of the translation notes that accompany the text.

10. Monergism.com – This site is somewhat similar to http://www.bible.org, though from a more Reformed perspective. Also, it serves largely as a topic-based portal—directing visitors to helpful articles on a wide array of subjects. The site includes an excellent database of sermon manuscripts, making it especially helpful for Bible study.

Well, there you have my top ten picks.

There are obviously many more websites that I could have mentioned. You’ll notice I kept the “blog” category completely off of this list. (Perhaps that is due to the fact that blogs tend to distract me from studying, rather than help me study.)

Having said that, I’m always looking to expand this list to include other great websites.

If you think I missed something, please share it with us in the comments section below.

The post Top Ten Countdown: Online Theological Resources appeared first on The Master’s Seminary.

The Bible and the New Year: Christmas Study Guide (Part 10)

In this lesson we look to the new year ahead and consider the tremendous changes we might experience through a fresh commitment to the Word of God.

Outline

As we begin to think about the new year ahead, we are reminded again of what the Bible really does for us as God’s people. The Bible has a unique ministry in all of our lives, and there would be no better plan for the next 365 days than to make a fresh commitment to read, study, and apply the Word of God.

  1. What the Bible Is for You
a.   It Is a Sword

b.   It Is a Mirror

c.   It Is a Hammer

d.   It Is Water

e.   It Is Seed

f.    It Is Silver

 

g.   It Is Fire

h.   It Is a Lamp

i.    It Is Bread

j.    It Is Honey

k.   It Is Milk

l.    It Is Gold

 

 

  1. What the Bible Will Do for You
  2. Produce Spiritual Growth
  3. Provide Cleansing
  4. Prevent You from Sinning
  5. Protect You from Satan
  6. Protect You from Discouragement
  7. Promote Success in Whatever You Do
  8. Prepare You for Powerful Praying
  9. Point the Way to Salvation

Overview

What the Bible Is for You

In order to convey to us what the Bible does in a believer’s life, the writers of the Word of God, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, used a number of beautiful metaphors.

The Word of God Is a Sword

The Word of God is called a sword because of its piercing ability, operating with equal effectiveness upon Sinners, Saints, and Satan!

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

The Word of God Is a Mirror

The Word is called a mirror because it reflects the mind of God and the true condition of man:

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23–25).

The Word of God Is a Hammer

How many of us have been “hammered” by the Word of God? It drives home and breaks up the stony hearts that we have. The Scriptures say: “Is not My word like … a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29). The Word of God is referred to as a hammer because of its ability both to tear down and to build up!

The Word of God Is Water

The Word of God is called water because of its cleansing, quenching, and refreshing qualities—“That He might sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

The Word of God Is Seed

The Word of God is called seed because, once properly planted, it brings forth life, growth, and fruit: “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Peter 1:23).

The Word of God Is Silver

The Word is like silver because of its desirability, its preciousness, its beauty, and its value: “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6).

The Word of God Is Fire

The Word of God is called fire because of its judging, purifying, and consuming abilities: “But His word was in my heart like a burning fire …” (Jeremiah 20:9).

The Word of God Is a Lamp

The Word is called a lamp because it shows us where we are now, it guides us to the next step, and it keeps us from falling: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

The Word of God Is Bread

The Word is like bread that gives everlasting satisfaction to all who are hungry: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

The Word of God Is Honey

The Word of God is like honey bringing the sweet comfort of God’s love to all who taste: “More to be desired are they than gold … sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).

The Word of God Is Milk

The Word is like milk, nourishing the soul to spiritual growth: “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).

The Word of God Is Gold

The Word of God is like gold because of its desirability, beauty, and value: “Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold!” (Psalm 119:127).

Those are just a few of the pictures of the Bible in the Scripture. There are many more. But all of those metaphors are to help us understand the value and the preciousness and the importance of God’s wonderful word in our lives.

What the Bible Will Do for You

Today, however, we have lost much of that. We have taken the Bible out of the public life of American culture, and look what has happened to us. Look where we are today because God’s Word has been removed from the fabric of our society.

But far more disastrous than that, the Word of God has seemed to drop out of the lives of many of the people who claim to be God’s people. Therefore at this time of year it would be good for us to examine a number of reasons why we should read the Word of God.

If we begin to understand how this Book can change our lives, it will continue to change our lives even today. Even this week. The Word of God is a powerful tool, a change agent in the life of anyone who will take it seriously. So I would like to offer my top eight reasons why we should read the Word of God.

It Will Produce Spiritual Growth

Every year at this time, I take a little inventory and ask myself, “Have I grown in the Lord this year? Has there been growth in my life?”

There is absolutely no human way we will ever grow in our faith apart from a personal, disciplined reading and studying of the Word of God. There is no other means of growth. Consider what the Word of God says:

“As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

Look at that verse and see how the Word of God helps you grow. First, the Word of God is profitable for doctrine—it shows you the right way to go.

And then it is profitable for reproof—to convict you when you get off that path.

And then it is profitable for correction—to show you how to get back on the path you left.

And then it is profitable for instruction in righteousness—to show you, in a positive way, how to stay on that path in the future.

That’s how we grow. That’s a great reason to read the Word of God.

It Will Provide Cleansing for Your Life

How many of us know that we live in a toxic environment? Not just physically toxic, but spiritually toxic. Everywhere we go somebody is trying to put something into our hearts, something into our lives, that’s going to begin to erode our spiritual walk with the Lord. How do we cleanse our lives from that? How do we keep our lives from being overwhelmed by the toxicity of the world in which we live?

“That He [Christ] might sanctify and cleanse it [the Church] with the washing of water by the word” (Ephesians 5:26).

Jesus, speaking to His disciples, says, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you” (John 15:3).

The Word of God cleanses our hearts! If we bring the Word of God in, it pushes out the toxicity that we have gathered through the world, cleansing our hearts and making us clean.

Listen to what David said in Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.”

In John 17:17, the Lord Jesus prayed that this would be true in our lives in His high-priestly prayer: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.”

It Will Prevent You from Sinning

If you get into the Word of God, you won’t sin nearly as much as if you don’t. The Word of God will prevent you from sinning. That’s what David meant again when he said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).

The more you are in the Word of God, the more sensitive you become to those things which can lead you astray. It is awfully difficult to spend an hour or two in the Word of God in the morning, and then walk away from that and begin to violate principles that you know are a part of God’s truth. The Word of God empowers you to do the right thing, so you don’t end up violating what you know to be true.

“Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me” (Psalm 119:133).

“The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psalm 37:31).

The more you get into the Word of God and study it, the more it will help you to stay away from things that will ultimately destroy you.

It Will Protect You from Satan

The Word of God is the greatest protection you have. Of course, someone might say, “I don’t believe in Satan.”

That, however, doesn’t make any difference. He is real anyway. Satan is alive and well, and we are in a daily warfare against the enemy of our souls. Satan goes around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. He wants to take you and drown any influence you have. He wants to ruin you for anything you ever want to do for the Lord.

So how do you protect yourself against Satan? Let’s look at the Lord Jesus Christ, who was taken to the desert and was tempted. How did the Lord meet the temptation?

In Matthew 4:4–10, Jesus fought the enemy with the Word of God. If you know God’s Word and you are in the Word of God, you put Satan at a disadvantage because you have the power of God’s Word working in your life.

It Will Protect You from Discouragement

There were two disciples on one occasion who left Jerusalem after the Crucifixion. They were depressed and discouraged because they thought it was “all over.” Christ had died, and they did not know that He was resurrected. They were walking toward Emmaus talking about their hopelessness and they were sad and depressed and discouraged about the situation they saw. Then all of a sudden Jesus came alongside and began to talk with them. And after Jesus had encouraged them, they said, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32).

When you get to the point where you’re discouraged and don’t know what to do, go to the Friend that sticks closer than a brother, and listen to His Word. If you will discipline yourself to do that, you will discover like these disciples that your heart will begin to burn within you. God’s Word will come in, dissipate those discouraging thoughts, take away the things that would drive you down, and begin to lift you up. God’s Word has the power to protect you from discouragement.

It Will Promote Success in Whatever You Do

Being in the Word of God gives you the opportunity to be more successful than you would ever be otherwise.

In fact, Psalm 1:1–3 tells us:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

Whenever you are in the Word of God, you are in a position to be successful in what you do. And if we use the Word of God’s definition of success, we can really see how that works. The Word of God promises us that when we make it the substance of our life, it will help us to succeed in what we do.

It Will Prepare You for Powerful Praying

Consider John 15:7: “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.”

How does that work? It helps you to know what to ask for. When you read the Word of God, you get a sense of God’s will, and when you ask in God’s will, He gives it to you. So it will prepare you for how you are to pray.

It Will Point the Way to Salvation

That’s what this Book is all about. Paul wrote to young Timothy, “… as for you, continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14–15).

How does a person become a Christian? Through this Book. The plan of salvation is in this Book. Christ died for you and for your sin, and He paid the penalty that you should have paid, and He died on the cross for you. That message is in this Book.

Are you in the Word? If not, start now reading the Word of God. Find some time in the morning to spend a few moments with God and his Word.

Now, if you are not a Christian, you won’t have the motivation to do that. Further, you won’t understand a word of it when you read it. If you aren’t a Christian, you don’t have the ability to comprehend the Word of God as He meant it to be understood. The first step in understanding the Word of God is knowing the God of the Word. And you can’t know Him unless you put your trust in Jesus Christ as your personal savior.

You can do that through a simple prayer. Say, “Lord God, I come to You on this first Sunday of the New Year to give my heart to You. I ask You to forgive my sin and cleanse my life, and I accept Your free gift of eternal life which You died to provide for me.”

Christ will come into your life if you will let Him, if you will ask Him. As we begin to think about the New Year ahead, we are reminded again of what the Bible really does for us as God’s people. The Bible has a unique ministry in all of our lives. And the Bible will come alive for you.

Application

  1. If the Bible is everything mentioned in this lesson, why do you think Christians tend to neglect it? Name as many reasons as you can think of.
  2. What do the following passages indicate about the connection between God and His Word, or between knowing God and knowing His Word:
  3. John 1:1–2, 14
  4. John 17:17
  5. 1 John 5:7
  6. Revelation 19:13
  7. Read Mark 12:30, then read Psalm 119:97; 119:113; 119:163. Why is the Psalmist not guilty of idolatry (for loving the Word)?
  8. What is the means of spiritual growth and maturity, according to:
  9. Hebrews 5:12–14
  10. 1 Peter 2:2
  11. What do you think Paul is admonishing Timothy to do in 2 Timothy 2:15? Is this something only for select Christians, or for all Christians?
  12. Turn to Psalm 119 and, taking no more than five minutes for each, find:
  13. As many different names for the Word of God as you can.
  14. As many benefits of the Word of God as you can.
  15. Briefly write out, for your eyes only, your personal desires and goals for the coming year, in relation to God’s Word and your commitment to it. Tape it inside your Bible where you can find it easily, and read it at least once per week for the coming year.

Did You Know?

Until publication of the King James Bible in the early 1500s, it was unusual for anyone to possess the Scriptures in the common language. Even then, initial publication was one Bible per official (state-approved) church, kept either under lock and key, or permanently attached to an immovable pulpit. It would be another 200 years or so before individually printed Bibles would begin making their way into the hands and homes of “everyday” Christians—and then largely for the rich alone.

Of course, with the colonization of America, Bibles began making their way to the New World, but only sparsely until printing houses were established and Bibles became an affordable commodity.

That means that the availability of personal Bibles is, in the grand scheme of church history, a fairly recent phenomenon. Even more recent is the phenomenon of multiple personal Bibles—which sit on shelves, collecting dust, and remaining largely unread and unstudied.

It’s hard to believe that only 500 years or so in the past, Christians died for proposing the right to personal study of the Scriptures; and today Christians are effectively dead for a lack of it.

May it not be so in the year ahead![1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (1999). Celebrate his love: Study guide (pp. 124–138). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

If God Has Not Forgotten Us, Why Have We Forgotten Him?: Christmas Study Guide (Part 9)

In this lesson we hypothesize what the world would be like if there had been no first Christmas.

Outline

It is hard to comprehend a world without Christ. That is because most of us have grown up in a Christian environment. But perhaps one of the best ways we could comprehend it is to look for just a moment to a period of time after Christ had gone to the cross, then to the grave, then out of the grave in resurrection. And Paul, trying to explain the importance of that to those who would read his letter to the Corinthians, posed a similar question in 1 Corinthians 15. He said in effect, “Let me tell you what life would be like if Christ had not come, if He had not died, if He had not been resurrected from the grave.”

  1. A World Without Christ?
  2. A Life Without Christ?

III.  Christmas Without Christ?

Overview

A World Without Christ?

In 1 Corinthians 15:14 Paul tells us that if Christ had not come, our preaching would be useless.

In that same verse, he says that if Christ had not come, our faith would be empty.

In verse 15 he said that if Christ had not come, those of us who are Christians would be false witnesses. We would be telling lies because we would be saying something was true when indeed it was not.

In 15:17 he said that if Christ had not come, our faith would be futile, worthless.

He said if Christ had not come we would all still be in our sins. We would be unforgiven.

In verse 18 of that text, he said if Christ had not come, we would never see our dead loved ones again, for those who have died have perished. And then in verse 19 he summarizes it by saying if Christ had not come, we would be the most miserable of all people.

Sometimes the only way we can appreciate what we have as Christians is to realize that everything that’s good, and everything that’s wholesome, and everything that’s positive, and everything that’s clean, and everything that’s true, has its roots in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, who came as the gift of God the Father to be our Savior. It is a wonderful thought to remember that God has not forgotten us.

A Life Without Christ?

But the question, then, must be: If God has not forgotten us, then why do we seem to have forgotten Him?

Every Christmas is the coming together of a magnificent occasion and a wonderful opportunity. It is not different from that first Christmas Day recorded for us in Luke 2:1–7:

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

I like to think of that night in terms of the kind of silence that is observed in the eastern U.S. when snow falls on Christmas Day, and everything is absolutely still.

On this magnificent night recorded by Luke, we are told that Mary brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths and laid Him in a manger. It was a magnificent occasion that escaped observation by almost everyone who was there.

We read in John 1 that “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.… and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” At that moment in that silent night when Mary birthed her baby, Deity invaded humanity. In that moment, when Mary birthed her baby, eternity invaded time. And no one really understood that.

Micah the prophet said it this way in his prophecy of Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

How could one be born whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting? In that moment of time when Mary birthed her baby, Royalty invaded poverty. The One who had all wealth at His disposal, who was the King of glory, who created the world that we love and live in, that same One was birthed to Mary.

What a magnificent occasion! A silent night interrupted by a tiny cry in Bethlehem. This magnificent occasion was set up from eternity past. And it wonderfully met every criterion that was laid out for it.

But, on this night of all nights, it happened in a place where no one even recognized what was going on. The God who had refused to forget us, was forgotten by those to whom He first came. The Bible tells us “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). The King of glory had come down, and He was not recognized or received.

The innkeeper should not have missed it because he was so close to it. Isn’t it interesting how we can go through life, and often be so close to the magnificent, and never let it dawn upon our conscious awareness? He was so close. The mother of our Lord was at his door. She was seeking a place to birth the Son of God, and he would not let her in because there was no room.

Christmas Without Christ?

Am I pressing the point too much when I say that today the world is filled with innkeepers who miss the meaning of Christmas?

If that is not the case, why, as we go through the shopping centers during this season, are there so many grim faces in our stores, so many exhausted, sleepy people in our churches the Sunday before Christmas? The innkeeper missed Christmas not because he was angry or because he was belligerent. He missed Christmas because of ignorant preoccupation. He got so busy with everything that was going on in his life, taking care of the inn, taking care of the census, taking care of all of the pressure, he couldn’t stop to reflect upon the moment that was at hand.

Many people today are like that. The chambers of their souls are filled with needless things, stuff that doesn’t really matter. They miss the Messiah of God. Oh, how hard it is for us to clear out the chambers of our heart and mind, and make room for the Messiah!

One of the great tragedies of our time is not that God has forgotten us, but that we have forgotten Him. On the same day that Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian-born Nobel prize winner, was presented with the Templeton Foundation Prize for Progress in Religion by Prince Philip at Buckingham Palace, he addressed many of Britain’s leading political and religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. “Over half a century ago,” stated Solzhenitsyn, “while I was still a child, I remember hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation of the great disasters that have befallen Russia. Men have forgotten God. That’s why it has all happened. And if I were called upon to identify the principal trait of the entire twentieth century, I would be unable to find anything more precise and more worthy than to repeat, men have forgotten God.”

In our world today, doesn’t it seem to you that men have forgotten God? And we who have been given this holiday occasion to embrace the Christ because God has not forgotten us, we must ask ourselves in our hearts, “Have I forgotten God?” That is not a question just for those who do not know God through Christ. That is a question for all of us. It is possible for us to live as practical atheists and still be Christians in the sense that we go through our lives without giving any time whatsoever to the One who came to make life meaningful for us. Let us not, at this time of the year, forget the One who has not forgotten us.

Some have heard the gospel message throughout life from a mother’s teaching, in Sunday school, or growing up in church. Periodically, you have been reminded that it was for you that this Christ came. But like the innkeeper, you are so busy with everything else you keep pushing Him away. But there is a day coming when He will knock no more. If He knocks at your heart today, you must not forget Him. That is the message of Christmas. You must not forget the One who refused to forget you. Receive Him as your Savior.

Application

  1. If you know Christ today, make a list of as many good things as possible that would not exist in your life if not for your relationship with Him.
  2. Which of those events or circumstances were bad things that the Lord Jesus Christ transformed into something good?
  3. What, then, is the connection between Christ’s resurrection from the dead and His ability to redeem our lives into something good? (See Romans 8:11, 28–31.)
  4. In 1 Corinthians 15:12–22, what eventual circumstance is Paul connecting to Christ’s resurrection?

Why is that an essential part of every Christian’s perspective on the future?

If the resurrection of Christ is not a historical fact, where does that leave every Christian?

  1. What has been the historical pattern of great nations that have denied or left their faith in Christ?

In our culture today, what is replacing a belief in the Jesus of the Bible?

What effect is that producing?

  1. Do you believe it is possible for a genuine Christian to “forget God” in a practical, day-to-day sense?

Why or why not?

What would you forecast as some of the symptoms of that problem?

  1. What would you propose as good “preventative medicine” for not forgetting God?

What would you propose as good solutions for those Christians who have?

  1. In what way(s) might the Christmas holiday season afford an opportunity for us to “remember” Him? To encourage others to do the same?

To make Him known to those who don’t know Him?

Did You Know?

Although the story line for the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” is purely fanciful and fictitious, it has for decades connected with those who feel forgotten and forsaken during the holidays, even pointing many to the God of the Bible and genuine faith in Christ.

For actor James Stewart, the barroom scene in which he cries out to God was so profoundly moving, the tears were real and the experience entirely unique. When he was asked to do another take for the benefit of facial closeups, he flatly refused, admitting that at that precise moment, he felt something of the desperation and hopelessness of those who have nowhere else to turn but the true God. The film editors worked with the one take they had, closeups were engineered by enlarging one frame at a time, and a truly vicarious moment of a desperate man’s plea to God made it to the screen.

Stained Glass

Use the final remains of various colors of crayons. Shave each color and create stacks of shavings by color. Let each child create their design by placing the colors in the pattern they create on a piece of waxed paper. Place another piece of paper on top of the crayon shavings and gently but firmly set a hot iron on the paper. To make sure you have the work surface protected, place a large piece of foil under the entire project. I also place a piece of waxed paper over the top before I set the iron down.

After the paper has cooled, gently peel the top sheet of paper off and enjoy the beauty of an original stained glass window. You may be surprised at the artistic expression in your family.[1]

 

[1] Jeremiah, D. (1999). Celebrate his love: Study guide (pp. 112–123). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.