29 October 2010

Most Important...Most Neglected?

1 Corinthians 15:1-11

1 Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 11 Therefore, whether it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

As I was reviewing for an upcoming bible study, I found myself spending more time than usual on word definitions, meanings, colloquialisms, idioms and figures of speech. And then, much to the danger of us all - I got to thinking.

The fact that we have the bible to read is such a blessing. God is well aware of our shortcomings, and in spite of being made in the image of God, we are god’s ourselves. We don’t know everything; He does. For this reason, knowing that man would fall, and would need to be given a path to find our way back to Him, He provided through divine inspiration the bible – His Word – to have, to read, to gain direction and to grow by. Scripture tells us in several places in the New Testament that what was hidden has been revealed through Christ. That what we need to know we will find in Him and through His example.

What a gift we have been given in the bible. I used to always say that the greatest gift that man have been given through Christ was prayer, in that we have an immediate way to communicate with the Father with Jesus as our personal intercessor anytime we like. I also thought that this was perhaps the most accessible, and yet most untapped resource we as Christians have. I mean, who does not wish they had a better prayer life? Who does not wish that their communication with their Creator was more open, fresh, revealing and intimate? Even those with the most excellent prayer life are aware that it can be better.

But after today, I wonder that point. Is prayer life the best gift we have been given in furthering our relationship with God? Is prayer life the most accessible gift we have that helps us strengthens our relationship with God and gain a better closeness with Jesus, and yet the most neglected? Because, I’m beginning to think that perhaps it’s not. I’m beginning wonder if the greatest, most powerful and important and yet most neglected gift given to us is the bible itself.

Outside of the general statements erroneously accredited to the bible like, “God helps those who help themselves”, and “Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, neither of which are found in scripture, there is much declared as having been spoken in the bible which in fact is not. Equally, there is much in scripture that is summarily dismissed or sections disregarded in one form or another so that the bible better suits our culture, personal emotive standards or our self designed Christian ‘faith’.

The disciples asked how to pray. They had no idea. Their religion had built a wall between them and God. Their Priests had placed themselves as intermediaries between the Jews and God. Their traditions had become a hindrance to their growth. Communicating with God in this intimate and personal manner was new to them so they asked. But they knew how to study. And while they needed some explanation to make proper interpretations, Jesus became the ‘secret decoder ring’ to the Old Testament scriptures explaining, exposing and fulfilling them all at the same time. The disciples ate this up. They would sit for hours upon hours listening to Jesus, God incarnate, the Living Word, speaking to them the heart of the gospel, and the heart of the Father. Based upon this, and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit we have those thoughts, notes and experiences to read for ourselves – explained through the Words, actions and character of Christ.

I’m baffled sometimes by how little Christians know their bible, and even more surprised when I find out how little desire there is in some to be in their bible, and reading! Someone recently asked Pastor Chuck Smith how long he had studied for the sermon that he had just shared, and his answer was 60 years! If by God’s will Chuck is with us in another 10 years his answer will surely be, “70 years!”

We are encouraged to pray always, but we are also encouraged to study to show ourselves approved, to rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), iron sharpening iron (Proverbs 27:17), searching the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11), washing our wives in the Word (Ephesians 5:26), and to always be ready to offer an explanation for the hope that is in us (I Peter 3:15). We cannot do those things without being in the Word of God.

Why do we find it incredibly easy to neglect it so?

The only truth relative to our growth as Christians is found in the Bible. Encouragement is found there. Glory is found there. Salvation is found there. It is our foundation, our spiritual food, our direction for life. It is the source for all absolute, and the resting place of the foundation of eternal life. Yet how many of them collect dust all week long, and are lucky to come off of the shelf for Sunday, let alone to be found resting in our laps –exactly where the Lord desires you and I to be?

We need to rethink our commitment to God’s Word in scripture. We need to be settled on scripture being the inerrant Word of God, believe it, and LIVE it.

Let us all recommit ourselves to our bible reading, study and memorization. More importantly, we need to make the bible the centerpiece of our home, in conversation, and practice. Place one on the coffee table, or in every conspicuous place where it can be seen y those who enter your home. Let the bible be where your heart is.